NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp delivered a keynote address at the GEOINT 2022 Symposium April 25 in Aurora, Colorado, where he discussed Ukraine, artificial intelligence and machine learning, NGA’s new technology documents, and people and partnerships.
Here are some of some top takeaways from his remarks:
The GEOINT community has come together to support Ukraine, and these efforts have been one of GEOINT’s finest hours.
GEOINT has been “instrumental” to those fighting in Ukraine and has shaped the world view of the conflict by providing transparency and countering Russian disinformation, Sharp said. NGA has provided mission partners with access to numerous sources of GEOINT, and publicly available imagery of Ukraine is providing unprecedented public insights into what would have only been available through government agencies and officials. “It’s helping a democratic country fighting for its survival, and preserve its independence,” Sharp said.
Sharp compared how NGA predecessor agencies collaborated to support U.S. national security during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to the GEOINT community’s response during the current Ukraine crisis. “NGA, the National System for GEOINT, the Allied System for GEOINT, our other international partners, and our teammates in academia and industry — we were absolutely made for times like this,” Sharp said. “It’s when we’re at our very best.
“There’s every reason in the world to believe that 60 years from now, your grandkids and great-grandkids will remember what the overall GEOINT Enterprise did back in 2022,” he said. “They’ll still be talking about you — because this is your defining moment.”
NGA is leading the Department of Defense’s GEOINT artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts, and the agency will bring together experts across the DOD and industry to deliver GEOINT at the pace that warfighters and decision-makers need.
NGA has a history of leveraging artificial intelligence and applying machine-learning algorithms to enable GEOINT analysis at scale, Sharp said. Now, as the leader of the DOD’s efforts for GEOINT AI and ML, NGA will be calling on industry to collaborate with the agency as it progresses with this great responsibility, Sharp said.
“We’ll provide the subject matter experts — humans who can train the machine, evaluate it and make sense of the output,” Sharp said. Communities of ML experts, data scientists, GIS experts and imagery analysts will come together to improve AI model performance, develop standards and lead interoperability efforts for the GEOINT community, he said.
“We’ll be able to lead and coordinate the GEOINT community in the AI programs that have already been started and apply them directly to the mission,” Sharp said. “These programs — from us, NRO and elsewhere in DOD — have been generating detections and producing new GEOINT — making us faster and better in how we do our business. In the not-too-distant future, these efforts will give us our ‘millions of eyes’ to see the unseen.”
NGA’s launches its updated “Tech Focus Areas” document, along with the Common Operations Release Environment and “The NGA Software Way,” at GEOINT 2022. These outline the ways and best practices for which industry and the agency can collaborate to develop and utilize the latest in geospatial technology.
The updated Tech Focus Areas starts with a graphic that explains how NGA’s GEOINT approach is evolving, Sharp said:
— Workflows, from human-initiated to machine-initiated. “We need to make these changes in order to increase our speed, and stay ahead of the growing amount of GEOINT created each and every day,” Sharp said.
— Data types and sources, from U.S. government-prioritized to data that comes from different parts of the innovation ecosystem. “We’ll simply get better outcomes from that increased diversity of sources,” Sharp said.
— High-side data aggregation to using the lowest possible domain. “Our products are more accessible that way,” he said.
NGA CORE outlines a common environment for modern software development and operations. “CORE is where we’ll build and operate software,” Sharp said. The NGA Software Way shows how NGA and industry can work together to deliver useful software faster and is an actionable, 12-page guide based on industry best-practices. All of these documents can be found on NGA’s website on nga.mil.
Our people and partnerships are the “very foundation” of what makes NGA — and the entire GEOINT community — work so well.
NGA’s partnerships with other government organizations, military, industry, academic and international allies are so valuable, Sharp said, and give NGA an advantage compared with its competitors. “Working together, we all make each other much more effective,” Sharp said.
NGA’s people emerged “stronger, smarter and better” while meeting the mission-critical needs of the nation throughout the pandemic. “The women and men of the agency unquestionably nailed it, and we’re witnessing the benefits of how we’ve grown in how we’ve responded to this crisis — committed to being collaborative, innovative, inclusive and agile in everything we do,” Sharp said.
NGA remains committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, Sharp said. “We’re so much more effective when our team is made up of people coming from a variety of backgrounds, possessing a wide spectrum of skill sets and experiences,” he said, “and we create the environment where each and every talented individual on our roster plays and contributes."