Chapter 6 described the various types of university, government, professional society, and industry programs that currently offer some type of education or training in geospatial disciplines, methods, or technology. Although not designed for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), many of these programs could be used by NGA to obtain some useful knowledge or skills. NGA could also take steps to build the specialized expertise it needs in the future.
NGA has a number of useful programs for building knowledge and skills in specific areas or expanding the diversity of the pool of applicants. These include programs to train current employees (e.g., NGA College, Vector Study Program), grants to academic institutions and consortia to support NGA-relevant research and education, and scholarships and internships to support students interested in pursuing a career in geospatial intelligence (Box 7.1). This chapter focuses on other actions NGA can take to build the specialized knowledge and skills it needs to ensure an adequate U.S. supply of geospatial intelligence experts, including the emerging areas, over the next 20 years (Task 4). The objective was to provide a menu of choices of varying scope, not to identify priorities. The ideas are organized into three categories: building new knowledge in the core and emerging areas, strengthening existing training programs, and enhancing recruitment efforts.
Most of the education and training in core and emerging areas takes place in universities. NGA supports some of these efforts by funding research projects and students (Box 7.1). Funding could also be directed toward building university programs, curricula, and academic support infrastructure to help develop fields of interest to NGA, as described below. Partnerships with other agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation [NSF], National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) on mutual topics of interest would stretch NGA’s research dollars and help sustain initiatives long enough to ensure a sufficient supply of experts over the next 20 years.
University Affiliated Research Centers
University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs) are government research centers attached to universities at the forefront of a specific research area. The Department of Defense (DOD) began establishing UARCs in 1996 to help maintain core engineering and technology capabilities. The initial set of centers is still operating and more have been added, attesting to their usefulness to DOD. There are currently 13 DOD UARCs, none of which are focused on geospatial technology or applications. An NGA UARC could support geospatial intelligence areas that would not otherwise exist in the university; foster ongoing collaboration among research faculty, Ph.D. students, and NGA staff; and maintain
NGA’s Academic Research Program awards research grants to universities to support basic research of interest to the agency, to fill gaps in imagery or geospatial science and technology, and/or to develop associated education and training programs.a NGA also offers scholarships and paid internships to college students.b Programs include the following:
NGA University Research Initiatives—support research in geospatial intelligence disciplines at U.S. colleges and universities that carry out science and engineering research and/or related education.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions Grants—support educational research to develop and enrich geospatial research and teaching environments at historically black colleges or universities and minority serving institutions.
NGA Outstanding New Scientific and Technical Innovative Researcher Program—support innovative NGA-relevant research by faculty members who have held their doctorate degrees for less than 5 years.
NGA Research Collaboration Forums—encourage collaboration among educational institutions that carry out science and engineering research to advance scientific breakthroughs or improve understanding of research areas of interest to NGA.
Service Academy Education—support basic research arid education-related research activities in geospatial sciences at the U.S. service academies.
Visiting Scientist Program—place visiting academic researchers in NGA facilities.
NGA Student Employment Program—provide summer internships to undergraduate and graduate students to give them real work experience and prepare them for future employment with NGA.
NGA Stokes Scholarship Program— provide college undergraduates who have demonstrated financial need and interest in an NGA career with tuition assistance, challenging summer work, and a guaranteed position in their field of study upon graduation.
Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Program—provide a full scholarship, stipend for living expenses, and employment in the federal government upon completion of a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. NGA is a participating placement site for the scholars.
a long-term research and development focus on areas critical to NGA.
A new UARC is usually initiated at a high level within an agency. For example, the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies was initiated by the chief scientist of the U.S. Army at the time, A. Michael Andrews, II, who was inspired by the NRC (1997) report Modeling and Simulation—Linking Entertainment and Defense. Dr. Andrews requested the chair of the NRC committee to draft a research agenda and operating plan for a UARC focused on using entertainment technologies to develop the Army’s next generation of immersive training environments. Funding for the center, initially $10 million per year for 5 years, has grown to more than $25 million per year.
