NGA Pathfinder promotes awareness and understanding of geospatial intelligence, and is published by National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Office of Corporate Communications. NGA Pathfinder is an authorized Department of Defense publication for members of the DOD. Contents of this publication are not necessarily the official view of, or endorsed by, the U.S. government, DOD or NGA. Articles in NGA Pathfinder may be reproduced in whole or in part without permission, unless stated otherwise. If reproduced, credit the author and “National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NGA Pathfinder magazine.” Reproduction of graphics, photographs and imagery is subject to the original copyright.
OCC Leadership Director: William Caniano Chief News & Information: Don Kerr Editor: Jeanne Chircop Copy Editors: Dale Lehner Christine Fennema Designers: Sarah Hall, Karen A. Ortiz, Ronald Perez and Craig Thoburn Photography: Anthony Boone, Erica Knight and David Richards Contact us Send letters to the editor to Pathfinder@nga.mil Telephone: 571-557-5400 DSN 547-5400 Approved for Public Release, 18-007
We provide GEOINT for our Nation's Security.
NGA Leadership Director: Robert Cardillo Deputy Director: Justin Poole
The last issue of NGA Pathfinder focused on the importance of high-tech tools such as supercomputers, automation and augmentation, drones and apps. Yet one of the featured articles wasn’t directly about technology; it was about the agency’s efforts to engage innovators who have a “solver” mentality. At the end of the day, it is human thought and the ability to make effective decisions that have the most impact on national security. Technology is simply the enabler of that process. NGA Director Robert Cardillo has said it many times during his tenure: “It’s a mindset.” Ultimately, our mission success depends on how we approach problems and optimize the various means at our disposal to overcome challenges and derive effective solutions. That’s why this issue of the magazine is all about using our minds to our best advantage. That seems simple — until we consider how vastly different geospatial intelligence is today from only a few years ago and how quickly and profoundly it continues to evolve. It’s not that our thinking is necessarily outdated; it’s that we’re moving so fast now that we run the risk of limiting ourselves to a single perspective or not thinking through what an immediate task means in the grander scheme of things. We may find the right dot, if you will, but perhaps we can do it more quickly and precisely, and we may be able to use the wealth of data and tools now available to connect each dot we find to other dots that will provide us and our customers with a clearer picture and deeper understanding. But we have to approach every challenge with that mindset first. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution likens it to poetry. “The art of intelligence is not a science; it’s poetry,” Riedel said during the 2017 Kalaris conference cosponsored by NGA and Georgetown University. “It’s very hard to find poets these days, but that’s what we need in the intelligence business…. It’s good to have scientists, but figuring out what your adversary or your friend is going to do next is not a scientific game — it’s much more intuitive than that.” The lead feature in this issue tackles the trifecta at the core of that type of intuitive thought: critical thinking, computational thinking and design thinking, also known as human-centered design. While all three are integral to the tech community, their underlying purpose is to focus effort on the human goal — what it is we’re hoping to accomplish and why. A second feature delves into the actual science of how our brains work. Many readers may be surprised to learn that NGA is among those studying neuroscience in order to deepen analytical capabilities and optimize emerging machine-learning endeavors. Specific to the research is understanding how our brains encode and use spatial information. The third feature examines perspective and how differences in life experience strengthen the agency’s collective commitment to mission. You’ll meet naturalized citizens in each of NGA’s workforce segments — civilian, contractor and military — and learn how their journeys to America and NGA have deepened their resolve to serve the United States. Other stories within this issue provide insight into NGA’s efforts to cultivate a “solver” mentality within its workforce, including a grassroots improvement effort. And as testament to the fact that NGA has always been on the cutting edge of technology, we take a proud look back at how two of the agency’s predecessors supported the historic race to the Moon.
ON THE COVER: Otis Leake, deputy director, Partner Engagement Division, values different perspectives and understands the importance of asking the right questions for successful partner engagement.
V/r, Jeanne Chircop Editor
FEATURES THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: 14 WHAT DO WE REALLY NEED TO KNOW? THE MIND AS MACHINE: 22 UNDERSTANDING HOW OUR BRAINS ENCODE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: 32 FOREIGN-BORN AND SERVING PROUDLY
DEPARTMENTS 4 KNOW THE EARTH 6 TEAM NGA 10 VIEWPOINT 18 COLLABORATION 20 SHOW THE WAY 28 TELLING OUR STORY 36
38 UNDERSTAND THE WORLD
KNOW THE EARTH
By Cathryn Wetter, Source Foundation
4 | NGA.MIL
| KNOW THE EARTH |
The quest to find and use the right data at the right time just got a little easier for the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency and its customers and partners. A new Map of the World plug-in, released in September 2017, brings hundreds of structured content streams into a single, self-service user interface that’s both easily searchable and blazing fast. The new SOM Discovery plug-in gives analysts the ability to leverage structured observation management content available at global scale. Users searching for data can save valuable time by visualizing, searching and exporting data through a single dynamic, web-based interface. “Typically analysts would need to be intimately familiar with one or two SOM content repositories to gain any value from the data,” said Alex Shernoff, a senior solutions engineer with NGA commercial partner MapLarge. “Now any user can rapidly search for keywords like ‘missiles’ or ‘tanks’ across several different SOM repositories. This enables collaboration across multiple analytic groups to be much more efficient and effective.” The new plug-in also begins to unlock the potential of using SOM data for advanced tradecrafts like activity based intelligence, “now that the data has been integrated for analysts before they begin their exploitation,” according to Shernoff. NGA brought together multiple innovation efforts to deliver this new capability to analysts and mission partners throughout the intelligence community. The ability for analysts to incorporate the SOM Discovery data into their normal day-to-day activities can save hours of time per week, according to Marti Spaulding, MOW product manager. Not only can analysts save time by accessing their own SOM content, but now they can easily find data related to their missions that would previously have
been difficult to discover without several days of tedious effort. More time savings occur when analysts discover other groups working on the same events or topics during key time-sensitive situations. New data is automatically added to the SOM Discovery plug-in from original SOM content sources. One of the most important improvements MOW users will notice using the SOM Discovery plug-in is the speed for rendering, searching and exporting millions of GEOINT data features within thin-client environments, said Spaulding. The technology and programmatic innovations that enable this fast access to huge amounts of data were brought to bear through a partnership between the GEOINT Visualization Services program and NGA’s FASTTRAK program. This unique partnership helped accelerate the speed to operations of the key commercial software products for the SOM Discovery plug-in, putting the capability in analysts’ hands months sooner than would have been possible through traditional processes. The MOW application programming interface enabled the FASTTRAK initiative to rapidly integrate into the enterprise architecture. By delivering SOM Discovery as an MOW plug-in, robust mapping could be integrated with capabilities such as timeslider functionality, 3-D map visualization services and collaborative saved views accessible within an intelligence community portal. Several improvements are planned for the SOM Discovery plug-in in the months ahead. Among them will be the ability for analysts to upload their own data in context with existing SOM content. Other improvements include the addition of quick analytics such as heat maps and data aggregations, and the ability to search across multiple sources and data layers with custom symbology.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 5
NGA SALUTE: STAFF SGT. JANAE BENEST
By Kris Mackey, Office of Corporate Communications 6 | NGA.MIL
| TEAM NGA |
For the past three years, when U.S. Marines Corps Staff Sgt. Janae Benest wasn’t enjoying her two favorite hobbies — listening to rap music or knitting, usually socks — she was advising the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency on Marine Corps missions and troop welfare. The Marine Corps NGA Support Team operations chief and the agency’s Marine Corps senior enlisted advisor until recently, Benest’s seemingly incongruent hobbies reflect her multifaceted personality. She is both tough and nurturing, a leader and a supporter, funny and serious, and humble and proud. Benest typically uses a dry wit to avoid discussing her long list of accomplishments, but she unabashedly bears pride in being a Marine. “They don’t take just any geek off the street,” she said with a characteristic tongue-in-cheek humor. “You have to be handy with the steel, if you know that I mean.” When answering why she joined the Marines, she used a line from singer Michael Jackson, “You have to take a look at yourself and make a change.” And Benest can definitely make change happen. At an annual combined Australian exercise last year, for instance, Benest and her NGA team of Marines succeeded in getting imagery to a location so remote it was thought impossible to get imagery there at all, let alone as quickly as it was needed. “We worked with the NGA commercial imagery office and Digital Globe to pull the imagery the mission partner needed, while simultaneously dealing with 'how' to get it to a location thought technically impossible to get to,” she said. “We did it, on time, and the mission was accomplished. It was an incredible moment!” Benest’s former job description at NGA was long and distinguished.
It’s best summarized by stating that she oversaw the daily operations of any and all Marine Corps missions, activity and personnel for the agency. While her office was based out of NGA's Springfield, Virginia, campus, anywhere NGA Marines were to be found, Benest was there to support and oversee them. She willingly and dutifully left behind her family at times to support NGA Marines at various locations across the country. “From managing the reserve budget to handling personnel issues, I was honored to be able to assist the Marines to ensure they have everything they need to expertly support NGA,” Benest said. “I was the bridge between the Marine Corps GEOINT community and NGA programs, systems and services.” Though her quest to knit the perfect pair of socks for each member of her family is a goal not yet reached, her accomplishments at NGA were vast, according to her supervisor, Capt. Sam Gildner. “Staff Sgt. Benest's dynamic personality combined with her GEOINT experience has empowered her to represent the Marine Corps and NGA successfully across the NSG [National System for Geospatial Intelligence] and Fleet Marine Force during her tour,” said Gildner. “She is an outstanding Marine, and the success of the NGA Marine NST mission over the past three years was due in large part to her efforts.” Benest attributes both her success and the love of her job to her team and Gildner, suggesting that the latitude and trust she was given were key. “I was allowed to — no, encouraged to — think outside the box, which is refreshing and empowering,” Benest said. “My leadership trusted me to see things through.” Benest ended her tour of duty at NGA in September 2017. Know a service member worthy of an NGA Salute? Send your suggestion to Pathfinder@nga.mil.
PHOTOS THIS PAGE, TOP TO BOTTOM: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Janae Benest with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photos courtesy of Janae Benest
PATHFINDER 2017 | 7
I AM NGA: EXECUTIVE PROFILE â€” ANTHONY VINCI, PH.D. By Amelia Cohen-Levy, Office of Corporate Assessment and Program Evaluation
8 | NGA.MIL
| TEAM NGA |
Anthony Vinci, Ph.D., was named the associate director for capabilities at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2017, a role in which he leads the agency's technology, R&D, contracting, program, innovations activities and strategy. His experiences from private industry — including as the founder and former CEO of Findyr, an online market data collection service — as well as his educational background, which includes a Ph.D. in international relations from The London School of Economics, make him an interesting, and seemingly atypical, choice for a leadership role at an intelligence agency. But Vinci brings experience in many of NGA’s growth areas, as well as success garnered in varied advisory and executive roles, and prior work with the Department of Defense. His curriculum vita is riddled with key words from NGA’s strategic documents: data collection, crowdsourcing, machine learning, remote sensing, change implementation and emerging technologies. That’s why he was recruited to NGA — his mission is to help lead the agency into the future. And he knows that isn’t an easy task. “Being in a continuous cycle of disruption and improvement is a radical change for government,” Vinci said. “The speed of our change has to accelerate so much that it’s uncomfortable. The very nature of innovation and adaptation has to change to where you’re constantly in beta [testing mode].” Vinci sees geospatial intelligence as the foundation for all intelligence, providing the space on which all other pieces are built. “The world and what we know of it is innately tied to location, space and time,” Vinci said. “These qualities are a key part of the future of intelligence, because our brains have to keep up with a world that’s becoming increasingly complex.” GEOINT data is unique, according to Vinci, because it is naturally easy for the human mind to comprehend.
