NIMA is at once a Department of Defense Combat Support Agency and a member of the Intelligence Community, as is the National Security Agency (NSA). Each tries to balance its national intelligence mission with its more immediate support to the warfighter. The extent to which either can be more or less successful depends upon the degree to which its separate reporting lines--to the Director of Central Intelligence in one case, and through to the Secretary of Defense in the other--are synchronized with each other as well as with CIA, the uniformed military services and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is a hefty set of players to huddle around one playbook.
When such diverse players must queue up to the same bank window, it is not surprising that they try to pick each other's pockets. When there seems to be too little imagery and exploitation for the competing intelligence processes--military and nondefense, national and theater, strategic and tactical, short term and long term--it is not surprising that tensions arise.
NIMA, an unlikely marriage by some lights, and a come-lately to the game, suffers most. It may be a reasonable stratagem to allow operators in the field to treat imagery intelligence as a free good--more like oxygen13 than ice cream--but that simply means that, at the highest levels of leadership, there must be an awareness of its true cost and value, and a willingness to cooperatively ensure that the resources are made available. Having birthed this agency, defense and intelligence leadership must commit themselves absolutely to its health and well-being. It is that important.
At the highest level, we are in for a rude awakening because the reliance on information superiority to deliver bloodless victory demands intelligence capacity, especially imagery intelligence capacity, well beyond that which current investments can provide. Defense and intelligence leadership must redress this variance and reconcile themselves and their accounts to support NIMA. This will mean resisting other pressures, the true test of leadership. Firm decisions, not just continuous deciding, are required.
To anticipate a recommendation made later in the report, the Commission believes that a new systems engineering and acquisition element should be formed and staffed with a caliber of talent not now readily found in NIMA, or in the Intelligence Community at large. In fact, the Commission refers to this creation as an "Extraordinary Program Office," by which we mean to connote a significant departure from the way US government components are usually configured. To get the talent required, the Commission suggests that the Director of Central Intelligence and the (Deputy) Secretary of Defense take a personal interest in persuading key contractors to relinquish to the government, for a defined period, a small number of their own very best personnel. With the help of Congress and the cooperation of industry, all the details of transfer and compensation can be worked out if, and only if, there is personal commitment by senior defense and intelligence leadership--leadership committed to making things, the right things, happen.
13 As with oxygen, information ought not be denied: the higher we fly, the more we need.
| Executive Summary and Key Judgments
| Introduction | NIMA
from the Beginning