The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is an agency of the United States Government with the primary mission of collection, analysis, and distribution of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) in support of national security. NGA was formerly known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) and is part of the Department of Defense (DoD). In addition, NGA is a member agency of the United States Intelligence Community.
NGA's headquarters are located in Bethesda, Maryland and operates major facilities in the Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, Missouri areas as well as support and liaison offices worldwide. In 2011 NGA expects to consolidate many of its Washington D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia activities in a new east-coast campus near Ft. Belvoir as part of the BRAC. Its budget and number of employees are classified.
US mapping and charting efforts remained relatively unchanged until World War I
, when aerial photography
became a major contributor to battlefield intelligence. Using stereo viewers, photointerpreters reviewed thousands of images. Many of these were of the same target at different angles and times, giving rise to what became modern imagery analysis and mapmaking.
Engineer Reproduction Plant (ERP)
The Engineer Reproduction Plant was the Army Corps of Engineers
' first attempt to centralize mapping production, printing and distribution at the Dalecarlia Site, located barely outside Washington D.C. in Montgomery County
. Prior to this time, topographic mapping was largely a function of individual field engineer units using field surveying techniques or copying existing or captured products. In addition, ERP assumed the "supervision and maintenance" of the War Department
Map Collection effective 1 April 1939.
Army Map Service (AMS) / U.S. Army Topographic Command (USATC)
With the advent of the Second World War
aviation, field surveys began giving way to photogrammetry
, photo interpretation and geodesy
. During wartime it became increasingly possible to compile maps with minimal field work. Out of this emerged AMS, which absorbed the existing ERP in May 1942. AMS was designated as an Engineer field activity, effective 1 July 1942, by General Order 22, OCE, 19 June 1942. AMS also combined many of the Army's remaining geographic intelligence organizations and the Engineer Technical Intelligence Division. AMS was redesignated the U.S. Army
Topographic Command (USATC) on 1 September 1968 and continued as an independent organization until 1972, when it was merged into the new Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) and redesignated as the DMA Topographic Center (DMATC) (see below).
Aeronautical Chart Plant (ACP)
After the war, as airplane capacity and range improved, the need for charts grew. The Army Air Corps
established its Map Unit, which was renamed ACP in 1943 and was located in St. Louis, Missouri
. ACP later became known as the U.S. Air Force
Aeronautical Chart and Information Center (ACIC) from 1952 to 1972. (See DMAAC
Defense Mapping Agency (DMA)
The Defense Mapping Agency
was created on 1 January 1972 to consolidate all United States military mapping activities. DMA's "birth certificate," DoD Directive 5105.40, resulted from a (formerly) classified Presidential directive titled "Organization and Management of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Community" dated 5 November 1971 which, among other things, directed the consolidation of mapping functions previously dispersed among the military services. DMA became operational effective 1 July 1972, pursuant to General Order 3, DMA, 16 June 1972.
DMA's headquarters was initially located at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Later on, DMA's headquarters moved to Falls Church, Virginia. Its mostly civilian workforce was concentrated at production sites in Bethesda, Maryland; Northern Virginia; and St. Louis, Missouri. DMA was formed from the Mapping, Charting, and Geodesy Division, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and from various mapping-related organizations of the military services.
- DMA Hydrographic Center (DMAHC)
DMAHC was formed in 1972 when the Navy's Hydrographic Office split its two components: the charting component was attached to DMAHC, while the survey component moved to the Naval Oceanographic Office, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on the grounds of what is now the NASA Stennis Space Center. DMAHC was responsible for creating terrestrial maps of coastal areas worldwide and hydrographic charts for DoD. DMAHC was initially located in Suitland, Maryland, but later relocated to Brookmont (Bethesda), Maryland.
- DMA Topographic Center (DMATC)
DMATC was located in Brookmont (Bethesda), Maryland. DMATC was responsible for creating Topographic maps worldwide for DoD. DMATC's location in Bethesda, Maryland is the current site of NGA's headquarters.
- DMA Hydrographic/Topographic Center (DMAHTC)
DMAHC and DMATC eventually merged to form DMAHTC, with offices in Brookmont (Bethesda), Maryland.
- DMA Aerospace Center (DMAAC)
DMAAC originated with the U.S. Air Force's Aeronautical Chart and Information Center (ACIC) and was located in St. Louis, Missouri.
