The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has released its 2020 technology needs and is preparing to release its first-ever agency-wide technology strategy in the coming weeks.

During today’s United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) webinar, leaders from NGA discussed its 2020 technology needs and how the agency will move forward and continue to innovate.

The agency identified five needs: advanced analytics and modeling, data management, modern software engineering, artificial intelligence, and the future of work.

Prior to a deeper discussion on the technology needs, NGA CTO Mark Munsell said that the agency plans to release its first technology strategy in the next few weeks. When distinguishing between the agency’s needs and strategy, Munsell said that the tech needs focus on “what we are looking for” in terms of products and services, while the technology strategy “focuses on how we would like to change.” To NGA’s private sector partners, Munsell said, “When thinking about what your company can provide, look at it through that lens – I think that could be very powerful.”

Pivoting back to the tech needs, Munsell said that these are “enduring needs.” He stressed that “these are needs we’ve been working on in the past and will need in the future.” However, he did stress “while [the needs] are broad, they don’t cover every need in the agency.”

Stressing the importance of advanced analytics and modeling, Melissa Planert, director of analysis tradecraft and technology group at NGA, said the important roles analytics and modeling play in national security. She said they are “key” to “staying ahead of our adversaries.”

Alexander Loehr, deputy CTO at NGA, delved into the importance of the modern software engineering need. “What we need to do is build and ship software that is better than our adversaries – and we need to do it faster,” he said. Loehr specifically stressed the “ship” part of that equation, saying that step is where government frequently stumbles. He said “this isn’t rocket science … If you want to build good software, you need good software engineering practices and you need good software engineers.” While he focused on software engineering, Loehr stressed that the needs are intertwined – saying that the software needs to be ready to handle AI and machine learning capabilities and stressing that achieving its other needs requires a modernized workforce.

Today’s webinar – which brought in nearly 1,000 participants – is part of USGIF’s GEOConnect Series, which launched April 22. With stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines to stem the spread of COVID-19, USGIF had to cancel its annual GEOINT Symposium. However, it was able to quickly pivot its in-person events online and launched the GEOConnect Series to provide educational and professional development opportunities to the entire geospatial intelligence, trade, and academic community.

MeriTalk and USGIF will continue the online conversation with a joint launch of the new “Mapping AI to the GEOINT Workforce” study on May 4 and webinar on May 27.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.