William Wood

1956 - 2005

Bill Wood, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Analysis and Production, U.S. Department of State, died July 4, 2005.  Wood was a prime mover in incorporating modern geographic technologies, in particular geographic information systems and imagery, to improve the U.S. government’s response to pressing issues of foreign policy. Wood also served as the Geographer of the United States.

Born November 14, 1956, Wood earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley in urban planning and non-renewable resources in 1980. He then obtained his master’s in urban and regional planning, and his PhD in geography from the University of Hawaii in 1985. Wood joined the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) in 1985 as a geographer with the Office of the Geographer, and dedicated his entire government career to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.  After entering the Senior Executive Service in 1990, he served as Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) Office of the Geographer and Global Issues. He was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Analysis and Production in 2002 while continuing to serve concurrently as Geographer of the United States. Among his many awards, he received the Anderson Medal in Applied Geography in 2001 from the Association of American Geographer’s Applied Geography Specialty Group. Wood was widely published on a variety of global issues including HIV diffusion and environment-migration linkages to complex emergency response. He co-edited Reordering the World – Geopolitical Perspectives on the 21st Century with George Demko.

Wood recognized the value of remote sensing and geographic information for diplomacy and humanitarian efforts and worked persistently in the diplomatic community to expand their use. Among some of his more notable accomplishments are his negotiations for the release of Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data for humanitarian and sustainable development uses. The Humanitarian Information Unit established by the Secretary of State in 2002, was based on his proposal to use geographic data, science, and information management tools to help coordinate humanitarian emergency response efforts. Wood was at the forefront of developing and implementing the concept of Internet-based information networks to provide critical “early-warning” information of humanitarian crises. He also worked with the Department of Defense Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, where he spearheaded the creation of a GIS-based tracking system for U.S.-funded reconstruction projects.

William B. Wood III (Necrology). 2005. AAG Newsletter 40(8): 29.