“By the time we get to elementary school, we understand how maps, pictures and annotations all fit together,” he said. “It’s pretty much the same as it’s been for hundreds of years. There isn’t much need to improve on it.” At the same time, Vinci believes that NGA is in the midst of a third wave of GEOINT. The first wave was when analysts had found a way to look at the world from space in a regular, repeatable way, using wet film and manual processes. The second wave was tying the map, image and data into a singular product, creating something that was closer to true GEOINT, and then digitally transferring it to the field. The third wave is a natural evolution, according to Vinci, that incorporates more data, the creation and testing of models, and growth away from being reactive to becoming more anticipatory. The idea of the map has been redefined in the process, Vinci said. “It’s gone from being something top-down to a simulation of the world around you,” he said. “It’s continuously updating, so we have to start thinking about indexes of change — like determining which roads are flooded and which are passable, or using Waze to see where the traffic is.” The move from this third wave to a fourth is what Vinci is most concerned with. He envisions using artificial intelligence to tackle the data, figuring out what a machine can learn and analyze, and determining the role of humans in GEOINT’s future. “We only need data visualization when something is incomprehensible. When you’re photographing the entire world every day, it’s just too much to look at,” Vinci said. Much of the work on Vinci’s team is dedicated to harmonizing the roles of humans and machines at NGA. “Machines can provide insights, but only humans can ask the important questions: ‘What can we do?’ ‘Why does this matter?’ These are the
intuitive, creative, problem-solving pieces,” he said. “Humans have an innate genius for this; it’s one of our most remarkable, highest callings.” Vinci is also dedicated to bringing those humans together. The Ventures office he oversees is all about building public-private partnerships, for example, with the goal of helping NGA to focus less on acquiring solutions and more on finding ways to co-develop and co-create them. He also collaborates with CAPE, the Office of Corporate Assessment and Program Evaluation, getting its business analytics team — and through it, the entire workforce — used to using a more data-centric perspective. Doing these things means leveraging the diversity of experience, perspective and creativity of everyone involved, working with the technical talent that’s already inside the government as well as what’s outside it — and using the best of both. To do that, mutual respect has to be part of the picture, according to Vinci. This is where his philosophy studies come into play, centering on the work that every person does every day. “All actions are moral and ethical. Every time you talk in a work setting, you’re defining what you think is good,” said Vinci. “You’re also setting an example for others’ morality, even if it’s unconscious. By treating others with respect, it becomes possible for more people to be part of the work and makes them fully part of the mission.” But it’s more than that in his view. Vinci believes that NGA can be more successful if diversity of thought is applied to the same question: What am I doing today to uphold the collective NGA, DOD and intelligence community mission? “We shouldn’t think in terms of forms and check boxes and strategy documents,” Vinci said. “The point is to do our mission better. If we’re not doing that, then we’re not doing our jobs.”
PATHFINDER 2017 | 9
ACKNOWLEDGE THE LESSONS: EARLY INNOVATION SOMETIMES FALLS SHORT By Joe Caddell, National Intelligence University
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency, the intelligence community, the Department of Defense or the United States government. The story of Thaddeus Lowe and the Union Balloon Corps is no doubt familiar to many in the geospatial intelligence world. Publications and senior leaders frequently cite the 19th century origins of American overhead reconnaissance as evidence of GEOINT’s long and proud lineage of supporting U.S. national security. Yet the story of Civil War balloon reconnaissance is more complicated than many quick narratives convey. Mature technologies often like to recognize their earliest ancestors and laud their achievements. Modern submariners may trace their roots to the CSS Hunley, for example, though none likely wish to meet the same fate as her crew. In considering our professional forbearers, we should willingly acknowledge the cautionary lessons of their shortcomings as much as the inspiration of their successes. If there’s one thing we have learned about innovation over time, it’s that most advances were built on the backs of half-wins, near-misses and some outright failures. BALLOONS AND BOMBAST The 45-second narrative of Civil War ballooning usually goes something like this: An ambitious, innovative entrepreneur named Thaddeus Lowe offered his services to the Union Army at the outset of the American Civil War. A self-taught chemist and engineer, Lowe secured an audience with President Lincoln in June 1861 and audaciously demonstrated the potential of balloon reconnaissance, ascending 500 feet above the National Mall and telegraphing his observations to an
10 | NGA.MIL
astounded audience below. Lowe was named “chief aeronaut” of the Union Balloon Corps and began providing battlefield intelligence to various Union field commanders, including General George McClellan during his 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Lowe and his staff provided timely, accurate intelligence on Confederate positions, force strength and movements that provided decision advantage to Union commanders. The only problem with this inspiring story of 19th century GEOINT is that it is largely inaccurate. Much of it is a product of Lowe himself having been an effective self-promoter. His postwar memoirs and papers fill much of the 20th century historical record of Union ballooning, usually to his own credit. Both contemporary military leaders and modern historians widely refute his claims. Preeminent Civil War historian Stephen Sears flatly concludes, “…[B]alloon reconnaissance brought very little real enlightenment to General McClellan; certainly they furnished him nothing that brought any reality to the way he was counting the Army of Northern Virginia.” While Lowe is the most-remembered aeronaut, multiple balloonists volunteered their services to the U.S. Army at the outbreak of war, including John Wise, John LaMountain and brothers James and Ezra Allen. These competing personalities were regularly at odds with one another, often in frank and foul terms. Personal enmity would indeed be a key factor in the complete collapse of Union ballooning in the summer of 1863. ENTRENCHED MINDSETS AND SKEPTICAL END USERS While these balloonists were undoubtedly inspired by patriotism, all saw the war as an opportunity to secure a living pursuing personal passions for aeronautics; a life for which there had been no steady prewar livelihood. While Lowe did secure senior political backing
from President Lincoln with his 1861 ascent — LaMountain made a similar, direct appeal to General Benjamin Butler, commander of Fortress Monroe at the tip of the Virginia peninsula — such backing was not the same thing as establishing a working, practical relationship with the regular army in the field. Lowe’s notional title of chief aeronaut was not a formal military posting, nor was the “Union Balloon Corps” a true military unit. The drive for money, status and fame by balloonists ran headlong into skepticism from traditional military authorities. Army officers familiar with field intelligence drawn from scouts, skirmishers and cavalry were understandably skeptical of civilian outsiders pushing edge technology with an unproven record and demanding up-front investment. As cavalry officer George Armstrong Custer later wrote, “Strong doubts have been expressed as to the practical utility of balloons in war.” According to Custer — who himself made multiple ascents in Professor Lowe’s balloons — Army officers often believed "it was to the interest of the aeronauts to magnify their statements and render their own importance greater, thereby insuring themselves what might be profitable employment; and they could report whatever their imagination prompted them to, with no fear of contradiction." IMMATURE TECHNOLOGY AND OVERPROMISED CAPABILITIES For their own part, balloonists and their platforms were not ideally suited to drive enduring innovation. While entrenched military mindsets constrained ballooning applications, aeronauts often oversold their capabilities and faced significant hurdles to practical, reliable operations. The promise of soaring like a bird, hundreds of feet above the Earth, spying on enemy forces several
| VIEWPOINT |
miles away seemed to represent a truly innovative form of intelligence collection. Yet balloon operations generally required near-ideal weather conditions for stability and visibility — conditions that unexpected contact with the enemy did not routinely provide. While “Professor” Lowe — an entirely self-invented title — possessed the means to generate hydrogen gas in the field and ascend in a matter of hours, most aeronauts required their balloons be filled with coal gas from urban areas and then towed dozens of miles to the field of operations. All balloonists faced difficulties in relaying observations clearly and efficiently; while Lowe demonstrated aerial telegraphy for President Lincoln, this rarely occurred in the field. Even accurate balloon observations frequently offered no meaningful decision advantage, because they were conveyed concurrently — or after — traditional scouting and field observation reports. Ballooning faced another innovation challenge: a complete lack of industrial base or commercial market. Balloonists came from a rather unconventional professional background. Many made a prewar living putting on exhibitions with their balloons and selling tickets for balloon flights at country fairgrounds. They were “carnies,” as actor Mike Myers puts it in the movie “Austin Powers” — “Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Smell like cabbage… small hands.” This unconventional background formed yet another barrier to gaining trust with the conservative military establishment; it also severely hampered balloon logistics and development. Procurement of balloon
cloth, generator equipment and other esoteric material was not easy in an Army logistics system designed for acquiring shoes, food, small arms and ammunition. Repairs to damaged balloons and support equipment were never-ending and often took platforms out of service for weeks. While soldiers were employed to tow equipment and man tether lines, balloon operations were impossible without the direct supervision of the civilian aeronauts, which furthered the distrust of some military officers and kept the technology on something of an experimental footing. Ultimately, for these combined reasons, balloon reconnaissance operations offered little impactful intelligence advantage for Union commanders. Most relevant Civil War military intelligence was derived from newspapers, scouts and civilian informants. Foundation GEOINT was derived from a mixture of prewar maps and topographic engineers conducting terrestrial surveys, not from balloonists. The nascent “balloon corps” disbanded in spring 1863 in the wake of interpersonal conflict, insufficient funding and a lack of proven success. There would be no Union balloons at Gettysburg, Cold Harbor or Appomattox. Temperamental edge technology, unsupported private industry with no meaningful capital backing or commercial prospects and often-inflexible military leadership and culture prevented balloon GEOINT from becoming a true intelligence innovation. It would take another 50 years — and the invention of airplanes and reliable, lightweight cameras — before aerial reconnaissance would become a
dependable, practical intelligence innovation during the first World War. Civil War balloon reconnaissance can offer a tale of the promise of aerial reconnaissance and the admirable spirit of bold innovators. Yet it should also offer tempered caution, reminding us that truly innovative change comes not from new technology or individual entrepreneurs in isolation — but from systems and processes that are able to employ and apply such technologies and entrepreneurs to enduring, practical benefit.
FURTHER READINGS: Charles M. Evans. War of the Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning in the Civil War. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002. Edwin C. Fishel. The Secret War for the Union: The Untold Story of Military Intelligence in the Civil War. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Joseph C. Scott. “The Infernal Balloon: Union Aeronautics during the American Civil War.” Army History 93:1, Fall 2014; pp. 6-27.
Joe Caddell is the Arthur C. Lundahl chair of geospatial intelligence at the National Intelligence University, where he teaches classes on intelligence collection, geospatial intelligence and intelligence history. His work has appeared in ”Intelligence and National Security,” “Studies in Intelligence,” “Geospatial Intelligence Review,” and “War on the Rocks.” He can be reached for comment or discussion at Joseph.W.Caddell@nga.mil.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 11
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency, the intelligence community, the Department of Defense or the United States government.
