BOX 4.3

Basic and Applied Research Office at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

The Basic and Applied Research Office (BARO) “executes cutting-edge scientific research, providing the foundation for … solutions to NGA’s most difficult technical challenges.” BARO addresses NGA’s “unsolvable” problems, investigates the scientific issues and basic phenomena surrounding “hard” problems, and demonstrates rapid proof of concept based on basic and applied science. The office draws no hard line between basic and applied research—it prefers the term “use-inspired research.”

Research priorities within BARO are initially considered by its senior scientists. These priorities are then reviewed by senior agency officials and subsequently scrutinized by the broader intelligence community (the ultimate users of NGA’s geospatial intelligence products) when NGA presents its budget case. Priorities emerge in three areas: (1) technical and methodological capabilities that might lead to breakthroughs, (2) exploiting new data sources, and (3) pressing concerns among geospatial intelligence analysts. Because NGA is operations driven, item 3 tends to carry the greatest weight. In general, the research priorities are influenced by where investments will make the biggest difference.

NGA performs research in many ways (NRC, 2006). Most research is contracted out, and the in-house technical staff consists predominantly of program managers. BARO’s academic connections focus on funding research, attracting talent, and training.

With respect to research funding, BARO supports NGA University Research Initiatives, Historical Black College and University-Minority Institution Research Initiatives, and Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellowships. Recipients of awards under all three initiatives gather annually to report on progress and share ideas.

To attract talent, BARO utilizes a visiting scientist program that brings young scientists from undergraduate to postdoctoral level to work in a classified environment at NGA facilities. This helps NGA to enhance technologies, tools, and methods; leverage academics specializing in NGA’s scientific areas of interest; build long-term relationships with top universities; build recruitment opportunities for NGA; and obtain experienced Ph.D.-level scientists on a temporary basis to augment in-house expertise.

As part of its efforts to strengthen the academic base through training, NGA supports three academic centers of excellence, four service academies (e.g., U.S Air Force Academy), and ten intelligence community academic centers of excellence.

In addition to its academic partnerships, BARO collaborates with other government entities such as the Defense Advanced Research Project agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy laboratories. NGA works with USGS on domestic emergency response in an operations context, but does not currently collaborate on research.

SOURCE: Beth Driver, NGA.


Karen Siderelis (Associate Director for Geospatial Information, USGS) encouraged the committee to think in terms of what is needed for CEGIS to succeed and, while being practical, not to be constrained by the current dimensions and budget of the center.

In pondering how CEGIS might achieve its vision, the committee considered a series of points, many of which were raised during discussions with presenters (Appendix B) at the first two meetings. At the general level, CEGIS is essentially a new start. This presents a rare opportunity for those framing its future, and their initial actions will set a tone for CEGIS’s business practices, performance expectations,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement