NIMA launches $600 million digital mapping project

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) last month kicked off the development of a $600 million eight-year effort to build a digital mapping infrastructure that will provide mapping capabilities to not only the Defense Department but also to civilian agencies.

NIMA formerly the Defense Mapping Agency met with about 200 vendors and geospatial processing experts to introduce the concept and process of its Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) project which will be the foundation of the Defense Information Infrastructure to support the battlefield commander with real-time digital maps and provide mapping capabilities to support national security agencies such as the State Department and other agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

NIMA is in the early stages of developing a working GII prototype which is planned for completion in October 1997. Earlier this year NIMA formed the Geospatial Information Integrated Product Team (GIIPT) to head that development effort which consists of four functional areas: information production information management and dissemination information applications and architecture.

The meeting last month began the information production functional phase which will test components that will make up the actual system to produce the maps. This phase is the most complicated and costly because it will require vendors to develop a system that will work with disparate systems and databases.

At the meeting GIIPT officials offered a basic framework and requirements for the information production system which included defining the system how fast it needed to work the environment in which it will work and the kinds of information it will be required to produce said Irvin Buck chairman of GIIPT.

"Basically we gave an overall forecast of what [the system] will look like " Buck said.

GIIPT vendors and academics will meet next week to refine the requirements. Vendors then will spend the next month matching components to the requirements and will have until mid-January to comment on those solutions. GIIPT will ask industry to form teams to develop integrated solutions by March 1.

The vendors who will participate in the development of the prototype are the leading manufacturers of geospatial processing systems including Sun Microsystems Inc. Oracle Corp. and Intergraph Corp.The whole process will begin again so that any new requirements or technologies can be added. "Our intention is not to have a one-shot deal but to have an iterative spiral that continually keeps the process open to additional technologies and requirements " said Susan Kalweit head of commercial technology opportunities for GIIPT.

This public/private team approach to the procurement process is new to NIMA and vendors view the process as a great improvement from past procurements.

"This is almost a new paradigm " said Tod Hathaway national sales manager for Sun Microsystems Federal Inc. "This is a chance to influence the architecture prior to it being solidified in a document.... The review of requirements not only gives us an idea of what NIMA wants out of the system but gives us a chance to integrate our own technologies that NIMA is not aware of.

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