HOW CAN A MUSEUM BOLSTER INTELLIGENCE WORK? By James E. David, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
12 | NGA.MIL
We know from studying the history of intelligence that technological innovation has always driven tradecraft. We also know that support for government tech has sometimes faced challenges over the years. While agencies such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency explore emerging solutions that will aid the national security mission in the future, it is also instructive to understand the game-changing reconnaissance technologies that formed the foundation of today’s high-tech intelligence capabilities. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is one of several museums in the United States that displays artifacts from the U.S. intelligence community and tells in part the story of its vital contributions to our nation’s security. Over nine million visitors come through the doors of its two facilities every year, and millions more visit its website. Although only limited information could be presented in the past with labels and panels, the digital age offers many new avenues to expand coverage both in the galleries and on the website. The museum’s artifacts in this area are naturally related to overhead reconnaissance. As a result, the exhibits concentrate on imagery and signals intelligence — SIGINT — and do not cover human intelligence, open-source intelligence, or the vital role of ground stations and ships as data collectors. Relevant post-World War II artifacts on display include a U-2C from the 1950s and its B camera, an SR-71, and a Predator and several other drones. The collection of reconnaissance satellites and related objects is of course limited
| VIEWPOINT | because of classification and space considerations, but there is a vital representation of items displayed: a CORONA KH-4B camera used from 1967-1972; the very last CORONA filmreturn capsule recovered in May 1972; a GAMBIT 1 high-resolution satellite that flew from 1963-1967; a GRAB satellite that collected electronic intelligence on two successful missions in 1960-1961; a quarter-scale model of DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3; a full-scale DMSP Block I model; and an Agena B orbital rocket booster. Imagery analysis artifacts include a Richards light table from the 1960s, an AIL 1540 light table that entered service in the early 1970s and an IDEX II workstation that was used beginning in 1981. AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO MORE The museum has the opportunity to expand treatment in the National Mall building as it is renovated in the next eight years and all the galleries are rebuilt. Except for the SR-71, Agena B and a few other objects that will remain on display at the Stephen F. UdvarHazy Center because of their size, the new “Cold War Military Aviation” and “Space Age” galleries at the main Air and Space Museum will display the relevant artifacts. These galleries will include many other types of objects and cover other subjects as well. For example, the Hubble, Skylab, ApolloSoyuz, and various missiles and rockets will remain in “Space Age.” As a result, a large amount of additional display area for overhead reconnaissance artifacts cannot be expected. Nevertheless, selected small new artifacts should be acquired and exhibited. Actual hardware very well might not be available or is too large, and in these cases models will have to be substituted. Good candidates for display include a modern U-2 image-forming sensor, an early U-2 electronic intelligence sensor, one of the recently declassified AFTRACK SIGINT payloads carried on CORONA
satellites in the 1960s and one of the recently declassified low-Earth orbiting SIGINT satellites from the 1960s. Additionally, a SR-71 technical objective camera now in storage should be displayed.
dramatic increase in recent years in the acquisition of commercial imagery to meet some intelligence requirements; and NGA’s work in helping federal civilian agencies and state and local governments with natural disasters and other humanitarian events. With respect to presenting additional SIGINT topics, the classification challenges are greater and, apart from commercial intelligence, it is a more difficult subject for the public to understand. At the very least, however, SIGINT’s use to collect information that imagery cannot provide should be discussed. Good examples include SIGINT’s role in locating and determining the technical characteristics of radars and the interception of missile telemetry to establish their performance characteristics. In the past, the intelligence agencies have helped the museum greatly in providing artifacts and content for exhibits. NGA made important contributions to “Time and Navigation” and NRO, CIA and NSA to “Spying from Space.” Undoubtedly, this cooperation will continue as the museum builds the new “Cold War Military Aviation” and “Space Age” galleries — places where visitors will learn the importance of cuttingedge technologies to intelligence and national security.
DEMONSTRATING IMPACT Certain subjects merit further treatment. First and foremost is the critical importance of intelligence to our national security. A simple and effective means of conveying this point is to show selected aircraft and satellite photography and briefly describe their importance. Good candidates include reconnaissance aircraft photography taken during the Cuban Missile Crisis, CORONA imagery of several of the 25 Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile complexes detected in 1961-1965, or pre- and post-bombing photography of targets such as surface-tomissile sites during the Vietnam or Gulf Wars. It would also be valuable to include finished intelligence products, such as National Intelligence Estimates and President’s Daily Briefs, incorporating this imagery or the data derived therefrom. An abbreviated intelligence cycle of collection, analysis and dissemination to intelligence consumers should also be explained. It should be emphasized that, regardless of the type of target, this is the process the intelligence community follows to place timely and James E. David is a curator in accurate information in the hands of the Division of Space History at the civilian and military officials. Smithsonian National Air and Space Imagery intelligence topics that Museum. He has written numerous deserve coverage include the role of articles on the intersection of the U.S. broad-area search and high-resolution civilian and national security space systems; the evolution from film return programs. He is also the author of to digital systems and the resulting “Spies and Shuttles: NASA’s Secret impact on collection and analysis; Relationships with the DoD and CIA.” and the benefits and disadvantages of He can be reached for comment or discussion at email@example.com satellites, manned aircraft and drones. Other topics might include the uses of different types of imagery — black and white, color, infrared, radar and multispectral — as well as the expanding employment of imagery Have an idea for a GEOINT or from national systems for tactical national security Viewpoint contribution? Send applications, beginning in the 1970s; the your query to Pathfinder@nga.mil.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 13
THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: WHAT DO WE REALLY NEED TO KNOW? By Nancy Rapavi, Office of Corporate Communications
14 | NGA.MIL
| FEATURE |
When Chris Pittman was an allsource analyst, he created products for national security briefers that were data rich and complex. His operational method had been to include as much information as possible. But he did not really know if the products he created were useful. Beyond that, he wondered, were they the most useful they could be? “They were good by our standards, but we didn’t know what the customers thought of them,” said Pittman, a product designer with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Office of Ventures and Innovation. So he sought feedback. “We just started reaching out to talk to briefers to get a better sense of how their customers were using the products,” said Pittman. Minimal feedback came in. Comments indicated the graphics and context were “fine,” but Pittman wasn’t satisfied. He and his team wanted deeper insight. They wanted to be sure their products were providing what their customers actually needed. So they asked to observe the briefers as they read the products. “Based on that, we started changing our product lines,” he said. “We made more graphical products and tested them.” Pittman said he would send the products to the briefers and tweak them based on feedback, observation and deep thinking about what the customers needed to accomplish. He didn’t know it at the time, but Pittman eventually realized he was using a technique called design thinking. “Once you are trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you are doing the early stages of design thinking,” said Pittman. NGA, according to Pittman, is intent on doing just that.
Early discussion took root primarily in architectural and urban planning contexts in the 1970s and ‘80s, and the concept spread throughout all creative design in the 1990s. It grew increasingly prevalent in the development of technical solutions, as software developers realized how vastly different solutions could turn out based on the approach taken at the start. Design thinking became even more valued as data science grew more sophisticated. Data analysts quickly learned the importance of asking the right questions in order to derive the right solutions to their challenges. “Design thinking is about building a really solid problem statement,” said Corry Robb, NGA’s product design lead for GEOINT Services, which aims to revolutionize the delivery of geospatial content to users. “And you do that through compassion and empathy.” Empathy — in this case learning about your customers — is the first step in the design-thinking process. At the foundational level, solution designers must truly understand the problems their customers are trying to solve. “It’s encouraging the mindset of going out to find out what it is like to use your product,” said Pittman. “This is a tool that they can use in the job they have today.” Beyond that, the other key steps comprising design thinking are identified by various terms depending on who’s doing the talking. Stanford University’s Design School, known worldwide for its approaches to obtaining authentic data for problem solving, identifies three additional steps: to ideate, prototype and test. But the process doesn’t stop there; it also involves tweaking the nascent solution and testing it again in a continuous cycle of improvement.
UPFRONT THINKING Design thinking, sometimes called human-centered design, is not new.
TAMING COMPLEXITY A veritable host of problem-solving techniques exists, but the design-
thinking approach in particular requires a significant degree of introspection prior to tackling the problem — are we asking the correct questions to frame the problem? In Pittman’s case, that meant digging deeper into the feedback he and his team received; he didn’t stop when he heard the products were “fine.” Pittman said the key is discovering “the right problem” among many that could be pursued. “Because people will experience a number of problems,” he said, “The question is: ‘What problem can we solve such that we advance the mission of the agency?’” This means exploring root causes before proposing solutions and cranking away on the backlog of needs, said Pittman. “Are there deeper root issues?” he asked. “If you could fix those, you could completely change the way they [customers] deliver value — or the way NGA delivers value.” NGA GEOINT Services leadership is taking the same approach to provide users the ability to find and use geospatial data, content and capabilities in any mission environment. Robb said completely employing design thinking requires a shift in how designers view problems that are presented. Noticing body language and asking non-quantitative questions about processes are tactics typically employed as design-thinking steps. “These aren’t typical questions though. They are not quantitative questions at the beginning, because you are digging for facts,” Robb said. “Design thinking helps you understand — empathize with — the customers so that you understand their work flow and what their pain points are; those things that really drive the user crazy.” The return on investment of good design can be huge. “Time lost figuring out poorly designed systems, software and processes can really add up. We want
PATHFINDER 2017 | 15
to help bury complexity and give our employees their time back to focus on what really matters — delivering mission impact,” said Robb. That ambiguity is one reason NGA now offers an application that provides a framework to run radar data against certain algorithms to create different products based on the evolving needs of the customer. A REPEATABLE PROCESS Customer needs may evolve and change, but one thing that should remain constant is the process, or critical path, for developing a solid solution, according to Anthony Vinci, Ph.D., NGA’s associate director for capabilities. The process itself must be repeatable and scalable. Like design thinking, the idea of discovering repeatable processes for solving conflicts and challenges is not new and did not originate in the tech world. It actually dates to the earliest days of diplomatic protocol — the idea that affairs of state and diplomatic occasions should follow official procedures and standard conduct. The tech industry adopted the same terminology — protocol — to describe operating rules that enable computers and telecommunication devices to connect and communicate with one another. Over time, business efficiency experts realized that the human problemsolving process could also be made more efficient if people followed standard processes to calculate, or compute, data and information. “To flourish in today’s world, everyone needs computational thinking,” according to the Center for Computational Thinking at Carnegie Melon. Jeannette Wing, formerly of Carnegie Melon and currently with the Data Sciences Institute at Columbia University, is widely credited with coining the term “computational thinking” in 2014. While on leave from Carnegie Melon to work at Microsoft Research, she collaborated with Al Aho of Columbia, Jan Curry of the National
16 | NGA.MIL
Science Foundation and Larry Snyder of the University of Washington to devise the prevalent definition: “the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solutions(s) in such a way that a computer — human or machine — can effectively carry out.” In other words, even human problem-solving is more efficient when it draws on concepts integral to computer science. “The solution can be carried out by a human or machine,” wrote Wing in her seminal article, “Computational Thinking Benefits Society.” “The latter point is important. First, humans compute. Second, people can learn computational thinking without a machine.” But as institutions such as Carnegie Melon, Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard continue to demonstrate, the highest efficiencies derive from a combination of human and machine problemsolving capabilities.
A CODER MENTALITY “The easiest way and most straightforward way to learn how to think computationally is the learner code,” said Vinci. “I think about it in the way I think about language. You don’t teach language familiarization or appreciation. What you do is you go learn Spanish for a month and then you go to Spain, if you’re lucky, and you will appreciate Spanish for the rest of your life. But more than that, you’ll appreciate what languages bring to the table and you can think about the world differently.” NGA Director Robert Cardillo declared in his keynote address at the 2017 GEOINT Symposium that he had taken a Python coding class in an effort to widen his perspective. “I’ll never be a real coder, but my goal is to be able to communicate a little better with the workforce and ask them better questions,” he said. It’s not that actual coding skills are necessary for everyone; both Cardillo
GEOINT AND COMPUTATIONAL THINKING — IN 1854! As hundreds of Londoners died of cholera in the mid-19th century, one doctor refused to subscribe to conventional thinking. The prevailing belief at the time was that the disease was spread through the air, but Dr. John Snow didn’t believe it. He theorized that the bacterium that caused cholera reproduced inside the human body and was spread through contaminated water. What he did to prove it was, by today’s terms, an example of geospatial intelligence fueled by computational thinking. He used critical thinking to identify two sets of known data, and then he combined them on a map. Dr. Snow first obtained the exact coordinates of the city’s public wells, and he marked them on a city map. He then obtained and mapped the street addresses of everyone who had died to that point during the cholera outbreak. The spatial clustering of cases around one particular water pump was unmistakable. Despite the visual evidence he presented, Dr. Snow had difficulty convincing local authorities to shut down the pump. They finally did, however, and that put an end to the deadly cholera outbreak of 1854. Organizations such as NGA, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization still use Dr. Snow’s deductive process to identify, map and stop the spread of deadly disease.
| FEATURE | and Vinci stress that it’s the ability to think like a coder that matters. Vinci describes it as thinking about what questions to answer, not just about how to answer the questions. “It can be as simple as going from the ‘how does something happen?’ to ‘why does it happen?’” Vinci said. “It’s a really different way to think about it.” The experts at Carnegie Mellon agree. They describe computational thinking as “creating and making use of different levels of abstraction…thinking algorithmically and with the ability to apply mathematical concepts such as induction to develop more efficient, fair and secure solutions.” In a data-dependent discipline such as GEOINT, computational thinking involves all of these human thought processes — plus the ability to maximize the use of computers in doing so. But make no mistake, the experts warn, thinking “like a coder” is more about the way data is queried and used than it is about the physical act of writing code. CRITICAL THINKING The theoretical underpinning for both computational thinking and design thinking is the requirement to think critically. While the concept of critical thinking is as old as Socrates, its modern meaning has been defined by organizations such as the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, the Foundation for Critical Thinking and other similarly named groups devoted to the objective analysis of facts in order to form sound judgments. “Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning or communication, as a guide to belief and action,” according to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking. At NGA, the objective of critical thinking is to better understand how to use the vast array of GEOINT data available for national security. It is about seeing beyond preconceived notions and unconscious bias to understand the most likely scenarios and solutions illuminated by the data. “It’s that combination of critical thinking, computational thinking and design thinking that I think together is powerful,” said Vinci.
