Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress
CRS Report for Congress
Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress
April 12, 2002
Richard A. Best, Jr
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress
Intelligence derived from satellites has become an essential element of military
operations and foreign policymaking. In particular, precise imagery from space-based
collection systems makes possible the effective use of precision-guided munitions that
is becoming the basis of U.S. defense planning. Imagery intelligence also provides the
factual bases for addressing many foreign policy issues.
Imagery is collected by satellites acquired and operated by the National
Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an organization with a record of enormous
technological achievements since its creation in 1961. Imagery collected by the NRO
is processed, analyzed, exploited, and disseminated by another organization, the
National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). NIMA was established in 1996,
incorporating the Defense Mapping Agency and various intelligence offices.
Congress has been concerned with satellite imagery because of its critical
importance and its high costs. Independent commissions established by Congress to
assess the state of the imagery intelligence effort have concluded that significant
changes need to be made in the way the Nation’s imagery effort is conducted. There
is a consensus that greater emphasis should be placed on better collection targeting
and improving processing, exploitation, and dissemination (the processes collectively
termed TPED); that greater attention should be given to acquiring commercial
imagery; and that the management of the imagery effort may need to be changed.
Even before the events of September 11, 2001, there appeared to be a fairly
widespread view within congressional committees that at least some additional
funding should be directed towards imagery collection and TPED. Subsequent
military campaigns have underscored the use of imagery in military operations and
other counterterrorist efforts.
TPED encompasses the establishment of a “multi-int” database, i.e. an electronic
file containing information from all intelligence sources, that will require the balancing
of different needs of intelligence agencies and government consumers. Congress has
encouraged NIMA’s role in establishing this database, but obstacles include costs,
inherent technical difficulties, and the administrative and security complications of
placing one agency in charge of maintaining and editing data for a multitude of users.
Some observers advocate more fundamental changes. These include significantly
greater reliance on commercial imagery and a reduction in coverage by Government
satellites. In this approach, the NRO and NIMA would concentrate on developing
cutting edge technologies and on meeting special requirements beyond the capabilities
of the private sector. Some would reconsider the next generation of imagery-
Satellite imagery is among the most important technological achievements of the
Intelligence Community; maintaining a capability to support military operations that
avoid inflicting vast civilian damages provides the underlying justification for a
Introduction ................................................... 1
Background .................................................... 4
Issues for Congress..............................................6
Tasking, Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (TPED)..........7
Management and Personnel Issues..................................17
Conclusion ................................................... 22
Appendix A. National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO)...............23
Appendix B. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA).........28
Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress
The NATO campaign against Serbian forces in Kosovo undertaken in the spring
of 1999 has been termed both a brilliant success and a harbinger of military operations
in the twenty-first century. Among other things, it demonstrated the increasing
importance of precise imagery intelligence that permitted NATO to attack and destroy
crucial Serbian targets with minimal friendly losses or collateral damage. Over 9,300
strike sorties were flown with NATO losing no aircrews and only two aircraft.
Without the need for a costly ground campaign, Serbian forces pulled out of Kosovo
and Albanian refugees were able to return to their homes.
In the midst of this successful air campaign, however, occurred a significant
blunder that was to have major repercussions on the other side of the globe and
demonstrated significant weaknesses in the imagery analysis and dissemination
process. On May 7, 1999, a U.S. B-2 bomber fired a 2000 lb. guided bomb and
precisely destroyed a building believed to be the Headquarters of the Yugoslav
Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement (FDSP), a legitimate military target.
The building was first designated by intelligence officers at the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA). Unfortunately, the building was not the FDSP headquarters, but the
Embassy of China. As a result of the attack, three Chinese officials were killed and
the United States had to apologize formally and pay restitution. Despite the apology
and restitution, the mistaken bombing was deeply resented in Beijing and may have
contributed to a general deterioration of Sino-American relations.
The misidentification of this Belgrade office building reflects both the crucial
importance that intelligence has come to have in military operations and the serious
consequences of what Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet
acknowledged as an intelligence failure. As Tenet later testified:
When cities were struck in past wars, none doubted that civilians, embassies,
hospitals, and schools would be in harm’s way. Today, our ability to strike
precisely has created the impression that sensitive sites can be safe in the middle
of a war zone. Our desire to protect innocents in the line of fire has added an
enormous burden on all of us that we accept.
The incident demonstrated the crucial importance of integrating satellite imagery
of major installations with other forms of intelligence that would identify what was
going on inside them. Tenet also suggested the origins of the mistake–a failure to
maintain accurate data bases. “We have diverted resources and attention away from
basic intelligence and data base maintenance to support current operations for too
In the post-September 11, 2001 campaign against the Afghan Taliban and Al
Qaeda terrorists, imagery intelligence has continued to be of great value. Aircraft
based in the U.S. are able to attack ground (and underground) targets with precision
weapons using imagery obtained by reconnaissance satellites. Imagery intelligence
is also an important component of the global war against terrorism in which it is tied
to information from other intelligence sources and from unclassified, open sources to
locate terrorist facilities and activities. The additional funding becoming available for
intelligence in the wake of September 11 is expected to alleviate some of the problems
encountered in the Kosovo campaign, but the overarching challenges of aligning the
agencies involved and maximizing the usability of their products by both policymakers
and the operating forces remain to be resolved.
The Intelligence Community has emphasized the development and operation of
satellites of great technical complexity, but exploitation and dissemination of the data
collected have fared less well. Furthermore, the changing nature of warfare has
required that information be transmitted to theater commanders immediately (in “real
time”) not just forwarded to Washington agencies. These two requirements–the need
for better analysis and the requirement to move the data rapidly to field
commanders–underlie the challenges facing two agencies charged respectively with
collecting and producing imagery intelligence from satellites, the National
Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency
(NIMA).2 Background on the two agencies is provided in the appendices.
Imagery from satellites is used in conjunction with imagery from airborne
systems–manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These much less
expensive systems have been used extensively in recent combat operations but can be
vulnerable to enemy attack and lack the technical capabilities possessed by satellites.
In many cases aircraft and UAVs do not collect imagery for use by national3
intelligence agencies to build permanent databases.
It is possible that reviews of intelligence organization underway since early in the
current Bush Administration may result in recommendations to make major changes
in the organization of the imagery effort by placing the NRO and NIMA directly
under the DCI. Earlier, one influential study group proposed the abolition of the
NRO and the transfer of its program offices to NIMA and NSA–the national
1DCI Statement on the Belgrade Chinese Embassy Bombing, House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence Open Hearing, 22 July 1999.
2The National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for tasking and analyzing signals
intelligence collected by satellites; its role is discussed in CRS Report RL30740, National
Security Agency: Issues for Congress, updated January 6, 2001, by Richard A. Best, Jr.
3See CRS Report RL30727, Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR):
the U-2 Aircraft and Global Hawk UAV Programs by Richard A. Best, Jr. and Christopher
Bolkcom, updated December 1, 2000.
managers of the overall imagery and sigint efforts.4 While observers believe that such
proposals would be likely to face substantial resistance, the technical, administrative,
and budgetary challenges that have been identified by the NRO and NIMA
Commissions will be central considerations for the future of the imagery effort under
The nature of these challenges involves billions of dollars which are required for
satellite imagery collection and processing. Costs of intelligence programs are not
made public (being authorized in the classified annexes to defense and intelligence
authorization bills), but it widely understood that satellite programs cost several
billion dollars annually and absorb a large proportion of the budget of the National
Foreign Intelligence Program.
Concerned with the future of imagery programs, in 1999 Congress created two
commissions to assess space-based intelligence issues, one addressing the NRO and5
the other NIMA. Both have issued reports with a number of recommendations that
are currently under consideration in the executive branch and Congress. Congress
also mandated the establishment of a commission to assess national security space
management and organization.6 The latter commission’s concerns extended far
beyond intelligence collection platforms, but it addressed organizational issues
involving both the Defense Department and the Intelligence Community.
The establishment of these commissions reflected congressional concerns in
particular about several aspects of the Nation’s imagery intelligence effort:
4Walter Pincus, “Intelligence Shakeup Would Boost CIA,” Washington Post, November 8,
2001, p. A1; National Institute for Public Policy, Modernizing Intelligence: Structure and
Change for the 21st Century, September1997. The chairman of the study group was Lt. Gen.
William E. Odom, a former Director of NSA.
5The National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office, established
pursuant to Title VII of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2000 (P.L. 106-120) and
the Independent Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, established
pursuant to the classified annex to the Conference Report (H.Rept. 106-371) accompanying
the Defense Appropriations Act for FY2000 (P.L. 106-79). The report of the former is
Report of the National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office,
The NRO at the Crossroads, November 1, 2000, hereafter cited as NRO Commission Report.
The report of the latter is The Information Edge: Imagery Intelligence and Geospatial
Information In an Evolving National Security Environment: Report of the Independent
Commission on the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 10 January 2001, hereafter
cited as NIMA Commission Report.
6The Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization [Space
Commission]; established pursuant to the Defense Authorization Act for FY2000 (P.L.
106-65). This commission was initially headed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, subsequently
appointed Secretary of Defense. For further background, see Marcia S. Smith, Military
Space Activities: Highlights of the Rumsfeld Commission Report and Key Organization and
Management Issues, CRS Report RS20824, February 21, 2001.
