Keith Masback, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) gave WashingtonExec a first-hand look about what to expect at the 10th Annual GEOINT Symposium, to be held in Tampa Bay, Florida from April 14-17, 2014. With over 4,000 registered attendees, the theme of “Operationalizing Intelligence for Global Missions” is sure to draw a wide-rage of industry experts and leaders.
As a result of the October 2013 shutdown of the federal government, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) was forced to postpone its GEOINT 2013 Symposium, originally scheduled for October 2013.
Since the decision to postpone the event, USGIF has experienced an outpouring of support, flexibility, and understanding from all GEOINT 2013 stakeholders.
“On behalf of the entire USGIF staff, I want to express our thanks to the GEOINT Community for standing by the Foundation, for the constant expressions of support, and for demonstrating remarkable patience,” said USGIF CEO Keith Masback.
Keynote speakers for the event include the Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, the Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), Tish Long, the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Betty Sapp, the Commander of the United States Special Operations Command, Admiral Bill McRaven, and Robert Scoble & Shel Israel, Co-Authors, Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data, and the Future of Privacy.
We ask Masback about the program’s Young Professionals Group (YPG), its growing commitment to the small business community, as well as its surge in demand for near real-time social media engagement at the Symposium.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us about your background and how you became involved with the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).
Keith Masback: I was commissioned as an infantry officer in the United States Army out of college and later transferred branches to military intelligence. During that time, both at Fort Bragg, North Carolina at XVIII Airborne Corps, and at the Pentagon, I was involved in a variety of intelligence disciplines. As time went on, I became increasingly involved in geospatial intelligence. I worked at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) and also on the Army staff, where I was primarily responsible for future planning and programming for Army intelligence. I returned to the (re-named) National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), to lead future planning efforts. I then took a more operational role for a few years before coming to the Foundation about 5 ½ years ago; first as the President and now as the CEO.
WashingtonExec: How many participants do you expect for the 2014 GEONIT Symposium?
Keith Masback: The GEOINT Symposium is our largest event, held annually. We also host a large number of events throughout the year. The 10th Annual GEOINT Symposium will be in Tampa from April 14-17. We have had, as a total attendance number, over 4,000 attendees over the last couple of years. Based on everything we are seeing, we are roughly on par for being right around 4,000 this year.
WashingtonExec: Why did you select Tampa, Florida for this year’s event?
Keith Masback: We have traditionally moved the event around the Southeast over its 10-year history. We’ve been in New Orleans, San Antonio, Nashville, and Orlando. This is our first foray into Tampa. We found the space at the Tampa Convention Center to be perfect for what we needed; close proximity to great hotels, a beautiful setting on the waterfront, and access to the international airport. The final piece that I would add is, of course, the proximity to MacDill Air Force Base (AFB) with two US Combatant Commands; the US Central Command and the US Special Operations Command. They have, obviously, been critical to the country’s war efforts over the past twelve years and have a lot of challenges ahead. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are critical to addressing those challenges.
“The U.S. intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance has to be more than just responsive, its needs to be anticipatory and predictive in global missions.”
WashingtonExec: What are you most looking forward to at the 2013 GEOINT Symposium?
Keith Masback: Our theme this year is “Operationalizing Intelligence for Global Missions” and I think it is indicative of the engagement we have seen and expect to see from folks at MacDill AFB. As we retrench from Afghanistan and Iraq, our Nation is strategically looking towards missions around the globe, including ongoing unrest in the Middle East, plans to pivot towards Asia and significant engagement in Africa. The U.S. intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance has to be more than just responsive, its needs to be anticipatory and predictive in global missions. I think it is quite appropriate to focus this year on Operationalizing Intelligence for Global Missions so that decision makers and leaders from the foxhole to the White House all have what they require to make informed decisions or to take action when, where and what format is needed. If not, ISR’s contribution is irrelevant. The theme of being operationally focused will really be a key aspect of the event this year.
WashingtonExec: What should we expect from the Young Professionals Group this year?
Keith Masback: Our USGIF Young Professionals Group (YPG) is something that we are particularly proud of and has grown steadily over time. Our hope was to provide an organizing principal for young professionals in our community to come together. My own personal experience in the military is that you grow a network through various professional development courses, a variety of assignments and from moving around. That network becomes increasingly valuable over time. At USGIF, we really felt we could provide this group of young professionals with opportunities to intermingle and begin to create the relationships, bonds and trust that will serve our community well into the future. We will once again host twenty young professionals as part of our symposium program. They will have unique learning opportunities and access to senior leaders. They will also conduct a service project, bringing in about 100 young people from a local high school to take a look at the innovative technologies and services that are shown in the exhibit hall and around the event. That is something that we are very much committed to as an educational non-profit foundation and the YPG will always be a key aspect of our events.
“In the last few years we’ve made a steady push towards also supporting our small businesses by aiding them in creating opportunities with larger organizations, as well as directly with government counterparts.”
WashingtonExec: How are you all engaging with small business?
Keith Masback: We have just about 250 member companies, organizations and academic institutions at USGIF. In the beginning, we were dominated by larger companies who had the resources to help the foundation get going. In the last few years we’ve made a steady push towards also supporting our small businesses by aiding them in creating opportunities with larger organizations, as well as directly with government counterparts. We will, as a part of the government pavilion in the exhibit hall, have three days where we will have dedicated small business programming including small business office leadership from special operations command, from NGA, from NSA and others. We are really proud of what we are doing for our small businesses and believe that there is a significant payoff for everybody in terms of that investment.
WashingtonExec: Have you noticed an increased demand by attendees to socialize online about the GEOINT Symposium?
Keith Masback: We’ve always been very open about sharing our content. Several years ago we established out web property GEOINTv.com and we capture all of our plenary sessions and breakout sessions in HD. We process and post content on the web in near-real time. We are not live streaming the event yet on the Internet, but we are providing most things in less than an hour out on the web. Individuals can now experience our event virtually in terms of the keynote and breakout session content. We have, for several years, worked with the Intelligence Community (IC) to allow attendees to tap into our feed from the plenary session and bring that back in real time into the Intelligence Community secure networks.
WashingtonExec: Will you be live tweeting the event?
Keith Masback: We absolutely will. You can find us tweeting from @GEOINTSymposium and @TrajectoryMag. I tweet from @geointer, and we’ve established our hashtag, which is #GEOINT2013. We plan to continue our very vibrant presence on the web and on social media. In sort of a meta way it is interesting that some of our member companies and exhibitors do social media location and sentiment analysis as well. Last year, in the Young Professionals booth, we had a live map running that was showing tweets in real time, where they were located, and we were beginning to pull some macro sentiment analysis out of that. I’m sure we’ll see multiple examples of that this year.