Finally, the committee found that one of the “weakest links” in the implementation of a precision geodetic infrastructure was a lack of a trained workforce to develop and maintain the infrastructure in the coming decades. Skilled workers are needed to obtain the highest level of accuracy from the infrastructure, assess the capabilities of the infrastructure as it continues to evolve, and capitalize on advances in technology to improve the accuracy or decrease the cost of the infrastructure. Representatives from every federal agency interviewed by the committee raised concerns about a perceived growing deficit of well-trained space geodesists and engineers with this necessary knowledge. As a science, geodesy has long been a niche discipline, populated by a small group of experts. Agencies are finding it difficult to replace these highly skilled geodesists as they retire, and instead are forced to hire young professionals from other disciplines whom they must train on the job. Although the committee did not collect or analyze quantitative demographic data about the geodesy workforce, anecdotal evidence presented by the agencies brought this issue to the fore.
Recommendation: A quantitative assessment of the workforce required to support precise geodesy in the United States and the research and education programs in place at U.S. universities should be undertaken as part of a follow-up study focused on the long-term prospects of geodesy and its applications.