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National Cryptologic Museum: A Reimagined Experience of Cryptologic History

April 12, 2021

The National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) is working on overdrive creating a reimagined experience of cryptologic history for first-time and repeat visitors alike.

The museum’s goal is to reopen this summer with completely transformed exhibits, artifacts, and branding.

“The National Cryptologic Museum is being transfigured from a good museum that had cool stuff to a great museum that will awe visitors with some of the best stories history has to tell,” Museum Director Dr. Vince Houghton says.

NCM staff, painters, construction crews, electricians, plumbers, carpet layers, and carpenters dedicated the past several months to giving the museum a complete makeover, and their work isn’t done. Their efforts have included taking down exhibits and displays, painting walls and display cases, improving the plumbing and electrical power, installing new air handlers, adding a new security system, installing state-of-the-art storage shelving for documents and publications, installing proper environment control equipment for rare artifacts. Even the staff office has been upgraded with modern furniture and telephones.

“If you read our article on NSA’s website earlier this month, you know that we have centuries old, original books and documents found no place else on the planet,” Dr. Houghton says. “We have one-of-a-kind artifacts that can be found only at the NCM. Some of these have never been on public display,” he adds.

NCM Chief Sally Lockley credited many key partners who have played a significant role in making the museum’s transformation a reality.

“The museum is working as hard and fast as possible to reopen this summer,” Ms. Lockley says. “We’ve had wonderful support from leadership at all levels, Installations & Logistics, and our own support staff in (NSA) Strategic Communications. We want to make sure we do this smartly – moving a 2.5-ton cryptanalytic Bombe, for example, takes a lot of thought and planning,” she says.

Throughout the NCM’s temporary closure, the staff has found creative ways to share their treasured artifacts and historical books with the public by hosting Library and Artifact Spotlights on its Facebook page. These short videos give the public a taste of what they will see when the museum reopens.

The next Artifact Spotlight, featuring an original 1939 letter from Baron Oshima, Japan’s ambassador to Germany during WWII, will be presented at noon EDT on April 23.

Look for more articles and videos on NSA’s Press Room and Features pages and social media as the NCM continues its journey – dubbed Operation Makeover – toward sharing the unique history of the “old” in an entirely “new” way.

For more information about the NCM and its programs, please call 301-688-5849, or email

Harris-Stowe State University Students Map North St. Louis, Develop Geospatial Skills

April 7, 2021

The OpenStreetMap program has a more detailed and accurate depiction of north St. Louis, thanks to 12 Harris-Stowe State University students who participated in the GeoHornet Mapathon hosted by Harris-Stowe State University with participation by Maxar and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency March 19.

NGA’s involvement in the mapathon was in support of the Education Partnership Agreement it signed with HSSU last fall.

The mapathon mapped nearly 600 buildings in north St. Louis and gave the students an opportunity to develop their mapping and geospatial technology skills and preview what a career in the geospatial industry might be like.

“By filling data gaps in OpenStreetMap, the GeoHornet Mapathon is introducing geospatial technology to students and growing geospatial skillsets,” said Freddie Wills, assistant vice president for STEM initiatives at Harris-Stowe State University. “It also is driving application of geospatial data across multiple academic disciplines to benefit students, teachers, the St. Louis geospatial economy and local residents.”

OpenStreetMap is a free, online map of the world, available to be viewed and edited by anyone. Millions of people around the globe contribute to it, according to its website. Individuals, humanitarian organizations and more use its data, and it is the basis for many map-based or -enabled smartphone apps.

“Maxar is proud to help the next generation of mappers learn how to create maps to have an impact in their communities,” said Matthew Gibb, Maxar’s supervisor of geospatial tradecraft, who served as a mapping coach for students during the event. “Maxar’s high-resolution satellite imagery serves as a foundational mapping layer for OpenStreetMap, which allows the derived mapping information to maintain the same geo-accuracy as our imagery.”

One goal of the GeoHornet Mapathon is to support local neighborhood development and improvement, said Wills.

“Insight and information submitted by Mapathon participants can create more robust maps of under-developed St. Louis northside neighborhoods,” said Wills. “These maps can then be used for research projects or development planning by students, researchers, government and industry.”

Another goal of the mapathon series is to build a community of mappers and geospatial professionals in St. Louis, said Wills. By facilitating student interest and expertise in geospatial science and programs, particularly as these fields relate to the real-world technical applications, the mapathon is helping to develop a future workforce in support of the St. Louis geospatial ecosystem, which includes Maxar and NGA.

