It’s an honor and privilege to be with you today.
Thank you to DIA for arranging this conference and for selecting to host it in the great city of St. Louis.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has deep roots in St. Louis. Our facility at the St. Louis Arsenal dates back to 1827, when the Arsenal began manufacturing and supplying small arms to the U.S. Army and American settlers as the U.S. expanded its western frontier. The Arsenal next played a key role in the Civil War, storing supplies, outfitting troops, and repairing arms. After the Civil War, the Army found many uses for the Arsenal, including as a cavalry depot, a clothing depot, and a general depot for the Quartermaster Department.
By 1952, the St. Louis Arsenal, no longer needed by the Army after WWII, was determined to be a more suitable location for the Air Force Aeronautical Chart Plant mission. That August, the organization became the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center (ACIC) and established its headquarters in the Arsenal. And we’ve been shaping U.S. defense, technology, and exploration right here in St. Louis ever since – 65 years strong!
So today, I’d like to tell you a little more about our proud history here and about the exciting future we see – how NGA is committed to continuing key parts of its mission here in St. Louis, how we plan to leverage the human capital right here in the city, and how we need to work with partners like you to innovate together around our biggest IT challenges to execute our mission to the fullest.
Let’s start with the Arsenal.
That’s where the ACIC created products like this one – a complete mapping of the moon for the Apollo astronauts. They created more than 300 products in support of five Apollo flights in 1969 alone. NASA used these lunar maps to determine the safest landing sites and the best places to perform experiments.
The ACIC was folded into the Defense Mapping Agency, or DMA, in 1972. Do you remember the videos of cruise missiles precisely honing in on targets during Desert Storm? Smart munitions had ushered in a new era of precision weaponry – and DMA produced the maps with previously unattainable accuracy making it possible. Terrain Contour Matching (or TERCOM) Maps were produced right here in St. Louis. While modern precision weapons use more advanced systems like GPS or inertial guidance systems, these TERCOM maps, also uploaded into the navigation systems, function as a fail-safe when other signals may be obscured. This is a great example of how innovations in technology directly enable our support to the warfighter mission.
And as DMA became part of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 1996, which changed its name to NGA in 2003, we’ve retained a unique mission presence here. Our teammates provide information that American soldiers, airmen, soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen need to navigate to their missions around the world and return home safely, especially when the weather turns bad and visibility is reduced. As General Stewart mentioned, our job is to remove the fog of war – figuratively or literally.
Our analysts, scientists and cartographers work together to create hard-copy paper maps, and to provide digital data used in navigation equipment in airplane cockpits, ships’ bridges, or in mobile devices in our customers’ hands.
NGA St. Louis scientists also work with the Air Force to ensure the accuracy of GPS satellites. NGA’s 10 GPS tracking stations compliment the Air Force’s six tracking stations to provide coverage of all U.S. GPS satellites 100 percent of the time. This coverage makes GPS data even more accurate and reliable – which not only benefits the U.S. military, our primary customer for this work, but every member of the public.
As you know, our mission extends far beyond safety of navigation, GPS, geodesy, and gravity… GEOINT is foundational for all of the intelligence that provide decision advantage to our nation’s government, military, and first-responders. GEOINT goes beyond telling you what’s happening and where and when, to how it’s happening, why it matters and what will likely happen next.
And allow me to use this captive defense intelligence enterprise audience to try and settle a long-standing debate. If I agree that NGA has no intention or plan to make GEOINT the next all-source discipline, will you agree to stop painting lines between our disciplines? In a world as chaotic as the one General Stewart and McDew described, I would suggest that we should be focused on what aligns us vice what divides us.
That’s why as the US GEOINT Functional Manager, I’m focused on ensuring that we are best exposing our knowledge, our data and content, as well as creating in-depth analytic models and geospatially contextual products. Our implementation of Structured Observation Management – SOM, which is the future, as part of our mandate from the DNI – and Object Based Production are already starting to show dividends for the future.
I fully realize that some of the decisions we’ve made with respect to SOM and OBP have complicated discoverability and data flows to certain databases. We are in discussion with mission partners to address this problem. And I fully understand the criticality of Foundational Military Intelligence to components across the DoD. We are taking on governance of Foundational Military Intelligence and Foundational Intelligence Production in a broad and strategic way, with early results showing promise.
That said, we simply cannot go backwards. FMI remains essential to the future of targeting, force tracking, and the Intel Enterprise, but so are OBP and SOM. We need to modernize – together.