!perceived imbalances between funds allocated to launching and operating
satellites on one hand and that spent on tasking, processing, exploitation, and
dissemination on the other;
!the decision to choose a new generation of satellites that was designed to meet
established criteria rather than extend the envelope of technical capabilities;
!the possibility of making greater use of commercial imagery;
!ongoing, but disjointed, efforts by NIMA to create and maintain a worldwide
Dealing with imagery issues is undertaken against an unstable geopolitical
environment in which access to high-quality intelligence and communications
equipment is becoming available to many other countries and even terrorist
organizations. Some observers fear that hostile countries could leap-frog the
technological capabilities that the United States has acquired after many years and end
up with virtually comparable intelligence at a fraction of the investment made by this
Given the growing importance of space-based intelligence and the sums of
money involved, some analysts believe that evaluating, and possibly redefining the
responsibilities of the NRO and NIMA will be among the most important challenges
facing the Intelligence Community and congressional armed services and intelligence
committees in the next decade. Imagery intelligence lies at the heart of efforts to
transform the post-Cold War defense establishment, but it is costly. Balancing the
opportunities with the costs is a crucial responsibility of both Congress and the
The need for space-based intelligence became evident in the earliest years of the
Cold War long before the United States developed the capacity to launch and operate
satellites. In the late 1940s and the 1950s, ignorance of the military capabilities of the
Soviet Union was a source of profound concern given the pervasive fear of Soviet
aggression. Overflights near and over Soviet territory were undertaken to collect
aerial photography, but there were great risks involved, as demonstrated when a U-2
aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was shot down over Soviet
territory in May 1960 and the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, put on public trial in
Moscow. The U-2 shootdown provided strong impetus for a satellite program
already planned that could provide intelligence from space without risking either
7See Report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space
Management and Organization, January 11, 2001, pp. 19-22, hereafter cited as Space
Commission Report. A even greater concern expressed by some observers is the possibility
that a foreign entity could find a way to “blind,” disrupt, or falsify a comprehensive
intelligence database that had become an integral part of U.S. military operations. Ibid.
pilots’ lives or diplomatic crises.8 The satellite reconnaissance program grew in
importance throughout the remainder of the Cold War, providing the necessary
intelligence foundation for U.S. defense programs, national security policies, and,
especially, for arms control negotiations. Additional satellites provided different
forms of intelligence–from electronic and communications transmissions, radar and
telemetry. By the end of the Cold War, satellite programs provided an major portion
of the intelligence needed to formulate national security policy and consumed a sizable9
percentage of the intelligence budget.
Throughout the Cold War satellite reconnaissance data was primarily used by
national-level policymakers and planners focused on the threat of strategic nuclear
conflicts involving the West and major communist countries. Many of the collection
targets were fixed installations–missile bases, shipyards, defense industry factories,
etc. The data acquired was the basis for targeting aircraft and missiles and for arms
control discussions, but it was not, for the most part, integrated directly into ongoing
The Persian Gulf War in 1990 against Iraq, however, saw extensive use of
satellite-derived data in contemporaneous combat operations–a practice that was to
have a profound influence on military planning for the post-Cold War environment.
The much greater tactical use of satellite reconnaissance resulted in part from the fact
that the flat desert terrain was ideally suited to overhead imaging (as compared, for
instance, to the triple-canopy jungles of Southeast Asia). In part, it was made
possible by the end of the Soviet threat that allowed the diversion of satellite coverage
to non-Warsaw Pact targets. The potential value of satellite imagery was quickly
grasped by military commanders, but there were many complaints that the ability to
disseminate the product was woefully inadequate–in some cases, imagery had to be
hand-carried to various Desert Storm commands. The use of satellite data in Desert
Storm was a key part of a major technological breakthrough, in large measure
Yet what, in the end, largely predetermined the allied victory had never been tested
before, least of all in the synergistic combination that roved so overwhelming
against Iraq. The power of a few stealthy F-117s to operate with impunity and to
substitute for mass by way of precision, the confident knowledge of the battlefield
at any moment that air- and space-based information superiority gave the
coalition’s commanders, and the strategic effectiveness of round-th-clock bombing
of Iraqi ground forces were all, to varying degrees, revelations whose extent of10
leverage became clear only as the war progressed.
8The legality of space-based reconnaissance is recognized in international legal instruments
including the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration
and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, and the United
Nations General Assembly December 1986 document, Principles Relating to Remote Sensing
of the Earth from Outer Space.
9For background, see CRS Issue Brief IB92011, U.S. Space Programs: Civilian, Military,
and Commercial, by Marcia S. Smith.
10Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of American Air Power (Ithaca: Cornell
In the 1990s, at the urging of military commanders and congressional
committees, the Defense Department smoothed out dissemination problem to ensure
that satellite-derived intelligence could be transmitted without delay to consumers.
This required new communications links, equipment changes, and the development
of new analytical and dissemination procedures, including the lifting of restrictions on
disseminating information that had previously been strictly accessible only to users
with certain special clearances. Much had been accomplished by the time of the
NATO-led attack on Serbian forces in the spring of 1999 (Operation Allied Force).
As a result, in part, of faster dissemination of satellite data, the Kosovo air campaign
achieved most of its objectives. It did so with almost no loss of Allied life and
minimal loss of civilian lives on the ground–despite the lamentable attack on the11
Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
In the post-Cold War environment, requirements for satellite data are closely tied
to the growing use of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) that allow very specific
targets to be destroyed while minimizing loss of civilian life and damage to civilian
facilities. Targeting PGMs depends on very precise locating data that are acquired
from satellite data supplemented by airborne reconnaissance. Current defense
planning documents such as Joint Vision 2020 describe precision engagement as
including more than the employment of PGMs, encompassing a vision of information
superiority that “will enhance the capability of the joint force commander to
understand the situation, determine the effects desired, select a course of action and
the forces to execute it, accurately assess the effects of that action, and reengage as12
necessary while minimizing collateral damage.” Growing reliance on information
superiority by civilian policymakers as well as military leaders will result in increased
requirements for space-based imagery–a major consideration for planning the future
evolution of the Intelligence Community.
Issues for Congress
Satellites consume a major proportion of the intelligence budget and are thus a
focus of congressional attention. In its oversight of the NRO and NIMA and in
authorizing and appropriating funds, Congress will ultimately determine the shape of
future imagery programs.13 It can augment or decrease funding for the NRO and
University Press, 2000), p. 260.
11The question of whether the air campaign by itself brought about the withdrawal of Serb
forces from Kosovo is controversial and lies beyond the scope of this report.
12Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2020 [http://www.dtic.mil/jv2020] .
13For the significance of congressional oversight of the NRO, see Clayton D. Laurie,
Congress and the National Reconnaissance Office (Unpublished ms., Office of the Historian,
National Reconnaissance Office, October 2000). Also, Jeffrey T. Richelson, “Out of the
Black: the Disclosure and Declassification of the National Reconnaissance Office,”
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Spring 1998. For
congressional involvement in the creation of NIMA, see Anne Daugherty Miles, The Creation
NIMA. It can budget for innovative but expensive research. It can realign agency
roles and responsibilities. At the same time, Congress cannot direct Presidents to
devote more of their personal time to satellite issues, nor can Congress mandate
effective cooperation among agency heads within the executive branch.
Commissions and many observers have argued against the need for new
legislative initiatives. Many believe the number of congressional committees involved
and the separate legislative vehicles by which funds are authorized and appropriated
for space collection, analysis, and dissemination complicate efforts to address space-
based intelligence issues. Observers note in particular the potential for different
priorities among armed services and intelligence committees as well as the budgetary
pressures on space-related programs that have existed in recent years.
Another view, however, is that the evolution of space-based intelligence may
have to be guided by new statutory authorities. Existing or potential overlap among
the current authorities of DOD and the Intelligence Community, as well as funding
changes and trade-offs that may be required among high-cost programs, may,
according to this view, lead to a necessarily larger congressional role. Given the
central role of space-based intelligence in future military planning and in intelligence
effort, most observers expect a continued high level of congressional interest.
Tasking, Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (TPED)
TPED is the collective term used to describe the tasking of satellites to image a
particular area at a particular time, downloading the “take,” analyzing it, and
disseminating it within specified times to the officials or agencies who use it, the
“consumers.” TPED is the core NIMA mission and it is at once a major technological
challenge, a significant budgetary issue, and a matter of contention among intelligence
TPED is seen as encompassing a vast information system that includes inputs
from various collection systems that are immediately accessible to users at many levels
to use for their own information requirements. It is the foundation of the Defense
Department’s determination to use information to secure decisive military results.
Joint Vision 2020 argues that:
The evolution of information technology will increasingly permit us to
integrate the traditional forms of information operations with sophisticated all-
source intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in a fully synchronized
information campaign. The development of a concept labeled the global
information grid will provide the network-centric environment required to achieve
this goal. The grid will be the globally interconnected, end-to-end set of
information capabilities, associated processes, and people to manage and provide
information on demand to warfighters, policy makers, and support personnel. It
will enhance combat power and contribute to the success of noncombat military
operations as well. Realization of the full potential of these changes requires not
of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency: Congress’s Role as Overseer (Joint Military
Intelligence College, Occasional Paper Number 9, April 2001).
only technological improvements, but the continued evolution of organizations and
doctrine and the development of relevant training to sustain a comparative14
advantage in the information environment.
