On the last day of the Geospatial Gateway Forum, NGA Director Vice Admiral Robert Sharp addressed how the agency has moved forward during the pandemic.
Amid COVID-19, NGA, whose purpose is to “Know the Earth…Understand the World…Show the Way,” repositioned its workforce to serve and protect the force and their families, and continue to meet mission-critical needs.
“This is something different. I have been doing this for a long time, and throughout my career, I have faced a lot of different crises and have been in a lot of different situations, but none quite like this. We are going through uncharted waters. But from day one, we modified our postures and repositioned the force,” Sharp said, speaking of the response to the pandemic.
NGA took deliberate steps to protect and preserve its workforce to work remotely, such as weekly virtual town halls and teams to work through the difficulties of connecting, while still meeting mission-critical needs. The agency took advantage of commercial products and imagery, and revised some of its workflows to produce mainstream work at the unclassified level. For example, analysts can do any data processing needed to develop machine learning tools, and analysts can do the data labeling and computer visualization needed to feed the machine learning algorithm. NGA also pushed out 7,000 common access card readers, which allowed personnel to remotely access certain intelligence networks and systems.
In addition, during the pandemic, NGA issued several documents that allow the agency to continue to learn and adapt quickly, protect the nation and its allied interests, and deliver mission-critical needs—such as the agency’s first-ever technology strategy, 2020 technology focus areas, and the NGA’s director’s intent.
“All these documents were issued during the pandemic, proving that we protect and preserve our force and our families while continuing to meet mission-critical needs,” Sharp said.
He also emphasized the importance of partnerships at NGA. One partnership he elaborated on was the recent agreement between the agency and Harris-Stowe State University (HSSU).
On Sept. 21, 2020, HSSU President Dr. Corey S. Bradford Sr. and Sharp signed an agreement that allows NGA professionals and HSSU faculty, staff, and students to work together to develop the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math educators. It laid the foundation for NGA and HSSU to collaborate on course offerings at HSSU for STEM educators. A partnership with NGA offers HSSU the opportunity to collaborate on innovative education initiatives with the professionals who are experts in their STEM fields.
“Our comparative strength, not just as an agency but as a nation, resides in our people and our partnerships,” Sharp said.