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

11. NIMA Management Challenges

At the highest level, the Director of NIMA operates under two sometime-handicaps. The first is the ambiguity of whether, or when, he works for the DCI or the SECDEF. The second is his relatively short tenure.

11.1 The Role of the DCI Versus SECDEF

While the DCI and SECDEF have ultimate common purpose, their missions are distinct, their methods disparate, and their day-to-day priorities not always congruent. In drafting the National Security Act of 1947, arguments were advanced as to the desirability of placing foreign intelligence within the Defense Department, under the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The decision to form an independent agency, CIA, headed by an independent director reflected the desire for independent intelligence in support of national security policy decisions.

From its inception, the Central Intelligence Agency has held some sway over strategic reconnaissance--from the U2, to the SR-71, to imagery satellites--and the Director of Central Intelligence had been the developer of strategic reconnaissance assets and arbiter of how the resources would be used.26 Times change, of course. The SR-71 was retired, and the U2s transitioned from national to theater assets. Imagery satellite tasking, however, has been retained under the thumb of the DCI, at least in the absence of major hostility. There is a relatively recent agreement between the DCI and the SECDEF, generally referred to as the Transfer of Tasking Authority, which provides for final adjudication to transition to defense under "wartime" conditions, or when the President so directs.

11.2 The Tenure of the Director of NIMA

The Commission finds that the present tour length of a Director of NIMA, two to three years, is insufficient to complete execution of the plans and programs of this young organization. Institutionalizing change is never easy as there frequently is subtle resistance among subordinate levels of management. A longer tour reduces the opportunity for those subtle resistors to simply outlast the Director. Nor is this problem unique to NIMA. The National Security Agency, going through a rebirth, is said to be similarly afflicted.

The answer is simple. Having chosen the right person to lead the organization, his/her length of tour must be established at the outset as, say, five years. This should allow for a reasonable chance to fully carry out and institutionalize needed changes without being impelled to embark prematurely on changes before taking sufficient time, at the onset of the tour, to understand the organization, or to run the risk of running out of time.

As with NSA, the (shorter) history of NIMA is to be led by a general officer nominated by a military service, concurred in by the DCI, and appointed by the SECDEF. For a senior flag officer, Congress, too, has a say. It may be that the uniformed military are unwilling to commit to so long a tour for a senior flag officer because of a "star" problem--a problem that Congress could, in fact, solve. Alternatively, civilian leadership should be considered with a military officer as deputy. Whatever the solution, the objective is to ensure better continuity and sustain the momentum.

11.3 The Job of Director, NIMA

Being Director of NIMA is not easy. Defining the job of the Director of NIMA is not so easy, either. Is he the principal (substantive) imagery intelligence officer? Or, is he an information factory manager? This ambiguity simply mirrors the bifurcation in NIMA's mission.

Externally, D/NIMA seeks to serve (at least) two masters, the Director of Central Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense. Fortunately, there is considerable congruence in their missions. Unfortunately, there are some differences. Internally, the Director of NIMA tries to harness two cultures, in two cities. His two principal product lines, imagery intelligence and maps, have two distinctly different clienteles. Imagery intelligence has its number one customer in the White House; maps have their number one customer in the foxhole.

His mission increasingly depends on technology, but his workforce is grounded more in the liberal arts. He is underresourced and cannot depend wholly on his upper-management corps. His fount of expertise is being drained by retirements and by those who would rather return to their CIA roots than take the DOD pledge.

11.4 Authorities of the Director of NIMA

The Director of NIMA said, and the Commission agrees, that he currently has sufficient authorities with which to execute his responsibilities.

The Commission does observe that D/NIMA has been deliberate about the exercise of his responsibilities as functional imagery manager, presumably constrained by real resource limitations and a realistic concern about shocking the system. Notwithstanding, the Commission suggests gently that D/NIMA signal his intent to incrementally increase his forcefulness in order to achieve more quickly his strategic objectives.

DOD Directive 5105.6 specifically identifies D/NIMA as the functional manager for imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial investment activities for all budget categories--the National Foreign Intelligence Program, the Joint Military Intelligence Program, and most important the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities.