Further discussion of the geospatial grid may be found in Appendix B, but, put
simply, the goal is to provide a database built around a geographic display (essentially
a map displayed on a computer screen); the user clicks a computer mouse on a
specific point on the display to obtain information about geographic features such as
rivers or hills, the location of manmade structures such as buildings, bridges or
weapon emplacements, information about activities likely occurring within buildings,
the presence or absence of personnel, etc. This information is intended to permit the
recipients to take appropriate action with confidence that targets can be hit, refugees
rescued, etc. Much of the discussion of the geospatial grid is focused on the needs
of military commanders, but this type of information could be of great utility to
government officials outside DOD. For instance, during the Kosovo conflict, NIMA
made a daily presentation to the State Department that provided:
!A geospatial reference, including shaded terrain relief overlaid with towns and
!Over this was layered census data showing the distribution percentage of
!Over which was satellite and aircraft imagery of burning houses; added to
!Imagery or graphics of the movements of Serbian paramilitary forces and the
resulting flow of displaced Albanians.15
NIMA’s role as the functional manager of the whole enterprise is a matter of
significant concern. Managing the grid includes making many technical decisions
regarding information reliability, communications systems, message formats, access
controls, etc., all of which will be difficult to establish on a government-wide basis
since, in practice, there may be different needs by different consumers–some with
great clout–for specific types of data within different time constraints. Observers
express concern that NIMA, as a new agency, will find it difficult to make final
judgments resolving differences. Beyond bureaucratic concerns, observers consider
that NIMA has far to go in being able to exploit the vast quantities of data collected.
Nevertheless, most observers have reached the conclusion that NIMA should retain
control of the geospatial grid.
The NIMA Commission concluded, “To whom should we entrust ...[the
responsibility to fuse imagery and sigint]? Against all odds, the Commission feels the
answer may well be NIMA.” According to the Commission, “the geospatial construct
is the obvious foundation upon which fusion should take place.”16 However, the
Commission expressed concern not just about NIMA’s ability to manage the TPED
process, but also about the agency’s ability to manage the acquisition of TPED
14Joint Vision 2020.
15Ibid, p. 64.
16NIMA Commission Report, p. 48.
systems even for its own staff. “The current TPED acquisition effort lacks a clear
baseline, which should tie clearly to overall strategy, requirements, and cost
constraints. In addition to the lack of a common definition of TPED, there is similarly17
confusion as to the requirements that TPED must satisfy.” The Commission
expressed concern about NIMA’s lack of plans to integrate imagery from airborne
collectors–aircraft such as the U2 and UAVs–into TPED based on the FIA.
According to the Commission current plans do not address either the integration of
airborne imagery or multi-INT integration.
Similarly, the Defense Science Board Task Force concluded that NIMA, “as the
government agency responsible as the functional manager for imagery and geospatial
intelligence, will be at the center of the ‘information revolution’ as it affects
individuals and organizations that contribute to national security.”18 According to the
Task Force, NIMA should “have the clout to bring other communities to accept the
architecture and the standards necessary to build an integrated TPED system.”19
More specifically, the Task Force argued that NIMA should act as the single
functional manager for imagery and geospatial information, define future TPED
architecture, products, and services; task (and make tradeoffs between) commercial
and government collectors, and review budgets of agencies responsible for imagery20
and geospatial efforts.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has expressed concern that NIMA “does not
exercise comprehensive functional management authority over U.S. imagery and
geospatial programs.” The Committee noted in particular the NIMA’s absence of
authority to set standards and review investment and RDT&E programs of tactical
efforts of the military services.21
The conference report accompanying the FY2001 Defense Authorization Act
also took note of the need for an integrated multi-int TPED architecture. NIMA was
directed to undertake a review regarding means to achieve the development of such
an architecture with “the direct and personal involvement by the Deputy Secretary of
Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence.” The report anticipates the
establishment of a universal architecture that would include information collection not
only from overhead satellite systems, but also aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles
and all tasking, data, storage, processing, exploitation, analysis and disseminations
17NIMA Commission Report, p. 87.
18U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Technology & Logistics, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on National
Imagery and Mapping Agency [hereafter cited as Defense Science Board], April 2000, p. 9.
19Defense Science Board, p. 26.
20Ibid, p. 29.
21U.S. Congress, 106th Congress, 2d session, Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence,
Authorizing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2001 for the Intelligence Activities of the United
States Government and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System,
May 4, 2000, S.Rept. 106-279, p. 30.
systems. The report indicates that NIMA should aim for a 2005-era vision for the
imagery TPED architecture and concept of operations.22
NIMA may not be ready to accept such a broad role within the Intelligence
Community. According to a media account, Robert Zitz, a senior NIMA official, has
stated that for the present integrating imagery and geospatial data and imagery
remains the agency’s primary focus; “right now,” according to Zitz, “we don’t feel
that we are ready to take on the challenge of doing imagery and signals intelligence
both in one architecture.”23 NIMA officials undoubtedly recognize that such fusion
would not only be technically challenging but it could involve conflicts with other,
older, and larger agencies that could complicate NIMA’s overall missions. Peter
Marino, the chairman of the NIMA Commission, in April 3, 2001 testimony, indicated
continuing concern that NIMA lacks adequate resources for such a task:
and I think what you’re creating is a recipe for disaster for the day when [FIA]
starts dropping down volumes of data that is considerably greater than the volumes
of data that we’re seeing today and expects an organization like NIMA to start
processing and exploiting that data. That doesn’t close at all right now with the24
budget that NIMA has to do TPED.
Beyond questions of resources, some observers express concern that the heavy
responsibility of managing a multi-int geospatial grid would be assigned to a relatively
new organization that is a DOD combat support agency. According to this view,
developing and acquiring the necessary systems that manage the flow of imagery will
be a daunting task that NIMA will probably be able to accomplish only with additional
funding and by drawing upon outside assistance. They suggest that establishment of
collection requirements–determining which targets should get the highest
priorities–more appropriately should become the responsibility of the DCI who has,
in any event, been assigned the responsibility by statute.25 Nor do they believe would
NIMA be a logical candidate to address the tasking of the sigint collection efforts of
the National Security Agency (NSA) for which longstanding interagency procedures
exist. Organizing a process by which analysts in various agencies can annotate data
on an imagery base would be a logical NIMA responsibility, but attempting to become
a “final authority” for validating such annotation would, at least in some cases, appear
to be an overstretch that could cause prolonged interagency disagreements.
In addition to NIMA’s apparent ambivalence, it should be noted that the NRO
Commission recommended that imagery and signals intelligence requirements
committees should be returned to the DCI instead of being left with NIMA and NSA
22U.S. Congress, 106th Congress, 2d session, Committee of Conference, Enactment of
Provisions of H.R. 5408, Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 2001, H. Rept. 106-945, October 6, 2000, pp. 713-715.
23Amy Butler, “NIMA Official Says Agency Can’t Yet Handle ‘Multi-INT’ Responsibilities,”
Defense Information and Electronics Report, February 16, 2001.
24Testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces,
April 3, 2001, Federal Document Clearing House transcript.
2550 USC 404f.
in order to ensure the balance and priority of requirements between military and
national consumers is maintained.26 It is possible that the DCI’s staff has been
reluctant to become overly involved in the operational activities of a DOD combat
support agency, but many observers believe that to the extent that NIMA becomes
responsible for managing the geospatial grid for a wide variety of Government
consumers, inside and outside DOD, there will have to be a significant role for the
DCI if for no other purpose than ensuring that NIMA decisions are acceptable to the
entire Intelligence Community.
It cannot not of course be proven that different organizational arrangements for
identifying geospatial data would have prevented the mistaken bombing of China’s
Embassy in Belgrade, but almost all observers agree that there needs to be better
arrangements for bringing all forms of data–including human reporting–to bear on
target selection and other functions. Establishing systematic collection and review
procedures and fixing responsibilities would arguably serve to minimize blunders in
Funding TPED. The question of NIMA’s ability to manage the geospatial grid
is closely related to the adequacy of funding for TPED. Reacting to the longstanding
tendency to favor collection systems over analysis, Congress has expressed concern
that planned investment in FIA has not been matched with a willingness to make the
necessary investment in TPED, creating a potential for excessive collection of data
that cannot be effectively used. In 1998 Congress authorized FIA but inserted
provisions in the FY1999 Intelligence Authorization Act requiring that FIA funds be
embargoed pending the identification of TPED requirements.27 In 1999 the Senate
Intelligence Committee noted that the FIA program “focuses on collection and pays
relatively less attention to the tasking, processing, exploitation, and dissemination
functions necessary to a coherent and comprehensive end-to-end architecture.” As
a result the Committee urged maintaining a cap on the FIA budget until all
requirements, including TPED, were identified.28
In floor debate prior to passage of the FY2000 Intelligence Authorization Act
(P.L. 106-120), Representative Jerry Lewis (who also served as Chairman of the
Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense), noted that while the FIA “will be the most
expensive program in the history of the intelligence community,” there had been “no
plan to fund TPED and not even an understanding of how we ought to go about it.”
As a result the FY2000 Act included provisions that advised the executive branch that
Congress would not fund FIA “unless there is a plan implemented that will process
26NRO Commission, Report, p54.