“Events like this are the foundation for developing an understanding of GEOINT – terms, applications, methodologies, etc.,” said Luke Kratky, who leads special projects for the Senior GEOINT Authority for Geomatics for NGA. “As we look to demystify STEM, GEOINT and NGA, community integration events like this is how we mentor, coach, develop and capture the imagination of potential STEM students.”

Because of COVID-19 precautions, coaches from Maxar and NGA personnel participated on-site at Harris Stowe’s GeoHornet Lab in the T-REX innovation center in downtown St. Louis and virtually to help answer student questions and discuss geospatial careers.

Students came from different majors and backgrounds.

Donovan Forrest, a Harris-Stowe senior and business major, is a resident of north St. Louis and lives near the site of the new Next NGA West facility, he said. He opted to participate in the mapathon because he wanted to learn more about NGA and potentially join the agency after graduation. Now, Forrest said he sees a future in geospatial technology, and looks forward to learning more about the world of geospatial intelligence as a result of the event.

Christopher Buechner, a volunteer mentor from Maxar, spent one-on-one time with the students, helping them understand how to work the OpenStreetMap program and the role of an imagery analyst. He says he enjoys getting students involved with mapping their own areas and introducing them to the world of geospatial.

“There is something about mapping local that hits home with me,” says Buechner.

This mapathon was the first in a series of GeoHornet mapping efforts by Harris-Stowe and participating organizations to coordinate and facilitate the improvement of open geographic data in St. Louis. Wills says Harris-Stowe plans to hold future mapathons that will seek to engage high school students, residents from North St. Louis and residents from across the St. Louis region.

Overcoming Communication Challenges in the Age of COVID-19

April 7, 2021

For this year’s World Health Day, the National Security Agency takes pride in continuing to ensure its employees have working conditions that are conducive to good health as we support our workforce through the COVID-19 pandemic. Like so many other organizations, NSA entered uncharted territory when presented with the challenge of maintaining our critical mission for the nation during this challenging time.

Prior to the pandemic, NSA offered many ways in which the workforce could have direct interaction with their leadership. From town halls to brown bag lunches, hearing from employees about their concerns and delivering important information has been critical to mission success. This requirement didn’t change with COVID-19, so the Agency moved quickly to implement CDC guidance while offering accessible ways to ensure workforce engagement across the enterprise.

The near-elimination of in-person meetings dramatically increased the Agency’s use of video chat capabilities, while equipping and empowering our people to operate in a virtual environment. Many leaders hosted virtual town halls, video conferences with live questions, and joined internal collaboration platforms to reach the entire workforce and provide them with vital information on how the Agency was addressing the pandemic and employee concerns.

These changes, while necessary during a world health crisis, laid a foundation for the future as well. The expansion of virtual meetings provided teams with the ability to meet face-to-face regardless of their locations. Collaboration platforms within NSA are easier and more accessible than ever before.

The COVID-19 outbreak challenged many organizations to reevaluate the way they communicate with their employees and work collaboratively. NSA met the challenge head on and continues to adapt to world events to ensure its workforce has the tools and safeguards needed to protect the nation and collaborate effectively.

DHS Announces Ten-Fold Increase in Vaccinated Workers Through Operation VOW

April 5, 2021

Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that DHS’s Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce (Operation VOW) has vaccinated more than 58,000 DHS mission-critical 1A and 1B employees – up from 5,074 employees at the beginning of February. On January 6, there were a total of 8 Veterans Administration Medical Centers providing vaccines to DHS employees. As of April 5, that number has increased significantly to 163 participating centers. DHS and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) continue to closely coordinate multiple vaccination events across the country for frontline and public-facing DHS employees.

“There is no higher priority than the health and safety of our workforce,” says Secretary Mayorkas. “I am proud of the incredible progress that Operation VOW has made in just two months, thanks to the dedication of the DHS and VHA personnel leading this effort. DHS is committed to protecting our employees by ensuring they have access to the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”

Recently, Operation VOW and VHA facilitated several events along the southwest border to vaccinate frontline and public-facing employees.