Centers of Excellence
Centers of excellence are commonly established to carry out collaborative research, create tools and data sets, and build a cohort of trained individuals in subject areas outside traditional academic, business, or government departments. They are similar to UARCs,
The Intelligence Community Centers of Excellence, which are partly supported by NGA, are focused on improving the representation of minorities and women in critical competencies, such as information technology, language, political science and economics, science and engineering, and threat analysis.1 An example of centers that both generate mission-specific knowledge and train the next generation of experts are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) centers of excellence. Established as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002,2 the centers are intended to enhance homeland security by generating knowledge and ideas for new technologies in a wide range of subjects. Major themes of the centers include terrorism; microbial risk; zoonotic disease; food security; preparedness; explosive-related threats; border security; maritime and remote resources; coastal areas; transportation; and command, control, and interoperability. Each center is led by a university, often in collaboration with other universities, national laboratories, nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, and private companies. A few of the centers touch on emerging areas discussed in this report. For example, the Center of Excellence in Command, Control, and Interoperability at Purdue University covers visual analytics for security applications. Many of the centers also provide education and training to students and/or professionals. For example, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism offers a graduate certificate in terrorism analysis and an undergraduate minor in terrorism studies, and the Center for Maritime, Island and Remote and Extreme Environment Security offers professional development courses in port-security sensing technologies.
Centers of excellence can be effective sources of innovation, especially those housed in private companies (e.g., Frost et al., 2002). Centers located in universities also create a culture that links research and the government, potentially facilitating recruitment and increasing the pool of graduates with knowledge and skills needed by the sponsor agency (or agencies), depending on how long funding is sustained. Multiple years of support are commonly required to build education programs as well as to fund graduate students with dissertation or thesis topics of direct interest to an agency.
UARCs and centers of excellence have a physical home, although many participants do not work there. A virtual center may or may not have a home, but usually consists of a leader and appointed or self-selected members who work on a common goal from their own institutions. Virtual centers are easy to establish (and disestablish) and relatively inexpensive to operate, and the structure can be customized to the need. Maintaining a virtual center can be as simple as providing a web server and supporting conferencing.
Virtual centers are often created where fields are evolving rapidly and the necessary skills and knowledge for advancing them are scattered across many institutions. Indeed, virtual clearinghouses for curriculum and contact information were essential for the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) studies (e.g., Kemp and Goodchild, 1992) and are now being used to help develop the visual analytics field (Thomas and Cook, 2006). Virtual centers could provide several types of benefits to NGA, including providing a means to build emerging areas in universities or to facilitate collaboration among NGA offices or partner organizations.
An example of a virtual center focused on facilitating research collaborations is the Research Information Centre, which was developed jointly by Microsoft Research Connections and The British Library. The center provides management software tools, such as domain-specific project site templates, calendars, task lists, wikis, blogs, and surveys (Barga et al., 2007). Tools for automating collaboration among research groups across locations and disciplines are now under construction (Procter et al., 2011). Some of these are entire learning systems aimed at instruction; some support the building of common reference data, bodies of knowledge, and toolsets; and others are geared toward
1 See <www.nsu.edu/iccae/pdf/IC-CAEGuidanceAndProcedures.pdf>. A list of centers can be found at <http://www.nsa.gov/ia/academic_outreach/nat_cae/institutions.shtml>.
2 Public Law 107-296. See also <http://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-centers-excellence>.
removing the impacts of physical separation on collaborative research. A study on the project found that shared access to data, tools, computational resources, and collaborators has led to faster research results and novel research directions (Carusi and Reimer, 2010).
Innovation in geospatial technology commonly comes from industry or collaborations with industry. Examples of such technologies used by NGA include ArcGIS Military Analyst, which was developed by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), and FalconView, a PC-based mapping application developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute. One way to nurture nonproprietary technology innovations is to develop research partnerships with private companies. Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) are commonly used to establish research and development partnerships between a government agency and a private company. Partnerships between universities and industry can be formed through a variety of means. For example, NSF’s Industry & University Cooperative Research Program provides a means for universities and private companies to establish a center, supported primarily by industry, to collaborate on projects of mutual interest.3 The program is intended to help build the nation’s research infrastructure and to enhance the intellectual capacity of the science and engineering workforce. Private companies provide funding and technological capabilities, and universities provide cutting-edge research capabilities. Graduate students contribute to the research projects and also become familiar with industrially relevant research.
Some of the centers in the Industry & University Cooperative Research Program address topics of interest to NGA, such as remote sensing, visual analytics, and data fusion. Government agencies can become partners in the centers or use this model to build critical infrastructure and worker skills specific to their needs.