27This provision was criticized in floor debate for complicating the work of the NRO by
Senator Thurmond, then chairman of the Armed Services Committee; he argued that some
who were concerned about cost growth in FIA “also want to see FIA’s capabilities to support
military users reduced so that savings can be used to support other programs. . .that have a
more ‘national’ orientation.” Congressional Record, October 8, 1998, p. S11904.
28U.S. Congress, 106th Congress, 1st session, Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence,
Authorizing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2000 for the Intelligence Activities of the United
States Government and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System
and for Other Purposes, S.Rept. 106-48, May 11, 1999, pp. 4-5.
the satellite data that FIA will collect.” “In English, it does not do any good to take
pictures that no one will ever see.”29
The Clinton Administration’s FY2001 Defense budget request included
additional funding for TPED as a down payment on a $1.5 billion multi-year TPED
enhancement program. The Defense Science Board Task Force, however, concluded
that TPED will actually require $3 billion.30 The report accompanying the House
version of the FY2001 Intelligence Authorization bill noted that the “administration
has, indeed, added funding ... in the fiscal year 2001 budget request. The Committee
agrees that this figure represents a substantial investment. However, it is well short
of the range of necessary investment reported to Congress by the administration both31
last year and in testimony this year.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee, in reporting its bill the same month also
asserted that funding for analysis “remains woefully inadequate” and discussed a
NIMA report on TPED that described projected challenges and budgetary shortfalls
related to FIA. The Committee noted that NIMA has proposed a three phase plan
that would first (in 2001-2005) lay the infrastructure foundation for effective use of
new space platforms, commercial imagery, and “minimal levels of modernization
supporting airborne systems.” The second and subsequent phase (2002-2007) would
see a transition to full support for using imagery from new satellite systems, provide
greater support to airborne systems, and provide infrastructure “hooks” for all
intelligence disciplines, including human intelligence (humint) and measurement and
signature analysis (masint). The third phase (2004-2009) would see the establishment
of a common operational picture including full support for all intelligence disciplines,
full support for airborne systems, and integrate moving target data.32
The Senate Committee expressed concern that the level of funding proposed by
the Administration for the first year of the first phase was inadequate. “The
Committee is concerned that the dramatic underfunding of Phase One TPED
modernization in fiscal year 2001 is setting up a budgetary crunch wherein a33
disproportionate amount of funds will be required in subsequent years....”
The following October, in floor debate in the House on the intelligence
conference report, the late Representative Dixon, then the Ranking Member of the
House Intelligence Committee, noted that in the previous year Congress had made
clear its expectation that FIA would encompass an adequate balance between
29Congressional Record, November 9, 1999, p. H11758.
30Defense Science Board, p. 32.
31U.S. Congress, 106th Congress, 2d session, House of Representatives, Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, H.Rept. 106-
32U.S. Congress, 106th Congress, 2d session, Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence,
Authorizing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2001 for the Intelligence Activities of the United
States Government and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System
and for Other Purposes, S. Rept. 106-279, May 4, 2000, pp. 7-8.
33S.Rept. 106-279, pp. 7,9.
collection and TPED. “Congress was clear in the description of the consequences
that would flow from an executive branch decision not to make TPED investments
sufficient to utilize fully the collection capabilities of the FIA. As the classified annex34
to this conference report makes clear, the resolve of Congress has not changed.”
The report accompanying the House version of the FY2002 Intelligence
Authorization bill (H.R. 2883), while noting “totally inadequate planning and
investment,”indicated that the bill provided initial funding for NIMA’s modernization.
“The funding will enable the initiation of acquisition reform, improved information
management capabilities, new business processes to better produce innovative
imagery and geo-spatial products, and greater access to all imagery sources.”35 The
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) similarly noted “serious deficiencies in the
NIMA’s preparedness to task, receive, and exploit data from the Future Imagery
Architecture (FIA) being developed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).”
SASC lamented the necessary transfer of millions of dollars from NIMA’s
modernization budget mostly to modify legacy systems for tasking, workflow36
management, and data transfer.
The congressional power of the purse was dramatically demonstrated in August
2000 when funding for the Discoverer II radar satellite program was eliminated from
the FY2001 Defense Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-259). Discoverer II would have
tested new technology that would permit testing of movable antennae that could
provide data on a 24-hour basis that is currently being collected by JSTARS aircraft
and other systems. House appropriators criticized likely development costs and
foresaw costs of a fully-deployed system reaching some $25 billion. The House
Appropriations Committee further noted that DOD “has conducted no trade-off
analysis between Discoverer II and other systems and processes” that might
accomplish the same tasks nor had DOD analyzed “the impact a Discoverer II
constellation would have on an already overtaxed imagery processing, exploitation,
and dissemination system.”37 Although plans for alternative approaches were
underway in early 2001,38 the congressional willingness to cancel funds for Discoverer
II to free up funding for TPED carried a clear and unmistakable message.
34Congressional Record, October 12, 2000, p. H9854.
35U.S. Congress, 107th Congress, 1st session, House of Representatives, Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, H.Rept. 107-
36U.S. Congress, 107th Congress, 1st session, Senate, Committee on Armed Services, National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, S.Rept. 107-62, September 12, 2001, p.
37U.S. Congress, 106th Congress, 2d session, House of Representatives, Committee on
Appropriations, Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, 2001, H.Rept. 106-644, June
1, 2000, p. 150. A different perspective is provided by Zachary Lum, “Congress, Not Air
Force, Stymies Progress in Space,” Defense News, September 11, 2000, p. 15. On the desire
to find funds for TPED, see also Amy Butler, “Space-based Radar Funds May be Used to pay
TPED bills, Officials Say,” Defense Information and Electronics Report, December 17,
38Amy Butler, “AOA for Space-based Radar on the Horizon, Space Ops Chief Says,” Inside
the Air Force, February 2, 2001.
While acknowledging that investment in collection efforts has not been matched
by funding of TPED, some observers note that it may be technically appropriate in
some cases to invest in systems before making the necessary arrangements for
utilization of the data collected. Furthermore, there may be sound reasons to maintain
an extensive imagery database that can be exploited in the event of unanticipated
A second major issue is commercial imagery which some believe can reduce the
need for massive investment in government satellite reconnaissance systems.
Commercial imagery is increasingly available to customers, government and private,
throughout the world.40 It is expected that the quality of resolution available, the
extent of coverage, and timeliness of delivery of the finished product will be enhanced
by more commercial satellites that are anticipated to be orbited in the coming decade.
At some point, observers predict, continuous global coverage will become available
on the open market. Although there are obvious security concerns about high-quality
imagery becoming available to other governments (and terrorist groups), the large
inventory of commercial images that can be purchased will be of significant potential
interest to intelligence agencies.
NIMA is currently purchasing commercial imagery annually, but many observers
argue that much larger amounts of commercial imagery could be purchased.
Although cost data on government imagery is not public, a given amount of imagery
purchased from commercial firms could, in some circumstances, cost considerably less
than comparable government imagery. Thus, heavier reliance on acquiring
commercial imagery could represent important cost savings, given the potential cost
of FIA. The Space Commission argued that, with the currently available half-meter
imagery, approximately half of NIMA’s requirements for information on the locations
of objects on the Earth could be met.41 In particular, commercial imagery could
39See the conclusions of conferees on the FY2002 Defense Authorization bill; U.S. Congress,
107th Congress, 1st session, House of Representatives, National Defense Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 2002, H.Rept. 107-333, December 12, 2001, p. 507. See also remarks by
NIMA Director Clapper quoted by Joanne Sperber, Military Information Technology, Vol.
6, No. 1 (2002): “There is the proverbial, perpetual metaphor that the intelligence community
collects far more than we can possibly process and exploit. To a certain extent, that’s true;
but that’s not all bad. The U.S. intelligence community has a global responsibility, so to the
extent that we can collect and archive material that we can refer to late, it’s not all bad.”
40See Yahya A. Dehqanzada and Ann M. Florini, Secrets for Sale: How Commercial Satellite
Imagery Will Change the World (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
2000). A principal advocate of greater reliance on commercial imagery and other open source
information is Robert David Steele, On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World
(Fairfax, VA: AFCEA International Press, 2000).
41In December 2000 the Clinton Administration licensed two U.S. firms to sell half-meter
resolution imagery to customers worldwide. See Vernon Loeb, “U.S. Is Relaxing Rules on
Sale of Satellite Photos,”Washington Post, December 16, 2000, p. A3.
provide coverage of wide-area surveillance and government satellites could be
targeted on more challenging and more sensitive point-target reconnaissance.42
The NRO Commission also took note of the increasing availability of commercial
satellite imagery and the absence of a systematic plan to take advantage of its
availability at less cost than acquiring the imagery with new NRO systems. The
Commission argued that there is a need for an outside assessment, independent of the
NRO, of the utility of commercial technologies to supplement traditional NRO
A Defense Science Board Task Force on NIMA concluded that commercial and
international systems could meet many government needs in terms of image quality
if not quantity and noted that “Measured in availability and in resolution, commercial
capacity will increase [by] a factor of 5 to 10 times over just the next five years.”43
The NIMA Commission argues that the design of the FIA fails to take into
consideration the potential integration of commercial imagery (and imagery from
aircraft) into the larger imagery/geospatial information system and is, accordingly,
It is uncertain whether the increasing availability of commercial imagery will have
any effect on the multi-year process of FIA acquisition that has been underway since
the passage of the FY1998 Intelligence Authorization Act (P.L. 105-107).45 Even
with FIA satellites coming on line, however, observers believe that commercial
imagery will usefully supplement data acquired by government satellites. Many
observers believe, however, that NIMA is purchasing far less of the available
commercial imagery than could be productively used. The DSB Task Force argued
that the budget for commercial imagery, in early 2000 about $400 million for the next46
several years, was at too low a level. The NIMA Commission was especially critical
of budgeting for commercial imagery:
The Congress showed keen insight in designating NIMA the DoD and Intelligence
Community sole focal point for commercial imagery. Not to be outdone by itself,
however, the Congress, one year, denied NIMA the funds necessary for purchasing
that imagery. The administration topped that, in successive years, by failing to
request sufficient funds, a move that the Congress then trumped by authorizing and
appropriating funds that were not requested. Most recently, the NRO announced
42Space Commission Report, p. 35.
43Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Technology & Logistics, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on National
Imagery and Mapping Agency, (Washington: April 2000) [hereafter cited as Defense Science
Board], p. 14.
44Ibid, p. 50.
45See remarks of Rep. Lewis, Congressional Record, November 7, 1997, p. H10178.
46Ibid, p. 28.
an on-again, off-again, Billion Dollar Buy. The Commission observes this hot-47
potato approach with wry amusement; if it weren’t serious it would be funny.
The NRO Commission noted that, despite the provisions of PDD-49 in
September 1996 relating to Commercial Space Guidelines that encourage government
agencies to purchase commercial imagery to the fullest extent “feasible,” there have
been “relatively insignificant” purchases of commercial imagery by NIMA. Such
purchases would allow government imagery collectors to be used for specialized
collection and would also help create a “stable and predictable” government market
for commercial imagery firms as was recommended by PDD-49.48 The NRO
Commission cited “managerial problems that have emerged in NIMA’s Commercial
Imagery Program. There is no continuity in the Program and the program manager
has been changed frequently.”49
NIMA, the DSB Task Force argued, should execute a balanced, strategic plan
to exploit fully commercial capabilities; most importantly NIMA should “restrict
government collection by tasking national systems to collect only on that which
cannot be procured competitively from U.S. commercial sources.”50
The commercial satellite industry remains in its infancy. There have been several
launch failures and commercial markets are not well developed. One concern about
increasing use of commercial imagery is the possibility that the private firms
producing it might not remain in business and that, if they fail, restarting government
satellite programs would be difficult and lengthy, especially if large numbers of skilled
technicians were no longer employed by government agencies.51
Both the NIMA and NRO Commissions suggested that an account be established
by DOD that agencies could use only for the procurement of commercial imagery
(along the lines of an existing account used to determine whether to use commercial
or military airlift capabilities). At present government agencies, including the military
services, receive government imagery as a “free good” and may thus be disinclined to
expend their own funds for purchasing imagery from commercial firms. Under the
proposed approach, agencies would have access to an account managed by the Office
of the Secretary of Defense whose funds could be used only for purchasing
commercial imagery; thus, there would be administrative machinery in place to
encourage use of imagery from commercial sources that does not exist at present.
Advocates argue that a key advantage of establishing such a fund would be to provide
a predictable market for commercial firms that would serve to strengthen the U.S.
satellite reconnaissance industry. According to the NRO Commission:
Through an approach to imagery analogous to DoD’s military/civilian airlift
practice, Government systems would be focused on targets where their unique
47NIMA Commission Report, p. 55.
48NRO Commission Report, p. 68.
49NRO Commission Report, p. 70.
50Ibid, p. 31.
51See Smith, CRS Issue Brief IB92011.
capabilities in resolution and revisit times are important, while commercial systems52
would be used to provide processed “commodity” images.
Media accounts indicate that NIMA did not request substantial increases in
funding for the purchase of commercial imagery in its FY2002 budget submission.
There may be a conviction that higher priority should be given to modernizing its own
infrastructure than to the larger purchases of commercial imagery. Nor was there a
request for a budget augmentation to support such purchases.53 Two staff members
of the House Intelligence Committee have expressed their perception that little
support currently exists for purchasing additional amounts of commercial imagery at
the expense of sacrificing government program funds.54
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, NIMA has publicly
described more extensive purchases of commercial imagery. NIMA’s director, retired
General Clapper, argued that unclassified commercial imagery can be readily shared
with coalition partners whereas imagery acquired by U.S. satellites would have to be
put through a lengthy declassification process. In addition, commercial images of
large geographic areas can be used in conjunction with more specialized intelligence
products. Especially important, according to Clapper, are multispectral–color–images
of which commercial systems are the primary source.55
Government procurement of commercial imagery undoubtedly has important
implications for the viability of the industry and NIMA’s reported aversion to
purchasing larger amounts will be disappointing to industry officials anticipating larger
government purchases. However, some observers argue that the imagery companies
remain in a weak position as a result of their own inherent problems; as two
congressional staffers noted: “after more than six years, this commercial industry has
few actual commercial customers.”56
Management and Personnel Issues
A third major issue for the Intelligence Community is the management of the
satellite intelligence effort. Specific management issues affecting the NRO and NIMA
are discussed in the appendixes, but there are overarching concerns regarding the
entire imagery intelligence effort. A key question is whether the emphasis should be
on continuing to push the technological envelope in order to acquire even more
sophisticated imagery capabilities or to design systems based on essentially existing
technologies to meet current needs. In the past, much basic research on satellite
52NRO Commission Report, p. 71.
53Catherine MacRae, “Updated Commercial Imagery Strategy Cites a Need to Back Industry,”
Defense Information and Electronics Report, July 27, 2001, p. 12.
54Beth Larson and Kirk McConnell, “Commercial Stumbles: Sat. Imagery Still Needs Federal
Crutch,” Defense News, July 23-29, 2001, p. 13.
55“Clear Vision for NIMA,” Military Information Technology, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2002).
56Larson and McConnell, p. 13.
technology did not necessarily have immediate practical applications, but it
contributed enormously to the overall capabilities of the U.S. satellite programs. This
research was expensive, but most observers believe that the payoff easily justified the
investment. As satellite programs moved out of their earlier highly secret
environment, they became more susceptible to the pressures and constraints of
ordinary budgeting processes. Some argue that there is a danger that the U.S. will
lose its technological edge with the potential to allow other countries to make
technological leaps and to reduce the technological spinoff into the civilian space
Both the NRO and NIMA Commissions addressed the question of managing
innovation in satellite reconnaissance programs. As discussed in further detail in
Appendix A, the NRO Commission, in particular, noted that in earlier decades the
NRO, operating in almost total secrecy, was able to accomplish important
technological triumphs in designing and fielding the world’s first and most successful
satellite reconnaissance program. In large measure these accomplishments have been
attributed to the fact a relatively small group of scientists and engineers were
permitted to work in secrecy without micro-management and “excessive” oversight
from the Defense Department’s layers of acquisitions offices. In more recent years,
however, the NRO has had a higher public visibility and has adhered more closely to
routine acquisitions regulations. In earlier years, NRO engineers reportedly were
given greater latitude in designing systems to take advantage of newly available
technologies and other intelligence agencies were able to take advantage of the
NRO’s innovations once they were in place. More recently, NRO satellites have been
designed to fulfill the specified requirements of other agencies and there has been a
tendency to downplay innovation for innovation’s sake.
Some observers suggest that the shift away from attempting to take full
advantage of cutting-edge technologies has begun to jeopardize the NRO’s roles and
missions. Electing less technically sophisticated approaches, they argue, will require
an approach different from that currently followed. Specifically, the NRO
Commission recommended that with the NRO a separate mini-organization be
established to develop and acquire cutting edge technologies:
The Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence should establish
a new Office of Space Reconnaissance under the direction of the Director of the
NRO. The Office should have special acquisition authorities, be staffed by
experienced military and CIA personnel, have a budget separate from other
agencies and activities within the National Foreign Intelligence Program, be
protected by a special security compartment, and operate under the personal
direction of the President, Secretary of Defense and Director of Central
Intelligence . 57
As discussed in Appendix B, a major problem for NIMA has been inadequate
numbers of personnel with highly sophisticated skills to deal with the technical
challenges involved in creating the geospatial grid. The NIMA Commission
recommended the creation of an Extraordinary Program Office (EPO)
57NRO Commission Report, p. 78.
armed with special authorities of the Director of Central Intelligence and the
Secretary of Defense, augmented by Congress, and staffed beyond ceiling and
above “cap” through an heroic partnership between industry, NIMA, and the
NRO. The EPO, to be constituted within NIMA from the best national talent,
shall be charged with and resourced for all preacquisition, systems engineering,
and acquisition of imagery TPED–from end to end, from “national” to “tactical”.
The first milestone shall be completion of a comprehensive, understandable,
modern-day “architecture” for imagery TPED. Other provisions of law
notwithstanding, the Congress shall empower the Director of the EPO to
commingle any and all funds duly authorized and appropriated for the purpose of
the “TPED enterprise,” as defined jointly by the Secretary of Defense and the
Director of Central Intelligence.58
Such entities would be able to employ scientists and engineers without being bound
by civil service pay scales and procure equipment unfettered by the usual government
acquisitions regulations. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld indicated in his May 8, 2001
press conference that he had requested a study of how an Office of Space
Reconnaissance might be established within the NRO, but no details of his immediate
intentions have been made public.