  • On March 16, 175 Group 1A/1B DHS employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a southwest border vaccination event in Donna, Texas. The event was a coordinated effort led by Operation VOW and hosted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Donna Processing Center in partnership with the VHA. “The logistics and coordination of this inaugural southwest border event was made possible by the effective collaboration of all federal partners. Their diligent efforts ensured every DHS employee who wanted a shot, received a shot,” says Constance Johnson-Cage, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer and Operation VOW Vaccinations Events Lead.
  • On March 20, 294 Group 1A/1B DHS employees were able to receive a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event in El Paso, Texas. The event was a closely coordinated effort led by Operation VOW and hosted by the El Paso VA Health Care System. Dr. Herbert Wolfe, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Security at the DHS Office of the Chief Medical Officer, attended the vaccination event. “Protecting our workforce from COVID-19 by accelerating shots in arms remains a top priority for the Department. Today’s event was made possible through our continued and committed partnership with the Veterans Health Administration. The Operation VOW team is grateful for the steadfast support of world class health care professionals at the El Paso VA Health Care System. Thank you for your sustained efforts to expeditiously vaccinate our workforce.”
  • On March 23, 100 Group 1A/1B employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event co-hosted by CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Laredo International Airport in Laredo, Texas. “The Laredo Port of Entry is focusing on the health and safety of our workforce,” said Assistant Port Director-Mission Support Operations, Marcelino Rangel, III, Laredo Port of Entry. “Through coordinated efforts with DHS and the VHA, our goal is to provide our officers access to the COVID-19 vaccine to help curb the spread of the virus.”
  • On March 26, 218 Group 1A/1B employees received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination event co-hosted by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), United States Secret Service (USSS), and CBP on the FLETC campus in Artesia, New Mexico. FLETC Artesia site director, Terry Todd, stated in reference to the vaccination event, “It’s a game changer having vaccinated students. It will greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread and allow more flexibility in our COVID-19 protective posture and protocols.”

Operation VOW prioritized these and other events to protect DHS employees managing the situation at the border. In the coming weeks, Operation VOW and the VHA will continue to hold vaccine events across the country for DHS employees.

An (Uncommon) Story of an (Extra)ordinary Man

March 17, 2021

This is a story of a man, not unalike you or me. But a man who, at the age of 61, became one of 18 people in the world to complete a continuous 2,812-mile ultra-triathlon.

To put that distance in perspective, a typical Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run, for a total of 140.6 miles traveled; and the direct distance from the center of Boston, Massachusetts, to the center of Los Angeles, California, measures 2,599.6 miles.

But the Double Deca Ultra-Triathlon that Al Manning, MITRE contractor for the Defense Intelligence Agency, competed in and completed is comprised of a 48-mile swim, 2,240-mile bike ride and 524-mile run in Leon, Mexico.

More than just a story about a tried-and-true athlete and DIA colleague, this is a tale of a journey that began 20 years ago.

“Most people have never heard of a Double Deca Ultra-Triathlon,” Manning says. “It’s called that because it is 20 times the length of an Ironman Triathlon. The race is done continuously; there are no timeouts.”

Manning explained that he didn’t wake up one day with the intent to tackle such a long race. Instead, it was a progressive phase of looking for the next challenge.

“For those old enough to know, your body’s warranty ends at age 40,” he says. “After that, stuff starts to not work as well as it used to. By the time I was 42, I felt old. I needed a special pillow to keep my neck from hurting, a special mattress to keep my back from hurting, a special this and a special that.”

In 2000, Manning finally reached a point where he no longer wanted to feel his chronic aches and pains and set his mind to changing the downward trend he had been physically experiencing for years. Applying Newton’s first law – the law of inertia – he started moving.

“I resolved that, every year, I would be a little stronger, a little faster, a little tougher and a little leaner than the year before,” he says. “Maybe not by much, but at least a little.” Having only grown up dabbling in minor physical activities, he decided that bicycling seemed like a manageable activity. At first, he began biking to gradually build up strength and work out the kinks. Eventually, he used his workday commute as physical fitness time.

Manning lives in Virginia. At the time he decided to substitute bicycling for driving, he was commuting 50 miles roundtrip. When his position moved locations, his commute increased to 70 miles roundtrip.

After a couple years, he read an article in a magazine that said bicyclists were “mere mortals” when compared to those who compete in Ironman races. Manning recalled thinking that an Ironman was impossible.

In another gradual progression of challenges, he began with a half-Ironman in 2015. After learning from his mistakes and growing as an athlete, he tried a full Ironman. “A lot of what I do is because I’m answering the question, ‘Why can’t I?’ I think people set too many limits on what they think they can or can’t do,” Manning says. “Endurance races are not about winning; they are about overcoming limitations and dealing with adversity.”

In his first Ironman, Manning crossed the finish line with less than 15 minutes remaining in the race. Through the next few years, he completed 10 Ironman races before he took on the next challenge – ultra-triathlons in the form of a double, and later a triple, Ironman.