THINK LIKE A CODER Millennials may have been the first to be called “digital natives,” but it’s today’s toddlers who are growing up as native coders. Children as young as 3 years are among those now targeted in the marketing of products and programs aimed at teaching kids to code. The only thing really new, however, is the language used to describe what’s being taught. Young children have always been encouraged to look for patterns, things that are alike and not alike, and which item doesn’t fit with the rest — in other words, rudimentary computational thinking. For the rest of us, there are classes. Coding boot camps are all the buzz across industry and academia, Silicon Valley and even the intelligence community. At the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which houses the National Geospatial-Intelligence College, civilian and military employees can learn coding in varying degrees. “Introduction to Computational Thinking” is a one-hour online course that “is very fundamental and basic for anybody in the agency,” said Sue Shumate, NGC chief of instructional strategy and assessment. “We are trying to get the agency to a place where we all have a baseline of terminology and fundamental understanding of what computational thinking is and can use that as a platform for further training or development.” The course is a prerequisite for a longer, 10-week “Fundamentals of Computer Science” course, where students complete web-based training outside the classroom, then apply the concepts to problems in a classroom environment. “The fundamentals course is an introduction to coding and computer science,” said Shumate. “It gives supervisors the opportunity to understand the technical work of employees who use coding as part of their jobs.” The fundamentals course was piloted this fall and will be open to the workforce at both east and west NGA campuses in early 2018. NGC has also partnered with the University of Missouri — MU — to provide advanced data science training to employees through a competitive selection process. Through a five-year, $12 million contract with MU’s College of Engineering, the data science program provides analytical training that includes databases, programming, statistical analyses, predictive modeling, data visualization, data mining and machine learning, among other specialties. Participants earn graduate-level course credits for each completed course and can work toward either a graduate certificate or a full Master of Science degree in data science and analytics. Elizabeth Short, Office of Corporate Communications, contributed to this article.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 17
PARTNERS WITH PASSPORTS: COMING TOGETHER FOR TRAINING
By Brent Blaschke and Monty McGee, National Geospatial-Intelligence College
During his address to the 2017 Defence Geospatial Intelligence conference in London, National GeospatialIntelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo told participants that the rapidly accelerating hyperabundance of global geospatial data doesn’t allow NGA to work in isolation. This reality, he posited, compels us “to build a global GEOINT enterprise; it’s not really even a choice” if we intend to perform our missions at the necessary level. The director’s message found a receptive audience in London, and his NGA colleagues in the Office of International Affairs and the National GeospatialIntelligence College were intent on implementing that vision. Both IA and NGC have long engaged in mutual efforts to deepen collaborative interactions and assist various international partners with their training needs. Not surprisingly, these efforts entailed working to harmonize the separate, well-established business practices for both offices and the multilayered exigencies of security classification as related to sharing training materials with foreign partners. Those efforts predated Cardillo’s January speech, but 2017 has witnessed a renewed energy to implement even more productive global relationships as a result of it.
18 | NGA.MIL
DISPARATE WORLD VIEWS, SHARED GOALS Cardillo’s midsummer trip to Asia to meet with senior foreign officials provided additional impetus. Upon his return from the visit, his underscoring of the need to make more training resources accessible to NGA’s international partners spurred on a number of concrete results — the fruition of months of work between IA and NGC. But it didn’t come easily. Ken Ferris, NGC’s liaison with IA, said he came to an early realization that the two parties operated under different worldviews in approaching the issue of international partners. These differences came not by formal, written policy, but rather by organizational culture. Broadly speaking, in regards to these partners, the college operated under the optic of “students” and “curricula,” while IA was geared to “international partners” and “agreements.” Though not mutually exclusive, these different approaches and understandings were impeding the two offices from delivering a coordinated and efficient service to NGA’s international partners. Real progress came, according to Ferris, when both organizations shifted to accommodate the other’s cultural styles. From IA’s perspective, that shift enhanced its ability to meet the needs of its customers — NGA’s international
| COLLABORATION |
Cardillo’s mandate, as Ferris describes it, is to achieve the “widest arc of training availability with the highest levels of releasability.” NGC made a significant step toward achieving that goal this year by completing and making available to NGA’s FVEY partners a one-stop guide on training resources, including NGC courses — both classroom and web-based — and training at academic institutions. The college made great progress this year, as well, in overcoming technical issues to make more web-based courses accessible to FVEY partners. IA, in turn, devoted more resources to expediting the vetting of training materials for release.
GEOINT partners. The list of those partners is extensive and goes well beyond America’s FVEY partners: the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. IA’s team of subject matter experts strives to integrate and embrace the contributions of NGA’s international partners to enhance support to national decision-making. At the core of IA’s pursuit lies a firm understanding that NGA must succeed in the open by making its content accessible, when and where appropriate. It achieves this, in part, by reviewing and approving any and all NGA content before it’s shared with international partners. Charles “Chuck” Hunter, IA’s liaison with NGC, sits at the nexus of that process. After serving part of his seven-year NGA tenure in the college, it’s clear that he is uniquely qualified to assume his role as “requirements translator” within IA. Hunter agrees with Ferris that part of the past challenge stemmed from the fact that the two offices had different ways of talking about international partners. Immediately upon transitioning to IA from the college, Hunter worked with Ferris and others to establish an informal hotline to communicate and “head off potential problems.” As a result, the two organizations are now exploring more opportunities for international partner collaboration on course maintenance and development.
STANDARDIZED PROCEDURES Another milestone in the IA-NGC collaboration is on the verge of completion. It is an agreement on standardized procedures to codify and streamline the handling of requests from FVEY partners to attend classroom training offered at NGC. A “Team NGA” approach clarified how the two groups partner to manage administrative, logistical and budgetary issues. Other aspects of the collaboration pertain to how they receive training requirements, award training certificates and deliver training to international partners via mobile training teams. The enhanced collaboration and established vetting process between IA and NGC will strengthen NGA’s ability to deliver timely, relevant and accurate GEOINT moving forward. “I have seen the benefit of enterprise collaboration in the forms of curriculum exchange, increased adjunct instructor numbers, classroom sharing and community training standards,” said Monique “Q” Yates, who directed the NGC during its heightened collaboration with IA. “This partnership is essential to the success of our mission in the near future.” IA Director Fred Kemp agrees and says he believes even more exciting opportunities loom for international engagement. “We are sharing mission responsibilities to increase our collective value in the future,” he said. That value is already opening new doors of opportunity for the global GEOINT enterprise. During recent consultations at NGA, senior international officials shared their intentions to emphasize an expansive development of their GEOINT analytical cadre in 2018, and they are looking to NGA for assistance. IA and NGC stand together, ready to contribute.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 19
SHOW THE WAY
NGA BRAVES THE ELEMENTS TO KEEP ANTARCTIC FLIGHTS SAFE By Melanie Pittaluga, Aeronautical Navigation Office
Snow and ice on a runway would normally cancel flights and shut down any airport in the world. Everywhere, that is, except in Antarctica, a continent marked by airfields themselves constructed of ice and densely compacted snow. One such place is the Phoenix Airfield, which officially opened in February 2017. Aeronautical analysts at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency directly supported the creation of the new airfield, which replaced the longused Pegasus Airfield. On an ongoing basis, the agency provides aeronautical products and manpower that enable the safe delivery of fuel, cargo and personnel to key Antarctic hubs in support of scientific discovery that will deepen the understanding of the Earth. OPERATION DEEP FREEZE Each year, two NGA aero analysts venture to the Earth’s coldest and harshest continent to support Operation Deep Freeze, a joint-service effort focused on furthering the U.S. Antarctic Program via personnel and equipment transport to the Antarctic region. Funded and managed by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Antarctic Program serves to support multinational cooperative scientific research and the Antarctic Treaty. The analysts support ODF by accurately updating flight information. Yearly re-evaluation of local airfields and their
20 | NGA.MIL
correlating flight procedures is necessitated by the continuous shifting of the Ross Ice Shelf and multiple terrain hazards. The aero review ensures that all airborne modes of transportation into McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Program’s logistics hub, are safe. Preparation for the flight procedure review is quick paced and requires a coordinated effort between NGA, the U.S. Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration during the months of August and October each year, according to Amanda Yeager, NGA’s ODF program officer. Leading up to the expedition, the NGA team works swiftly to ensure that all graphical and digital instrument flight procedures are prepared in time for the austral summer visit. Representatives of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Office of Polar Programs survey the airfields around August. The Naval Flight Information Group then designs the terminal instrument procedures (see box) in September and later provides the data to NGA. The FAA conducts its annual flight inspection in midOctober to ensure that the updated flight procedures are validated and meet all safety criteria. It is during this annual flight inspection that the NGA aero analysts travel to McMurdo Station to work side-by-side with the FAA and terminal enroute-procedure specialists to provide immediate procedure updates as needed via computer-
| SHOW THE WAY |
Phoenix Airfield’s deep, compacted snow foundation, paired with its location – approximately three miles from the recently decommissioned Pegasus The U.S. Standard for Terminal Airfield – increases the new runway’s Instrument Procedures, commonly ability to avoid certain melting factors PHOENIX AIRFIELD referred to as TERPS, provides criteria for the formulation, review and and sustain large-wheeled aircraft, such This year NGA sent Kevin Blaney and approval of procedures for instrument as the colossal C-17, for a longer season. Earl Lucci to Phoenix Airfield as onsite flight operations to and from airports. Extended cargo delivery via aircraft analysts for the routine flight procedures TERPS have been established for increases the U.S. Antarctic Program’s review. NGA utilizes a two-year rotation precision approach, non-precision operating capability and delivers greater cycle for the analysts sent to Antarctica – approach, approach with vertical guidance, and arrival and departure impact during the months that sea one current onsite analyst will return to procedures. TERPS apply to both civil vessels carrying supplies are unable to Antarctica next October as the lead and and military flight operations. navigate through the frozen McMurdo will be accompanied by a junior analyst Sound. Once crews reach McMurdo who will focus on learning to lead the Station, supplies are dispersed out to the South Pole and other onsite mission the following year. This schedule generates base camps on Antarctica via smaller ski-equipped aircraft. deepened continuity and increases NGA impact to ODF and While ODF is the primary Antarctic mission NGA aero the flight-inspection team. supports, the agency’s aeronautical products have been This year’s review marks the first since construction of the used for emergency and medical evacuations during the Phoenix Airfield. The new airfield, characterized by densely unforgiving winter months. Characterized by a dedication to compacted snow, required three years of preparation and 16 accuracy and timely delivery of aeronautical data, products months of construction, according to the U.S. Army Corps and services, NGA aero directly leads the way in global of Engineers. NGA directly supported its creation through safety of navigation, while embracing even the most austere development of the airfield graphics and digital coding waypoints to ensure mission success. ingested into aircraft flight management systems. aided design software. This realtime support increases certification efficiency, reduces man-hours and guarantees product validity.
