Rear Adm. Robert Sharp will become the next director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in February, according to a Dec. 26 news release from the organization.
He will take over for Robert Cardillo, who has served as head of the agency since 2014.
Sharp currently leads the Office of Naval Intelligence and serves as director of the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office. On Nov. 29, the White House nominated Sharp for his third star and the Senate approved the nomination Dec. 22. In a Dec. 26 press release, the NGA formally announced the change in leadership. Politico had reported that Cardillo might be retiring and that a uniformed officer might be chosen to take his place.
NGA, which collects, analyzes and distributes geospatial information to the military and intelligence community, has been led by a civilian for eight years.
Sharp will assume command of NGA during a ceremony in February, the agency said. He will become the agency’s seventh director. In a previous assignment, he served as director for intelligence for U.S. Special Operations Command
Cardillo had been a champion of leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to help unburden analysts. Rather than having humans staring at images or hours of full motion video, new technologies could do this monotonous work getting analysts back into the business of using their brain power for analysis.
Cardillo provided Senators in 2016 an anecdote that described how important leveraging algorithms would be to his agency’s mission. He explained how an analyst physically counted 25,000 buildings in a particular area as there was no algorithm designed to do this for them. “Think of the hours he had to spend to do that,” Cardillo exclaimed. “I turned to my head of research and I said don’t let that happen again.”
It is not immediately clear if Cardillo, who started as a photographic interpreter for the intelligence community and became President Barack Obama’s daily intelligence briefer and then the No. 3 official in in the intelligence community, is retiring or moving to another assignment. An NGA spokeswoman declined to comment.
Once considered one answer to preserving U.S. military superiority, AI is now seen by national security leaders as a danger to military operations — and the need to invest in decision-making technologies is accelerating.