“It’s said that triathletes were ‘mere mortals’ compared to the ultra-triathletes who would race continuously for days on end,” he says. “So I signed up for a double-Iron (281.2 miles) and barely finished. It was the first time I raced through the night and my first encounter with the hallucinations that come with sleep deprivation.”

Manning explained that, in ultra-racing, there’s a different mentality involved. It’s less about racing and more about pacing because it’s a game of endurance and perseverance. He added that, in this elite class of racing, participants have the added stress of dealing with life, biological needs and the emotional rollercoaster experienced when things go wrong.

“The less sleep you get, the wilder that rollercoaster can be. In my race career, I’ve only failed once. I’ve never been removed, but I’ve come within minutes of cutoff numerous times. The race I failed – my first triple Ironman – I threw in the towel with six miles to go. I went 415-plus miles, without sleep. I was exhausted, and thought it was impossible to finish on time.”

He recalled having two hours to complete six miles but was unable to mentally process that his three-miles-per-hour pace would have him cross the finish line before race time ended and coordinators pulled him from the course. So, he quit. The next morning, not only did he feel foolish, but once he could understand his mistake, he determined that he would never quit another race.

“I start each race with energy, enthusiasm and plans for spectacular accomplishments,” Manning says. “But then life starts to happen – the weather goes bad, some important part of my body gives out, or I forget to pack something important. All the idealistic expectations I had at the starting line become crushed by the reality of circumstances I did not foresee. “But I keep on going, eventually crossing the finish line as a broken little old man that is happy to just be moving at all.”

In 2018, Manning completed the New Orleans Double Deca Ultra-Triathlon, during which he learned about the Double Deca Ultra-Triathlon. A race of that length had only been held twice prior to the 2019 Leon, Mexico, event – in 1998 and 2009. Only eight finishers completed the Mexico event. The Double Deca Ultra-Triathlon race is 28 days of continuous movement. Participants must complete the mileage of the swim before moving on to the bike, which must be completed before taking on the run. According to the International Ultra Triathlon Association, which records the world leaders in ultra-triathlon racing, Manning is the only American ranked and holds the first place record in his age group.

When asked what the next challenge is for him, now that he’s completed the Double Deca Ultra-Triathlon, Manning says he doesn’t know. “The Double Deca is it – there is no longer, continuous race,” he explains. “I don’t say ‘never’ too much anymore. So maybe there will be something else that comes next. For now, I’ll compete to keep my rankings.”

When he began his journey to live a healthier lifestyle, his wife questioned his decision to simply ride his bike to work. Then, when he moved on to Ironman races, she thought he was wild. After a time, Manning explained, his wife and their two daughters learned to embrace his newfound hobby.

“They’ve come to accept and expect this from me,” he says.

How About Some HoTSoS? It’s Time to Register!

March 15, 2021

Hot Topics on Science of Security (HoTSoS) is a research event centered on the Science of Security, which aims to address the fundamental problems of security in a principled manner. Registration is now open for the eighth annual HoTSoS event which will be held virtually, hosted by the National Security Agency on April 13-15, 2021.

The HotSoS plenary presentations will take place on the Hopin virtual conference platform. Networking and poster sessions will be held on the platform. Registered attendees will receive an email with instructions for accessing the platforms in the week prior to the event.

Register here
Registration deadline is 11 April.

HotSoS brings together researchers from diverse disciplines to promote advancement of work related to the science of security. The 8th Symposium continues the series’ emphasis on cyber-security with a strong methodology and scientific rigor. This symposium solicits presentations of already published work in security and privacy, particularly that which examines the scientific foundations of trustworthy systems. In addition to these presentations, the symposium solicits work in progress papers for discussion, presentations of student research projects, and research posters. The program will also include invited talks and panels. The poster session will be highlighted by a poster competition.

Special Session on Science of Security Hard Problems

The program this year will also include a special breakout discussion session centered on Science of Security Hard Problems. The SoS community influencers are revisiting the SoS Hard Problems and their definitions in preparation for a second decade of the National Security Agency (NSA) Science of Security and Privacy Program.

If you have an idea for a hard problem, submit it by March 21 to Germane hard problem submissions will be invited to give a five minute presentation at the breakout discussion session. The SoS Lablet Principal Investigators and NSA leaders will consider the proposed hard problems in a revisit to the Hard Problems report.

The Science of Security (SoS) emphasizes the advancement of research methods as well as the development of new research results. This dual focus is intended to improve both the confidence we gain from scientific results and also the capacity and efficiency through which we address increasingly technical problems.