National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC)
Shortly before leaving office in January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
authorized the creation of the National Photographic Interpretation Center
, headed by Arthur C. Lundahl
combining Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA), Army, Navy, and Air Force assets to solve national intelligence problems. NPIC was a component of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology (DDS&T). It was NPIC that first identified the Soviet Union
’s basing of missiles in Cuba in 1962, thus establishing the proud tradition of imagery analysis
. By exploiting images from U-2
overflights and film from canisters ejected by orbiting Corona satellites
, NPIC analysts developed the information necessary to inform US policymakers and influence operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis
National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)
NIMA was established on 1 October 1996, by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997. The creation of NIMA followed more than a year of study, debate and planning by the defense, intelligence and policy-making communities (as well as the Congress) and continuing consultations with customer organizations. The creation of NIMA centralized responsibility for imagery and mapping.
NIMA brought together the DMA, the Central Imagery Office (CIO), and the Defense Dissemination Program Office (DDPO) in their entirety, and the mission and functions of the NPIC. Also merged into NIMA were the imagery exploitation, dissemination and processing elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office.
NIMA's creation was clouded by the natural reluctance of cultures to merge and the fear that their respective missions mapping in support of defense activities versus intelligence production, principally in support of national policymakers --would be subordinated, each to the other.
With the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 on 24 November 2003, NIMA was renamed NGA, to better reflect its primary mission in the area of GEOINT
. As a part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure
(BRAC) process, all major Washington, DC-area NGA facilities, including those in Bethesda, MD; Reston, VA
; and Washington, DC will eventually be consolidated at a new facility to be constructed near Fort Belvoir, VA
. This new facility, called the New Campus East
at this stage, will be massive, housing several thousand people and will be situated on the former Engineer Proving Ground site near Fort Belvoir. NGA facilities in St. Louis were not affected by the 2005 BRAC process.
Former director Lt Gen James R. Clapper Jr.
changed NGA's mission to a focus on surveillance instead of reconnaissance, and moved away from government-produced imagery (like that produced by the National Reconnaissance Office
) to commercial imagery such as DigitalGlobe
. and GeoEye
The NGA work force is populated by professionals in fields such as aeronautical analysis
, geospatial analysis
, imagery analysis
, marine analysis
, the physical sciences, geodesy, computer and telecommunication engineering, and photogrammetry.
NGA launched a hiring blitz in September 2008. Advertising was focused in the Washington, D.C., area and information was posted on various social media sites. Applicants were encouraged to submit their resumes for a November 13, 14, and 15, 2008 event at the Embassy Suites Hotel at Tyson's Corner. Resumes can be submitted through the NGA careers website, http://www.nga.mil/careers.
NIMA / NGA Directors
This table lists all Directors of the NIMA and NGA and their term of office.
* Although General Clapper preferred the use of his military rank, he was in fact a member of the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service (DISES) during his term as Director of NIMA / NGA, as he had previously retired from active duty as the director of DIA in 1995. General Clapper is, so far, the only civilian to have headed NIMA / NGA.
- 9/11 aftermath - After the September 11, 2001 attacks, NIMA partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to survey the World Trade Center site and determine the extent of the destruction.
- Olympic support - In 2002, NIMA partnered with Federal organizations to provide geospatial assistance to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. NGA also helped support the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
- Space Shuttle Columbia disaster - While the Space Shuttle Columbia was in orbit during STS-107, NIMA purportedly offered to image the shuttle and its suspected damage from falling debris during takeoff. NASA declined this offer, (See Space Shuttle Columbia disaster) but has since forged an interagency agreement with NGA to collect imagery for all future space shuttle flights.
- Hurricane Katrina - The NGA supports Hurricane Katrina relief efforts by "providing geospatial information about the affected areas based on imagery from commercial and U.S. government satellites, and from airborne platforms, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other government agencies. NGA's Earth website is a central source of these efforts.
- Microsoft partnership - Microsoft Corp. and the NGA have signed a Letter of Understanding to advance the design and delivery of geospatial information applications to customers. NGA will continue to use the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform (as it did for Katrina relief) to provide geospatial support for humanitarian, peacekeeping and national-security efforts. The Virtual Earth platform is a set of online mapping and search services that deliver imagery through APIs.
- Social Software Training - Several agencies in the Intelligence community, most notably CIA and NGA, have developed training programs to provide time to integrate social software tools into analysts' daily work habits. These classes generally focus on the use of Intellipedia to capture and manage knowledge, but they also incorporate the use of the other social software tools. These include blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking. The courses stress immersion in the tools and instructors encourage participants to work on a specific project in Intellipedia. The courses also expose participants to social media technologies on the Internet.
NIMA / NGA has been involved in several controversies.
- India tested a nuclear weapon in 1998 that took the United States by surprise because too few photo analysts were assigned to watch the suspected test site closely enough.
- In 1999, NIMA provided NATO war planners with incorrect maps which did not reflect that the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade had moved locations, which some have argued was the cause of the accidental NATO Bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. CIA countered this criticism by saying this overstates the importance of the map itself in the analytic process. Maps of urban areas will be out of date the day after they are published but what is important is having accurate databases.