GIS jobs are widely available in all industries, but they are especially prevalent in the U.S. military. That’s because the modern military strongly depends on GIS technology, and the Armed Services are always looking for a few good men & women to handle GIS duties.
During the Cold War, the military planned to use GIS in the rail-based MX missiles, but the system was not built after the Soviet Union collapse. In the early 1990s, GIS technology created the first global database at 1:1 meter scale with the Defense Mapping Agency creating a 1.7-gigabyte database using a new data structure, Vector Product Format. GPS devices, drones and other military intelligence tools would all rely on GIS technology during the most-recent wars, opening the job sector for military personnel and civilian defense contractors.
Here’s a look at a few military GIS jobs as well as the civilian contractor positions.
According to the U.S. Army, a soldier with the military occupation of imagery analyst, an MOS of 35G, uses principles and techniques of photo-grametry and employs electronic, mechanical, and optical devices to obtain information from imagery. As an enlisted soldier, one will analyze imagery products and determines target coordinates. The job requires a Top Secret clearance.
Known as 12 Yankee, an Army geospatial engineer is the equivalent to a civilian cartographer, information systems manager, GIS technician and geospatial scientists. They use GIS data to help commanders make better mission-centric decisions, such as supply routes and troop movements. Geospatial engineers track trucks, cargoes and can estimate convoy security needs by analyzing GIS data.
Air Force Engineer
As a part of their overall duties, Airmen with the MOS of 3E5X1 produce installation maps using a GIS interface. They also create and maintain spatial, tabular and metadata to national standards and combine disparate datasets from various organizations, with various projections and precisions, according to the Air Force, while developing query routines for end-user applications. They perform survey, reconnaissance, site location, construction and management duties. According to AirForceWriter.com, this MOS has great potential.
Although there is no official officer class for GIS in the military, there is a GIS designation for warrant officers. These are officers who must be saluted by enlisted, but tend to be in technical positions and do not hold commands. According to the U.S. Army Warrant Recruiter Command, the Geospatial Engineer Technician is a warrant officer position provides terrain analysis and Geospatial Information and Services (GI&S). The Army says these warrant officers assimilate, integrate and manage Geospatial-Intelligence (GEOINT) data, while providing analysis that aids the commander and staff in visualizing the terrain and understanding its impact upon friendly and enemy operations. Warrant Officers also require a degree and make considerably more money than enlisted. Here is a current Warrant Officer pay chart.
Civilian GIS Defense Contractors
The federal government spends billions every year on civilian contractors specializing in GIS. Much of this is spent on civilian contractors specializing in defense. In 2009, Northrop Grumman Corp. received a $15-million contract from the U.S. Department of the Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Atlantic to provide geospatial services and products enhancing the service’s capabilities for planning, asset management, training, infrastructure, and homeland defense both at home and abroad. Last year, Global Integrated Security (USA), Inc. received a $480-million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers GIS contract for Reconstruction Security Support Services throughout Afghanistan.
All of this GIS defense spending just shows the future is bright for GIS professionals whether they’re in the defense or civilian side.