A conversation with USGIF CEO Keith Masback
Q. GEOINT 2015 will be the first Symposium hosted in Washington, D.C. How will this new—and for many attendees, local—location shape this year’s event?
A. It’s incredibly exciting to bring the GEOINT Symposium to Washington for the first time. We’ve had 11 years of phenomenal events that have grown and changed over time and taken on more content and attracted different audiences. However, in a sequestration environment travel has been a bit of challenge, certainly for more junior people. Being in D.C. means we have an opportunity for a larger cohort to experience all that the Symposium has to offer.
Beyond that, we also have an opportunity to reach a broader audience across the military, government, and other related activities. If you are part of the Department of Commerce or the Department of the Interior, for example, and you have remote sensing or GIS responsibilities as part of your job, you may not have been able in the past to convince your boss that what you do relates to a conference that on the surface appears to be solely about national security. Those of us in the business know remote sensing, GIS, and data analytics at their base solve all kinds of problems beyond national security. We have been able to reach out to those people who can maybe only initially attend when the Symposium is in D.C. We hope once they’ve experienced the event they can more readily justify their attendance in the future.
Our registrations already show that we’re going to have the most diverse audience we’ve ever had in terms of the spectrum of agencies and organizations represented.
Q. Is that why USGIF chose the theme of ‘Opening the Aperture, Charting New Paths’ for GEOINT 2015?
A. There’s little bit of whimsy in this year’s theme. There are multiple ways to look at it. One, we are truly opening the aperture to broader audiences to engage people who we perhaps haven’t been able to engage with before. There is a GEOINT revolution underway and the field is much bigger than the narrow national security space that it’s traditionally been known for.
Another is looking at how GEOINT is transcending not just national security but indeed government in a larger sense. We’re starting to see geospatial intelligence take its place alongside business intelligence. Location-based technologies, remote sensing, and analytics are becoming differentiators and game changers in the competitive nature of the business world, and those who are able to use these technologies and this tradecraft to their benefit will have a distinct advantage.
Q. How does the theme of ‘Opening the Aperture, Charting New Paths’ also tie into the USGIF mission?
A. As GEOINT has grown as a discipline, as its technologies have proliferated, and as supporting related technologies have matured, the idea of GEOINT has expanded. And it is vitally important for the Foundation to expand along with it. We would be remiss if we maintained a very defined, limited view of what GEOINT is and if we looked at it solely through the lens of national security because we know it has eclipsed that. Therefore it’s important that the Foundation takes on a broader set of challenges and looks at larger issues.
A perfect example is our strategic relationship with the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy. Law regarding remote sensing, UAVs, and location privacy is being created not from the top down in our country, but rather one gavel bang at a time, one case at a time in local, circuit, and state court rooms. The U.S. is sort of blindly wandering its way into how it’s going to manage the law, policy, and regulation of these technologies and this broader idea of GEOINT. USGIF feels it’s incumbent upon us to continue to provide thought leadership and to be the convening authority for discussion around these topics. By supporting the work of the Centre we are trying to catch up and maybe get out ahead of these decisions. We want courts to make decisions about GEOINT that are well informed and future leaning rather than reacting to technological change and thus by definition never catching up.
Q. How is the content at GEOINT 2015 going to reflect this idea of ‘Opening the Aperture?’
A. In the last 18 to 24 months there has been some foreshadowing of this expansion embedded throughout USGIF content in our events, trajectory magazine, social media engagement, and our web presence. You’ve seen us dealing with issues that at first blush don’t seem to have an obvious connection to GEOINT in traditional ways. But if you dig deeper when you ask ‘Why are there elephants on the cover of trajectory? Why is there an epidemiology panel at GEOINT 2015?’ Why is USGIF hosting a cyber-location nexus workshop?’—It becomes clear the things they’re doing are using the same software, hardware, services, and tradecraft that we know as GEOINT. We will see a tremendously increased presence of the component organizations of the Department of Homeland Security in our exhibit hall this year. They’re practicing something that we would look at and call GEOINT, and while they may not call it that, it is surely what they’re doing in pursuit of public safety.
USGIF is changing the content we’re presenting at GEOINT 2015 to make sure we are broadening our offerings in lockstep with the GEOINT revolution that is underway.
We are trying to make sure people get a great return on investment for their time, dollars paid for registration, and dollars paid to exhibit and interact with our unique audience. This is all about trying to be the most efficient and effective that we can be in a finite period of time to deliver a lot of meaningful content, create discussion, and continue thought leadership.
Q. The training and education offerings at GEOINT 2015 have doubled since the last Symposium to total more than 80 hours. What prompted this increase?
A. We doubled these opportunities based on very enthusiastic feedback about the value proposition of the training our members provided at GEOINT 2013*. It’s a testament to our member companies, organizations, and academic institutions that they so enthusiastically support training and education. No one presenting training is being paid by USGIF to do so. They’re doing it because they see the value of contributing to a higher purpose. They see that the rising tide of the GEOINT profession raises all boats.
Q. USGIF is also rolling out its revamped Individual Membership offering at GEOINT 2015. Why is now the right time to encourage individuals to join the Foundation?
A. USGIF was founded and has been supported throughout its first 11 years by corporate sponsorship dues and membership. We now have more than 240 member organizations and are humbled by their 11 years of support, but we are opening the aperture. We have 12 schools accredited to grant academic GEOINT certificates and more than 500 students who have achieved them over time. We are quickly headed toward $1 million in scholarships awarded to students pursuing GEOINT education. It’s now time for us to step up to be the professional society for GEOINT practitioners. We have matured to the point where we are able to provide that service. We will soon launch our professional Universal GEOINT Certification, our online offerings and working groups are robust, and we have established trajectory as the chronicle of GEOINT. So, we’re saying ‘Be part of something larger than yourself and support your professional organization, because we collectively are going to leave this profession better than we found it for those who come behind us.’
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