The NGA College is an accredited institution housed within NGA that offers approximately 170 courses in geospatial intelligence, leadership, and professional development to government civilians, members of the military, and contractors to NGA and other U.S. defense and intelligence agencies.a The specific training required for new employees depends on the requirements of the position, along with the skills, education, and experience of the individual.b Classes are taught by government employees and contractorsc and typically last between 1 and 5 days. The longest class, basic geographic intelligence, runs about 7 months. About 15,000 students receive training in the college each year.
Nearly 40 percent of the classes offered at the college are related to remote sensing and offer a reasonably comprehensive suite of classes in data collection strategies, image processing, and major remote sensing systems, including infrared, multispectral/hyperspectral, radar/polarimetry, and motion imagery. The treatment of GIS operations using commercial products is also reasonably complete, but there is little coursework in geospatial analysis, such as spatial data analysis, spatial statistical analysis, or spatial optimization. None of the courses focus on geospatial data visualization and information design, even though NGA cartographers and other analysts work with graphics, imagery, movies, and maps.
Classes relevant to other core areas are sparse and introductory in nature. For example, no geophysics classes are offered. A few courses teach basic geodesy concepts; none deal with more advanced concepts, such as platform navigation, charting, Global Navigation Satellite Systems such as the Global Positioning System, or mathematics or statistics. Similarly, the only class offered in photogrammetry is taught at the introductory level, although some photogrammetric concepts, theory, procedures, exploitation techniques, and product quality issues are taught in the remote sensing courses.
Not surprisingly, the emerging areas are poorly covered in the current NGA College curriculum. For example, a few courses touch on methods to visually overlay disparate data, but none cover broader GEOINT fusion concepts such as ontology, the semantic web, schema In tegration, map conflation, or statistical methods of combining different types of evidence. Similarly, a few courses offer basic information useful to visual analytics (e.g., Google Earth and related applications) and to intelligence forecasting or scenario forecasting. Although two courses mention network analysis, the subtopics of strong relevance to NGA (dynamic network analysis and geospatial network analysis) are not covered. No courses discuss the use and limitations of crowdsourcing for creating maps and gathering data, although some of the relevant technologies (e.g., Google Earth, text mining) are covered.
c Presentation to the comm ittee by Mark Pahls, Chief of Learning Integration, NGA College, on May 23, 2011.
as well as to principal and project scientists (Table B.1, Appendix B). The NGA College offers only one introductory course in photogrammetry (Box 5.2), suggesting that qualified candidates are currently available. Much of the stock of trained photogrammetry professionals resides in private companies, including contractors to NGA. There were more than 7,000 jobs in car tography and photogrammetry in the private sector in 2010 (Table D.2, Appendix D). Although this source of experts may be sufficient for NGA’s needs in the short run, the lack of rigorous university training in photogrammetry will eventually yield a shortage of photogrammetrists qualified for a position at NGA.
Geodesy-related positions at NGA require a bachelor’s degree in geodesy, mathematics, physical science, or a related discipline (Table B.1, Appendix B). NGA has no specific positions in geophysics (or courses at the NGA College; Box 5.2), although coursework or experience in geophysics is identified as useful for cartography, geodesy, photogrammetry, and principal and project scientist positions. In 2009, 138 U.S. citizens and permanent residents received a degree in geophysics and seismology, and 26 received a degree in surveying engineering (Table C.10, Appendix C), the instructional programs that produce the most geophysicists and geodesists. Much larger numbers of experts were employed in 2010, including more than 30,000 geoscientists and more than 50,000 surveying and mapping technicians (Table D.2, Appendix D), the most closely related occupations. This supply is large relative to NGA’s current needs. However, the supply of graduates is small (on the order of hundreds) and only about one-third of these have advanced degrees and specialized training in geodesy. The small number of geodesy graduates, coupled with federal agency concerns about a growing deficit of highly skilled geodesists (NRC, 2010c), suggests that NGA may soon have to hire and train professionals from other disciplines. Indeed, the few geodesy-related courses at the NGA College appear to be geared toward analysts trained in other disciplines.