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
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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
 


9. NIMA and Its Peers and Partners

NIMA could not begin to serve its customers without the active collaboration of other departments and agencies, as well as commercial suppliers. All of USIGS is not NIMA and NIMA is not all of USIGS. NIMA does and must rely on others. Maximizing the benefit of alliances within and without government is the only smart way for NIMA to do its business.

9.1 How NIMA Is Viewed by Industry

Industry is generally concerned with NIMA's long-term vision and architecture, business and contracting practices, and maturity of partnership. Although NIMA has taken steps to identify an architecture for the United States Imagery and Geospatial Service (USIGS), many in the industry contend that the requirements are more prescriptive than necessary. Furthermore, the architecture cannot replace a vision of how NIMA sees itself, especially what it considers to be its own core capabilities.

The industry contends that NIMA is an unpredictable business partner and hints that it may lose the support of its industry partners as their commercial opportunities mature and overtake the business base currently provided by NIMA.

NIMA has many contracts to support its geospatial requirements, but the industry contends that they are of short duration, unpredictable schedule, and limited in scope and funding. Additionally, only a select number of prequalified prime contractors provide a limited production capability and only to supplement concurrent NIMA capabilities.

The production contracts are subject to provision by NIMA of source data, which may or may not be provided in a timely manner. The industry contends that because of the unpredictable availability of source data, arcane business practices, and burdensome contracting regulations, it is unable to provide real-time feedback to its end-consumers (i.e., NIMA's customers).

Some in industry believe NIMA performs most of its own information technology work--services, R&D, and integration--when most of it could easily be performed by the private sector. Of greatest legitimate concern to the private sector (and to the Commission) is an apparent NIMA penchant for the government and the contractor to jointly integrate various functional and mission-related hardware and software tools. Contractor preference, not surprisingly, would be for NIMA to contract out the entire process as a turnkey service.

Almost all the foregoing applies to NIMA's geospatial production. So far, NIMA has had minimal interaction with the private sector on matters of imagery analysis, even though some in the industry contend that NIMA could profitably offload some long-term analysis work to contractors. The Commission believes that this may be worth pursuing, especially for the more esoteric, science-based exploitation.

9.2 NIMA and the Other INTs

As the lead agency for imagery and geospatial information, NIMA has an important role to play in collaborative efforts across agencies. NIMA comes to the fore on two counts: first, it is the presumptive USG leader in setting standards for imagery and geospatial processes; second, NIMA "owns" the geospatial construct which is the most likely touchstone for collaboration among, and fusion of, the INTs.

The Commission notes with satisfaction that NIMA strives to play a constructive role in interagency and commercial fora that seek to set standards for the mechanics of transmitting and storing imagery, and to advance the art and practice of GIS and related disciplines, including, for example, standards for compression and storage of video. NIMA needs to be a leader--but also a listener--in the Open GIS Consortium (OGC). NIMA's objective must be to ensure that USG needs are well served by industry standards. Standards set in disregard of the commercial market do not generally serve the long-term interests of the government. The Commission is fond of the definition that "industry standards are products that ship in volume."18

With respect to collaboration and fusion of the various collection disciplines, or INTs, the Commission believes that NIMA should hold a premier place because it "owns" the geospatial construct. NIMA provides the logical context for fusion of SIGINT, especially ELINT, with imagery. And SIGINT, despite its own suffering, can add considerable value to imagery's contribution.

As previously mentioned, the coming availability of commercial imagery, and associated COTS processing and exploitation tools, threatens continued US information dominance. Note, however, that there are no current plans (nor market demand) for commercial SIGINT. Successful integration of the various INTs, therefore, may provide the United States the competitive edge it requires in order to fulfill Joint Vision 2010/20.

However, there does not appear to be a full-fledged, coherent effort to converge SIGINT with imagery (a process that we used to call, "fusion").19 Among the questions that should be answered without delay are two. Where in the stream from collection to end-use should this convergence be applied? And whose responsibility is it to drive the convergence?

A likely answer to the "where" question is that the convergence should be effected as far "upstream" in the collection-processing-exploitation process as possible, but enabled all the way down to the end-user. In this case, as elsewhere, the Commission observes that what should be a continuum from NIMA to ultimate end-user actually has a discontinuity--NIMA services the higher echelons (as "national" customers), while the Services architect and provision echelons below. There must be an architectural function that subtends both the designs of NIMA (more generally, of the "national" systems) and the last tactical mile designed by the respective services. ASD(C3I) must acknowledge responsibility for end-to-end architecture and take more forceful cognizance of the discontinuities that exist.

To whom should we entrust execution of the Imagery-GIS-SIGINT fusion? Against all odds, the Commission feels the answer may well be NIMA. Other usual suspects include NSA and NRO. True, ELINT has traditionally displayed itself geospatially. True, the NRO and the SIGINT enterprise each have more dollar and engineering resources than NIMA. True, NIMA is a new organization striving to fulfill its promise. True, NIMA does not yet inspire confidence in others (and may lack confidence, itself). Still, the Commission argues, the responsibility is logically NIMA's. Why? Because the geospatial construct is the obvious foundation upon which fusion should take place.

Ineluctably, most military "business processes" are planned and executed within a geospatial reference framework. Within the National Security Community, NIMA "owns" that framework. It sets the standards, and provides the controlled base data. It provides the integration platform for data from other intelligence sources. As a consequence, NIMA should be empowered to specify the "desktop"--the way in which users interface with, request and manipulate data of all sorts.20 For nearly every task, the screen is the map and thus the point-and-click entry to nearly all information. This desktop metaphor closely matches two-and-a-half of the three critical questions any analyst or operator asks: namely, "What is happening here? Where are the...?" Even most "When...?" questions can be posed within this contextual framework, providing that all data are "time-tagged," as the Commission argues, elsewhere, as they should be.

9.3 NIMA and Foreign Government Activities

The Commission was surprised and impressed by the extent to which NIMA's MC&G relationships with foreign governments yielded cartographic data that offset considerable cost that NIMA would otherwise incur


Footnotes:

18 Thought to be attributed to Scott McNealy, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Sun Microsystems, [email protected]

19 There are efforts--referred to variously as "cross-cueing," "tip-off," etc. However, this differs from the fusion for analysis and decisionmaking envisioned here.

20 However, the Commission acknowledges that the Defense Information Services Agency (DISA) may have a "process" claim to the desktop specification that equals NIMA's "substantive" imperative.


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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