NGA St. Louis Heritage
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is proud to have been part of St. Louis for seven decades. The agency’s deep roots in St. Louis dates back to 1827, when the St. Louis Arsenal, where NGA currently resides, began manufacturing and supplying small arms to the U.S. Army and American settlers as the U.S. expanded its western frontier. The Arsenal next played a key role in the Civil War, storing supplies, outfitting troops and repairing arms. After the Civil War, the Army found many uses for the Arsenal, including as a cavalry depot, a clothing depot and a general depot for the Quartermaster Department.
By 1952, the Louis Arsenal, no longer needed by the Army after World War II, was determined to be a more suitable location for the Air Force Aeronautical Chart Plant mission. That August, the organization became the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center and established its headquarters in the Arsenal.
That’s where the ACIC created a complete mapping of the moon for the Apollo astronauts. They created more than 300 products in support of five Apollo flights in 1969 alone. NASA used these lunar maps to determine the safest landing sites and the best places to perform experiments.
The ACIC was then folded into the Defense Mapping Agency in 1972. DMA ushered in a new era of precision weaponry by producing – in St. Louis – Terrain Contour Matching maps with previously unattainable accuracy during Desert Storm. While modern precision weapons use more advanced systems like GPS or inertial guidance systems, TERCOM maps, also uploaded into the navigation systems, functioned as a fail-safe when other signals may be obscured. This is a great example of how innovations in technology directly enable NGA’s support to the warfighter mission.
And as DMA became part of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 1996, which changed its name to NGA in 2003, we’ve retained a unique mission presence in St. Louis. Our teammates provide information that American soldiers, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen need to navigate to their missions around the world and return home safely.
Currently, the 190-year-old Arsenal building that houses NGA lacks the flexibility we need to facilitate collaboration among our employees and external partners. As technology and the needs of our workforce change, it’s evident that NGA needed a new facility in St. Louis to meet the challenges of the modern world. The North St. Louis site NGA selected will be attractive to millennials and the next generation of the NGA workforce.
The Gateway Arch will be visible from our future north St. Louis campus, too. It will continue to project that bold spirit of Lewis and Clark. Just as their journey started from here to map our nation’s future, NGA is charting the future of our agency in St. Louis.
Taken from Director Cardillo's remarks at the DoD Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference, August 2017.