Bray to join NGA as chief venture officer

The FCC CIO is taking his change agent game to the intelligence community.

David Bray

David Bray, the CIO of the Federal Communications Commission and an advocate for agile and organization change in the federal IT community, is taking on a new role at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

In late July, Bray will be joining NGA as its first-ever Chief Ventures Officer.

NGA Director Robert Cardillo announced Bray's appointment at the GEOINT 2017 Symposium on June 5. The news was first reported by NextGov.

"NGA sits on an amazing and broadly untapped resource," Cardillo said. "We have labeled imagery, data and analysis going back decades. In a world of deep learning, historic data and ground truth are immensely valuable. Some have even called data 'the new oil.'"

The new Office of Ventures and Innovation, which falls under the Plans and Programs Directorate at NGA, is designed to find a way to accelerate innovation between the intelligence agency and the growing community of mapping and analytics startups.

"The goal would be to obtain a return on that data in the form of new or transformed data, new algorithms, trained machine vision approaches or an application of linked software," Cardillo said. "Our approach to this initiative is now in formation, and we look forward to developing this type of data-centric synergy with any and all interested partners."

Bray told FCW the move had its genesis in a meeting between himself and Cardillo about nine months ago on the sidelines of a technology conference. Bray is hoping to bring his brand of "inside-out" innovation to NGA. The idea, he said, is that inside every organization there are people who know where the roadblocks are. Empowering those individuals to succeed can accelerate organizational change.

"How do I identify those early adopters and pioneers who may not oversee resources? How do I motivate them and their supervisors to take risks," Bray explained. "If it was a textbook, it would be easy."

The budget for the new office is classified, but Bray said the would be leading a group of hundreds of staffers, pulling together existing offices including acquisition with a remit to make investments and prove out rapid acquisition techniques.

Bray has previous intelligence community experience. And while he's quite proud of the IT modernization efforts and move to the cloud that he drove at the FCC, he said he's excited to be in the thick of the NGA mission.

"If you get the map wrong, that can impact somebody," he said.

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