A number of federal agencies have sponsored initiatives to develop or enhance curricula in areas relevant to their mission, thereby helping to expand the supply of potential employees with the necessary training and skills. For example, NASA has sponsored several projects to develop remote sensing curricula.4 Opportunities abound for NGA to get involved in curriculum development in emerging or other areas that suit their workforce needs. A particularly promising focus is an interdisciplinary master’s degree curriculum in geospatial intelligence topics. Interdisciplinary master’s programs are politically easier and less costly for universities to implement than interdisciplinary bachelor’s programs. Moreover, efforts to establish such curricula would demonstrate to universities the need for interdisciplinary education. Curriculum development at the NGA College may also be fruitful. Such efforts are often inexpensive and can yield major returns.
Past experience with creating academic curriculum in emerging geospatial areas is well illustrated by the NSF’s National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA), which was established in 1989. The proposal to create the center included development of a core curriculum in GIS. At the time, no major textbook on the subject had been written and few universities offered classes. Therefore, the initial NCGIA core curriculum, published in 1990, was targeted at university and college instructors and included lesson plans, lecture slides, and support materials. The curriculum was a success, with requests for the materials from hundreds of institutions nationally and internationally (Kemp and Goodchild, 1991). Ongoing demand led to a second version of the GIS core curriculum, this time using the web as the main creation and distribution channel. An overall design and structure was created, and leading scholars were invited to contribute content to each of the modules. Although the web version of the GIS core curriculum was overtaken by Wikis and by new textbooks and software, its model for basic classes and topics remains at the forefront of university-level GIS instruction today (Howarth and Sinton, 2011).
Academic Support Infrastructure
The academic support infrastructure for the emerging areas—professional societies, special interest
groups, journals or special issues of journals, workshops, conferences, websites, and blogs—is still in its infancy (see Chapter 3). Although such support systems will come as the fields develop in academia, NGA may be able to encourage their growth by increasing awareness of the emerging areas and their interest to NGA. Possible actions include the following:
• Funding a university scientist to edit a special issue on an emerging topic in a journal by soliciting articles from colleagues.
• Creating a blog (classified or unclassified).
• Soliciting articles by leading academics on the emerging areas for NGA’s Pathfinder Magazine.
• Funding individuals to write wikis or maintain a clearinghouse of executable software used in research.
• Sponsoring sessions on emerging themes at key conferences.
Success could be measured by the emergence of formal academic infrastructures (e.g., journals, society interest groups) that are self-supporting or by the number of articles in the emerging areas and their citation counts.
NGA trains its employees and contractors primarily through the Vector Study Program and the NGA College. Actions NGA can take to strengthen training offered by these programs and other opportunities to train current employees are described below.
Vector Study Program
The Vector Study Program has produced a relatively large number of NGA employees with advanced skills and training, particularly in photogrammetry and geodesy. However, enrollments in the core areas have been declining, jeopardizing the viability of academic photogrammetry programs, and Vector Study Programs do not exist in the emerging areas. Because academic programs in many areas of interest to NGA are already in place, expanding and/or modifying the Vector Study Program would result in nearly immediate gains in staff trained in critical areas.
Although most NGA employees receive specialized training at the NGA College, class offerings in the core areas are limited compared to those offered by a top university degree program (Box 5.2). As a result, current employees are receiving less in-depth training than employees who are nearing retirement. Increasing enrollments in the Vector Study Program could forestall a loss of skill. In addition, the NGA College offers few classes in the emerging areas. Adding graduate programs in emerging areas to the Vector Study Program would produce NGA employees with new skills. About one-third of universities that participate in the Vector Study Program have departments that provide strong education and training in an emerging area (see Tables A.6–A.10 in Appendix A). These universities may be good near-term candidates for Vector Study Programs in emerging areas. Because Vector Study Programs are developed by university faculty members in collaboration with NGA, the new programs would also allow NGA to influence developments in the field.
