Geospatial center to oversee standards

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency recently announced that it is establishing the National Center for Geospatial Intelligence Standards. The NCGIS will address standards related to technologies, data architecture and software used by the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities.

The new center will oversee NIMA's evolution toward an enterprisewide standards management policy for the National System for Geospatial Intelligence, said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, NIMA's director.

Teri Dempsey, NIMA's chief geospatial intelligence standards officer, will lead the NCGIS. The center will help ensure a standards-based approach, which is needed for interoperability on many levels, including:

* Among traditional military service and command users of geospatial intelligence.

* For the operational plans that include international coalition partners, as well as the agency's domestic counterparts.

* Across the geospatial intelligence enterprise that includes imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information produced by NIMA, as well as in collaboration with other nations and the private sector.

* Throughout the numerous components of tools, equipment, training and people that form the national system.

As NIMA moves from a product-centric focus to being an information provider, the standards center will help provide the flexibility and fiscal oversight necessary to ensure that its customers' geospatial intelligence needs are met without a duplication of efforts from government and commercial entities, Dempsey said.

"The goal is increased data interoperability and a lot of that is behind-the-scenes, modeling different types of data," she said during a Sept. 30 interview with Federal Computer Week. As the chief geospatial intelligence officer, Dempsey serves as the single point of contact for all standards activities within NIMA, the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Dempsey said the new center should be up and running by early next year, and will immediately focus on three top priorities:

* Establising how to do Extensible Markup Language tagging on priority data so that when commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) packages are ready, NIMA can use them.

* Creating a Geographic Markup Language to include not only the catalog-type data that XML can tag, but the actual content as well.

* Reviewing and consolidating NIMA's numerous vector product formats, and deciding which, if any, should continue to be used, or if COTS packages are a better choice.

Dempsey said a draft memorandum is under review and briefings are scheduled for mid-October with senior management officials in participating agencies and companies to garner their input prior to the center's launch.

An integrated product team, composed of NIMA's internal and external customers, will then be launched and run through early spring to further refine customer input into how the center should operate, she said.

The new center will have its headquarters in Sterling, Va., for about three years and then be moved based on NIMA's overall reorganization. It will add a staff of about four permanent government employees to the agency's existing 20 standards development personnel and also be augmented by five to 10 contractor employees, Dempsey said, adding that the center's funding will be part of the overall "multimillion-dollar" standards budget.

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