NIMA center to set geospatial standards

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency is establishing a center to address standards and interoperability issues related to technologies, data architecture and software used by the private sector and the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities.

The National Center for Geospatial Intelligence Standards (NCGIS) 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 NCGIS. The center will help ensure a standards-based approach — essential for interoperability. Center officials hope to boost interoperability:

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

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

* Across the geospatial intelligence enterprise, which 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.

NIMA is moving away from developing products and instead will focus on providing information, Dempsey said. Therefore, setting geospatial standards becomes essential. The standards center will help provide the flexibility and fiscal oversight necessary to ensure that its customers' geospatial intelligence needs are met without duplicating 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 is the single point of contact for all standards activities within NIMA, the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Mark Reichardt, executive director for outreach and community adoption at the Open GIS Consortium Inc. (OGC), said that NIMA has been an OGC member for years and is heavily involved in creating standards for interoperability with industry.

"This is the next step, focusing resources and priorities toward making sure they are working with the various standards organizations to reach their goals," Reichardt said.

Dempsey said the new center should be operational by early next year. A draft memorandum is under review and briefings are scheduled for mid-October with senior management officials in participating agencies and companies to gather their input before the center's launch.

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

John Pike, director of, which monitors space and military programs, said he was surprised that it has taken NIMA this long to establish the standards center.

"I would have thought that NIMA would have already implemented the organization needed to continue the standardization work begun by the Central Imagery Office," one of the agency's predecessors, Pike said.

"The problem is that the underlying technology continues to evolve, and so there is an ongoing need for the standards established by NIMA to evolve," he said. "With the impending transition to the Future Imagery Architecture...there would surely be a need for NIMA to get their ducks lined up, lest they be swamped by a torrent of pixels."

The center will be headquartered in Sterling, Va., for about three years. After that, the center's location will be determined as part of NIMA's overall reorganization.

NCGIS will add about four permanent government employees to the agency's existing 20 standards development personnel and also augment their staff with five to 10 contract employees, Dempsey said, adding that the center's funding will be part of the overall multimillion-dollar standards budget.


NCGIS goals

The National Center for Geospatial Intelligence Standards has three immediate priorities:

* Establishing how to assign Extensible Markup Language (XML) tags to critical data so the National Imagery and Mapping Agency can use commercial software when available.

* Creating a Geographic Markup Language to include the catalog-type data that XML can tag as well as content.

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


  • Workforce
    White House rainbow light shutterstock ID : 1130423963 By zhephotography

    White House rolls out DEIA strategy

    On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued agencies a roadmap to guide their efforts to develop strategic plans for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), as required under a as required under a June executive order.

  • Defense
    software (whiteMocca/

    Why DOD is so bad at buying software

    The Defense Department wants to acquire emerging technology faster and more efficiently. But will its latest attempts to streamline its processes be enough?

Stay Connected