There are pros and cons to attempts to provide such exceptional authorities in
government agencies. There is no question that seeking out the most creative
personnel can be facilitated by avoiding rules and regulations that apply across the
length and breadth of the federal government and were not designed for the purpose
of engaging a relatively small, technological elite of systems engineers and systems
acquisitions people at a time of high demand within the civilian sector. Nor were the
promotion regulations and merit system protections designed with the culture of
computer engineering in mind. Arguments can be made that the NRO and NIMA
both need to be able to attract the most innovative thinkers at least for a period to
move both agencies into an intelligence world unlike that which has ever existed
before. Again, these moves cannot necessarily be made by strict application of the
procurement regulations as they currently exist. There is arguably a much greater
need to accept risks inherent in innovation in the area of space-based intelligence in
order not to jeopardize the possibility of revolutionary gains.
On the other hand, there are significant and substantial risks involved in setting
up specially compartmented research and development efforts with unique personnel
and procurement authorities. Most obviously, there is a risk of failure. There is also
a potential for excessive costs when usual regulations for competitive bids and
standardized salaries are not in place. There is a danger that interest in pushing the
technological envelope will result in equipment and software that, while conceptually
brilliant, is not optimized for operational use. Extraordinary entities do not
necessarily coordinate well with other government organizations. Instead of
authorizing exceptional authorities for small offices, some observers suggest that
Congress could provide more comprehensive authorities for the entire organizations
based on a consensus surrounding the nature of the tasks required.
58NIMA Commission Report, p. 90.
Another challenge is the different perspectives of the Director of Central
Intelligence and the Defense Department. The DCI has broad statutory authority over
all national intelligence activities, but DOD has control over much of the resource
base of both the NRO and NIMA. There is a possibility that either the various
agencies will go their own ways with minimal coordination or that there will constant
struggles over resources and responsibilities. In the case of space-based imagery and
sigint collection, there have been periods of inter-agency conflict in the past, but in
more recent years some observers have noted a tendency for DOD concerns to
dominate a process that was supposed to serve national as well as defense needs.
There are also concerns that effective inter-agency coordination has not been achieved
among the NRO, NIMA, and NSA.
Both the NRO Commission and the Space Commission urged greater direct
personal involvement of high-level officials, especially the President, the Secretary of
Defense, and the DCI in coordinating the space programs, including those of the
NRO. This recommendation undoubtedly reflects the difficulties involved in
coordinating the information requirements of military commanders and those of
national-level policymakers. Competition between military and national consumers
for intelligence resources has existed for decades and can be expected to continue.59
The solution would be effective coordinative mechanisms to establish priorities and
involvement and acceptance of responsibility by senior officials. Observers note,
however, that it may be unrealistic to expect the degree of presidential involvement
in such issues that existed during Cold War administrations. In discussing DOD’s
initiatives on space operations, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld indicated on May 8,
2001 that he and the DCI meet regularly and have established an executive committee
that they both co-chair to review intelligence issues of joint concern.
Proposals to place the NRO and NIMA (along with NSA) under the direct
control of the DCI would, according to proponents, enable tighter control of their
activities and avoid counterproductive rivalries. Skeptics argue, however, that such
a shift would impede the close links that must exist between these combat support
agencies and DOD’s operating forces.
The Space Commission also recommended the establishment within the Defense
Department of an Under Secretary of Defense for Space, Intelligence and
Information. This position would serve as the principal advocate for space within
DOD and would incorporate the responsibilities of the current Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I). The
Commission’s apparent goal would be to provide greater visibility to space-related
issues, including both policy and satellite acquisition issues, within the Pentagon. This
recommendation was not accepted by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in announcing
DOD’s responses to the recommendations. Rather, he indicated that the
responsibilities of the current Assistant Secretary for C3I would be reviewed.
59It has been suggested that U.S. surprise at the Indian nuclear test in May 1998 resulted from
the diversion of satellite resources to monitoring the Persian Gulf area in support of U.S.
forces stationed there. See CRS Report 98-672F, U.S. Intelligence and India’s Nuclear
Tests: Lessons Learned, August 11, 1998, by Richard A. Best, Jr..
The Space Commission stated that the DCI’s Community Management Staff
(CMS) is not well structured to coordinate with OSD on broad intelligence policy,
long-term space strategy and other issues requiring intelligence support. In particular,
the Space Commission noted that the DCI does not have authority to reprogram in-
year money within components, an authority that would enhance its direction of
Intelligence Community affairs. Rumsfeld did not comment on this recommendation
that has faced opposition not only in DOD but also within congressional armed
The Space Committee also took note and made recommendations relating to
congressional oversight, arguing that:
Congressional oversight of the authorization and appropriation of national security
space funding routinely involves no fewer than six committees.
Generally, each committee mirrors the priorities of the executive branch interests
it oversees. The intelligence committees focus on issues concerning “sources and
methods” and on the ability of the Intelligence Community to provide intelligence
to the National Command Authorities. The Armed Services committees contend
with competing space requirements of the three Services, the military intelligence
agencies and the CINCs, and tend to see national intelligence primarily as support
for combat forces. The appropriations committees’ subcommittees on defense
oversee all defense and intelligence space programs and are one place where
national security space programs are viewed together. However, they focus
primarily on budgets.
Executive branch officials must expend considerable time and energy interacting
with a large number of committees and subcommittees that, on some matters, have
overlapping jurisdiction. To the extent that this process can be streamlined, it
would likely benefit the nation, Congress and the executive branch. It would also
help if there were an environment in which national security space matters could
be addressed as an integrated program–on that includes consideration for
commercial and civil capabilities that are often overlooked today.60
Related to managerial difficulties is the challenge of taking advantage of the
dynamic changes in computer and communications technologies. Observers note the
difficulties involved in employing persons possessing acquisitions and systems
engineering technical skills. It has been argued that strong competition from private
industry and limits on government pay and allowances affect the ability of intelligence
agencies to employ persons with the sophisticated skills required for the next
generation of satellites and associated TPED. There are various approaches currently
under consideration to make use of expertise in the private sector through contracts
and consultancies, but it has been indicated that the problem will require high-level61
60Space Commission Report, pp. 60-62.
61See, for instance, Catherine MacRae, “NIMA Wants to Rope In Young Minds with
Undergraduate Training Plan,” Defense Information and Electronics Report, July 27, 2001,
Congress is expected to consider imagery intelligence programs in the context
of efforts to transform the entire defense structure. The parameters of the
transformation effort remain as yet unknown, but almost all observers believe that the
effort to obtain “dominant battlefield awareness” and growing reliance on precision
guided munitions will characterize the transformation effort regardless of the other
initiatives and defense budget levels. Success in any transformation effort will depend
on the availability of detailed imagery within required times, ensuring that imagery
products incorporate accurate data from all intelligence disciplines, and that budgets
for the NRO and NIMA can be adequately funded.
Imagery intelligence has been around for several decades, but its importance has
been growing significantly in recent years. The challenge is to design organizations
to obtain, analyze, and disseminate the result of new technologies to support an
evolving defense and national security structure while remaining within budgetary
constraints. The mixture of cutting-edge technologies, complex organizational
structures, and budgetary limitations complicate decision-making. Nevertheless, the
accomplishments of the Intelligence Community in imagery intelligence represent one
of its greatest successes. Maintaining a capability to conduct military operations
without inflicting vast civilian damage provides its underlying justification.
Appendix A. National Reconnaissance Organization
Pursuant to the National Security Act62 the Defense Department is responsible
for developing, acquiring, and operating satellites and processing raw data that are
provided to other intelligence agencies for analysis and dissemination to government
consumers. The NRO was established in 1961 but its existence has been
acknowledged publicly only since 1992. It was created within DOD, but has always
had a reporting responsibility to the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). The
contours of DOD-DCI responsibilities for NRO operations have varied over time, but
currently both the DCI and DOD retain important roles. The NRO remains part of
DOD, but the concurrence of the DCI is required in the appointment of the head of
the NRO.63 The DCI develops and approves the annual National Foreign Intelligence
Program (NFIP) budget that includes funding for the NRO. Although the DCI also
has statutory authority to approve reprogramming of NFIP funds, he does not have
authority to be involved in the execution of the NRO budget after funds are
The NRO developed highly innovative technology and displayed a willingness
to take risks and endure multiple failures before successful launches were
accomplished. Initially, satellite photography was parachuted back to Earth in
canisters that had to be netted in mid-air; processing and analysis could take days or
weeks. In the 1970s, in a major technological breakthrough, the NRO developed
electro-optical capabilities that allowed real-time electronic transmission of imagery
to ground stations from whence it could be relayed to authorized consumers. In more
recent years capabilities have been created to permit satellite data to be transmitted
directly to “shooters”–ships, attack aircraft, and other military units.
The significant progress that the NRO achieved resulted from a number of
factors. The effort was conducted in tight secrecy by a relatively small group of
highly qualified scientists and engineers. It had strong backing from the White House
and adequate funding by Congress with limited oversight. The emphasis was on
innovative technological approaches rather than meeting carefully specified and
coordinated requirements. Funds were available for cutting-edge technologies
without immediate practical applications. Overriding all else was a pervasive, and
unquestioned, determination to identify threats, especially from the Soviet Union, that
could destroy the United States or its allies.
