News | March 5, 2021

NRO Celebrates its Female Pioneers

By Staff

In recognition of NRO’s 60th Anniversary and Women’s History Month, we are reflecting on the people and technology that shaped our founding, particularly our female NRO Pioneers. As a result of our world-class team and heritage of innovation, NRO today has an unrivaled constellation of advanced overhead reconnaissance systems to support the nation’s defense and national security. 

Since establishing the NRO Pioneer program in 2000, with nominees dating back to 1960, NRO has recognized two female pioneers, Jane Wood (2006) and Carol Staubach (2019). NRO’s Pioneer program awards are considered the highest honor in the field of national reconnaissance. Pioneers are individuals who have made contributions to national reconnaissance that changed the direction and scope of the discipline and its practice. Wood and Staubach join a cadre of 93 other NRO Pioneers.  

Wood created a budget and accounting system that accurately tracked expenditures for many of the most sophisticated U.S. space assets. She was preeminent in the federal fiscal community for developing reliable budgets for complex satellite programs and establishing an environment of financial stability that furthered the growth of reconnaissance capabilities. Wood provided more than 23 years of outstanding service to the discipline of national reconnaissance. 

Staubach’s pioneering contributions began in 1997 and remain the blueprint for the NRO’s common integrated enterprise ground architecture. She led the future of overhead reconnaissance by modernizing the NRO’s SIGINT ground architecture, delivering unprecedented intelligence capabilities that are today still instructional for her successors. She overcame social, fiscal, international, and technical challenges to change the course of NRO capabilities. Staubach was posthumously recognized with the Pioneer award, which her family accepted on her behalf.   

NRO Pioneers are recognized in an annual award ceremony at NRO in Chantilly, Va., and memorialized by medallions in NRO’s Pioneer Hall. NRO’s Center for the Study of National Reconnaissance manages this heritage recognition program and annually solicits nominations for candidates. Read more here: Leaders Pioneers and Artifacts (