GEOINT is operating in a world that has moved from data scarcity to data abundance, from hunting for that one perfect image to creating coherence from a flood of images and the services that follow. Less and less these images derive from US government pedigree.
And that’s where you come in.
All digital connections include benefits and risks – and our GEOINT analysts apply their expertise to distinguish between bad data and data worth further examination. We could play it safe, and just stay in the classified world, but it would be negligent to not work in the open, where so many of our answers and customers reside, and where the mission demands us to be.
We’ve opened ourselves up to a torrent of data. And that data abundance is dramatically changing the way we thing about our processes. Right now, every day in just one combat theater with a single sensor, we collect the data equivalent of three complete, high definition NFL seasons.
On June 19th, NGA purchased a $14 million subscription – via our joint venture with GSA called CIBORG – to explore and leverage Planet’s small satellite capabilities for another year.
The global scope of coverage and high-temporal frequency of collection from Planet provides us with an important new data source to support our many missions – to include foundation GEOINT, intelligence and humanitarian assistance.
Planet imagery has been valuable to help us determine activity trends in ports, airfields, military garrisons and road networks to assess regional stability. And on the humanitarian side, it assists the global community in tracking refugee density, events that threaten food security, and the monitoring of a UN resolution’s enforcement.
So, the lessons learned from our pilot contract with Planet are reflected in the structure of this new contract, which enables the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and our international partners to access Planet’s imagery of over 25 regions of interest, ranging from portions of the Middle-East, Asia, and Africa to Central and South America.
As Planet has continued to mature its capability to offer weekly global coverage, NGA and our customers have learned how to use this coverage across our varied mission sets so we truly understand where we get the bang – that is mission impact – for our buck.
We’re using the CIBORG – a whale of an acronym -- Commercial Initiative to Buy Operationally Responsive GEOINT -- initiative to become the GEOINT broker of choice. GSA has added 10 vendors to CIBORG – with another 20 pending final approval. So far this Fiscal Year, NGA has committed more than $40 million via CIBORG.
NGA is determined to embrace commercial GEOINT where it has demonstrated mission utility. As I’ve said before, we will go wherever the data exist – and apply the same wherever the mission demands.
Now here’s the challenge: If we were to attempt to manually exploit the commercial satellite imagery we expect to have over the next 20 years, we would need eight million imagery analysts.
As wonderful as that may sound to an old IA – really an old PI -- that’s simply not practical.
We need the best minds like yours to help us manage this data, smartly and efficiently. The data deluge isn’t the threat – it’s the solution, but it requires us to change. We’re focused on how to automate 75 percent of the manually-intensive our analysts currently conduct to provide them more time to analyze critical changes and more accurately anticipate future events. Automation will free up our people to focus their exquisite analysis on the toughest problems – the 25 percent that requires the most attention. And it’s imperative that we embrace innovation and cultivate new partnerships to do this.
Consider the unique challenge our agency faces as we strive to meet the growing number of Motion GEOINT mission requirements – and the increasing need for NGA’s expert exploitation and analysis of Full Motion Video (FMV).
Over the past two decades, NGA has emerged as a leader in developing this new form of imagery tradecraft that our mission partners continue to demand. But continuing to meet this demand will require unsustainable levels of human resources. We need to work with industry to augment and automate what we can. Not to eliminate, but to elevate our intelligence professionals to spend more time on the high-risk, in-depth analysis of FMV — something that only a human can do and that our national leadership demands for our most critical missions. We are in this pursuit in concert with Will Draper’s SCO and Jack Shanahan at USD/I and Project Maven.
With dramatic improvements in our computing power, we have an opportunity to achieve so much more – through automation and other technological pursuits. We know that industry has valuable data, talent, creativity, and ability to make something out of nothing to create new algorithms and whole concepts. We want to tap into that – and we have a broadly untapped resource to offer in return. With labeled imagery, data and analyses going back decades, NGA possesses a deep reserve of data, invaluable to a world of deep learning. We want to use this historic data and ground truth to enable new and critical Public-Private Partnerships.
That term has been used in different ways over the years – but in this case, I’m talking about an innovative and interdependent relationship between NGA, academia and industry that supports and advances all our respective capabilities.
In a world of deep learning, NGA’s historic data and ground truth are immensely valuable. The Economist recently called this kind of “Big” data “the new oil.”
