Report of the Independent Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency Report of the Independent Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency Report of the Independent Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency
table of contents

Executive Summary and Key Judgments
NIMA from the Beginning
NIMA in Context
Two-and-a-Half Roles for NIMA
The Promise of NIMA
NIMA and Its Stakeholders
NIMA and Its "Customers"
Is There a "National vs Tactical" Problem
NIMA and Its Peers and Partners
NIMA and Its Suppliers
NIMA Management Challenges
NIMA's Information Systems
NIMA Research and Development
NIMA and Its Information Architecture
Appendix A
Appendix B
Glossary of Terms

1. Introduction

NIMA's history has been brief, but the Agency has been scrutinized repeatedly by Inspectors General, Defense Science Board Task Forces, and congressional fact finders, inter alia. With all the best intentions, the oversight has been time-consuming and each successive review has rediscovered the blindingly obvious. This is not to say that each did not add value to the work of its predecessors, but only to point out the law of diminishing returns.

The Director of NIMA was extremely helpful to the present NIMA Commission. Not in so many words, but D/NIMA did let on that he hoped this NIMA Commission would become known, not only as a fount of insights but also as "The Last NIMA Commission," at least for a while.

1.1 Commission Creation

The Classified Annex to the FY 2000 Department of Defense Appropriations Conference Bill established an independent Commission to review the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). The Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), through the Assistant Secretary of Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (ASD[C3I]) and the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence for Community Management (DDCI/CM), respectively, appointed members to the Commission. RAND's National Defense Research Institute--a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC)--was chosen to provide the Executive Secretary and other staff for the Commission.

The Commission's charge was to look broadly at NIMA, across the spectrum of management, system development and acquisition, imagery and communications technologies, and organizational development.

1.2 Specific Commission Tasks

The Commission was charged to conduct a comprehensive review of NIMA's present organizational and management structures, current technology development and acquisition plans, business practices, and operational support services provided to the Defense Department and the Intelligence Community. The review was to include, but not be limited to, the following issues and questions:

  • A review of the management challenges at NIMA;
  • The most effective future course for NIMA's strategic technology development and acquisition programs;
  • The prospect and the efficacy of greater use of commercial sources for imagery collection and exploitation, geospatial information, and storage and retrieval of data and information;
  • The efficiency of NIMA business practices;
  • An assessment of acquisition experience and system integration experience of the NIMA workforce;
  • The sufficiency of current requirements forecasts and cost estimates for USIGS (the US Imagery and Geospatial Service(s)/System) to include an assessment of the adequacy of the budgetary resources devoted to USIGS over the current five-year defense plan (FYDP); and,
  • An investigation of a nettlesome issue generally referred to as "national versus tactical," which the Commission found to be a misnomer.

1.3 Makeup of the Commission

Peter Marino,

Nancy E. Bone,

Jack Dangermond, Commissioner

R. Evans Hineman, Commissioner

James V. Hirsch,

Robert King,

C. Lawrence Meador, Commissioner

Keith Rhodes,

LTG Sidney ("Tom") Weinstein, (USA ret),

Kevin O'Connell,
Executive Secretary


Dr. Joseph Markowitz,
Senior Consultant

Steve Comer,
CMS Liaison

Capt. Steve Monson, USN,
C3I Liaison

Rahul Gupta,
Commission Staff

Dana Johnson,
Commission Staff

Charles Kelley,
Commission Staff

Martin Libicki,
Commission Staff

Julie Jones,
Executive Officer

John Ivicic,
Security Officer

1.4 Commission Methodology

As might be expected, the Commission met frequently in plenary sessions where it heard briefings from current and former Executive Branch officials from defense and intelligence organizations, congressional staff present at the creation of NIMA, and representatives from the commercial sector. The majority of the information was gleaned from NIMA officers, who were exceptionally responsive, and from NIMA's customers--military and non-military, operational and intelligence organizations, and other civil (non-defense) organizations--who all were unsparing of their time to help the Commission in its work.

In the course of its deliberations, the Commission journeyed beyond Washington as and when necessary, most often to meet with NIMA's consumers on their home ground and to visit commercial and industrial partners.

The Commission, as commissions often do, found it useful to organize itself into working groups for the purposes of digging deeper into particular issues and making most efficient use of the diverse expertise represented on the Commission. The working groups were

TPED Working Group--reviewed the logic of TPED, its current state, and its acquisition management. Its first challenge was defining TPED--or USIGS modernization--and understanding its scope. Another challenge was to understand whether the program to replace IDEX-II imagery workstations had run aground, and if so, why. An emphasis on architecture and multi-INT issues rounded out its program.

Management Working Group--considered, inter alia, the respective roles of the DCI and SECDEF, the authorities and responsibilities of the Director of NIMA, and a variety of workforce issues.

Commercial Working Group--focused on the entire spectrum of "commercial" issues:

    • Commercial Imagery--its potential economies and ability to unburden USG collection systems, as well as its potential both to contribute to US information superiority and to diminish US information superiority;
    • Commercial Sources--the issues that surround outsourcing of products and services;
    • COTS--the degree to which NIMA can take advantage of commercial "off-the-shelf" technology in its systems; and,
    • "Commercialization"--the change in business processes that might embrace e-commerce practices and allow those who consume the imagery capacity to be better informed as to the cost of the resources they consume--i.e., turn the "consumers" into "customers."

Clean Sheet Working Group--spawned a "Clean Sheet Working Group" to investigate what NIMA would look like if reinvented free from its legacy information systems. The Working Group chose to focus on NIMA's information architecture largely because of the business that NIMA is in. But there was an important secondary reason. NIMA is about to embark on a major TPED acquisition initiative, which will, for better or worse, define its information architecture for a decade or two to come.