The flexibility of the Vector Study Program could be increased by including online or distance-learning classes in the program, which would allow employees to take courses while working part-time at NGA. Once a sufficient number of online credits have been acquired, the employee could complete the degree requirements on campus. The combination of online and on-campus study could be tailored to suit the individual and/ or program need. Another way to increase program flexibility is to allow both shorter and longer periods of study. The program currently specifies a number of semesters in a particular period (e.g., two semesters and a summer session in one calendar year for a nonthesis master’s degree in photogrammetry). A midcareer employee could benefit significantly from even a single semester of refresher courses, advanced courses in their specialty area, or introductory courses in new or emerging areas. Other employees could benefit from a longer course of study, such as an extra year. Ph.D. programs in particular are difficult to finish in the time allowed by the program, and both online and distance learning and longer periods in residence on campus would facilitate their completion. An extension would also allow courses in multiple areas to be combined, such as language and photogrammetry. Such individuals with diverse training are needed for NGA to meet its continuously evolving responsibilities.
University departments commonly rely on external reviews to obtain feedback on past performance and ideas for future directions. The reviews can be formal or informal, and they are carried out by visiting committees of independent experts on a schedule that allows ongoing course corrections. External reviews could provide similar benefits to the NGA College.5 Understanding strengths and weaknesses in the curriculum or faculty would help NGA College administrators ensure that the curriculum remains up to date and that the teaching staff are of the highest caliber. For the review to be independent, members of the review committee would not be associated with the college, but would be familiar with its goals and curriculum. Evaluators could be drawn from universities, professional societies concerned with geospatial science and technology (e.g., Table 6.1), and/or various branches of the armed services.
Workshops at Professional Society Meetings
Many national conferences include workshops, seminars, and training courses on specific topics, which provide an opportunity to bring NGA employees up to date on new developments. Setting up workshops and seminars is usually simple, requiring only a workshop organizer, credentialed instructors, and a mechanism for promoting the activity and registering students. By careful targeting (e.g., training in emerging areas), and by expending only small amounts of funds, it should be possible to send employees to the right workshops or to encourage the development of workshops taught by academics to meet NGA workforce needs.
An example of a venue that offers opportunities for workshops and other kinds of training in the emerging areas is the annual GEOINT Community Week, which is hosted by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). The conference includes workshops, such as the 2011 workshop on analytic transformation, which covered emergent technologies and analytical methods. To date, most of the workshops and classes have been led by government and industry instructors, but supporting university faculty to conduct workshops would bring new ideas and learning to the geospatial intelligence community beyond the technology training provided by industry, as well as expose more university faculty to NGA programs.
Organizations can find qualified candidates by recruiting at universities or events (e.g., job fairs, professional society meetings) and by being highly visible to the public. NGA’s small size and intelligence mission minimizes its public presence. Increasing awareness of the agency and using new approaches to find candidates with desired skills could increase the number of qualified applicants for NGA positions. Previous chapters discussed where NGA could look for candidates with geospatial skills (e.g., see “Recruiting” in Chapter 5 and Tables A.1–A.10, Appendix A). Some possible mechanisms for increasing awareness of NGA for recruiting purposes are described below.
Sessions at Professional Society Meetings
Professional society meetings and conferences are a primary means for professionals to learn about breaking research developments and to showcase their own research results. Such sessions also increase community awareness of what organizations such as NGA are doing and creates opportunities for recruiting. Employees of NGA and its predecessor organizations commonly make technical presentations at professional society meetings. For example, the Institute of Navigation has been an important venue for keeping users informed about changes in the DOD World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS 84), which provides the reference coordinate system for the Global Positioning System and the reference frame upon which all geospatial intelligence and other geospatial applications are based (e.g., Swift, 1994; Malys et al., 1997; Cunningham et al., 1998; Merrigan et al., 2002; Wiley et al., 2006). Professional society meetings also played a key role in enlisting the help of the community in evaluating various components of WGS 84 (e.g., Ture, 2004). Such community interactions, especially with students, could be leveraged to help recruit new employees.
5 According to a May 23, 2011, presentation made by Mark Pahls, Chief of Learning Integration at the NGA College, classes are not formally assessed and new directions are determined in consultation with a learning advisory board.