In the mid-1990s, the NRO began work on the Future Imagery Architecture,
which will be based on a larger number of smaller satellites that can provide more
frequent coverage than is currently possible. Unlike their larger predecessors,
however, these satellites are not designed to push the envelope of satellite
technologies, but rather to meet stated needs of potential customers. Observers also
6250 USC 403-5(b)(3).
63Although recommendations can be sent to the President without the DCI’s concurrence, the
absence of concurrence must be noted.
note that the sheer quantity of imagery collected and requiring exploitation and
analysis will grow exponentially once FIA satellites are operational.
According to media accounts, the NRO received $1.5 billion in a FY1998
supplemental appropriation (P.L. 105-277).64 With the project expected to involve
up to $25 billion over twenty years, a contract to develop, launch, and operate the
FIA satellites was awarded to the Boeing Company in September 1999 with initial65
launches expected around 2005. In the FY2000 Intelligence Authorization Act (P.L.
106-120), however, Congress placed caps on the FIA program as a result of concerns
that its cost could draw funds from other intelligence programs and that the costs of
analyzing and disseminating the acquired data had not been included in DOD’s budget66
The NRO is not an analytical organization, but it has to undertake a certain
amount of data processing prior to delivering its products to other agencies.
According to the NRO Commission it has also “rendered extremely valuable non-
space-related services over the years by providing terrestrial communications systems,
visualization tools, imagery exploitation systems, and technical problem-solving skills
to U.S. combatant commands and military departments when no other entity was67
willing, capable, or agile enough to do so.” The NRO Commission implies that
there may be an element of duplication of effort with other agencies (the National
Security Agency, NIMA, and the office responsible for measurement and signatures
analysis (masint)) and urges that there needs to be careful delineation of the
responsibilities of different agencies for tasking, processing, exploitation, and
The NRO Commission praised the overall record of the NRO, but took note of
a number of managerial problems that it felt need to be addressed. It argued that the
management of the NRO requires greater personal attention by the President, the
Secretary of Defense, and the DCI, but did not recommend a legislative solution. The
No matter what form the Secretary of Defense-DCI relationship regarding
the NRO should take, it is not self-executing and requires that active participation
of both in order to best effect the basic mission of the NRO. This basic point was69
made again and again to the Commission by past and present senior officials.
The Commission also noted that:
64See Walter Pincus, “Much of Intelligence Funding Will Go to Satellites,” Washington Post,
October 23, 1998, p. A16.
65See Peter Pae, “Massive Spy-Satellite Program to Cost Billions,” Los Angeles Times, March
66Remarks of Rep. Jerry Lewis, Congressional Record, November 9, 1999, p. H11758.
67NRO Commission Report, p. 27.
68Ibid, p 31.
69Ibid, p. 113.
Because it responds to both the Secretary of Defense and the DCI, the NRO
frequently is caught between the competing requirements of the both DOD and
non-DOD customers, all of whom expect to be satisfied by NRO systems. With
its systems over-taxed and unable to answer all demands, yet attempting to be ‘all70
things to all agencies,’ the NRO often bears the brunt of criticism from all sides.
The Commission recommended that attention be given to achieving the proper
balance between strategic and tactical requirements for NRO systems, present and
future. It noted also that funding limitations of recent years, in conjunction with
expanded support for military operations, have limited NRO’s ability to satisfy71
strategic, longer-term intelligence needs. Congress in the report accompanying the
FY2001 Defense Authorization Act, took note of the fact that recent years have
witnessed the increase of NRO support to military commanders at the same time as
DOD has been less involved in budgeting of the NRO through the Defense Space
Reconnaissance Program (DSRP). The Conference Committee directed an
assessment by the Secretary of Defense to analyze whether funds and responsibilities
for NRO’s support of military operations and exercises should be consolidated and
whether the DSRP should be revitalized.72 The NRO Commission went further,
recommending that the DSRP be reestablished.
The NRO Commission noted that current innovation programs are designed to
meet existing requirements within established cost controls. The Commission,
however, suggested that this approach will not necessarily provide the type of
technological breakthroughs that the NRO achieved in the past and, accordingly,
recommended the establishment of a small office that “would focus narrowly on high
technology solutions to the most difficult intelligence problems based on the73
requirement to gain frequent, assured, global access to denied areas.” The
Commission envisions the office operating separately from the rest of the NRO with
a small, highly skilled staff, and with considerable budgetary independence and high-
level direction by the President, Secretary of Defense, and the DCI.
The NRO Commission noted the importance of coordination of space-based
collection with that obtained by airborne platforms, manned aircraft and unmanned
airborne vehicles (UAVs). Satellites of course do not put pilots at risk and, in
general, are much less at risk to hostile attack than airborne platforms (especially from
Third World states or terrorist groups). Airborne platforms can nevertheless supply
immediate, long-term, multi-INT coverage of a limited area of interest. The
Commission and other observers consider that there has been inadequate coordination
of space and airborne programs especially since the space programs are “national” and
much of the airborne effort is service-specific. The NRO Commission argued that the
NRO should supply system engineering capabilities to the airborne programs and
promote common technologies.
70Ibid., p. 12.
71Ibid, p. 51.
72H. Rept. 106-945, p. 712.
73Ibid, p. 40.
At the same time, the Commission indicated its concern about the NRO’s
mission to support national policymakers and recommended that the DCI should have
greater latitude in transferring funds “to respond most effectively to the specific types
of issues that arise in NRO programs.” Giving the DCI authority over the execution
of the budgets of DOD agencies has long been controversial and this recommendation
has not been endorsed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.
The NRO Commission noted that the NRO is currently developing new satellites
that will be launched by new launch vehicles and that significant technical and
administrative risks are involved. “Today, the fragility of the satellite and launch
architectures offers no margins for error.”74 The Commission noted that the in the
1980s, the Challenger disaster and the suspension of space shuttle flights required the
reconfiguration of NRO satellites for other launch vehicles. “This cost billions of
dollars and placed U.S. national security at risk during the period when replacement
satellites could not have been launched if circumstances had so required.”75
The Commission also addressed NRO’s personnel policies, taking exception to
what is viewed as overly rapid turnover among military personnel assigned to the
space reconnaissance effort:
The Commission believes there is a compelling need for a separate NRO
career path and assignment policy that provides an opportunity for selected highly
trained engineers, acquisition professionals and operations specialists to be
assigned to the NRO on a long-term basis and progress through a broad range of
NRO positions. The technical complexity of NRO systems is unique, and it
requires the continuity of a dedicated cadre.76
Most observers would concur with the conclusion that the management of the
NRO and its relationships with other intelligence agencies could be usefully improved
by greater attention from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the DCI and
that better coordination needs to be established between the NRO and other
intelligence agencies and a better balance achieved between the strategic and tactical
requirements levied on the NRO.
Whereas improvements in coordination could readily be implemented by the
executive branch, the Commission also considered, but did not recommend, the
enactment of legislation to provide additional statutory authorities to the NRO,
although some observers believe that legislation could enhance the NRO’s legal
charter more effectively than an informal working relationship among one set of
incumbents that might not outlast the initiating Administration.
The Commission’s recommendations reflect the continuing important role of the
NRO in the Intelligence Community and the extensive budgetary resources that such
a role entails. In stressing issues of coordination, the Commission acknowledged that
the Nation’s intelligence effort no longer consists of stand-alone agencies each
74NRO Commission Report, p. 64.
75Ibid, p. 66.
76Ibid, p. 16.
performing specific functions or serving different consumers. Many agencies and
military commands depend on data derived from space reconnaissance; providing the
funding and tasking priorities to the NRO is a challenging problem.
The Space Commission also took note of the NRO’s current tendency to eschew
major emphasis on technological innovation and concentrate instead on managing
“legacy” systems in order to meet established requirements and avoid disruption of
service to consumers. The Space Commission concluded:
...the U.S. Government–in particular, the Department of Defense and the
Intelligence Community–is not yet arranged or focused to meet the nationalst
security needs of the 21 century. Our growing dependence on space, our
vulnerabilities in space and the burgeoning opportunities from space are simply not
reflected in the present institutional arrangements. After examining a variety of
organizational approaches, the Commission concluded that a number of disparate
space activities should promptly be merged, chains of command adjusted, lines of
communication opened and policies modified to achieve greater responsibility and
accountability. Only then can the necessary trade-offs be made, the appropriate
priorities be established and the opportunities for improving U.S. military and
intelligence capabilities be realized. Only with senior-level leadership, when
properly managed and with the right priorities, will U.S. space programs both77
deserve and attract the funding that is required.
77Space Commission Report, p. 99.
Appendix B. The National Imagery and Mapping
The NRO’s primary customer is the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.
Currently estimated to have some 7,600 employees, NIMA was established in October
1996, combining elements of the CIA’s National Photographic Interpretation Center
(NPIC), the Central Imagery Office, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the
Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), and other offices in the Defense Department.
Much of the impetus for the creation of NIMA was unsatisfactory experience
during the Persian Gulf War when maps, charts, and geospatial data proved hard to
acquire and difficult to disseminate to military commanders with pressing needs for
precise locating data. In congressional testimony, one Marine general recalled his
experience in Desert Storm in locating imagery needed for breaching Iraqi defenses.