GenCyber Call for Proposals

March 9, 2021

Today, the National Security Agency announced a new GenCyber Call for Proposals for 2022 GenCyber summer camps. The new Call for Proposals for GenCyber goes out to institutions interested in hosting a 2022 summer camp and to provide young students with the skills they need to better prepare for a career in the fast-changing field of cybersecurity.

NSA’s GenCyber Program provides summer cybersecurity camp experiences for students and teachers at the K-12 level. Ensuring that enough young people are inspired to utilize their talents in cybersecurity is critical to the future of our country’s national and economic security as we become even more reliant on cyber-based technology in every aspect of our daily lives. To ensure a level playing field, GenCyber camps are open to all student and teacher participants at no cost.

The GenCyber Program Office will host several public webinars throughout March 2021 to answer questions regarding the new CFP. You can apply under this CFP or register to attend a webinar by visiting:

If you have any questions, please reach out to the GenCyber team at and

IARPA Program Driving New Capabilities to Capture Clearer Images of Satellites Orbiting (Very) High Above Earth

February 19, 2021

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is developing new scientific approaches to take high-definition-like pictures of geosynchronous satellites from the ground. The goal is to better account for the behavior and movement of these high orbiting objects in space.

Backdrop: In March 2018, IARPA established the Amon-Hen program (a name inspired by The Lord of the Rings) after policymakers identified an important intelligence need: developing improved ground-based capabilities for capturing imagery of geosynchronous satellites. GEO satellites track weather, support GPS technologies, and are used for commercial and military communications. The challenge is they are very hard to image from the ground – they orbit at the extremely high altitude of 36,000 km (22,500 miles). By comparison, the International Space Station orbits at an altitude of 410 km (256 miles).

To address this important need, IARPA and its research team are partnering with leading scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to build a hypertelescope – a single large telescope made up of seven smaller individual ones. While the effort entails extensive science and engineering, the hypertelescope essentially works by collecting the light from smaller telescopes to produce a single, clearer image. The hypertelescope was first theorized in the 1980s by French astronomer Antoine Émile Henry Labeyrie and was considered just a theory until Amon-Hen.

What’s Next: The seven array telescopes and measurement equipment will be installed at the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer in Flagstaff, Arizona, this spring, and the first image collection of GEO objects is scheduled for the summer of 2021.

What They’re Saying: “This project demonstrates the potential high payoff of innovative research and development for the Intelligence Community. If successful, we will have the capability of building large telescopes at a fraction of the cost to serve intelligence and scientific priorities moving forward,” said Merrick DeWitt, IARPA Program Manager.

The Bottom Line: On behalf of the IC, IARPA and its government and industry partners are driving forward-leaning science and technology innovations. Together, they are solving difficult national security issues.

20 Years in, IC is Still Funding Innovative Research Grants

February 11, 2021

Robots, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and many other futuristic technologies are all projects that the Intelligence Community’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowships have worked on.

“The program supports unclassified research in partnership with U.S intelligence community partners, and it’s really targeting academic institutions,” John Beieler, director of science and technology for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “These are academic researchers who have received their Ph.D.s who are now doing their first work outside after their Ph.D.”

Each year ODNI asks members of the IC to submit areas where they would like further research done. From there grants are given to researchers on a variety of subjects.

“These research appointments are typically two years in length, and we’re currently accepting applications for the 2021 research opportunities until Feb. 26,” Beieler said. “In any given year, we’ll have a few dozen topics to go out to request responses. Not all of those get responses, obviously some topics are very hot. AI topics tend to get a ton of responses.”

The program is open to U.S. citizens only.

Beieler said looking back over the last 20 years, the IC has funded some vanguard studies.

“One current research grant is designing algorithms that allow robots to execute complex manipulation tasks, like repairing satellites,” he said. This robotic satellite repair and assembly can both reduce the cost and increase the scope and efficiency of future space missions.”

NGA Announces Winners of $100,000 Soundscapes Competition

February 2, 2021

Today, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced the final results of Soundscapes, a $100,000 prize competition seeking algorithms that geolocate the source of video and audio recordings on Earth. Solvers were asked to submit and test their code solutions, view their quantitative score and participate in a leaderboard on the Topcoder platform indicating solver rank based on the training data. Their submissions included three components:

  • A white paper describing their technical approach.
  • Test files indicating the city which the video originated from.
  • Confidence level generated by their method for each of the eight cities.

