NGA leaders discussed the strategic importance of people, partnerships and artificial intelligence, automation and augmentation, or AAA, at the Geospatial Gateway Forum Oct. 8 at the St. Louis Convention Center.
The Geospatial Gateway Forum, hosted by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, brought together experts from government, industry and academia to discuss advances in geospatial technology and tradecraft.
NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp kicked off the forum with his keynote, which highlighted NGA’s strategic goals or people and partnerships.
Technology is great, Sharp said, but it’s only as good as the people.
“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.”
On partnerships, Sharp said that the agency and its people are able “to do important work because its customers are.”
Before Sharp’s keynote, Ronda Schrenk, USGIF vice president of programs, had asked audience members to introduce themselves to a few people they didn’t know.
Sharp circled back to that, highlighting the theme of the forum, “Show Me the Geospatial Tradecraft,” which he said was an opportunity to create connections.
“We’re bringing together geospatial thinkers from industry, academia and government to make those connections by meeting and discussing things we can do together and addressing what we aren’t,” he said.
He discussed the future of the agency and geospatial community in St. Louis through Next NGA West, NGA’s new facility in North St. Louis, which is scheduled to break ground in November and open in 2025.
“Everywhere I go, I can’t find anyone who isn’t excited about our project, and what it could bring to the STL community,” he said.
The new campus is a “game-changer for us as an agency and the community,” he said, because of how it’s being designed to include unclassified space for furthering geospatial tradecraft discussions.
“We’re designing it to foster the connections we make here today,” he said.
At another panel at the forum, “NGA’s Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Augmentation (AAA) Initiative Way Forward,” Tara Bradburn, NGA’s AAA executive, said that those connections, along with NGA’s AAA initiative, are going to be two major factors in driving the future of geospatial technology and tradecraft.
However, she said that AAA can’t simply be an idea for the future.
“We talk a lot about AAA being an important part of our future mission, but we can’t wait until tomorrow. We have a requirement to deliver today,” she said.
Mike Benson, NGA’s AAA liaison to the Source Directorate, explained that the agency is increasing the visibility and awareness of AAA within its various offices, as well as encouraging ideas and discoveries in the form of algorithms.
In addition to that, one of the factors in making AAA a success within the agency and elsewhere is the governance of algorithms and their development, he said.
Benson and Bradburn, made sure to underline the importance of people in the process.
“The purpose [of AAA] is to empower our people,” said Bradburn. “It’s always about people first.”