TERMINAL INSTRUMENT PROCEDURES
PATHFINDER 2017 | 21
THE MIND AS MACHINE: UNDERSTANDING HOW OUR BRAINS ENCODE By Jack Millar, Joeanna C. Arthur and Dawn Kubo, Analytic Research
22 | NGA.MIL
| FEATURE |
to functional magnetic resonance The number could represent total imaging studies, to the operational stars in the universe or the number testing of an image-triage system of connections possible between the developed by the Defense Advanced 80+ billion neurons that make up Research Projects Agency, DARPA, your brain, according to the BRAIN that combined advances in computer Initiative (see box). vision algorithms and brainResearchers at the Blue Brain Project computer interfaces. have demonstrated that this number NGA is now hoping to learn from of connections creates a graph that complex research being conducted can generate structures in 11 or more at DARPA, Harvard University and dimensions — meaning that each elsewhere. DARPA is currently funding memory or thought could be the result basic research in neuroplasticity of a unique set of neurons connected in to enhance a person’s intelligence, a particular order. surveillance and reconnaissance , or How does this connect to geospatial ISR, abilities. Meanwhile, researchers at intelligence? Studies over the last Intelligence Advance Research Projects decade show we are only beginning to Activity — IARPA — are providing a understand the most basic levels of how $28 million grant our brains encode and LARGE-SCALE BRAIN RESEARCH to Harvard’s John use spatial information. PROGRAMS A. Paulson School As we increase our of Engineering and understanding of the The BRAIN Initiative Applied Sciences, neural and cognitive The BRAIN Initiative seeks to deepen Center for Brain underpinnings of understanding of the inner workings of the human mind to shed light on the Science, Molecular geospatial reasoning, complex links between brain function and Cellular we can leverage these and behavior. In addition to attempting to Biology department, advances to improve discover how to treat, prevent and cure with the goal of analytic performance disorders of the brain, the organization improving machine and enhance seeks to develop new technologies to explore how the brain’s cells and circuits learning by better geospatial tasks. interact at the speed of thought, with the understanding the National goal of exploring how the brain records, human brain. (Also Geospatialprocesses, uses, stores and retrieves vast see “Deep learning” Intelligence Agency quantities of information. sidebar page 27.) research investments The Blue Brain Project have supported The Blue Brain Project is a Swiss-based WHAT WE KNOW highly innovative brain mapping initiative that seeks to SO FAR research in the field understand the structure and function Research on of neuroscience over of the human brain via supercomputerthe human brain the years, enabling based digital reconstructions and simulations of rodents' brains. has taught us trans-disciplinary many things of collaborations relevance to GEOINT. Included is an among cognitive neuroscientists, understanding that we each create our computer scientists, geospatial and own unique “mental maps,” and there imagery analysts, mathematicians are specific brain cells involved in the and engineers. These efforts ranged process. Other findings of interest to from the exploration of cognitive NGA involve the cognitive activity that factors affecting broad-area search
occurs during virtual-, augmented- and mixed-reality experiences. MENTAL MAPS The encoding and use of spatial information is collectively known as the cognitive map or mental map. These maps are part of internal representations humans use to remember where things are and their relationship to other things and to plan future behavior. Each person’s mental map is heavily influenced by features important to them and routes and modes to get there — e.g., walking versus driving, schools and parks, winery or brewery. These internal representations have been found to primarily reside in a particular part of the medial temporal lobe, or MLT, known as the hippocampus, which links geographical space, spatial navigation and its temporal context therein. The hippocampus also plays a role in formation of memories, and as such is an area noticeably affected by Alzheimer's disease. Researchers focus on the overlapping functions of the hippocampus to better predict onset of Alzheimers. They use a quick spatial memory test known as The 4 Mountains Test, which features computer generated topography. In this test a person is shown a mountain image and then must select the same mountain from a lineup. The lineup is carefully manipulated, however, to force the person to rely on their spatial memory of how the original topographic features of the mountain look. Dennis Chan of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, developed this test to determine if a subject might be exhibiting pre-dementia Alzheimer’s. He found that the test had a 100 percent diagnostic sensitivity and 78 percent specificity when the subject correctly identified eight mountain images out of 15 lineups.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 23
mammal is navigating the immediate PLACE CELLS, GRID CELLS AND GEOGRAPHY environment, helping the mammal Within the hippocampus and related get from one point to another in MTL structures, scientists discovered immediate view. These cells actually specialized cells that respond to specific form physical grid-like structures — views and conditions, such as: place, hence the name — to help map out the grid, head direction, border and spatial environment. They have been observed view cells, to name a few. Together these to exhibit “re-scaling” meaning that hippocampal neurons form a complex the matrix of grid cells will expand or spatial mapping network of the external contract to reflect their environment. environment, generating thousands to Taking a cue from geography, grid millions of global representations. cells can be thought of as loosely Place and grid cells are two similar to the latitude and longitude specialized neurons that are primarily lines on a map, being “re-projected” responsible for encoding spatial to a new arrangement to best fit the information. It should be noted that environment; place cells act as the icons while these cells are strongly suspected on the map to remind you what is at a to exist in humans, it is far more difficult particular place. to directly observe them in humans All neurons are electrically excitable than it is in rats, where they have been cells, meaning that like circuits in a studied. Studies in epileptic patients computer, they pass information to undergoing seizure monitoring and each other via electrical signals. An surgery confirmed the existnece of place electroencephalography — EEG cells in humans. These cells are believed — can measure these signals. An to be the neural correlates of the EEG produces a graph similar to a “cognitive map,” as they work together seismograph or spectrum analyzer and to form the “GPS” of the brain, enabling can show us the spikes and dips in mammals to navigate their environment electrical activity of the brain over time. by remembering where they have been Much like radio waves and and how they got there, as well as to multispectral imagery, EEG waves envision their desired destination. are classified into different bands. Place cells act as a type of anchor. Each band has been observed to These cells will fire more often when correlate with different behaviors encountering the same location, also or states of the brain. This can be a known as place field, and are usually useful technique in understanding triggered by a multitude of sensory various states of the brain, such as cues, such as vision and movement. In REM sleep or onset of epilepsy and a way, these cells act as markers on a strokes — or in understanding mental map, reminding us where the school is or where our favorite bar happens to be. maps. Research indicates that the theta band is associated with spatial Grid cells are the brain’s random memory. For example, as a mammal access memory, or RAM, of the approaches an area of interest, the theta immediate environment, and they band oscillations increase, and as they change constantly in accordance with move away, the the shape of the oscillations decrease. environment. Grid A NOBEL PRIZE The mind learns cells are primarily and builds from The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or more active when a Medicine was awarded to John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser for their discoveries of place and grid cells, respectively.
24 | NGA.MIL
nothing, expanding memory. It builds from lessons and application against various experiences to create more knowledge or data points, and links relationships between time and place of learning. This computational flexibility and fluidity is required for, and is the essence of, cartography — maps are created from nothing. They are made from various lessons in tradecraft and the addition of features where relationships to other types of information enable the cartographer to depict locational knowledge to the map reader. According to the International Cartographic Association, the cartographic “process includes everything from the gathering, evaluation and processing of source data, through the intellectual and graphical design of the map, to [its] drawing and reproduction.” SPATIAL AND VIRTUAL REALITY During active locomotion in a visually structured environment, vision affords the traveler with external or “allothetic” cues, such as stable landmarks and azimuthal references, which can be used to judge one’s speed, heading direction and distance from a stationary landmark. As can be imagined, navigation can become problematic when vision is occluded, and/or when external references such as stable landmarks, auditory flow and maps are not available to the traveler. Under these circumstances, travelers cannot simply follow a direct visual route from the starting location to the goal location. Instead, effective navigation requires the traveler to be attuned to several internally generated self-motion signals or “idiothetic” cues — e.g., vestibular, kinesthetic, proprioceptive and efference copy signals — and integrate these signals over time.
| FEATURE |
The ability to keep track of one’s linear and angular displacement relative to a starting heading, based solely on idiothetic information, is known as “path integration.” Many of the properties and behavior of place and grid cells used in path integration have been discovered with the help of virtual reality. The 2016 NGA Pathfinder article, “Geared up for the future,” included mention of VR as a tool that might affect GEOINT tradecraft in the future. Several research programs are exploring the neurological differences between subjects in a real environment versus a virtual one. By manipulating what a rat — the most common research subject — or a human sees, researchers can fine-tune experiments and discover how these cells help mammals navigate their environment — aka, path integration. These experiments, while uncovering new information about the brain, have also hinted at certain limitations in VR. Researchers at UCLA tested the degree to which vision contributes to the “firing” of place and grid cells versus all other sensory cues, such as smell, by observing rats navigating in a real-world maze versus a maze simulated in VR. The results were surprising, as nearly half the place cells — those responsible for remembering where things were in the world — that were seen to fire in the real world control were found to also fire in the simulated world. The researchers found, however, that the theta band oscillations were not as pronounced as they were in the real-world navigation, indicating the subject had less interest in the places. Researchers experienced similar results when measuring human theta
band oscillations in real-world versus virtual-world scenarios. Similarly, several Vanderbilt University researchers led by Timothy McNamara, a respected psychology professor, tested whether they could observe the re-scaling property of grid cells in humans. The researchers hypothesized that if grid cells did exist in humans they could measure their impact on wayfinding — path integration — by manipulating the virtual environment in subtle ways. Each participant was placed in a VR environment and given a simple task: walk from one virtual post to another, returning to the starting post at the end of the task. The participant had several visual cues to assist navigation in the virtual environment, mainly a wall that acted as the boundary of the virtual world. When the researchers left the wall stationary, the participants were able to return the first post with little trouble, because they had all the visual cues and mental map necessary. The results were different, however, when the researchers manipulated the visuals cues by bringing the bounding wall closer in or pushing it farther out from the participant. When the walls were changed, participants would “undershoot” or “overshoot” when returning to the first waypoint, based on how the walls were changed. These VR studies are only a small sample of the literature available about grid cell research, but their results suggest that the way geospatial information is presented might have an impact on the underlying neuron activity in VR. These studies do not quite reveal the exact mechanism our brains use to understand more common cartographic representations, such as street maps and high-resolution satellite imagery. Other research to date has shown that these
representations do impact our cognitive abilities, however, and in particular our working memory — but this effect is contingent on a number of variables. Arzu Çöltekin, a research group leader and senior lecturer at the University of Zurich, joined with several of her colleagues to perform a meta-analysis of literature on these research projects. They described the variables as a person’s spatial ability, or how well a person thinks in 3-D, and the particular spatial task at hand. For example, a simple street map can be more effective for memorizing a route than using a high-resolution satellite image would be. Conversely, depending on the initial spatial ability of the individual completing the task, a highly detailed 3-D representation is more effective for terrain analysis than is a simple 2-D topographic map. While the cognitive research has mostly focused on monitors and VR, researchers out of the Wearable Computer Lab at the University of South Australia have recently tested the cognitive loads that augmented reality — AR — might impose. They found that by employing a simple instruction-based task, cognitive load actually increased with technologies such as Microsoft Hololens and Samsung GEAR, as these technologies had limited fields of view that forced the participants to search for the instructions. It should be noted, however, that this experiment was not a geospatially oriented one, and with what the community understands about place and grid cells, it would be informative to replicate this experiment for GEOINT analysis. (See “An evaluation infrastructure” sidebar page 27.) WHAT’S NEXT FOR GEOINT? As our knowledge of mental maps grows, NGA will help lead the
PATHFINDER 2017 | 25
evolution of cartography and GEOINT. That future may bring the possibility that a GEOINT customer could take a test that describes the optimal ways to present GEOINT to them — whether by way of a flat map, VR or even AR. It may point to the best symbology to use based on the customers’ spatial strengths and tasks. The results of this test could then inform all of NGA’s service-enabled data and cartographic products to automatically present GEOINT in the absolute best way for any customer and for any mission. Regardless of the form it takes, GEOINT will be inextricably linked to a deepening understanding of how the human brain encodes and uses spatial information. We now know that each depiction and spatial application starts from, is related back to, and enhances our mental maps.