“GEOINT analysis of multimedia is a developing area, and the Soundscapes Competition has provided us with critical insights into the ability to automate geolocalization of data from non-speech audio cues.” said Michelle Brennan, NGA Image & Video Pod lead, and Soundscapes Competition sponsor. “We are delighted and encouraged by the level of interest shown by the community and the sophisticated solutions submitted by all of the solvers participating in the Soundscapes Competition.

Summary of the technology used to address the Soundscapes Challenge:

  • This was a highly technical challenge focusing on machine learning techniques for classification of audio recordings into one of nine possible city classes. There were a number of similarities in the winning approaches, including augmenting the data by modifying the audio clips in a variety of ways including adding white noise to the test files.
  • All of the winners converted the audio signals into a spectrogram, an image where the x axis represents time and the y axis represents frequency. These images can be analyzed using powerful deep learning methods and network architectures which are tailored to image processing tasks. Most of the Soundscapes Prize Competition winners have a strong history in image processing but were new to audio processing.
  • Once the audio signal was converted into an image, all of the winners then trained convolutional neural networks.
  • Most of the winners trained a wide variety of convolutional neural networks and then used an ensemble approach for final classification of the test data.

The call to better identify the actual recording location of audio and video files using acoustic-based machine learning methods is borne out of the ever-growing volume of multimedia being produced globally, which the agency hopes to develop in support of its mission to serve the nation and world through humanitarian aid and in support of national security. NGA believes this data, combined with cutting-edge machine learning models and the power of the crowd, can render such tools that GEOINT organizations simply do not yet have at their disposal. Soundscapes was designed to align with the newly released NGA Technology Strategy.

As stated by NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, “Maintaining our advantage as the world leader in GEOINT requires a sound digital enterprise.”

These winners will be invited to present a paper containing a description of their methodology at a workshop to be held in 2021. To learn more about the global competition, visit

DIA Fighting for Family, Honoring its Ties

January 28, 2021

It’s said that a single person can have multiple families in life. There’s the one you’re born into, the one that you choose and create, and the one you meet along the way.

When it comes being a part of the Defense Intelligence Agency, family ties are extended to spouses and children of employees. This is something the Defense Attache Service has proven true with the passing of Micala Siler, wife to DIA and Army Maj. Jason Siler.

“We're ensuring long-haul support to Jason and the girls as they embark on the next chapter of their lives,” said Melissa Perham, DAS chief of staff. “We’re staying in close contact with Jason and Micala's families to provide ongoing support— whether that be career development services for Jason or mental health support for Jason, the girls and family members. Our (casualty assistance officer) and psychologist were basically adopted by the family and maintain ongoing communication with them. I see that remaining in place even if it’s not an ‘official duty.’

“There is something that bonds people who go through this type of event together. We're all family and we treat each other as such.” Micala died Sept. 30, 2020, after sustaining injuries while running in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she lived with Jason and their four daughters. She would have been 42 on Dec. 19.

A graduate of West Point Class of 2001, Micala served in the Army until 2009. Through the course of her Army career, she served assignments in Fort Leonard Wood, Kansas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Lewis, Washington; Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. She became the first female to graduate from the Sapper Leadership Course, was jumpmaster certified and led units through several combat deployments.

Micala was an avid runner – she was on the West Point marathon team and, according to Jason, ran five miles before the family would wake each morning. After leaving military service, Micala worked as the executive director of A Family for Every Orphan, an international non-governmental organization dedicated to finding loving families for orphans in their home country.

From the moment DIA was notified of Micala’s passing, the Agency went into action. “We mobilized across multiple offices and platforms to bring her home with every due respect, with the dignity and honor she deserved, and in keeping with Jason and her family's wishes,” said Perham. “The DAS Headquarters and the Defense Attaché Office took the lead in orchestrating the entire repatriation mission. We levied our wonderful partners in Germany and received fantastic support from the Mortuary Affairs Office in Dover, Delaware.”

DAS’s chief of support, who served as a casualty assistance officer, Marjorie Hunt added, “Essentially, we responded by surrounding the entire family and (those affected) with support and care. We were there to help in any way possible.”

DAS immediately mobilized senior psychologist Dr. Abbey Durkin to Kyiv, where she stayed until Micala was transported to Germany. A U.S. DAO member escorted Micala throughout her entire trip home to Ohio, while a fellow Army officer and close friend, Col. Dan Miller, accompanied Jason and his children through their travels.

To meet the family in Ohio, DAS mobilized a forward support team, which included Hunt, Dr. Tiffany Prather who is a psychologist that worked with the Siler’s prior to their posting in Kyiv, and Army Element representative Maj. Stephanie Bullock.