The D/NIMA can and does provide guidance to the IMINT community to ensure that investments are in line with the USIGS framework. While the D/NIMA can control investments in his own agency, his influence on his mission partner, the NRO is problematic and he has next-to-no de jure influence over investments made by the Services, which have their own appropriations and authorizations in the TIARA Program.

Others have tried to harness the NRO and the Services and failed. Still, the Commission wonders if there couldn't be an effective approval process which ensures that all IMINT investments comply with guidance from the functional imagery manager, D/NIMA.

11.5 D/NIMA Span of Control

Some among the Commission believe that the span of control of the Director of NIMA is too broad and would recommend reorganization. Sometimes--particularly in a young or untested organization--the apparent solution to every problem is a dedicated manager or senior staff officer with a "direct report" to the top. Usually, this indicates that the overall business model of the organization has yet to gel.

The Commission has no concrete examples to indicate that the current Director is spread too thin and that some important matters have suffered from a lack of his attention. Indeed, the Commission is impressed by the overall effectiveness of the current Director and his senior leadership team, considering the stresses to which this tender organization is exposed.

If there is a legitimate concern, it is not with the present operation, but with the need to establish tomorrow's leadership, which generally involves more, rather than less, delegated authority.

11.6 NIMA Culture(s)

Two sets of forebears, two legacies, two missions, two cultures. Can the promise of NIMA--to take advantage of the technical convergence between imagery and mapping in the digital age--be fulfilled without an overarching culture? The Commission suspects not.

Each culture perceives the other as failing to understand its specialty, and each (but especially imagery analysts) feels disadvantaged by having to work for a manager of the opposite persuasion. Both worry that convergence will turn all the princes into frogs, rather than the frogs into princes. The Commission believes that nothing could be further from the truth: enlisting all the NIMA disciplines in a single mission, uniting the workforce, and melding the cultures will enhance the effectiveness of each.

NIMA management has been justifiably cautious about espousing convergence as the goal and forcing the respective cultures to confront head-on the issues that separate them. NIMA management appears to be genuinely conflicted, both about the worthiness of the goal--witness the bifurcated mission statement--and about whether the pain will be worth the gain, which is understandable, if regrettable.

It is all too easy for outsiders to be impatient with the progress and therefore critical of NIMA management, and the Commission is uneasy in urging greater haste. It is possible that the inevitable just takes a little longer, that familiarity breeds admiration rather than contempt, and that the organization is still too fragile and the stakes too high to press harder.

The Director of NIMA seems genuinely committed to the desirability and eventuality of greater synergy, if not outright fusion, of the two disciplines, and is working to instill this commitment in his senior managers, many of whom already "get it." With perseverance, this will percolate through management layers, as well as bubble up from the working level where the synergies are sometimes more evident. The Commission hopes that there will be time for this approach to work.

The Commission believes that WorkForce-21 offers an opportunity to reward tangibly those individuals who seek, master, and constructively employ, both kinds of skills. Promotion and compensation, as well as official recognition, are the incentives that management can use to motivate desired behavior, and WorkForce-21 potentiates these management tools.

The Commission also believes that internal connectivity, training, and facilities all need to be improved with an eye toward overcoming cultural barriers.

11.7 WorkForce-21

Change is always unsettling to the majority of a workforce, and NIMA is no exception. Change highlights the fact that one worker's opportunity is another's peril. The NIMA workforce needs to understand which performance metrics embody leadership's expectations and are considered critical to the overall success of the organization. WorkForce-21, if executed properly, holds out the promise of ensuring this.

WorkForce-21 moves away from what some have considered the overly paternal civil service model and toward heightened individual accountability for one's performance and one's career development. The pillars of WorkForce-21 are enunciated, incentivized expectations and reward for individual initiative.