At the same time, we know that industry has valuable data – as well as the talent, creativity, and ability to develop insights from the deluge. NGA would invest our data into promising startups, companies, and institutions – with the goal of getting a return on that data in the form of new programs, algorithms, trained machine vision approaches, or an application of linked software.
There are a lot of ways that we see Public Private Partnerships as a win-win-win – the last win being those that we serve. This interdependent relationship between NGA and US tech industry would support and grow both our capabilities. NGA would provide data and receive back improved data and technology to fuel our automation and other classified pursuits.
NGA gets new and innovative technology to give us a competitive advantage and companies and inventors get a competitive edge of their own.
Importantly, this is not a cash investment or transaction. This is a data investment. And it is a data transaction. We give data and we get data and technology back.
As this data brokerage idea comes with many challenges – from authorities to declassification to licensing – I’ve assigned our Director of Capabilities, Dr. Anthony Vinci, to bring this about. But we want your thoughts, feedback, and ideas on how best to do it.
And – we want to work with the companies and inventors who have the skill and talent and experience to take our data and turn it into something even more valuable.
We have an overabundance of data, but not the data scientists to sort through it all. Talent, not data, is the rare commodity. We’re competing with the Google’s of the world for the software engineers, coders, and data stewards – literally with Google itself at times. So we’re finding new ways to bring people in.
Consider LaunchCode, a St. Louis based non-profit organization that is addressing the shortage of tech talent and providing training to help members of the community secure jobs that offer livable salaries, employable skills, and a chance for advancement. The majority of LaunchCoders do not have computer science degrees, but many of them have acquired the technology skills that NGA currently needs to increase our ability to conduct in-house development.
LaunchCode was co-founded by St. Louisan Jim McKelvey after he had to move his company Square to California due to the shortage of local tech talent here. He returned to St. Louis in 2013 with LaunchCode, creating a new talent pipeline in the area, and forming partnerships with over 500 employers – now including NGA. The training that LaunchCode provides, bridges the gap between a formal education in a technical discipline and the knowledge gained after six months on the job. NGA is looking forward to working with LaunchCode to identify and train full-stack developers for positions at NGA, with new hires receiving offers of employment this fall.
We used to outsource all of our development, but we’re moving to in-house development and creating a DevOps culture where development and operations teams work together across the entire lifecycle of an application. This will not only allow NGA to emphasize the usability of an application, but increase NGA’s flexibility to work on various projects. LaunchCode is connecting NGA with a pool of non-traditional applicant, supporting the local community, and bolstering the technical skills of our workforce.
Over the next 5 years, we plan to fill hundreds of data scientist, data analyst, and software development postings – either through new hires or the training of current employees.
NGA isn’t only looking at non-traditional recruiting, but to enable and empower the talent that we already have – all to have a better more interdependent and productive relationship with you.
Last summer, NGA created a “Digital Attack Team” as part of the Agency’s enterprise innovation office. This “DAT” is tackling some of tech’s biggest ideas around machine learning, artificial intelligence and data analytics.
The DAT’s mission is to best determine how to use management methodologies in the commercial sector to drive innovation. They adopted design thinking to transform the source of resistance into transformative ideas, and looked at how AI could provide value to the agency. After collecting over 400 data points from interviews across NGA and its customers, they evaluated where they could provide the most impact – and determined a crucial nexus to fuse human curation with machine learning to improve how NGA delivers product to its customers.
Their new content curation tool -- Conduit – only in its test phase – has already reduced the workflow time in creating a briefing book for national security decision makers from 18 hours of staff time to just one hour for the NGA team at the Pentagon. The tool efficiently identifies relevant, effective reporting for customers by enhancing discoverability and helping with curation and distribution. While it currently resides on the classified NGANet environment, it’s being developed on the unclassified network in conjunction with GEOINT Services. And we’re building out the Digital Attack Teams, with one-third to be based out of St. Louis.
GEOINT is clearly in a movement from pictures to pixels to the data itself. We all need to understand how to make strategic decisions about and with that data – that’s why I just took a Python class! And before you get too excited about my innate ability…
…here’s a photo from early 2011 in which you can literally see my lack of comfort with advanced technology.
That said, we also need the ability to easily partner with those that already have specialized talent – our industry partners, scholars, and academics, and not necessarily just individuals with clearances. And we need the right space to do so.
