In 2016, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency/National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Remember some of the key events of the key events of the past 20 years with this series of historic commemorations.





National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) 1996
NIMA emerged in 1996 as an initiative sponsored by the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, and the Director of Central Intelligence. Lessons arising from the Gulf War demonstrated that the time had come to centralize defense-related mapping and imagery functions. NIMA absorbed the Defense Mapping Agency, the National Photographic Interpretation Center, the Central Imagery Office, and the Defense Dissemination Program Office. The new agency also assumed functions related to cartography and imagery analysis from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Defense Aerial Reconnaissance Office.




The Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS has become the world standard for geo-location. NGA’s traditional skills in Geodesy and Photogrammetry make GPS possible. Our pivotal role in developing the current World Geodetic System (WGS 84) and our ability to precisely geo-locate took the United States from the basic Transit System of 1964 to a far more able and well supported GPS, which became fully operational in 1995. Each day the U.S. Air Force uploads to the satellites data generated by NGA that enables the constellation to remain in its proper formation. 


Counter Piracy and Maritime Safety
NGA provides support to those who have to fight piracy at sea as well as those who will have to craft diplomatic and political solutions. This support began under the directorship of Rear Admiral Jack Dantone, USN. Twenty-first century piracy in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden is a symptom rooted in economic deprivation, lost fishing rights, and political instability. NGA provides insights that inform counter-piracy measures from our expertise in human geography, imagery analysis, cartography and our historical commitment to safety of navigation. NGA also became the first intelligence agency to go public with Apps, making ASAM, the Anti-Shipping Message App, available on iTunes to warn ship captains of pirate threats.



WGS 84
In 1984 Defense Mapping Agency participated in creating WGS 84, a geodetic reference frame that came closer than any before it to true global influence. The accuracy of WGS 84 set the stage for GPS’ operational debut in 1995. The GPS constellation remains in its proper configuration because of daily geodetic support from NGA. With GPS, supported by WGS 84, scientists identified the Earth’s mass and the location of its center to within the size of the average postage stamp, a 22 mm by 19 mm space.



Digital Nautical Charts (DNC)
In May 2004, sea trials began for USS Cape St. George. One year later USS Cape St. George became the first surface warship certified to navigate using NGA’s Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) and the Electronic Chart Display and Information System–Navy. Now the world’s most modern warships and commercial vessels use NGA’s DNCs to ensure safety of navigation. The development of the DNC began under the direction of National Imagery and Mapping Agency Director Lt. Gen. James King, USA. 


After the Defense Mapping Agency, an NGA predecessor organization, lost its South St. Louis facility to flooding in 1993, Congress appropriated funds for a state-of-the-art geospatial intelligence and printing distribution center in Arnold, Missouri. The 34.5-acre facility in Jefferson County houses a computer-to-plate printing plant, remote and CD-ROM replication activities, a digital scanning and conversion facility, and a customer help desk. NGA, Arnold opened in 1998, consolidating agency operations from St. Louis, Missouri; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Bethesda, Maryland. The construction of NGA Arnold took place under National Imagery and Mapping Agency Director Lt. Gen. James King, USA.

Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
A collaboration between the Defense Mapping Agency, NASA, the German Aerospace Center, and the Italian Space Agency, work began on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission in August 1996. Launched from the Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 2000, Space Shuttle Endeavor spent 11 days in flight. The crew spent 222.4 hours -- almost nine days and eight hours -- recording topographical data during repeated orbits 145 miles above the Earth. This plan allowed radar imaging of the globe between 60 degrees North latitude and about 56 degrees South latitude, covering about 80 percent of the Earth surface and 95 percent of its population.


September 11, 2001

Two days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 claimed roughly 3,000 American lives, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency welcomed retired Air Force Lieutenant General James R. Clapper Jr. as its second director, succeeding Army Lieutenant General James C. King. Soon after his arrival the new director began to promote products that developed from a variety of new initiatives. An ambitious synthesis of source and image emerged during General King’s tenure known simply as geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT. Director Clapper immediately reached out to the deployed warfighter to provide geospatial support and set the agency working on the first Geospatial Intelligence Basic Doctrine.

National Special Security Events
After September 11, 2001, the agency quickly began to utilize procedures, and solutions it had long used overseas, only now applying them to domestic situations with congressional approval. NGA played a significant role in planning for major national and international events, working with domestic and overseas authorities to provide maps and geospatial intelligence for training and security at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City (2002) and Turin (2006); the summer games in Athens (2004); and in collaboration with the
British in London in 2012. The same period saw more involvement in newly intensified efforts to protect the president of the United States and other high-ranking officials.

NGA Support Teams
NST personnel work for their customers, building tailored products in support of fluid military operations. NST deployments form part of a concerted effort to extend geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) into each command headquarters and national government agency. By providing support team experts with each customer to help interpret and manipulate GEOINT products and services, NGA gave warfighters and the intelligence community a worldwide, firsthand intelligence baseline for their own analytical and operational needs. Thus, rather than reaching back for expertise from NGA, the agencies, commands, and operating forces found the GEOINT community projected forward, at their side, and available.

