established between private companies and universities and/or government agencies to support technological innovation. Centers of excellence can be housed in a university, federal agency, or private company and can focus on any topic that requires a team approach or shared facilities. They are commonly established to carry out collaborative research, create tools and data sets, and build a cohort of trained individuals in new subject areas. In virtual centers, members work together from their own institutions using conferencing and the Internet. They are easy to set up and are often established to facilitate work on short-term projects or new research areas.
By supporting university research, NGA indirectly influences the development of fields of interest. NGA could speed the development of emerging areas by sponsoring university efforts to establish core curricula and academic support infrastructure (i.e., journals, professional societies). Core curricula are particularly important in emerging areas because each program has a unique set of collaborating departments and approaches for dealing with the topics, so graduates from different programs commonly have different knowledge and skills. The academic support infrastructure for the emerging areas could be nurtured through actions such as funding a university scientist to compile and edit a special issue on an emerging topic in a leading journal or organizing sessions on emerging themes at key conferences.
NGA offers scholarships and internships to support students interested in a career in geospatial intelligence. Other ways to reach potential applicants include organizing sessions at professional society conferences to raise awareness of NGA and its technical work, and establishing a social media site with links to job listings, recruiting events, and related information to make it easy to find information about NGA careers. NGA could seek candidates with the right combination of spatial reasoning skills by engaging students in interesting problem-solving exercises (e.g., analyzing an intelligence problem) at recruiting events. In addition, career aptitude tests, administered by NGA or by various testing services, could be used to find individuals with abilities in spatial thinking, geography, or image interpretation.
Answer to Task 4
The actions described above to answer Task 4 show that a variety of mechanisms can be used to ensure the future availability of geospatial intelligence expertise. Some of the mechanisms would build expertise in the long term (e.g., UARCs, research partnerships with industry, curriculum development, academic support infrastructure), while others could provide more immediate gains (e.g., Vector Study Program expansion, virtual centers, professional society workshops and short courses, recruitment efforts). Most mechanisms would be relatively inexpensive to implement (e.g., virtual centers, curriculum development, recruiting efforts), while some could require substantial investment, depending on size and scope (e.g., UARCs, Vector Study Program expansion, centers of excellence). The need is greatest for the emerging areas, which currently produce few graduates and lack the academic infrastructure to develop quickly, but these mechanisms could also be used to build other areas of interest to NGA. Getting involved with education and training programs would also provide opportunities for NGA to influence the development of fields it relies on to carry out its mission.
The bottom line is that, despite its need for highly specialized knowledge and skills, NGA has the comparative luxury of being a small employer in the burgeoning geospatial enterprise. NGA is probably finding sufficient experts in all core areas, with the possible exception of GIS and remote sensing. However, shortages (too few experts to give NGA choices or means of meeting sudden demand) in photogrammetry, cartography, and geodesy are likely in the short term, followed by possible shortages in emerging areas in the longer term. While low numbers of experts are of concern to NGA, many mechanisms are available to build the knowledge and skills that NGA will require, such as strengthening existing training programs, building core and emerging areas, and enhancing recruiting. With attention to these areas, NGA has the ability both to meet its workforce needs and to be adaptive to a changing mission during the next 20 years, and potentially well beyond.