The 190-year-old Arsenal building that houses NGA currently lacks the flexibility we need to facilitate collaboration among our employees and external partners. We don’t have enough unclassified spaces. We don’t have enough conference rooms and meeting spaces to promote collaboration. And the sheer age of the structure limits our ability to reconfigure it in a cost-effective manner.
As technology and the needs of our workforce change, it’s evident that NGA needed a new facility in St. Louis to meet the challenges of the modern world. I believe the North St. Louis site we selected will be attractive to millennials and the next generation of the NGA workforce.
Additionally, the site offers close proximity to leading academic and industry partners like CORTEX, St. Louis University, Washington University, Boundless, LaunchCode, and many others. NGA scientists are already working closely with local scientists through special collaborative research relationships with the Boeing Company and Stauder Technologies. And during the last school year, NGA volunteers presented to over 80 class groups, attended STEM Expo events and Science Fairs. But there are still tremendous opportunities for NGA, industry partners, and academia to work more closely together to transform the GEOINT field.
We’re keeping all of this in mind as we design this new secure campus, capable of meeting workforce and information technology mission requirements. Our new building will reflect our open approach to the full spectrum of Team GEOINT. In the past, NGA had tight control over its sources – if you wanted GEOINT, you had to come to us. But in this new age of GEOINT, we can no longer wall ourselves off.
Our vision for this new campus is very different from even how we built our secure headquarters in Virginia in 2011. Now we want more unclassified space, so we have more opportunities to bring people onto our campus. We want access to the “dirty” and increased wireless capabilities, so NGA team members and external partners can use the collaboration equipment and devices they are using everywhere else. We want to build bridges. We want to bring people in.
The building’s flexible design will enable un-cleared personnel to enter, while still maintaining the security around classified data and tools. It will have flexible IT infrastructure and capabilities to accommodate collaboration across domains. Collaboration is paramount – and wireless will provide a more flexible means to collaborate with portable technology and wirelessly enhanced capabilities to enhance the user experience.
This is test-case for all of the IC. As the world advances with the Internet of Things, we’re pursuing this wireless technology to better enable the NGA mission, in a world rapidly advancing with the Internet of Things. Consider Crisis Response – with wireless, we can more rapidly stand up crisis response teams, with the responders having wireless technology in hand to quickly assemble to address the mission, free from the constraints of current fixed facilities and IT.
In response to the regional pandemic that was the Ebola crisis in 2015, NGA offered unprecedented public access to its products to nongovernmental organizations, like Doctors without Borders –in an all-out effort to help save lives and stop the spread of disease. A different kind of decision advantage – shorten the time between symptom and diagnosis – and between diagnose and treatment – all to save lives. These products showed communication, transportation, and electric power infrastructure in Ebola-infected areas, as well as Ebola cases by province and the locations of emergency treatment units. Because we created this website in an unclassified environment, we were able to post updates as information came in, allowing first responders access to the latest information all in one place, helping them focus on saving lives quickly and efficiently.
As we add flexibility into our workspaces, we’ll be able to further leverage this kind of collaboration. And new technologies like virtual, augmented and mixed reality devices will further provide analysts a realistic, geospatially enabled, immersive intelligence environment – providing enhanced intelligence and new ways of analyzing all intelligence information.
Facility and individual wireless sensors, such as RFID tags, enhance life safety measures and mitigate the risk of Insider Threat through real-time geolocation. And the conveniences of wireless technology have shown to increase productivity and has become and expectation of the modern, mobile workforce.
So we’re using our Next NGA West, or N2W, campus as an opportunity to implement the wireless mission enablers as a model for the whole IC. We’re pursuing options with IC partners to demonstrate a wireless ecosystem that brings together a simultaneously, multi-level security domain environment, with geo-fencing and enhanced collaboration, within a smart campus. N2W may be the IC’s first opportunity to see this integrated approach.
And if you’re interested to hear more about how we’re doing this, Sue Pollmann is hosting a breakout session at 1:30 this afternoon in room 100 to talk about our plans for N2W – both on our wireless challenge and how we’re working through the design process overall.
Many of the initiatives I have emphasized today – innovation, security, and partnerships – manifest themselves in the future vision for N2W and NGA’s continued future in St. Louis. And we want to capitalize on your expertise to build technology with us and for us as we move forward into this new world of GEOINT. We want to partner with you, work with you – to tap into your talent.
Because let’s not forget what’s at stake. That is a direct challenge to this room – we can only successfully respond as one.
I look forward to opening a dialogue with you on how we can do this best.