26 | NGA.MIL
| FEATURE |
DEEP LEARNING Since first discovering the value of computers for expanding human knowledge, researchers have sought to maximize their potential benefit. One way is by discovering more about how the human brain works in order to improve machine learning and build artificial intelligence. Researchers routinely work at the nexus of neuroscience, computer science and engineering at places such as the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, a multiinstitutional center cofounded by MIT and the National Science Foundation. CBMM is dedicated to studying “how the brain produces intelligent behavior and how we may be able to replicate intelligence in machines.” Understanding this work and how it is evolving starts by being familiar with the hierarchy of key terms used: • Machine learning – computers “learn” to perform certain tasks by analyzing training examples. For instance, in an object-recognition system, the computer is given a series of labeled images — cat, car, man, etc. It then looks for visual patterns in images that correlate with the labels. In this way, computers can automatically extract images of specified objects, such as tanks or airplanes, among all imagery, thus saving considerable time for a human analyst. • Neural networks – machine learning is made possible by neural networks loosely based on the human brain. Neural nets consist of thousands or even millions of interconnected processing nodes, most often organized into layers. Processing occurs simultaneously on the different layers, and relevant data is collated at the output level. • Deep learning – most artificial intelligence, ranging from voice recognition in smartphones to the complex processing of huge supercomputers, is made possible by the addition of neural network layers — i.e., deeper layers of processors working simultaneously. Artificial intelligence research conducted today involves networks of up to 50 layers.
AN EVALUATION INFRASTRUCTURE Empirical methods used in testing theories of human visual perception and spatial cognition are central to testing the effectiveness of “thinking” tools and systems, as they provide objective measures of performance. There is currently no consensus, however, on how to objectively evaluate visual analytics tools and humancomputer interaction systems as a whole, including virtual-, augmented- and mixedreality tools. It is difficult to assess their overall effectiveness, as they combine multiple low-level components — e.g., data transformation, visual representations, data representation and reporting — integrated into a complex and dynamic interactive system that facilitates or amplifies empirical evaluations, or in other words, sensemaking, analytical reasoning, decisionmaking, problem solving and planning. There are many hurdles to carrying out good controlled, systematic evaluations. For instance, what metrics should be identified or methodologies developed to determine the utility of the system? Which analytic task or operationally relevant scenario should be used for testing? Are there baseline data from the more “traditional” approaches? As a result, few empirical studies exist. NGA Research is starting this path by developing the best design practices for AR/VR/MR; consulting with the combatant commands, national laboratories and other stakeholders to comparatively evaluate the design practices that best enhance intelligence analysis and how these systems augment human cognition.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 27
TO THE MOON AND BACK: NGA PREDECESSORS HELPED GUIDE THE WAY
TELLING OUR STORY
By Lisa Wagner, Office of Corporate Communications Each journey of discovery has the making of maps as part of its purpose, along with discovering landmarks, locating natural phenomena and measuring distance. Following the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became engaged in a Cold War that would last for much of the 20th century. By the end of the 1950s, the nations were involved in an intense space race, each fearing that the other would gain military advantage by controlling space. By the 1960s neither country considered launching satellites sufficient. “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” President John F. Kennedy declared in a 1961 address to Congress. Included prominently in this race were two of NGAs predecessor agencies, the United States Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, and the United States Army Map Service. ACIC and AMS first collaborated in a joint project funded by NASA in 1959 to collect observation and photographic data, with the goal of composing maps of the observable surface of the Moon. Both ACIC and AMS were later absorbed by the Defense Mapping Agency, thus establishing deep roots in lunar mapping for what would eventually become the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency. ORBITS AND LANDINGS The cause of lunar mapping enlisted the services of professional cartographers in ACIC and AMS, and they were quick to apply their expertise to the U.S. efforts to win the space race. Countless charts and maps created by the two cartographic agencies detailed
28 | NGA.MIL
the Moon’s mountainous terrain, craterfilled landscape, and eventually, even its elusive far side. The ACIC-AMS cartographic efforts also included determining lunar orbits and planning lunar landing sites — and ultimately, the first manned lunar landing. Landing a man on the Moon did not occur until July 1969, but by then ACIC and AMS had already worked for a decade on projects that greatly contributed to the successes of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The manned space-flight program began with Project Mercury, which had as its goal to place an astronaut in orbital flight around the Earth, investigate his capabilities while in orbit and recover him safely. One of the first cartographic items needed to support this mission was an Earth orbital chart. These charts, designed by ACIC, provided a view of the Earth’s surface, marked with landmarks that could be seen from space. Following the success of Project Mercury, ACIC produced charts to support Project Gemini. Missionspecific charts were used among other things for astronaut training, plotting orbital paths and capsule recovery. During the same time period as Projects Mercury and Gemini, cartographers at both ACIC and AMS were busy preparing for the lunar mission. Throughout the Apollo series of missions, ACIC provided charts used in launch, trajectory, lunar assent and decent, lunar landing, lunar exploration and capsule recovery. At the same time, AMS developed lunar maps and precisely mapped the Moon’s surface features. If astronauts were going to land on the Moon, they needed to know exact details of its surface. By 1964, five years prior to an actual landing, AMS published the first complete map of
the visible surface of the Moon. As the space program progressed, so did cartographers’ skills at mapping the lunar terrain. MODELS AND SIMULATORS Maps were not the only contribution AMS made to the space race. In 1962, the Lunar Orbiter Landing Approach Simulator project began, and AMS personnel were heavily involved. This project created a model landing site to prepare astronauts for what they would see as they approached their targeted landing area; it was critical for the simulator’s surface to be meticulously detailed. Through the LOLAS model, the astronauts were able to see the lunar surface in full scale from their translunar trajectory to within 150 feet of the target area. Similarly, while astronauts prepared for the Apollo 11 mission, AMS cartographers also built a lunar relief model for the Lunar Module Simulator. The LMS was designed to create a near-perfect simulation of the landing and takeoff site to provide the astronauts with a view of the Moon as it would appear during approach, landing and takeoff. The simulator was such a success that NASA requested lunar relief models for all future landing sites. The work done by ACIC and AMS was integral to the success of America’s early space program. Within a decade of President Kennedy setting the lofty goal, the cartographers, geodists and scientists of these two NGA legacy agencies helped the United States successfully take not just one but several men to the Moon and back, ultimately winning the space race and shaping the nation’s high-tech identity.
| TELLING OUR STORY |
PATHFINDER 2017 | 29
TELLING OUR STORY
A CAN-DO ATTITUDE: CASUAL CONVERSATION LAUNCHES WORLDWIDE PARENTS NETWORK By Amelia Cohen-Levy, Office of Corporate Assessment and Program Evaluation It started over lunch. Two National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employees were discussing the intricacies of calculating hours for maternity leave. They found themselves sharing information they’d gotten from other women. One of them, pregnant with her first child, wondered, “How do parents who don’t have access to these word-ofmouth lessons figure all of this out?” The two parted but almost immediately instant-messaged each other: “We should build a network.” They were soon joined by a third. Somewhere between discussing NGA’s leave policies and presenting matters to a supervisor, they came up with an idea: Make it easier for NGA parents to manage their work-life balance needs by connecting them with one another. The three employees — Nicole Chapell, Melissa Kepler and Jennifer Luter — began the NGA Parents Network to create a community that could share knowledge, lessons learned
30 | NGA.MIL
and mutual support for personnel on their parenting journey. “We'd been helping within our own networks, but the community that we were forming became just as important to us as the information we were sharing,” Kepler said. “We had to find a way to honor both.” The founders quickly realized that a homegrown, grassroots organization could only go so far. They believed the PN needed to become an official NGA organization if they were going to increase their effectiveness. “We could have just stayed an informal group, and some suggested that was the best path,” Chapell said. “But when we looked at all the things we hoped the PN could someday do and the support we wanted it to have, becoming official seemed like the right choice, even though no one really knew how, or if, we could do that.” They began by codifying their mission — connect parents at all NGA locations to one another; foster a
sense of community; provide positive guidance and methods to manage the abundance of work and life concerns associated with being both a parent and an NGA employee; and serve as an advocate for all NGA parents, including military, civilian and contractor. Next, they needed champions from the senior executive service. While they acquired several, one of the earliest to get involved was Chris Sills, deputy director of one of the analytic offices. Sills said it wasn’t a hard decision for him. As a junior analyst, he was told that at some point his career would stall, because he’d be competing with others able to work lots of overtime. But that didn’t happen; with time and hard work, he was promoted to the senior executive ranks. As soon as he was promoted, Sills knew that being a senior meant that he had to live up to being a role model. He knew that meant rejecting the view of those who told him he spent too much time taking care of people and
| TELLING OUR STORY |
advocating for everyone’s ability to be open about their needs and to build a career that met them — himself included. “You can’t successfully manage mission if you’re struggling with what’s left at home,” Sills said. “The idea of a forum where parents can discuss their challenges and face them together is a worthy objective. People shouldn’t have to deal with things all alone.” The PN attracted more senior champions and even more members. As of this writing, the organization has more than 600 active members at almost every NGA location across the globe. These members represent every directorate within the agency, illustrating that the issues of parents are not limited by geography or work role. Not every PN member is a parent. The requirement for membership is simply to be supportive of and willing to advocate on behalf of NGA parents. A lot of room was purposely left for interpretation in the membership criteria. “From the very beginning, we decided that we would not exclude anyone,” said Luter. “We were building a community, so inclusivity and feeling welcome were key to our founding principles.” Luter says the group’s founders also didn’t want to limit themselves by defining what it means to be a parent. “Whether you are currently a parent, may someday be one, or want to support those facing the challenges of being a parent, these issues are relevant to everyone — and so we invited all interested parties to the table,” Luter said. Having a wide pool of membership not only increases the number of issues the PN can explore but also the number of people able to lead change. Every PN initiative is staffed by employee volunteers. Members are urged to take on issues they feel strongly about and use the network as a way to make a change.
“When I think back to all the stories To date, several efforts involve the I’ve heard about parents making tough difficulties that new mothers typically have returning to work. PN volunteers choices to balance the needs of their help colleagues adjust to new schedules families with their career aspirations, I’m not sure if I ever really understood and are working to improve the NGA how difficult it could be,” Ziegler said. Nursing Mothers program. In early “Having compassion for a situation October 2017 the group published is not the same as understanding a “New Parents Compendium” it through experience. But it was addressing a host of issues ranging moments like this that formed the PN from how to obtain parking passes for in the first place, and I’m going to use expectant mothers to car seat safety my moment to support other IC parents inspections and child care options. in helping them strike a balance.” The PN’s diverse membership has While Ziegler’s goal is to support led to a variety of other events, as well, parents by sharing what she learns about including children’s clothing swaps at school enrollment, funding and the the Springfield, St. Louis, Arnold and international policies when an employee Colorado locations, and a toy swap in is on PCS, others are thinking globally St. Louis. Network volunteers also took responsibility for the agency’s Bring Your but acting locally. PN volunteers are Child to Work Day events and sponsored working to ensure NGA parentingrelated policies are aligned with those a panel on permanent-change-of-station of military and the intelligence agencies assignments with children. that have already set gold standards in While such efforts may not be possible at every NGA site, maintaining several areas — for example, the National Security and Defense Intelligence connections between NGA parents at all locations is a never-ending challenge. Agencies for their programs supporting No one knows this better than Danielle nursing mothers. Other volunteers are Ziegler, a PN co-chair who relocated to working on issues related to employees providing eldercare, and still others the United Kingdom so that she could are working with the LGBT Alliance to take the role of lifetime. discuss how parents support kids when Taking a career boost can come they are in the process of coming out to with a price, though, as every their families. parent knows. Ziegler has been For his part, Sills is impressed with navigating everything from housing the PN’s evolution. and transportation concerns to the “They’re a group of individuals differences between American and committed to making it work and British childcare practices. Add thinking beyond the meetings, events to that factors like distance, time and policies,” he said. “They want to changes, confusing policies and the ordinary pressures of her full-time job. make a change, and they are able to do more in a professional, responsible way It’s enough to make even the most — a way that makes sense.” carefree person pause.
