National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)


National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

2000 - 2006

With the signing on 24 November 2003 of the FY2004 Defense Authorization Act, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) officially changed its name to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Media Release: OCRP 03-15, 24 Nov. 2003 [].

Materials presented in chronological order.

Risen, James. "Computer Ills Meant U.S. Couldn't Read Its Spy Photographs." New York Times, 12 Apr. 2000. []

A computer crisis at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), beginning in early August 1999 and continuing for about a month, "drastically curtailed" the U.S. government's "ability to keep track of looming international threats.... It came as the mapping agency was installing a new system, which caused the breakdown.... After months of work, the problem has largely been solved, although some officials said the system still did not work as it should."

Loeb, Vernon. "Mapping Agency Gets Boost From Critique." Washington Post, 15 Jan. 2001, A19. []

"Far from a boring government report, a new assessment of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) by a congressional commission minces no words, concluding that 'heroic measures' and huge infusions of cash are needed to modernize the agency and ensure America's 'information superiority.'" Clark comment: Reference is to the Report of the Independent Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, The Information Edge: Imagery Intelligence and Geospatial Information in an Evolving National Security Environment, issued in February 2001. Click for the Commission's recommendations.

Daugherty, Anne. Creation of NIMA. Occasional Paper No. 9. Washington, DC: Joint Military Intelligence College, 2001.

AFIO WIN 20-01, 21 May 2001, quotes reviewer Joe Mazzafro as calling this paper "a well written 23 page tract plus numerous interesting appendices that traces establishment of NIMA in 1996.... Besides seeing how much time it took to get NIMA established, I was also struck how the process changed and shaped NIMA from what was originally envisioned."

Loeb, Vernon. "FBI Official Named to CIA Deputy Post." Washington Post. 4 Aug. 2001, A4. []

On 3 August 2001, DCI George J. Tenet announced that: John L. Helgerson, NIMA Deputy Director, will become chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Joanne O. Isham, CIA Deputy Director for Science and Technology (DDS&T), will succeed Helgerson as deputy director at NIMA.

Clapper, James R., Jr. [LTGEN/USAF (Ret.)] "The Newly Revived National Imagery and Mapping Agency: Geospatial Imagery & Intelligence in 2002 and Beyond." American Intelligence Journal 21, nos. 1 &2 (Spring 2002): 1-5. Intelligencer 13, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2002): 25-30.

NIMA's Director discusses the current mission and organization of his organization.

Wall, Robert. "NIMA Wrestles with Overhaul." Aviation Week & Space Technology, Jul. 2002, 68.

"In a bid to make [NIMA] more relevant, military and congressional leaders overseeing the organization want to address emerging homeland security requirements and exploit the potential of measurement and signature intelligence (Masint)."

Best, Richard A., Jr. Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 12 Apr. 2002. Available at

The importance of imagery intelligence "has been growing significantly in recent years. The challenge is to design organizations to obtain, analyze, and disseminate the result of new technologies to support an evolving defense and national security structure while remaining within budgetary constraints. The mixture of cutting-edge technologies, complex organizational structures, and budgetary limitations complicate decision-making." Includes useful appendices focused on the NRO and NIMA.

Wall, Robert. "Homeland Security Demands Strain NIMA's Resources." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 3 Feb. 2003, 37.

"Unfunded homeland security demands are taxing the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, which ... is in the middle of a difficult balancing act to deal with the military's operational requirements, domestic concerns and the need to modernize."

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Office of Corporate Relations. Public Affairs. Media Release: OCRP 03-15, 24 Nov. 2003. []

With the signing on 24 November 2003 of the FY2004 Defense Authorization Act, "the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) officially became the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)....

"Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, NIMA accelerated the convergence of various analytic tradecrafts (cartography, geospatial analysis, imagery analysis, marine analysis, aeronautical analysis, regional analysis, geodesy) into a new intelligence discipline -- geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT -- that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts....

"NGA is both a national intelligence as well as combat support agency whose mission is to provide timely, relevant and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of our national security. Geospatial intelligence is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth."

Associated Press. "Spy Imagery Agency Watching Inside U.S." 26 Sep. 2004. []

"Since the Sept. 11 attacks, about 100 employees" of the Americas Branch of the "National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency -- and some of the country's most sophisticated aerial imaging equipment -- have focused on observing what's going on in the United States."

Schultz, Mark E. "The Power of Geospatial Intelligence." Defense Intelligence Journal 14, no. 1 (2005): 79-87.

This is the text of a speech given by NGA's Director of the Office of Corporate Relations to a European defense conference in London, 26 January 2005. His enthusiastic and completely positive tone is no more than should be expected. Nonetheless, the article offers a good look at how NGA wants to project itself.

Gorman, Siobhan. "Imagery Intelligence Agency Chief Being Forced from Post." Baltimore Sun, 6 Jan. 2006. []

According to current and former government officials, James R. Clapper Jr. [LTGEN/USAF (Ret.)] will step down as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) on 13 June 2006. His departure comes "[a]fter clashing with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ... over Clapper's testimony to Congress in 2004. The NGA director testified that it would not harm his agency's work if the NGA was removed from the full control of the Pentagon."

Pincus, Walter. "Senators Seek Better Defense Imagery: Committee Wants More Photos, Video and Maps Available to Troops in Field." Washington Post, 6 Jun. 2006, A13. []

In its report on the fiscal 2007 intelligence authorization bill, the SSCI seeks to give the DNI "authority to direct the NGA to 'analyze, disseminate and incorporate' into its national system 'likenesses, videos, or presentations produced by ground-based platforms including handheld or clandestine photography taken by or on behalf of human intelligence collection organizations.'" The committee wants NGA to "provide U.S. forces on the ground with laptop computers that display still pictures and video of what may lie over the next hill."

Ackerman, Robert K. "Geospatial Intelligence Grows With Conflicts, New Allies." Signal, Oct. 2006. []

NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert B. Murrett says that "[w]artime demands and the greater likelihood of coalition operations are changing the way the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [NGA] conducts business. The agency is trending toward products that have lower classification levels to improve coalition interoperability, and it is laying the groundwork for its customers to tailor its products to suit specific needs."

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