Within the NIMA workforce, the Commission found some serious concern about the organization's Key Component leadership reflected in an employee survey conducted after WorkForce-21 had been initiated. Many of those interviewed, both in the survey and by the Commission, believe there is an absence of robust Key Component leadership; some also feel that existing authority is too centralized. WorkForce-21 attempts to reduce the inimical influence of old-style management's old-boy/girl network. The success of WorkForce-21 will depend on middle management, which, after all, must translate the vision of superiors into workaday instructions for subordinates.

The Commission cannot help but remark that NIMA, like many government agencies, and quite distinct from good business practice, seems, de facto, to have used its workforce downsizing as an opportunity to reduce, rather than improve quality--only in the government!

11.8 SES/SIS Billets

NIMA requires an increasingly technical and skilled workforce and exceptional leaders to help it usher in the FIA area. NIMA is disadvantaged by the small number of SES/SIS billets it currently has--about half the overall government average, and many fewer, per capita, than its sister intelligence agencies. The Commission considers it unlikely that it can find and retain the caliber of officer it needs and deserves unless the roster of SES/SIS positions can be ameliorated.

The Commission recommends an increase in SES/SIS billets in its primary mission areas, imagery analysis, and geospatial information services. And while such "supergrade" positions would also benefit the systems engineering and acquisition activity, the Commission urges that consideration be given to creation of an "Extraordinary Program Office" (EPO) with rank and pay scale "outside the system" as detailed subsequently.

11.9 Workforce Expertise

The Commission sees some evidence that NIMA's progress as an effective and efficient organization is constrained by insufficient and inexperienced staff in some critical areas. In addition to the previously remarked upon shortages of highly experienced imagery analysts and systems engineering and acquisition staff, NIMA is light in unique areas like imagery science.

11.9.1 Imagery Analysts

The Commission observes that the decline in experience and expertise in NIMA's Imagery Analyst corps has seriously impaired NIMA's ability to support its customers. Not limited to NIMA, as the Commission notes, the downturn in analytical expertise is due to both loss of experienced people and the fewer lessened number of years of experience held by the new hires. NIMA's imagery analyst workforce has declined, on average, from 13 years of experience to 11 years of experience, and 40 percent of the imagery analysts have less than 2 years of experience. This situation leads to more experienced personnel having to devote more time and effort to both training and mentoring, and consequently less time to supporting NIMA's customers.

11.9.2 Imagery Scientists

The term "imagery scientist" can be subject to multiple interpretations.

One might conjure up the image of a scientist who worried about the chemistry of films, emulsions, photo-sensitive materials, and D-log(E) plots or the electronic-age equivalent who worries about CCD-arrays, spectral sensitivities, density functions, gamma corrections, orthorectification, etc.--i.e., the "science of imaging."

Alternatively, one might think of a scientist who understands the phenomenology of a problem and its imagery observables--how the hyperspectral "image" information might distinguish between an emissive cloud of toxic nerve gas and the benign effluent from a baby milk factory; or how the thermal infrared image distinguished between a real SU-27 and a plywood decoy on the tarmac.

Clearly, the imagery intelligence business needs both, and the cartography business benefits from the first, if not the second.

However, as understood by the Commission, it is the second interpretation that underpins the assertion that the Intelligence Community has a paucity of "imagery scientists." It is the science-based exploitation of the image that must be nurtured by NIMA.27 The question is whether NIMA can have such scientists in-house--i.e., as USG employees--or must look to industry, academia, and the national labs for such expertise. The Commission suspects the latter is the case: NIMA would find it hard to accommodate the number of diverse scientists required, could not support their professional development or advancement, and would otherwise have trouble attracting and keeping them. Better to rely on extant "centers of excellence" and, in their absence, to stimulate such centers.

The Commission agrees that there is a shortfall in "imagery scientists" so defined. In fact, the Commission notes the broader shortfall in the Intelligence Community of sound "targeting"--i.e., understanding the "business processes" of the target, modeling and simulating these, and mapping them to infrastructure, all of which then suggests the set of observables, against which multi-INT collection can be launched and upon which all-source analysis can be based. There is realization, in the Intelligence Community of the desirability of better targeting and examples of innovative targeting--e.g., by the "issue managers" and on their behalf by the ADCI/C-sponsored Collection Concepts Development Center (CCDC). The NRO, too, often sponsors early science-based work in support of new collector concepts.

