Beginning in response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and continuing throughout their long aftermath, NIMA began cementing a greater unity of purpose among its various imagery and mapping elements. In the wake of such world-altering events, old agency rivalries were set aside as new synergies were recognized and exploited to meet the challenges of an emerging global landscape shaped by the War on Terrorism. Key innovations driven by this new battlespace included greater reliance on emerging technologies, such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which provided real-time airborne imagery, as well as the formal merger of imagery and mapping analysts in cells such as the Targeting Fusion Center.
In 2003, Congress recognized the transformative work happening across the agency by officially renaming NIMA the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. More than just a name change, NGA cemented a new intelligence discipline – GEOINT – and gave rise to such developments as the establishment of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence, all of which ratified the innovative discipline and doctrine fueling the work of the agency. During these years, NGA provided distinguished support to military campaigns, including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and played a pivotal role in the 2011 raid on the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Alongside its vital warfighter support role, NGA has also accumulated a storied legacy in support of diverse domestic and international humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, working in conjunction with such organizations as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. These partnerships have helped bring stability to hard-hit communities facing every kind of natural disaster, spanning the likes of hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, as well as humanitarian crises, such as the 2014 Ebola epidemic. NGA’s GEOINT expertise has also been used to combat criminal activities across the globe, including work to hinder the production and distribution of narcotics and wildlife trafficking.
Since the inception of NGA, the global landscape – and the threats emerging from that landscape – have continued to evolve. GEOINT has been a critical pioneer and partner in the fight against both long-term problems, such as climate change, and unforeseen vulnerabilities, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. From its position as both a combat support agency and intelligence agency, NGA remains at the forefront of meeting the challenges of the 21st century, so we can help show the way to a better tomorrow.
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