1.5 A Review of Previous Studies of NIMA

There have been a number of insightful studies of NIMA, of which the Commission took full advantage. At least nine studies of NIMA, some classified, some not, have been conducted in the last few years. Some of these studies had a very specific focus, while others took a broader review of NIMA, as has this Commission.

The preparation of this report prompted us to review some of the major themes that emerged in those efforts and how they relate to our own. Virtually every one of these studies envision NIMA as a smaller, elite, and mission-driven organization in the future. They also envision an important role for NIMA in US information dominance, derived both from imagery and geospatial information. Prominent among the earlier studies and again addressed here are the following themes:

  • The need to strengthen NIMA's role as the functional manager for imagery and geospatial information
  • The need to develop NIMA's workforce, especially in the areas of systems engineering, acquisition, and imagery analysis
  • The need for better planning and communication with regard to tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination (TPED)
  • The need to take strong advantage of an emerging commercial sector, and focus government resources on providing unique capabilities
  • NIMA's challenges in technology planning and acquisition, especially in the area of TPED, and
  • The need for agile, integrated tasking and other capabilities across satellite, airborne, and commercial sources of imagery.

The Commission has two observations related to these recommendations and the challenges inherent in them:

First, while NIMA's transformation is still incomplete, and progress against some of the goals mixed, the Commission observes progress in virtually every area. For example, while the Commission has a number of comments and recommendations about NIMA's acquisition and technology issues, we do find demonstrable progress across the period of these studies in the NIMA Acquisition and Technology Directorate. Second, and in light of our own recommendations, the Commission suggests that it is time to let NIMA get on with implementing the recommendations made by this and prior panels. The continued study of NIMA drains resources from those staff who must interact with task forces, and from those who must implement what is an increasingly clear set of issues required for NIMA's transition to a more effective agency.

1.6 Support to the Commission

The Commission had the full support of the Community Management Staff (CMS)--including the personal help of the Hon. Ms. Joan Dempsey, the Hon. James Simon, and the ASD(C3I)--again, including the personal support of the Hon. Art Money, and Capt. Steve Monson, USN.

NIMA itself provided immeasurable support, starting with the personal attention of General King, Director of NIMA, without whom the report would not be the same. His staff and management team were equally unstinting in their support.

The Commission was ably aided by RAND's National Defense Research Institute, which studiously recorded critical items of information from the briefings and researched special topics for the Commissioners. The special studies included:

Commercial Imagery Policy: This study assessed the overall state of progress within the United States on imagery commercialization, including an assessment of input factors to the second-generation licenses under National Security Council consideration during the Commission's tenure. The study analyzed NIMA's Commercial Imagery Strategy in light of this situation, and made recommendations about its future course.

"National Versus Tactical" Issues: This classified study assessed the US imagery collection strategy in an area of high contention for collection resources, in order to understand whether there is an imbalance between strategic targets and tactical targets. This study also included a number of analytic experiments designed to look at how changes in collection strategy-such as changes in collection priority, platform, or sensor--would impact overall collection volume as well as collection against strategic and tactical targets in the given area.

Outsourcing: This study looked at NIMA's strategic vision and the role of outsourcing within it. It assessed the tensions between NIMA's attempts to modernize (partially) through outsourcing and more traditional perspectives on production both at NIMA and within the NIMA customer base. It mapped the role of outsourcing-and the mechanisms to implement it-from NIMA's strategic plan and business plans through its outsourcing strategy and outsourcing processes. The study also analyzed the effectiveness of NIMA's outsourcing processes in the areas of mission support and geospatial products, including the "make-or-buy" decisions associated with them.

TPED Acquisition: This study examined the acquisition strategies being used by NIMA to acquire the hardware, software, and other equipment needed to support the agency's role in tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination (TPED). It looked at the dominant characteristics of NIMA acquisitions-such as the emphasis on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, use of open architecture, and the level of integration challenge-the dependent factors for NIMA's acquisition strategy, and an assessment of three systems that NIMA is presently acquiring in light of those factors.

RAND also provided tailored support to the Commission's Working Groups. Among the inputs to the Commission were papers and briefings on the following topics:

"Clean Sheet" Paper: RAND coordinated the various inputs of the Clean Sheet Working Group into a document, entitled "An Alternative Scenario for NIMA: Strategy, Structure, Process, and Technology." Portions of this paper have been incorporated directly into this report.

Briefing on Organizational Cultures: This briefing for the Management Working Group identified the key internal and external factors influencing NIMA's emerging organizational culture, including the extent to which NIMA's component cultures-military, mapping, and intelligence-create challenges for current attempts to merge imagery and geospatial analysis. The study postulates three alternative futures for NIMA, including the culture/capabilities mix implications for each of them.

Paper on Geospatial Technologies: This paper, entitled, "The Integration of Geospatial Technology and Information into Our Everyday Lives," identified current trends in geographic information systems and other geospatial technologies, and a future vision of the geospatial marketplace. It identified the changing role of user communities, data issues, and standards as important elements of that marketplace. The NIMA Commission's Commercial Working Group was a co-sponsor of this paper, along with another RAND sponsor.

Copies of these RAND studies will be made available to the Director of NIMA. A complete list, for the record, of those individuals and organizations with whom the Commission met is available in the appendix of this document.

Foreword | Executive Summary and Key Judgments | Introduction | NIMA from the Beginning
NIMA in Context | Two-and-a-Half Roles for NIMA | The Promise of NIMA
NIMA and Its Stakeholders | NIMA and Its "Customers" | Is There a "National vs Tactical" Problem?
NIMA and Its Peers and Partners | NIMA and Its Suppliers | NIMA Management Challenges
NIMA's Information Systems | NIMA Research and Development
NIMA and Its Information Architecture | Recommendations | Appendix A
Appendix B | Glossary of Terms

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