PASS IT ON! Do you know an interesting story or history of an NGA program or GEOINT-related topic? Share it for posterity by sending your write-up to: Pathfinder@nga.mil. All submissions subject to editing.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 31
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE: FOREIGN-BORN AND SERVING PROUDLY By Jonathan Stack, Office of Corporate Communications
32 | NGA.MIL
| FEATURE |
Karim Atarzada came to the United States at the age of 16 with $20 in his pocket. Little did he realize then that one day he would support his new country in the war against terror in his native homeland. A coworker, Christine Staley, escaped communism in a tiny boat in 1980. Eighteen years later she became a U.S. citizen and has since put her native language skills to work assisting her new homeland. Another coworker, Air Force Master Sgt. Elisabete Kim, says the struggles she and her family overcame in the early days of coming to the United States taught her how to be resilient and bounce back in difficult situations. Walk through the halls of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency campus in either the east or west, and you will run into others like Atarzada, Staley and Kim, naturalized citizens of different ages, genders and races dedicated to NGA’s mission success. The diverse workforce within NGA and the larger defense and intelligence communities brings both a broader perspective to the national security discussion and specific understanding of the unique cultures, challenges and opportunities present in different regions of the world. THE SERVICE MEMBER Air Force Master Sgt. Elisabete Kim, NGA military training and internship program superintendent, is by trade an imagery analyst. She was born in Santa Maria, Azores, Portugal, and immigrated to Massachusetts in 1997. “Growing up in a different country and having been stationed in several different overseas locations has given me the opportunity to experience and understand other cultures, which allowed me to have an open mind and to be receptive and welcoming of different views and opinions,” she said. Kim said it is important for coworkers to keep an open mind when interacting with foreign-born U.S. citizens and also foreign partners,
because their life experiences equip them with not just a fresh perspective but also deep dedication to the mission. “Some of us may take our country for granted, so I encourage everyone to take a step back every once in a while and realize how great America already is,” she said. “What we consider basic liberties, such as freedom of speech or religion, many other countries do not have, and I have been given so many opportunities in my life that I would not have been able to get had I not immigrated.” Kim firmly believes that “most people move to a different country for a better way of life and to have more opportunities than what would have been possible in their country of origin.” Growing up in the Azores during the 1980s, Kim said a traditional family was still considered to be a father going to work and providing for the family, while the mother stayed home to take care of the children and household. But Kim’s father passed away when she was still young, and her mother was left to provide for her family and take care of her six children by herself. She said her mother went from being dependent on someone else to having to make her own decisions to guarantee the family’s well-being. She became independent, but it wasn’t always easy, according to Kim. The entire family had to be strong, especially after her mother decided to emigrate. “Although we [immigrants] all want a piece of that ‘American dream,’ the first few years can be very rough,” she said. “Overcoming those struggles of being separated from some of my family and friends, not knowing the language well and being exposed to a completely different culture allowed me to become resilient and better equipped to quickly bounce back when I’m faced with difficult situations.” Later, Kim saw joining the Air Force as a way to shape her own destiny the way her mother had. “I saw the Air Force as a way to provide me that independence, where
PATHFINDER 2017 | 33
everyone is treated fairly and equally, no matter their gender, race or place of origin,” she said. Once in the Air Force, Kim completed the service’s geospatial intelligence course, qualified on high-altitude exploitation and full motion video analysis, and became certified to support special operation forces. Additionally, while stationed in Osan, Korea, as an imagery flight chief, she was exposed to the strategic level of operations. All of the aforementioned qualifications allowed Kim to seamlessly transition to work at NGA, she said, and she has now been at the agency for two years. But it isn’t just her qualifications that help her do good work at the agency; she believes it’s also her life experiences and world view. “I understand how integral NGA’s mission is to the [Defense Department,]” she said. “Furthermore, every military member has different experiences during their service, depending on their assignments and specialties, which brings different skillsets and perspectives, allowing NGA to better support their customers.” THE CIVILIAN Born in Vietnam, and having lived through the fall of Saigon and the subsequent communist regime, Christine Staley, assistant inspector general for audit in the NGA Office of Inspector General, said the severity of her early life experiences taught her the values of being respectful, resilient and optimistic. Staley, who has worked at NGA since 2013, was born during the Vietnamese conflict of the 1960s. Saigon fell in 1975, and she escaped communism five years later. After spending more than seven months in a refugee camp in the Philippines, she came to the United States as a political refugee and earned her U.S. citizenship in 1988. “It is difficult to put into words how I felt when I was subjected to the repressive grip of communism and the loss of Vietnam, my homeland,” Staley said. “It was equally difficult when I faced a decision to either
34 | NGA.MIL
believe in the expression ‘Our strength become a victim of such an oppressive is in our diversity,’ and NGA is a government, or take the possible risk of stronger organization when it includes death to escape.” personnel from all over the world.” Prior to the fall of Saigon, Staley Staley believes NGA also gains said she had a normal childhood, good benefit from hiring personnel who education and a wonderful family speak other languages. environment. She said the decision “With respect to employees with to escape rather than submit to other language skills, native speakers communism provided her the strength of a language provide important to navigate adversity — and the ability translation assistance for NGA’s to assess and take appropriate risks to mission,” Staley said. accomplish goals. Staley was able to put her foreign Once she arrived in America, Staley language skills to use and contribute to worked tirelessly to overcome the language barrier, succeed in high school the agency’s mission when she helped translate the NGA Strategy and The and graduate college, she said. Director’s Intent from English into “These challenging experiences Vietnamese in support of a meeting aided me in developing skills to lead between the NGA director and officials and manage my responsibilities at from Vietnam. NGA,” Staley said; specifically, “to “These translated documents successfully focus on operational helped enhance NGA international performance, information technology relations with Vietnam and benefited and financial-related audits that our country’s security by enhancing yielded mission efficiencies and quality data-sharing between the two monetary benefits for NGA.” countries,” she said. Staley said that in addition to coming Staley’s motivation derives from to the United States, she has been her early life experiences; she decided fortunate to travel widely. She believes to work for the U.S. government and her world view has been shaped by all NGA to show her appreciation for the of her travels — experiences while on American soldiers who made sacrifices recreational travel but also by her daily fighting in the Vietnam conflict. life struggles in a communist country “I grew up in a war-ravaged country and a refugee camp in the Philippines. …. It is my way to thank this country “The exposure of multiple cultural for embracing me and providing experiences has given me a better me an opportunity to build a better understanding of the importance of life,” she said. “I believe every federal our mission and responsibilities to agency has a specific mission, and the world’s population in general,” some missions are closer to my heart she said. “I also believe my life than others. I am privileged to hold experiences have given me a greater a position at NGA with its mission of appreciation of freedom and loyalty protecting our national security.” to the U.S. that is truly supportive of Staley hopes her NGA coworkers NGA’s mission.” understand how hard people have to The agency’s mission encompasses work to attain freedom from oppression. a multitude of cultures and locations, “When I got on a tiny boat with and that makes it especially important minimal provisions to cross the South for NGA to embrace employees with diverse backgrounds, according to Staley. China Sea for more than 600 miles to escape communism, I was willing to “Hiring non-U.S. born personnel give up my life for freedom,” she said. serves to not only enhance NGA’s “Refugees struggle in so many respects, cultural knowledge base and understanding of the populations living including learning a new language and a different culture and the varying around the world, but also broadens ways of life in America; I hope my NGA’s ability to gain valuable insight teammates would see my commitment of the many geographical areas within to integrity, my work ethic and my its mission,” Staley said. “I strongly
| FEATURE | opportunity — all things that motivate him in his work at NGA. Atarzada’s service to the United States began in 2004 when a U.S. contractor hired him. After intense U.S. Army vetting, he returned to his THE CONTRACTOR homeland as a linguist. Karim Atarzada, a data management “I didn’t have to do that, but I wanted to analyst, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, serve this great nation … and contribute and came to the United States in 1989. to the war on terror and the Taliban, who He was 16 at the time and had $20 in were brutal against the great people of his pocket. Prior to immigrating to the United States, he lived in Mashhad, Iran; Afghanistan,” Atarzada said. “To this day I have no idea how I and Peshawar and Islamabad, Pakistan. survived being a linguist,” he said. “[I was] a refugee by force, not by “It wasn’t easy to get up daily and choice, due to the Russian invasion [in not worry about IEDs, suicide 1979],” he said. “There was no light at bombers or rocket attacks. I was the end of the tunnel, but what kept my once again a target, just like I was family and I motivated was believing a target with the Russians.” in God … [a need to] keep going and Atarzada remained a linguist until being resilient.” 2010, when he began working for Atarzada’s family left its onceNGA as a security monitor. prosperous life in Kabul when he was “My dear mom wouldn’t allow 6 years old, traveling during the dead me to go back to Afghanistan as of night in the back of a pickup truck. a Farsi/Dar linguist,” he said. They left everything behind and had “In our culture, we must respect to start anew in a country that was far and sometimes obey our elders’ from welcoming. decision, and in this case, I do “For the next nine years, I attended and don’t regret it. I could have Iranian schools, learning Farsi and retired as a linguist by now, but dealing with horrible racist comments at the same time, I could have on a daily basis from Iranians who lost my life on the front lines, did not want me or my family in their and sometimes money doesn’t country,” Atarzada said. buy happiness.” By 1988 Atarzada’s father decided to Atarzada says living in the move the family to the United States, United states has given him so but they needed to get out of Iran first much freedom that some take — and they had to wait for refugee papers to arrive from the United States. for granted. “I hope my coworkers learn At first they lived in the rural area of that life in America is easier Peshawar, where warlords ruled, and compared to the third-world then in Islamabad, which Atarzada countries; we have it made here,” compared to “living in a closed, dark he said. “One doesn’t have to cage with no freedom.” walk for miles and miles just to Finally, after 14 months of “living get water, and one doesn’t have in hell,” Atarzada’s family flew out of to worry about getting thrown out Pakistan and arrived in Washington, this country because you practice D.C., in November 1989. a different religion or even speak a “I remember walking toward the different dialect.” airplane in Islamabad airport,” he said. Atarzada says he hopes his story, along “The four of us were shaking, crying, with those of other foreign-born colleagues, scared, not knowing if we were going inspires people to respect each other. to make it inside the airplane or not.” “Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t What Atarzada brought with him to take life for granted,” he said. the United States was hope, gratitude America is a land of opportunities, and an intense desire to give back Atarzada stressed, and people are still trying to the country that finally gave him to get here to make a better future. and his family safety, freedom and gratitude when we are successful. I do not and cannot ever afford to take things for granted.”
