Report endorses NIMA outsourcing

A new independent report endorses outsourcing efforts at the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and recommends that NIMA take greater advantage of commercial technologies and incorporate an e-business model.

The report also said NIMA should create an "Extraordinary Program Office" to ensure that the purchase of systems dealing with processing, exploiting and disseminating intelligence be done promptly and efficiently.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) requested the report, "The Information Edge: Imagery Intelligence and Geospatial Information in an Evolving National Security Environment." It was released Jan. 8 by The Rand Corp., a think tank.

The study was called for in the fiscal 2000 Defense Appropriations Act. The nine-member panel was charged with reviewing the adequacy of NIMA and its systems to meet U.S. national security needs for the next decade and beyond.

The report was largely positive but noted that the intelligence community continues to rely on collecting rather than exploiting intelligence. That's especially true, the panel said, in the community's heavy emphasis on the National Reconnaissance Office's Future Imagery Architecture that lacks equal emphasis on tasking, processing, exploiting and disseminating collected imagery and geospatial products.

Other commission findings:

  • NIMA's director needs an advisory group to help sort out system development issues.
  • The director must take the lead in converging intelligence from multiple sources, such as signal intelligence and image intelligence.
  • NIMA needs to be smaller, more elite and mission-driven.
  • The tenure for NIMA's director should be at least five years.
  • The agency must have ongoing initiatives to hire adequate numbers of system engineering and acquisition personnel.
  • NIMA must turn around the documented decline in experience and expertise in its imagery analyst corps.
  • Senior-level positions at NIMA should be commensurate with its sister agencies.

NIMA provides digital maps and imagery support to the U.S. military and intelligence community. It was created in 1996 by merging the Defense Mapping Agency, the Central Imagery Office, the National Photographic Interpretation Center and imagery support offices within the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office.

Merging the offices and agencies meant NIMA had to incorporate different cultures and missions, and observers say the agency has struggled to keep pace with the rapidly evolving national security environment and U.S. doctrine.

The full text of the report is available at http://www.nimacommission.com/

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