information science and technology), or to apply scientific knowledge to solve real-world problems (e.g., George Mason University’s master’s in geographic and cartographic sciences), sometimes in the context of national security and defense (e.g., military colleges). Other organizations offer short-term, immersive training, which is particularly useful for updating or augmenting employee skills. Courses offered by government agencies are usually targeted at agency operational needs (e.g., National Weather Service’s Warning Decision Training Branch). Short courses and conference workshops offered by professional societies and other nongovernmental organizations provide focused training and sometimes certificates on specific geospatial topics (e.g., Institute of Navigation’s short courses in positioning, navigation, and timing). Private companies commonly provide training for using the software (e.g., Environmental Systems Research Institute’s [ESRI’s] GIS software) and hardware (e.g., Gloal Positioning System receivers, photogrammetric workstations) they have developed.
WAYS TO BUILD KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS IN THE FUTURE
The fourth task of the committee was to suggest ways to build the necessary knowledge and skills to ensure an adequate U.S. supply of geospatial intelligence experts over the next 20 years. Few of the training programs mentioned above were designed specifically for NGA’s employment needs and, thus, do not offer all of the knowledge and skills needed by the agency. However, a variety of mechanisms are available for NGA to build the specialized expertise it needs in the future, including strengthening existing training programs, building core and emerging areas, and enhancing recruiting. A menu of options, of varying scope and complexity, that NGA is not currently utilizing is described below.
NGA uses existing training programs to obtain knowledge and skills, but some of these programs could be strengthened to better meet the agency’s needs. For example, in addition to sending employees to short courses at professional society conferences, NGA could encourage university professors to develop short courses in emerging areas or other subjects of interest to NGA. Setting up short courses, workshops, and seminars is relatively simple, requiring only credentialed instructors and an event organizer.
NGA seeks university training for new employees and also sends some employees to universities for advanced training in core areas through the Vector Study Program. The program allows NGA employees to attend school for three semesters (undergraduate study) or six semesters (graduate study) while receiving full salary and benefits. However, university training through the Vector Study Program is being replaced by less in-depth training at the NGA College. Increasing the number of employees who participate in the Vector Study Program would enhance employee skills in core areas, and extending the program to emerging areas would bring new skills to the agency. Allowing distance learning or shorter or longer periods of study would make the program more flexible to both NGA and its employees.
Finally, the NGA College offers approximately 170 courses to its employees and other government workers and contractors. Courses are taught by government employees and contractors. External reviews by independent experts, which are common in university departments, would help administrators ensure that the curriculum remains relevant and up to date and that the teaching staff are of the highest caliber.
Building Core and Emerging Areas
NGA provides grants to academic institutions and consortia to support research and education in geospatial intelligence fields. Grant programs could also be used to support core and emerging areas by establishing research centers and partnerships and by helping to develop curricula and academic support infrastructure. Centers provide a means to gather experts from different fields and/or different organizations to develop new research areas. They can take several forms, depending on the goals and partners in the collaboration. Government research centers attached to a university (University Affiliated Research Centers [UARCs]) are established to help an agency maintain core scientific and technologic capabilities over a long period. Research centers and partnerships may also be