Over the past few years, NGA has been hosting technical sessions at meetings of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). The ASPRS Defense and Intelligence Subcommittee, which is co-chaired by NGA’s senior scientist for photogrammetry, has organized both classified and unclassified technical sessions. For example, the 2011 annual conference included an unclassified special session on photogrammetry and the next generation of unmanned systems, and the 2011 ASPRS Pecora 18 Symposium included an unclassified session on the human dimensions of anticipatory intelligence analysis. Such sessions increase NGA’s visibility on specific technical issues. To expand overall awareness of NGA, and thus increase recruitment opportunities, NGA could encourage students to attend the unclassified sessions to get a first-hand idea of some of the technical work at NGA. The NGA-organized sessions could also include a presentation on the agency’s mission and activities, similar to what is presented at graduate seminars at universities. In addition, hosting receptions following some of these sessions would provide an opportunity for students to talk informally with NGA scientists and analysts.
Social Media Site
The next generation of NGA employees will be familiar and comfortable with the use of social media for all aspects of their daily lives, including searching for jobs and internships and exchanging information. At little expense, NGA could establish a strong social media presence that links and acts as a broker for the existing recruitment information on the NGA website. Such social media sites have been created by other defense-related agencies, such as the Australian Defence Department.6
By granting admission to NGA interns, employees, and others, NGA could maintain a set of highly motivated and interested users, who could be instantly informed of recruitment events, news, job opportunities, the Vector Study Program, and other topics. Features such as a director’s blog or postings from NGA product users could stimulate interest and provide a broader interest group for the content of Pathfinder magazine, with the target of increasing recruitment.
Engaging Activities for Universities
Recruitment events at colleges, universities, and meetings are often relatively passive, with students receiving printed media and posing questions. More active engagement at such events could both provide more information to potential employees and allow individuals with the right combination of reasoning skills to be identified. For example, bringing a training exercise to a university recruitment event would enable students to actively engage in intelligence-like activities. Students could be provided with a situation to solve—such as intelligence about a facility or a natural disaster—and maps or software, and then asked to prepare and justify an analysis. Alternatively, students could be presented with results of a classic intelligence outcome and asked to analyze the decisions and the required information. Interactive feedback from recruiters is likely to be far more detailed and engaging in such an environment. Recruiters would be able to observe the students while problem solving and to judge capabilities and experience, rather than deducing it from a resume. Such activities could also be offered on GIS day7 or provide the basis for an online quiz.
Career and employment aptitude tests use personality tests, intelligence tests, work samples, and other tests to determine the suitability or desirability of a job applicant (Stevens and Campion, 1999). Some tests correlate better with job performance than others, so employers often use more than one test to maximize predictive power (Barrick and Mount, 1991). The use of career aptitude tests for recruiting has gained traction (Droege, 1983), including for military recruitment (e.g., Getkate et al., 1992). Internet and online submission are increasingly common for these tests.
A significant amount of research has been carried out on aptitude tests. By using custom design and existing tests, an NGA workforce targeted test could be assembled or developed relatively easily. Should such a test prove useful to NGA, it could be used in two ways: (1) as part of the diagnostic and training stage for new NGA employees and (2) as an online tool to
assist in recruiting. NGA could also take advantage of generic aptitude tests administered by various testing services. Individuals scoring highly on skills or native ability suited to spatial reasoning, geography, or image interpretation could easily be referred by the testing services to NGA as possible recruits.
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. To address the task, the committee identified a menu of NGA actions of varying scope and complexity, including the following:
• Establish research centers (UARCs, centers of excellence, virtual centers) to gather experts from different fields and/or organizations to work on issues critical to NGA.
• Establish research partnerships between private companies and universities and/or government agencies to support technological innovation.
• Sponsor university efforts to develop core curricula and academic support infrastructure (e.g., journals, conferences) needed to advance the emerging areas.
• Expand the Vector Study Program to enhance employee skills in core areas and add new skills in emergmg areas.
• Institute periodic external reviews of the N GA College to ensure the quality of the curriculum and instructors.
• Send employees to short courses at professional society meetings and fund university professors to develop short courses in areas of interest to NGA.
• Increase the agency’s visibility to potential job applicants by organizing sessions at professional conferences and establishing a social media site with career information.
• Seek qualified candidates by using career aptitude tests or by engaging students in interesting problem-solving exercises at recruiting events.
The examples above illustrate the variety of mechanisms that can be used to ensure the future availability of geospatial intelligence expertise. Some 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 have the potential to improve geospatial intelligence, but which currently produce few graduates and which lack the academic infrastructure to develop quickly. However, these mechanisms could also be used to build other areas of interest to NGA, such as core areas for which the pool of qualified applicants is small and shrinking (cartography, photogrammetry). 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.