The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), according to its own lights, "...was established October 1, 1996, to address the expanding requirements in the areas of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information. It is a Department of Defense (DoD) combat support agency that has been assigned an important, additional statutory mission of supporting national-level policymakers and government agencies. NIMA is a member of the Intelligence Community and the single entity upon which the US government now relies to coherently manage the previously separate disciplines of imagery and mapping. By providing customers with ready access to the world's best imagery and geospatial information, NIMA provides critical support for the national decisionmaking process and contributes to the high state of operational readiness of America's military forces."2
NIMA was borne, not out of whole cloth, but by combining extant intelligence and defense organizations involved in imagery exploitation and mapping, charting, and geodesy--mainly, the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) and the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA).3 The creators, inter alia, were the Hon. John White, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Hon. John Deutch, then Director of Central Intelligence. The creation of NIMA presumed a natural convergence of the mapping and image-exploitation functions--as each become "digital"--into a single, coherent organization organized around the construct of a geospatial information system (GIS).
NIMA's creation was clouded by the natural reluctance of two cultures to merge and the fear that their respective missions--mapping in support of defense activities versus intelligence production, principally in support of the national policymaker--would be subordinated, each to the other. To a large extent, a NIMA culture has yet to form, but the Commission is heartened by signs that the two legacy cultures have begun to see benefit in melding their respective disciplines to solve real intelligence problems, as exemplified in a later section.
While convergence of mapping and imagery exploitation around the organizing GIS construct still appears to make good technical sense, NIMA has yet to achieve unity, either of purpose or personnel. Even in today's new-speak, NIMA advertises itself in terms of USIGS--the US Imagery and Geospatial Service. The NIMA mission--to provide timely, relevant and accurate imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information in support of national security objectives--shows the same multiplicity.
This is not to downplay the early challenges of merging multiple administrative, logistic, and personnel systems at different locations, while trying to communicate/collaborate over different, noninteroperable computing and communications systems.
NIMA's vision is to guarantee the "information edge" to the US national security community. Expanding on its vision, NIMA aims to have its information provide the common reference framework for planning, decisions, and action; provide ready access to databases of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information that it acquires and/or produces; use its information holdings to create tailored, customer-specific solutions, the information from which enables their customers to visualize key aspects of national security problems; and to value the expertise of its people who are critical to acquiring and/or creating the information that gives the advantage to its customers.
Suitably laudable are NIMA's core values: commitment to its customers, demonstrated pride, initiative, commitment, personal integrity, and professionalism; a culture that promotes trust, diversity, personal and professional growth, mutual respect, and open communication; an environment that rewards teamwork, partnerships, risk taking, creativity, leadership, expertise, and adaptability; and a tradition of excellence and personal accountability.
3 More completely, "NIMA was formed through the consolidation of the following: the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), the Central Imagery Office (CIO), the Defense Dissemination Program Office (DDPO), and the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) as well as the imagery exploitation and dissemination elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO), and the Central Intelligence Agency" ibid.
| Executive Summary and Key Judgments
| Introduction | NIMA
from the Beginning