Perham explained that collectively more than 30 people from DIA were part of the Agency’s response, as well as 10 additional people from the Department of Defense mortuary team in Germany and Dover. The response team conducted twice-daily syncs until Micala arrived home to Ohio, and provided daily situation reports to the DIA director of operations and DIA command element.

“The DAS, as a service, certainly has previous experience with loss overseas, but this was and is a relatively new team,” said Perham. “For many of us, it was our first time supporting in this way.”

She explained that the team had to learn as they were supporting, making sure to update the family along the way. “Repatriation can always be a bit challenging, even under the best circumstances, because we have to negotiate the host nation’s processes as well as our own,” Perham explained. “It’s naturally complicated even if everything is going smoothly. Micala’s case had a few unique challenges. (But) the USDAO and Department of State helped navigate those.”

She added that repatriation protocols are different depending on the deceased’s status – whether civilian, military or family member.

“Micala was a member of the DAS and was treated as such throughout,” said Perham. “We really worked with our partners to lean in and reach beyond what their SOPs state, to put humanity at the forefront of bringing Micala home and supporting Jason, the girls and Micala's extended family.”

Micala’s obituary describes her as “an intense light and fierce leader from the day she was born.” Those words ring true, especially for DAS and the running community.

“The experience we gained supporting Micala and her family was quickly put to the test when we lost another DAS family member just a month later and then a DAS civilian this month,” Perham said. “We applied all that we'd learned with Micala to these cases. She has forever impacted the way in which we respond to these events—for the better. Her memory is a blessing, and she has led the way even in her death.”

In her memory, a free running event was organized, Miles of Smiles for Micala, which took place from Dec. 13-19, 2020. Participants helped reach the goal of 4,895 miles—the distance from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Olmsted Falls, Ohio, where her family lives. In the first five days, runners from around the world collectively covered a distance of three times the goal miles. People who didn’t know Micala but were impacted by her passion and her story were moved to pay respect for a fallen patriot.

Micala’s family ties bind her to more than just the family she was born in to and the one she chose and built – they bind her to all runners, the military and, forever, DIA.

DHS Launches “Be Your REAL ID Self” Public Awareness Campaign

January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun a new nationwide public awareness campaign, “Be Your READ ID Self” to promote awareness of the REAL ID requirements and encourage the public to act before the October 1, 2021 full enforcement deadline.

Just over 8 months remain until the October 1, 2021 REAL ID full enforcement deadline goes into effect at all federally regulated airports, federal facilities, and nuclear power plants.

The Department continues to urge Americans to obtain a REAL ID-compliant card or acceptable alternative, such as a U.S. passport or passport card prior to the October 1, 2021 enforcement deadline.

Passed by Congress in 2005 following a 9/11 Commission recommendation, the REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like the Transportation Security Administration, from accepting licenses and identification cards for official purposes from states that do not meet these standards.

Security standards include incorporating anti-counterfeiting document security features into licenses and identification cards, preventing insider fraud in the production of those licenses and cards, ensuring security of production facilities, and requiring presentation and verification of information to ensure a person is who he or she claims to be. It also prohibits federal agencies from accepting non-compliant licenses and identification cards for accessing federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. These standards have significantly improved the reliability and accuracy of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards across the country.

To avoid confusion regarding the REAL ID Act requirements and enforcement milestones, residents can use the following guidelines to be fully informed and prepared.

  • Check your state-issued driver’s license or identification card for the star. REAL ID-compliant cards have a star marking in the upper left- or right-hand corner. Most acceptable alternatives, such as state-issued Enhanced Driver’s Licenses (EDLs), which are available in five states and can be used for entering the U.S. at land and sea border crossings, do not have the star, but are acceptable for official REAL ID purposes. For more information on EDLs, please go to
  • Bring identity documents to the airport that are acceptable for flying domestically. Check to see if you have the proper identification to fly at TSA’s website has a list of acceptable forms of identification that individuals may use to verify their identity at the screening checkpoint. If you need to obtain a new form of ID, please allow enough processing time before you travel. For example, the current processing times for U.S. passports are approximately 10-12 weeks for routine service and 4-6 weeks for expedited service. or
  • Check with the federal agency you plan to visit, in advance, to find out whether identification is required, and if so, what types of identity documents are acceptable. While most Federal agencies will continue to accept legacy and non-compliant marked driver’s licenses and identification cards until the October 1, 2021 full enforcement deadline, some – like Department of Defense facilities and posts – may no longer accept them.
    Read answers to REAL ID frequently asked questions at

NGA Launches Neurodiversity Pilot

January 13, 2021

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency launched a pilot program in December to increase opportunities for neurodiverse individuals, including those on the autism spectrum. The Neurodiverse Federal Workforce pilot program is a collaborative effort between NGA, MITRE, a not-for-profit R&D company, and Melwood, a D.C. nonprofit providing job opportunities to people with disabilities.