DOD had forwarded 1 ½ million imagery products to the theater, but there was no
index. As a result,
Our solution as surprising as it might seem was to take one officer from each
of the divisions in their desert camouflage utilities, put them on a commercial
aircraft, fly them back here to Washington, DC, have them go to DIA, CIA, and
... six [other] agencies..., try to find photos, wrap them up, get back on commercial
aircraft, and fly back to Saudi Arabia and distribute them. Our ground78
commanders got those photos 2 nights before the ground war began.
The difficulty illustrates the crucial importance of dissemination; precise imagery is
useless if it does not reach the decisionmaker when it is needed.
NIMA was established in the FY1997 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-201)
despite reservations among some Members that the designation as a combat support
agency would limit its ability to support non-DOD policymakers.79 The Conference
Report that accompanied that Act stated that, “NIMA must be under the clear
authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense. But the charter also
provides for a clear and prominent role for the DCI to task imagery systems and
exploit imagery products in support of the national mission.”80 Current law provides
that the DCI “shall establish requirements and priorities governing the collection of
national intelligence by NIMA ....”81
78Testimony of Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, USMC, in U.S. Congress, 104th Congress, 2d
session, House of Representatives, Committee on National Security, H.R. 3237–the
Intelligence Community Act, Hearings [H.N.S.C. No. 104-9], July 11, 1996, p. 60.
79See remarks of Senator Kerrey, Congressional Record, June 26, 1996, pp. 15476-15477;
also, U.S. Congress, 104th Congress, 2d session, Senate, Committee on Armed Services, To
Authorize Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1997 for Intelligence and Intelligence-Related
Activities of the United States Government, S.Rept. 104-277, June 6, 1996, pp. 5-6.
80U.S. Congress, 104th Congress, 2d session, Committee of Conference, National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997, July 30, 1996, H.Rept. 104-724, p. 803.
8150 USC 404e(b).
Much of the attention of NIMA’s leadership in the five years of its existence has
been expended on the need to create a single new agency out of the offices formerly
associated with other agencies. The unique and disparate cultures of imagery analysts
and cartographers have been difficult to combine. The fact that the Defense Mapping
Agency was never part of the Intelligence Community presented other administrative
and cultural challenges.
Observers credit NIMA with significant progress. Maps and other forms of
geospatial data are made available in a wide variety of formats to consumers
throughout the government. The NIMA Commission concluded that “while NIMA’s
transformation is still incomplete, and progress against some of the goals mixed, the82
Commission observes progress in virtually every area.” NIMA has acquired a global
terrain elevation set that provided a foundation display of the Earth’s terrain heights
within some 30 meters. Although greater accuracy is required for targeting Precision
Guided Munitions (PGMs), this database reportedly will ensure a much more accurate83
geographic dataset than previously available.
Much of NIMA’s current efforts are directed at making maps available to the
rest of the Defense Department and other agencies (according to one report NIMA84
produced 29 million maps for thousands of users in 1999 alone ), but a major
emphasis is the creation of the “geospatial grid.” As currently envisioned, the grid
would include a vast database of information collected from all parts of the
Intelligence Community and from open sources. The data would be organized around
geographic datapoints and would provide a common operating picture to the user,
hopefully reconciling information from a variety of sources and reducing the
possibility of mistaken attacks on embassies and other unintended targets. Thus, a
consumer would be able to view a particular geographic location on a computerized
map, note terrain characteristics and manmade features, and then have access to a
database with current intelligence regarding further information such as activities
within a factory or office, ethnic compositions of specific areas, etc.85
Even if administrative and technological barriers can be successfully overcome
by NIMA, there will still be limitations to the information available through geospatial
82NIMA Commission Report, p. 6.
83Craig Covault, “NIMA Infotech Retools U.S. Space Recon Ops,” Aviation Week & Space
Technology, August 7, 2000, p. 63.
85NIMA uses the term geospatial information which is defined as “information that identifies
the geographic location and characteristics of natural and constructed features and boundaries
on the Earth, including: statistical data; information derived from, among other things, remote
sensing, mapping, and surveying technologies; and mapping, charting and geodetic data,
including ‘geodetic products.’ Thus, ‘geospatial information’ is information about any
object–natural or man-made–that can be referenced to a specific location on the Earth.” Lt.
Gen. James C. King, Director, NIMA, Address to the American Society for Photogrammetry
and Remote Sensing, [http://www.asprs.org], August, 23, 2000. King subsequently described
“a digitized and extremely accurate map of the actual environment–including man-made
structures–that represents ‘ground truth.’” “King: ‘Geospatial Reference Data’ Crucial for
Info Superiority,” Defense Information and Electronics Report, November 2, 2001.
reference points. First, there will always be classification limitations. If, for instance,
there is one human source who can identify a factory producing weapons of mass
destruction within an especially brutal dictatorship, placing that information in a
database accessible to many people could be overly risky and there would need to be
some way either to compartment that piece of information so only some users can
access it with a special codeword or handle it in separate channels. Secondly, some
observers believe that a geospatial basis may be more useful for intelligence of
concern to military commanders than to civilian policymakers. There may be no
advantages and even significant disadvantages to tying certain types of information
to a geospatial grid. Political, social, or religious movements that may be of great
concern to policymakers may not be tied to a single geographic point. For example,
Russian decisionmaking may be of enormous interest, but tying it to an office building
in the Kremlin would not be especially informative.
Most observers believe that there will be a continuing need for paper maps even
as NIMA works on a computer-based grid. Media reports indicate that NIMA plans
envision eventually phasing out the production of paper maps. Some observers,
however, maintain that paper maps will continue to be required in many situations,
including special operations. They believe that NIMA will have to ensure that paper86
maps remain available even if they are produced commercially.
For the NIMA Commission, the goal is to provide TPED through an integrated
data architecture, not a collection of systems, products, or processes. Seeking the
“mother of all databases,” the Commission conceived of all information with some
form of georeference and widely and easily shared among users to include mapping
and imagery in a seamless packaged whole. Third parties would be able to add
additional information in a process that would be termed “annotation.” “The database
should be structured to be independent of client or application, fully distributed, and
capable of accepting successive value-additions and user annotations.”87 The
Commission sees NIMA as the appropriate agency to achieve multi-INT integration
and thus break down the intelligence stovepipe.
Collection systems, once in place, can produce mountains of data at regular
intervals and much undoubtedly goes unanalyzed. There may be quantities of data left
“on the cutting room floor” (in actuality, the data would be stored in a retrievable
form) and, arguably, a failure to provide decisionmakers with all information that has
already been collected. On the other hand, government officials are not always equally
interested in every corner of the world and in some cases data collected can be stored
for future reference should interests change. While it may not be expedient constantly
to analyze certain targets, it is important to retain coverage in files.
The NIMA Commission also made a number of specific recommendations that
would in some cases require congressional authorization.
86See Frank Tiboni, “NIMA Takes Monumental Step Toward Digital Maps,” Defense News,
May 21, 2001, p. 18.
87NIMA Commission Report, p. 103.
!The establishment of an “Extraordinary Program Office” (EPO) to acquire
state-of-the-art TPED and related communications. The Commission
concluded that NIMA lacks the necessary expertise, that it is not readily
available in other agencies, and that it is needed to accomplish the necessary
goals within the next five years. The proposal would provide for non-
government experts to be hired without the constraints of federal hiring
restrictions or salary levels. The EPO would possess the special acquisition
authorities of the DCI. The emphasis would be on maximal use of commercial
off the shelf products while avoiding proprietary systems that face more rapid
!The nominal tour length of the Director of NIMA should be five years. One
of the ongoing challenges facing NIMA is the establishment of a common
culture for employees with backgrounds in several different agencies and
greater longevity for senior leadership is needed.88
!NIMA should be authorized additional Senior Executive Service (SES) and
Senior Intelligence Service (SIS) positions in order to promote and retain the
caliber of personnel required to undertake the necessary transformation.
! NIMA is “severely under resourced given the expanding mission and the need
!Augmentation of NIMA’s research and development budget.
!NIMA should develop a new strategy to integrate commercial imagery with
information from intelligence sources on an urgent basis.
!OSD should establish a commercial imagery fund through which Defense
elements can charge purchases of commercial imagery.
A larger question is whether the FIA satellite program is justified given the
availability of commercial imagery. According to media accounts, NIMA has taken
a number of reforms to deal with concerns identified by the Commission. Efforts have
been made to seek advice from industry experts, to get a clearer view of foreseeable89
technologies, and to improve acquisition and delivery efforts. It is impossible to
make conclusive judgments on this issue without reference to classified materials, but
congressional committees are reviewing the program.
NIMA’s mission is to provide a global database to provide current, basic
geographic products to its customers. Many observers question whether NIMA is
capable of taking charge of maintaining multi-int database at this point. Building a
new single agency out of several components must overcome differences based on
previous organizational ties and separate bureaucratic cultures. As this is being
accomplished, NIMA must also establish a reputation for accuracy, completeness, and
88On August 8, 2001, DCI Tenet and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld announced the
appointment of retired Lt. General James R. Clapper, Jr. as NIMA’s next Director. Clapper
had previously served as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1991 to 1995.
89Catherine MacRae, “Imagery and Mapping Agency Reports Steady Progress at Reforms,”
Defense Information and Electronics Report, July 27, 2001, pp. 13-14.
responsiveness that extends throughout the national security community. Achieving
such a reputation will require not only effective leadership, but also the development
and acquisition of an innovative and highly complex technical infrastructure.