PATHFINDER 2017 | 35
PROGRAMS SHOW STUDENTS 'THE WAY' TO ENGAGING CAREERS IN THE GEOGRAPHIC SCIENCES
By James Brown, Source Foundation Group The adventure of a lifetime often starts with a map. That’s what National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee volunteers hope happens whenever they work with students to find locations on the maps they carry into classrooms and educational events organized through the agency’s multilayered outreach program. The NGA volunteers know that if they succeed in their efforts, those first mapping experiences could set off a lifelong journey dedicated to geospatial intelligence. Ensuring NGA has a workforce with the high-tech skills and education to advance the national security mission in the coming years is a challenging task. Keeping abreast of the latest technologies, adapting to changes in educational approaches and competing with the private sector all present a daunting task for recruitment efforts for the next-generation workforce. NGA is meeting that challenge head on through a holistic approach to identifying, motivating and training its future workforce. Not just content with finding qualified recruits already out there, NGA is evolving a long-term itinerary for helping to train and strategically focus the agency’s future workforce, beginning in elementary schools and moving up through the graduate level in college, and into civilian and military internships. Here’s a quick overview of what the agency is doing to attract students into an educational pipeline that leads to the workforce of the future. STEM IS THE 'ROOT' OF IT ALL NGA’s future jobs outlook is heavily weighted toward the science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — fields. The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that as many as 80 percent of all jobs will require STEM skills in the next decade. The latest statistics posted by the U.S. Department of Education, however, indicate that only about 16 percent of American students currently pursue STEM studies. In addition to creating a dearth of skilled workers available to fill STEM jobs, the lack of interest in these fields has also resulted in an inadequate supply of teachers in these subjects. Former President Barack Obama set a priority during his administration to increase the number of students and teachers proficient in the STEM fields. In September 2017 President Donald Trump unveiled his own plan to boost education in STEM, with a particular focus on computer science and coding. NGA Director Robert Cardillo has long emphasized the value of careers in STEM through appropriate education tracks, because these skills are needed to build and sustain NGA’s workforce. In addition to steering students into STEM education tracks, NGA is sponsoring other programs and
36 | NGA.MIL
activities from elementary to high school to promote enthusiasm in STEM classes that can lead to high-tech jobs at NGA. “We’re doing this because NGA needs a skilled, diverse workforce to keep our nation safe,” Cardillo said. PARTNERS IN EDUCATION To support a foundation in STEM, the Department of Education established the Partners in Education Program, more commonly known as PIE. DOD started its PIE program in large part as a component of its public affairs community relations program, incorporating STEM as a central feature of K-12 education outreach. NGA’s PIE program demonstrates the agency’s commitment to advancing STEM education in local schools and to being a good neighbor to the communities adjacent to its facilities. The program also showcases the talents of NGA’s employees, as employees regularly visit schools and other events as guest speakers, tutors, pen pals, project mentors and science fair judges. The program focuses primarily on elementary and middle school-aged students, but also involves events for highschoolers. The mapping exercise is a centerpiece activity. Other PIE events include career days, STEM expos, GIS fairs and summer camps. SMART PROGRAM NGA’s commitment to STEM doesn’t end with high school graduation. The agency is a participating placement site for scholars in the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation — SMART — program. DOD established this scholarship-for-service program to support undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing degrees in STEM disciplines. Participants are afforded an opportunity to receive a full scholarship, stipend for living expenses, and employment in the federal government upon degree completion. STUDENT EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM The NGA student employment program develops students for future permanent employment while they pursue a degree relevant to NGA's mission, including STEM disciplines. The positions are open to associate, undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students and are based on entry-level job descriptions. Internships involve significant independent and team work under guidance from senior-level supervisors and mentors. Students who perform successfully and meet program requirements can continue in the program for the duration of their degree programs; many become candidates for conversion to permanent civilian employment after graduation.
| INSIGHT | MILITARY SERVICE INTERN PROGRAM In addition to the civilian internships, NGA also sponsors a program of experiences for members of the military services. The Military Service Intern program helps develop, apply and enforce common standards for interoperability across the services. The objective of the MSIP is to develop highly qualified GEOINT managers and technical experts and more importantly, to invest in future GEOINT leaders to conduct National Systems for Geospatial Intelligence missions in support of national decision-makers, warfighting commanders and expeditionary requirements. The program directly supports the NSG priority of “professionalization” by establishing and sustaining GEOINT education and certification across the community. In addition to executing several operational rotations supporting NGA missions and completing intelligence community coursework at the National Geospatial-Intelligence College located at NGA, the agency’s military interns achieve multiple levels of GEOINT professional certifications. They also become certified as adjunct lecturers and become proctors for the professional certification exams. The MSIP is composed of two programs: the Junior Officer GEOINT program and the GEOINT Career Advancement program. Upon completion of the selected program, the service members take their newly acquired GEOINT knowledge, experiences and skills back to their respective services in support of warfighters and decision-makers. COLLABORATIVE SUPPORT Beyond its internal education programs, NGA also partners with the U.S. Geological Survey to support several colleges and universities that offer relevant education around the country. The agency’s goal in recognizing Centers of Academic Excellence for Geospatial Sciences is to form longterm partnerships with the selected CAEs in support of the geospatial sciences. There are currently 19 designated centers spanning from Vermont to California. All of NGA’s educational support programs, ranging from the elementary to the post-graduate level, emphasize critical missionemphasis areas for NGA at least through 2020. In addition to basic STEM education, these emphasis areas are information systems and technologies, open IT and data sciences; evolving and emerging analytics models and methodologies; and research into new and emerging methodologies and scientific phenomenologies. Together with its many and varied education partners, NGA is helping to build the GEOINT workforce of the future. At a recent Tech Showcase in St. Louis, NGA Deputy Director Justin Poole stressed the importance of partners to the agency’s future. “Tomorrow’s solutions begin by exploring new ideas, problem sets and partnerships today,” Poole said.
PUTTING PIE INTO PRACTICE: THE WAYPOINTS PROGRAM NGA is currently expanding and formalizing its PIE program in anticipation of its workforce needs at the new NGA Campus West planned to open in St. Louis in 2023. Known as the Waypoints program, it is the roadmap or strategy NGA will employ to make sure its PIE program is on the right track to achieve its future goals.
Waypoints is a multiyear, multiphase, outcome-based program that fosters geographic literacy, inspires interest in STEM education and advances geospatial information systems skills to equip K-12 students in the St. Louis region for higher education and careers at NGA. To accomplish this, the program focusses on forming relationships with school administrators, teachers and students through various activities and events, all with the common goal of promoting not only STEM, but community relations, education and citizenship. The program seeks to embed as much as possible into the learning environment with mentoring programs and even working with teachers to test students and monitor their knowledge in STEM subjects. A key emphasis of the Waypoints program is promoting geographic literacy. Planned Waypoints programs and activities for students include geocaching events, STEM expos and science fairs. GeoDays and Geocamps are also planned. Waypoints students will also be able to participate in 3-D modeling competitions, hackathons and tech showcases.
GeoPlunge is a mapping competition to get elementary-aged students excited about geographic literacy. It also teaches critical thinking, teamwork and effective communication. GeoPlunge held its initial tournaments in Washington D.C., then last year expanded to cities across the country. Most recently NGA's St. Louis Partners In Education program hosted their first GeoPlunge tournament with Hodgen Elementary.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 37
STRONGER TOGETHER: EXPANDING PARTNERSHIPS FOR GLOBAL SECURITY By Michael Hales and Michael Wagner, International Affairs
UNDERSTAND THE WORLD
We all know there can be strength in numbers. In our business, strength matters most when it resembles cohesion with Allies who share a common geospatial intelligence picture. In October 2017, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued DOD guidance to “... strengthen alliances and attract new partners,” noting that “... alliances and multinational partnerships provide avenues for peace ... [that] temper the plans of those who would attack....” MAKING ONE FORCE OUT OF MANY For decades the backbone of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency international partnerships included mostly bilateral endeavors that were customer oriented and comfortable. These two-way partnerships were established to support the mutual interests of both nations, establish longstanding GEOINT-sharing relationships and develop practices that use common tradecraft. Today's constantly evolving security challenges cannot be adequately addressed through bilateral partnerships alone, however; even through a network of bilateral partnerships. Historically, when a crisis hit a region, NGA coordinated multiple bilateral efforts only to find that sometimes the whole was not necessarily greater than the sum of its parts. Yet it is because of our strong bilateral relationships that we find ourselves ready to evolve with our most capable and trusted partners to greater levels of cooperation, working together in innovative ways to monitor and/or operationally respond to regional and global threats. This “jointness” is the core of NGA's enterprise approach for the National System for Geospatial Intelligence, which includes NGA's international partners. NGA has a history of success with multinational geospatial efforts that have established effective partnerships for foundation data. GEOINT can be feasibly shared in unclassified
38 | NGA.MIL
| UNDERSTAND THE WORLD | environments and has an inherent universality, because everything on Earth can be linked by time and location. It is the most visual of the intelligences, lending itself to truly be the “universal language” of warfighters and first responders, and the most capable platform for multinational collaboration. The goal of NGA's multinational partnership approach is to ensure we operate more efficiently with the collective potential and capabilities of our most trusted partners in a coordinated way to maximize resources, unique accesses and technical expertise. A multinational approach also creates a level workspace and minimizes unintended consequences of sharing GEOINT with some partners, but not others, on common efforts. Consequently, this new approach builds trust, cohesion and interoperability in a steady manner. PROVIDING OPERATIONAL VALUE There are benefits to the transparency arising from multinational GEOINT coalitions. The expanded partnerships have the advantage of being scalable, and once established, they reduce the complexity of working through multiple layers of intelligence-sharing policies. Another key advantage of multinational partnerships is how they allow their form to follow their function. They are shaped by each nation's effort to build a coalition to satisfy its own operational needs while collectively addressing their common strategic interests. These partnerships can even serve formal or informal roles in operational environments.
Even before Secretary Mattis called for expanding partnerships, NGA's International GEOINT Strategy encouraged a multinational approach. It notes, “Using each other's unique capabilities, experience and insight will allow the international GEOINT community to appropriately address global challenges and crises, and increasingly see the advantages of rapidly ingesting and sharing data.” The three principles guiding NGA’s strategy for forming multinational partnerships are: • Multinational partnerships should be driven by shared strategic interests and each partner's ability/willingness to provide operational value to the coalition. • Operational interests must be equally shared for any multinational approach to work in balance. • Technological gaps must be bridged so that partners can communicate and be interoperable with each other, or the multinational effort will be at risk. NGA has taken unprecedented steps to successfully break these barriers and build policy and technology infrastructures to support multinational analytical and operational activities with other nations. But there are still significant challenges to improve communication and ensure multilateral GEOINT interoperability becomes reality. We are working collaboratively with our expanded community of partners to pursue solutions that will make our combined GEOINT efforts more timely and relevant in an operational environment.
PATHFINDER 2017 | 39
PUBLIC-PRIVATE SUPPORT DURING HURRICANES
Roseau, Dominica on May 1, 2017, before damage from hurricane Maria. Copyright 2017, DigitalGlobe
First it was Harvey, and then Irma. JosĂŠ was next, with Maria not far behind. The end of August 2017 ushered in the most powerful hurricane season of more than a decade. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency supports humanitarian and disaster relief efforts by working directly with lead federal agencies responding to hurricanes, floods, fires, landslides and other natural disasters. During Hurricane Irma, for instance, NGA provided GEOINT support for response and recovery efforts at the request of the United States Agency for International Development, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Government of the Bahamas. Upon receiving official requests, NGA made imagery and mapping data publically available, provided evacuation route maps and produced damage assessments for areas in the Caribbean, including the Leeward Islands, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. Commercial and open-source data is an essential component of disaster relief, working both in concert with and separately from federal efforts. During the response to Hurricane Maria, for instance, commercial provider DigitalGlobe partnered with the United Nations to ensure open data was available to aid relief efforts conducted by multiple nations. The company provided preand post-event imagery of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Shown here is before and after imagery of Roseau, Dominica captured by WorldView-2. To learn more about NGAâ€™s commercial partner relationships and support to natural disasters, visit http://www.nga.mil
Roseau, Dominica on September 22, 2017, after hurricane Maria. Copyright 2017, DigitalGlobe