For NIMA, the Commission concurs in reliance on external sources of expertise for such science-based problems insofar as NIMA cannot, itself, attract and retain such skills.

11.9.3 Engineering/Acquisition Expertise

NIMA lacks the sufficient expertise in systems engineering/systems integration and acquisition sufficient to carry out an efficient and effective large modernization program. The Commission believes this situation must be rectified in order to successfully implement the USIGS program and the Commercial Imagery Strategy. The Commission believes that NIMA needs to bolster its staff in this critical area and that it cannot do this, in time, "within the system." It recommends, therefore, that NIMA create--as described in detail elsewhere--an "Extraordinary Program Office" (EPO) with the active help of the DCI, SECDEF, and Congress.

11.10 NIMA Management

Management, in any organization, is a critical and often weak link in the chain. NIMA, in its time of change, absolutely must rely on management, especially those seniors who report to the Director. Change, whether inspired by vision from the top, or insights from the bottom up, always confronts its highest hurdle at this level. NIMA does have many qualified executives and managers; it just needs to ensure that all its management corps can pass the test.

11.11 NIMA Resources

The Commission finds little disagreement as to the fact that NIMA is severely under resourced given the expanding mission and the need to modernize USIGS in light of FIA. Not surprisingly, there is considerable disagreement as to the fount from which the needed resources should spring, and incessant caviling about whether NIMA, as currently constituted, is capable of efficiently executing the funds that it surely requires.

The Commission finds little logic in the argument that, although they need the money, they are not yet capable of spending it wisely and so can make do with less. Try as it might, the Commission cannot think of an instance where an inadequate organization can do the job more cheaply than a first-rate organization. And the job has to be done.

The answer, of course, is to provide the resources and support NIMA's becoming the first-rate organization it needs to be. Elsewhere, the Commission recommends creation of an "Extraordinary Program Office" (EPO) with world-class talent whom none could gainsay. Staffed and armed with the authorities recommended by the Commission, the EPO will surely reduce the cost of the overall program. Still, the current budget (POM/IPOM) will need to be fattened considerably to realize fully the promise of FIA and USIGS. Get used to it.

In retrospect, the Commission opines that had the stand-up of NIMA included a more rigorous analysis of the true costs of programs and projects to be undertaken by NIMA, the DCI and SECDEF might have avoided the past four years of acrimonious budget debates.

NIMA's first budget (FY 1997)--far from the result of careful, deliberate analysis of all the functions and missions assigned to it--was the agglomeration of projects and programs inherited from the CIA, DIA, NPIC, DMA, NRO, et al. Since 1997 NIMA has consistently requested and received "over-guidance" funds. Each year since its stand-up, funding for NIMA programs has been a major issue for out-of-cycle budget deliberations. As a result of increases in the President's budget and yet further additions by Congress, NIMA's resources have grown faster than any other program in the IC.

This year NIMA received an increase billed as a "down payment" for TPED. Taken literally, there is hope that NIMA's budget line will increase over the next three years to a point where it can discharge its responsibilities fully. Only upon "payment in full" can the true expectations of NIMA, set back in 1996, be achieved.

On a smaller scale, the Commission observes that NIMA faces a situation of insufficient resource support for its internal infrastructure. In briefing after briefing, the Commission was told, by supporter and detractor alike, that the NIMA infrastructure was not up to the present mission, much less the future. On the positive side, the Commission commends NIMA's plans for consolidation of certain facilities, and lauds progress to date.


26 This was not accidental, but a deliberate decision of then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, anxious to see "civilian competition to the military," a situation that has prevailed, de facto, until the present. It has, however, been eroded by the change in U2 status, and the Transfer of Tasking Memorandum that provides for a change in final adjudication from the DCI to the SECDEF under "wartime" conditions or when the President so directs.

27 The vibrancy of the commercial photo market, both film and digital, guarantees that there will be no shortage of expertise dealing with the science of imaging.

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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