August 29, 2005: Katrina
In the fall of 2005, NGA Director James Clapper told the Associated Press that the work the agency did after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was the best he had seen from an intelligence agency in his forty-two years in the spy business.
NGA provided imagery and graphics from those Gulf Coast counties in the hurricanes’ paths for the relief agencies and first responders; depicting the locations of major airports, hospitals, police and fire stations, emergency operations centers, hazardous materials, highways, and schools.
The agency also deployed forward more than two dozen analysts and two Mobile Integrated Geospatial-Intelligence Systems to the affected areas.


Disaster Response: Banda Aceh
Following the 2004 undersea earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean, NGA provided geospatial products of the affected areas daily to all agencies supporting humanitarian relief activities. These included the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), in whose region the tsunami occurred. With these products, authorities determined priorities for emergency relief efforts and the deployment of response personnel. NGA’s products showed the scope of the damage caused by this natural disaster. NGA also provided an assessment of the impact on infrastructure, including damage to roads, bridges, ports, and airfields and how that damage affected access to the damaged areas.




Enduring Freedom
The swift military response to the 2001 terrorist attack, christened Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), began on October 7, and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency's new product, geospatial-intelligence, followed American forces. In addition to American participation, the coalition included more than sixty-eight nations, with twenty-seven nations having representatives at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida. By mid-March 2002, the coalition removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Assisted by special maps, aeronautical navigation data and geospatial intelligence products supplied by NIMA, U.S. Transportation Command resolved all force positioning and most logistical needs in theater by air.

Early in 2003 in Sudan, the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement began attacking Sudanese government targets. By November 2003, NGA analysts, studying images in the area of Darfur, began noticing changes in population distribution. After receiving an urgent request for help from another U.S. government agency, NGA analysts developed a baseline of imagery and maps to document events in the Darfur region. By April and May 2004, they began to see evidence of several hundred villages completely destroyed by fire. The application of the geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) tradecraft revealed a humanitarian crisis until hidden from the outside world.

NGA Campus East (NCE)
With the 2005 BRAC legislation, and under the leadership of Director James Clapper, NGA took aim at a new campus. The plan for NCE would combine the personnel and assets of the Bethesda complex and almost all of the outlying stations at Belvoir, Reston, and other locations into a single building in Springfield, Virginia, on property properly part of Fort Belvoir. NGA relocated and successfully resumed operations at the new site before the deadline date of Sept. 15, 2011. The NCE project and the personnel move fell to the director of the Project Management office and future NGA Deputy Director Michael Rodrigue.


NGA's improved support to warfighters and citizens included the implementation of new tools such as the Mobile Integrated Geospatial-Intelligence System (MIGS) and its domestic cousin, the DMIGS. During Operation Allied Force in Kosovo in 1999, NGA recognized the need for a deployable system that could bring timely, actionable intelligence directly to the customer. The MIGS became the solution; a mobile, fully self-sustaining suite of communications, life support, and transportation equipment.
DMIGS would do the same outside the combat theater. The forty-four foot vehicle designed for requested domestic use could enable six analysts in support of everything from an environmental disaster to special events, such as the Olympics.


On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden died at the hands of American special forces at a private residence in Pakistan. NGA continually applies a range of geospatial intelligence capabilities, including imagery, geospatial and targeting analysis and 3-D modeling to threats posed to the nation by individuals such as this terrorist leader. NGA's GEOINT capabilities enabled our Department of Defense and intelligence community mission partners to physically pinpoint and understand the nature of the Abbottabad compound resulting in the demise of bin Laden. All of these capabilities rely on our knowledge of the Earth acquired through measurement and are enhanced by our foundation sciences such as photogrammetry and geodesy.

Commercial Partners
Commercial partners help the NGA mission by providing support in a wide range of areas, including: geospatial intelligence research and development; analytic tools, tradecraft, and standards; aerial imager; information technology; enterprise engineering and analysis; information security and cyber protection; source integration; and system engineering. Contractors also provide support as non-government technical advisors assisting the government in determining optimum solutions associated with engineering, photo collection, and analysis and virtually every other tradecraft requirement needed to address the mission. They also help NGA understand the intelligence and technical capability of the private sector and the possibilities of close collaboration.

Activity Based Intelligence
Created at NIMA by individual initiative shortly after 9/11, ABI became one of the most powerful of the most powerful of the recently emerging tradecrafts. It began as part of an effort, in conjunction with Canada, to address the operation of an al-Qaida cell in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Its practitioners place suspects temporally and spatially within an emerging network of geospatial knowledge about both terrorists' activities and their preferred geography. The analysts can then extract intelligence about adversaries who blend in with their cultural surroundings. This opportunity opened a variety of new methodological doors.


Deepwater Horizon
On April 20, 2010, this semi-submersible oil drilling rig experienced an explosion while drilling at the Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion cause the largest oil spill in American history. NGA worked with SOUTHCOM to extend support at three new joint information centers in the Gulf of Mexico for the Deep Water Horizon Crisis Action Team. The SOUTHCOM NGA Support Team found that agency partners preferred that data be exposed as services rather than file exchanges. NGA improved the way federal partners can share non-standard GEOINT content and also made GEOINT products more discoverable.