Teaching the Tradecraft

NGA/USGS seek new talent, skills from universities


When fictitious chocolatier Willy Wonka needed an heir to run his company, he did something radical—opened the doors to his top-secret factory and invited prospective successors inside to see its inner workings. Doing so carried great risk—his competitors could have stolen his recipes—but also great reward. The best way to make candy-makers is to let them make candy.

With the new Centers of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Science (CAE GS) program, which establishes collaborative links with universities training future GEOINT practitioners, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) are the Willy Wonkas of GEOINT.

“The future is open,” moderator Edward “Ted” Cope, director of NGA’s InnoVision Directorate, said Monday during GEOINT Foreword’s “NGA/USGS Centers of Academic Excellence Program” concurrent session. “It’s going to be a change after being in the top-secret closet for a long time. We’re going to expose things and take some new risks that we haven’t taken before, but we’ll also be able to embrace new partners.”

Seventeen universities became those partners Monday, receiving the official CAE GS distinction and an exclusive opportunity for a 60-minute conversation with senior NGA/USGS leaders and their staff, all of whom shared what skills they covet from the future GEOINT workforce. NGA’s Military Support Directorate, for example, needs GEOINT generalists with as much breadth as depth of knowledge. Meanwhile, NGA’s Experience and Information Services Directorates need “storytellers”—people with hard skills to analyze data as well as the soft skills to interpret and communicate that data.

“The future of education and the future of intelligence are on a convergence path,” concluded Cope, who said the agency’s appetite for new talent with new skills—satiated through the CAE GS program—will keep NGA and USGS on the cutting edge of GEOINT tradecraft for years to come.

The 17 CAEs are:

  • United States Air Force Academy
  • Alabama A&M University
  • University of Alabama
  • Arizona State University
  • Delta State University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • George Mason University
  • Mississippi State University
  • Northeastern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Roane State Community College
  • University of Maine
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Texas – Dallas
  • University of Utah
  • United States Military Academy


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