NRO Focusing on Innovation and Rate of Change

March 3, 2022 9:00 AM to 9:45 AM

On Thursday, March 3rd, Troy Meink, PhD, Principle Deputy Director at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), joined INSA’s President Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg, for a virtual conversation that addressed a range of issues including engagement with commercial launch, imagery, and ground architecture partners, funding and development for critical satellite systems, physical and cyber resiliency of space assets, collaboration with Space Force and other government partners, and innovations needed to improve the NRO’s capability, capacity, and speed.

Dr. Meink began the conversation by noting the challenges that NRO and the intelligence community are facing. For decades, America’s dominance in space was largely unchallenged; but with the increasing capabilities of other countries, the U.S. must figure out how to maintain their strategic advantage throughout the national security community. A key to this, Meink believes, is ensuring that the U.S.’ rate of change is faster than that of potential adversaries.

The NRO wants to improve their ability to leverage commercial providers and the solutions that these companies can provide in filling collection gaps. Dr. Meink explained that one of the main challenges that the NRO faces in working with the commercial sector are the restrictions that many government organizations put on industry partners, which end up inhibiting the innovation of and benefits received from these partnerships. Based on feedback he recently received, Dr. Meink is hoping that the NRO will reshape its approach to the acquisition process. Going forward, the NRO will explain the mission that they are trying to address with partners as opposed to targeting specific technologies that they think may fill these gaps. Providing this higher-level strategic view to partners will allow the commercial sector to approach NRO with solutions that NRO may not have originally envisioned.

Dr Meink emphasized the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility at NRO and highlighted the role that leadership must play in implementing these initiatives. In addition to a broad array of Employee Resource Groups to ensure support for diverse members of the current workforce, the recruitment team at NRO is focused on ensuring diversity in thought, background, and experience when hiring new talent.

In closing, Dr. Meink explained that the entire space community is currently in a pivotal moment and will need to operate with continued vigilance and focus going forward to maintain the U.S.’ intelligence advantage. To do this, increasing innovation and speeding up the rate of change are critical.