Intelligent mapping : a competing values explanatory case study to optimize mapping operations for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).


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The Department of Defense (DoD) operates with old and inaccurate topographic maps over many parts of the world. The DoD inventory of topographic maps contains outdated maps that require updating or lack any coverage for immediate usage during operations in theater. Inadequate mapping supplies limit mission analysis for the U.S. military and hamper decision-making at the tactical level of command due to the need to establish geospatial knowledge and context. The main aim is to recommend a change in the mapping process used by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to quickly create new topographic maps for the DoD. The purpose of the explanatory case study was to understand change to the current mapping process used by one cartographic team under NGA’s Theater Geospatial Database (TGD) program during the COVID-19 pandemic. A competing values framework analyzed data collected through semi-structured interviews with crucial NGA leaders and cartographers working in NGA’s Office of Geography TGD program.The competing values framework shaped the research around three central management dimensions: organizational focus, structure, and efficiency. Study findings indicated an improvement in topographic mapping occurred while cartographers teleworked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cartographic team increased focus by the minimization of information technology barriers experienced in the office. Teleworking from home reduced the number of office-related distractions faced by the NGA team daily. The telework arrangement adjusted the TGD’s organizational structure to a fluid and agile condition, which assisted in establishing innovation while working remotely from home. Recommendations to NGA and the DoD include adjustments to geospatial-intelligence (GEOINT) doctrine for unclassified topographic production, adoption of incentive-based teleworking policies, NGA and Army program evaluation, critical investment in information technology for mapping teams externally assigned from core NGA key locations in Virginia or Missouri, and the inclusion of geospatial knowledge impacting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).