During USGF’s Geospatial Gateway Forum in St. Louis, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp spoke to a room of industry, academia, and government geospatial experts about NGA’s role in advancing geospatial technology and tradecraft. He focused on three different areas: the importance of cultivating new partnerships, the important ongoing work by NGA, and future innovations.
“We bring together geospatial individuals from industry, academia, and government to talk about the things we’re doing and ought to be doing,” Sharp said. The connections cultivated in St. Louis allow the agency to lead the way in the geospatial realm, he continued.
“Technology is great, but it is only as good as your people and partnerships.”
NGA is interested in further cultivating connections in St. Louis. They hope to continue to find motivated individuals in the area that will become a part of the geospatial intelligence community, Sharp said.
Before speaking about the future innovative projects NGA is working on, Sharp praised the current work being done by the agency.
“I’m proud that the men and women of NGA are standing watch around the globe,” he said. “They are the guardians and sentinels of this nation.”
He highlighted some examples of NGA’s body of work: the 150 years dedicated to providing analysis of maritime domain for sailors both in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard; the St. Louis-based Office of Geomatics’ work in maintaining and supporting the World Magnetic Model as well as managing the WGS 84 grid, used by many to pinpoint exact locations; and the integrated geographic data products provided by the Office of Geography to aid customers in the understanding of physical terrain features.
According to Sharp, the women and men at NGA are able to do this important work because their customers are doing important work.
“[Supporting] national policy decision-makers to warfighters to first responders providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief … we exist to show the way uniquely by knowing the earth and understanding the world.”
Sharp circled back to discuss the theme of the forum, “Show Me the Geospatial Tradecraft.” The world is changing and we need to change with it, he said, addressing two innovations moving the agency toward the future.
Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Augmentation (AAA), is NGA’s effort to modernize its operations and tradecraft and to augment its workforce with automation tools, he said.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can leverage machines to do what machines do well so that humans can do what humans do well.”
But the real game-changer, according to Sharp, is Next NGA West, a new facility scheduled to break ground in North St. Louis on November 26 and open in 2025.
“We are deliberately designing it to foster connections, to grow and strengthen the connections that we’re making here today,” Sharp said. “A big part of our mission tomorrow is what we are building here in St. Louis.”