On November 1, 1995, President William Jefferson Clinton called on the warring factions in Bosnia to end the conflict that had cost over 300,000 Serb, Croat, and Muslim lives since 1991. He invited their representatives to come to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio to negotiate an end to the ethnic discord.
In Dayton, the U.S. delegation relied on a technical team led by the Defense Mapping Agency, or DMA, and the U.S. Army Topographic Engineering Center. These agencies drew together a support team of over fifty individuals who digitally mapped the disputed Balkans areas in near-real-time to assist the diplomats in their deliberations. The digital renderings included up-to-date terrain visualization with cultural and economic data relating to potential boundaries. Using automated cartography, computer-assisted map tailoring, and spatial statistical analysis, the team regularly furnished fresh maps reflecting territorial dispositions that had been negotiated less than thirty minutes earlier. The digital technique guaranteed accuracy, consistency, and reliability.
The power and flexibility of the technology and the technicians gave the political decision makers the confidence needed to reach agreement. Three-dimensional visual imagery of the disputed areas permitted cartographers to walk negotiators through disputed terrain, giving them a vivid and virtual experience of the space. In at least one instance, this three-dimensional experience proved crucial in persuading Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to compromise on a disputed area. These cartographers and analysts collectively contributed to the Dayton Peace Accords, leading to a temporary, but significant, suspension of regional violence.
Using the lessons learned from the Dayton Peace Accords, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency – later renamed the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency – was formed to bring together our nation’s most capable imagery and geospatial assets into a single agency.