Vendors compete for NIMA prototype

Vendors submitted proposals last week for a National Imagery and Mapping Agency prototype project that will let the agency evaluate rapidly maturing off-the-shelf technology for geographic information systems.

The project Geospatial Information Infrastructure (GII) 97 will likely see multiple awards made for equipping a test lab - known as the Geospatial Prototype Facility (GPF) - in which an array of GIS technologies will be integrated as a model for the agency's technology infrastructure.

NIMA's mission is to provide geographic data and images to planners of military missions the U.S. intelligence community and national policy-makers. Of key importance to the agency is getting information to its federal customers as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

NIMA's Geospatial Information Integrated Product Team (IPT) therefore is looking to the private sector. For GII 97 the agency will be especially interested in commercial off-the-shelf technology said Dave Scott business development manager for Intergraph Corp. which submitted a proposal for GII 97.

Some vendors view the GII 97 test as important for NIMA because it could lay the groundwork for NIMA's technology infrastructure and influence future procurement decisions for the young agency formed in October from the Defense Mapping Agency and other federal organizations.

"Whatever comes out of the GII 97 [NIMA] will take into the next century " said John Calkins technical marketing representative for Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. which also submitted a proposal to NIMA.

Scott said there has been no public indication from NIMA that future procurements will be based on which vendors' products perform best in GII 97.

Rather the project may be a prelude to heightened NIMA support for the goals of the Open GIS Consortium an organization seeking greater interoperability among applications for processing geospatial information. And interoperability will be key for the GPF because it will require a hodgepodge of systems and applications to work together.

"We want to be able to test in a controlled environment each portion of an end-to-end capability that the IPT is developing " said IPT leader Irv Buck upon the opening of the GPF last fall.

Industry sources said NIMA is expected to spend $3 million for GII 97 vendor services but will essentially borrow the equipment returning it to vendors in the fall.

If all goes as planned NIMA will be able to demonstrate the prototype geospatial information infrastructure during the Defense Department's Synthetic Theater of War exercises a series of war games this fall involving computer simulations.

But the spending stands to be greater than $3 million as NIMA gets a better handle on its infrastructure. The agency could spend as much as $250 million over five years according to ESRI's Calkins.

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