The Defense Sector in St. Louis

Members of the GeoFutures Initiative team along with esteemed community colleagues discuss the mission-enhancing intersection of geospatial technology and the defense sector


The evolution of GEOINT is accelerating and in St. Louis—with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) 2016 decision to build its new West Campus (N2W)in the North St. Louis region—there’s a focused effort to achieve the exciting promise that GEOINT-related technologies and services hold for many sectors of the economy. The city has seized upon the momentum created by the plan and prompted unprecedented collaboration across the city to bolster its rapidly growing geospatial sector.

On Wednesday, August 19, members of the GeoFutures Initiative team, launched in October 2019 to turn St. Louis into a geospatial global hub over the next 10 years, joined their GEOINT colleagues on USGIF’s GEOConnect Virtual Main Stage to discuss the mission-enhancing intersection of geospatial technology and the defense sector in the St. Louis region.

“We want to build the GEO ecosystem in St. Louis to support the mission and to create a geosciences center of excellence in the region that will not only attract employers who support NGA but also companies that support commercial geoscience business,” said Joe Driskill, executive director, Office of the Missouri Military Advocate/Association of Defense Communities.

But industry faces challenges attempting to leverage work opportunities with the defense sector, for example, security clearance. This is something that, according to Ralph Thompson II, CEO and cofounder of Mind Safety Management, LLC, really affects small businesses. But through partnerships with larger industry leaders, small businesses like Thompson’s gain strategic advantages to go after those opportunities in the defense sector.

“Another way to resolve this challenge would be for more organizations like NGA to have more work in unclassified spaces for small businesses while they wait for their security clearance,”  said Thompson. Driskill added that providing security clearance is also an important part of targeted workforce training—a goal for the region’s initiative—and the state government has a role in making sure there is a focus on this.

Another challenge faced is finding a way to increase the operational pace of the workforce while simultaneously raising the fidelity of analysis.

But, according to Eric Druker, principle, Artificial Intelligence, Booz Allen Hamilton, “At its core it’s a challenge of imagination, creativity, and the ability to look at how we deliver the mission today and to see the art of the possible.” Therefore, companies like Booz Allen and Esri, have doubled down on partnerships with new talent in the region.

USGIF continues its mission to bring thought leadership, cutting-edge technological presentations, key insights for decision-making, and educational and professional development opportunities to the entire geospatial intelligence, trade, and academic community. The GEOConnect Series is an accelerated outcome from USGIF’s strategic plan to go digital. The GEOConnect Series features multi-session virtual events such as live-streamed or recorded panels, podcasts, webinars, training, a virtual exhibit showcase, and more.

Learn more about The GEOConnect Series.

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