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Protecting national security with geography and technology

Geospatial intelligence is a rapidly growing field that uses technology to gather spatial data, then analyze and interpret it to monitor and solve situations that impact our national security. The program therefore focuses on three areas:

  • geospatial technology, the tools of analysis, including remote sensing, geographic information systems, cartography, and statistics
  • geography, the study of the natural, political, and cultural landscapes, and their relationship to each other and to world events, specifically focusing on sensitive regions of the world, such as the Middle East.
  • intelligence processes, including both the broad picture of security policy and the specific procedures of intelligence analysis and reporting

This emphasis is ideal for students who want to work in military intelligence (i.e., ROTC), civilian intelligence agencies of the Federal Government, homeland security agencies at all levels of government, and many major contractors providing technical support services. Graduates should be prepared to be employed in classified environments, and therefore expect background checks and security clearances in every phase of their employment.

The BYU Geography Department intends to submit this emphasis to the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) for accreditation under its academic certificate program when complete (it is currently in draft), which will allow graduates to not only be awarded a degree, but also a certificate recognized across the intelligence community. The department has worked closely with the USGIF academy to design the programs in harmony.

Career Opportunities

  • Typical employers include: federal intelligence agencies, military, private contractors
  • Job titles include: Image Analyst, GIS Analyst, Geographic Analyst

Expected Learning Outcomes

In keeping with the draft USGIF accreditation standards, program learning objectives are aligned with units in the Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge (BoK) where applicable.

Successful graduates of this program will be able to

  • interpret security issues using a geographic perspective, relating human actions to cultural, political, economic, social, physical, and security landscapes
  • understand the U.S. security community and assist in the formulation of foreign, domestic, and military security policy
  • explain the fundamental theories of geographic information science and correlate them to the data models and procedures underlying geospatial technologies
    • BoK Units: CF2 Cognitive and social foundations, CF3 Domains of geographic info., CF5 Relationships, CF6 Imperfections in Geographic Information, GD1 Earth Geometry, GD3 Georeferencing systems, GD4 Datums, GD5 Map projections
  • build geographic databases from primary and secondary sources, especially remote sensing platforms, using standard (e.g., raster, vector, databases) and custom data models
    • BoK Units: DM2 Database Management Systems, DM3 Tessellation Data Models, DM4 Vector and Object Data Models, DM5 Modeling 3D, Temporal, and Uncertain Phenomena, DN1 Representation transformation, DN2 Generalization and aggregation, GD6 Data quality, GD7 Land surveying and GPS, GD8 Digitizing, GD9 Field data collection, GD10 Aerial imaging and photogrammetry, GD11 Satellite and shipboard remote sensing
  • analyze geospatial data using statistical, GIS, and remote sensing technologies to interpret human activities
    • BoK Units: AM2 Query operations and languages, AM3 Measurements, AM4 Basic analytical operations, AM5 Basic analytical methods, AM6 Analysis of surfaces, AM10 Analysis of networks, DA5 Analysis design, GD11 Satellite and shipboard remote sensing
  • design and use a variety of media (i.e., written, verbal, cartographic) to effectively and efficiently communicate analysis results
    • BoK Units: CV2 Data considerations, CV3 Principles of map design, CV4 Graphic representation techniques, CV6 Map use and evaluation
  • create programs and scripts to automate simple geospatial tasks, implementing simple algorithms, using visual development tools
    • BoK Units: DM1 Basic Storage and Retrieval Structures, DA6 Application design
  • recognize security issues, gather and analyze relevant information, and communicate results to policy makers using integrated geospatial technologies and geographic knowledge in collaboration with interdisciplinary teams

Geospatial Intelligence Requirements.pdfGeospatial Intelligence Requirements.pdf