“NGA mission success is contingent on a world-class workforce with a wide diversity of opinions and expertise,” says NGA Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon. “Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives to the NGA workforce and make important contributions to the mission.”

Following an intensive one-week training and interviews workshop, the six-month pilot program will place interns in geospatial and imagery analysis roles supporting NGA’s mission, says Dixon.

“This is a tremendous learning opportunity for NGA,” says Dixon. “It allows us to demonstrate that neurodiverse talent adds significant value to the geospatial-intelligence tradecraft and helps the agency better support its existing neurodiverse employees.”

The NFW pilot resulted from the Office of Management and Budget and General Service Administration’s Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center Challenge, a competition to solicit proposals to solve the federal government’s toughest management problems while collaborating with the private sector, academia and the public. MITRE’s neurodiversity proposal garnered a grand prize.

“This work will be an invaluable building block for creating meaningful change across the federal workforce,” says Teresa Thomas, program lead, neurodiverse talent enablement for MITRE.

“NGA has stepped forward to lead by example, collaborating on an internship program that will benefit interns on the spectrum and NGA.”

According to the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s 2015 report “National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood,” young adults with autism had the lowest rate of employment compared to their peers with other types of disabilities.

“In addition to increasing career opportunities within the federal government for people on the autism spectrum, a historically underemployed population, the effort will also create a playbook to help other federal agencies recruit and support neurodiverse talent,” says Dixon.

DNI Ratcliffe Welcomes U.S. Space Force as 18th Intelligence Community Member

January 8, 2021

Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, today welcomed the U.S. Space Force (USSF) as the 18th member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

During an afternoon ceremony, Ratcliffe and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond announced the designation of the intelligence element of the U.S. Space Force as a member of the IC.

“This accession reaffirms our commitment to securing outer space as a safe and free domain for America’s interests,” says Ratcliffe. “American power in space is stronger and more unified than ever before. Today we welcome Space Force to the Intelligence Community and look forward to the power and ingenuity of a space security team unrivalled by any nation.”

The Space Force element is the first new organization to join the IC since 2006.

“Today, we took action to elevate space intelligence missions, tradecraft and collaboration to ensure the success of the Space Force, the Intelligence Community, and ultimately, our National Security,” says Gen. Raymond. “This is a significant milestone, a clear statement that America is committed to a secure and accessible space domain. Our partnership will ensure the Space Force and the nation remain always above any threat.”

Ratcliffe highlighted how the addition of USSF to the IC marks a historic opportunity to further strategic change across the national security space enterprise.

“Through sharing space-related information and intelligence, the IC and DoD increase integration and coordination of our intelligence activities to achieve best effect and value in executing our missions,” says Ratcliffe. “This move not only underscores the importance of space as a priority intelligence and military operational domain for national security, but ensures interoperability, future capability development and operations, and true global awareness for strategic warning.”

“Today’s change aligns our newest service with the other members of the Defense Intelligence Enterprise and will help ensure our efforts are coordinated and synchronized across all domains of warfare,” says Ezra Cohen, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security.

With the USSF addition, nine DoD components are members of the Intelligence Community.

NGA Announces 5 Winners in $50K in Circle Finder Competition

January 6, 2021

Today the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced five winners in its $50,000 global competition to search geographic areas and accurately identify a specific shape.

The Circle Finder Competition sought novel automated approaches to detect, delineate and describe circular-shaped features varying in size and physical composition in satellite imagery. Examples include agricultural irrigation areas, fuel storage tanks, buildings, traffic circles and fountains.

"NGA is always seeking new and innovative solutions to forward geospatial tradecraft,” says Jack Brandy, NGA’s project manager for the challenge. “I'm very pleased with the results of the competition and how quickly the solver community was able to tackle the problem.”

Submissions required a working algorithm and white paper description of the solution. Solvers were able to submit and test their code solutions, view their quantitative score and participate in a leaderboard indicating solver rank. The winners were determined on accuracy rank of their submission.

The competition received 27 submissions from U.S. and international innovators in industry and academia.