NIMA: We need more money
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Apr 27, 1998
Congressional budget cuts are hampering efforts to digitize data, officials of the
national Imagery and Mapping Agency officials said recently.
NIMA has been controversial since Congress created the agency in October 1996, and
Congress is apparently not convinced NIMA is necessary, the officials said.
NIMA, managed by the Defense Department, failed to get full funding for this fiscal
year. NIMA's budget is classified, but agency officials said Congress slashed about $100
million from its programs--most of which was cut from its operating budget.
"We're just limping along through 1998 to get to 1999," said W. Douglas
Smith, NIMA's deputy director for corporate affairs. "We deferred a lot of things
until next year and moved money around to share the cut across all activities."
"We cut contracts, facilities and travel to the bone," Smith said. "We
even had to cut personnel. There wasn't anything that escaped."
Despite the cuts, NIMA still plans to combine about 175 legacy systems from other
Defense and intelligence agencies into a single, integrated system called the U.S. Imagery
and Geospatial Information System.
USIGIS will provide imagery and geospatial software applications that run with
commercial applications in an open architecture. USIGIS will comply with the Joint
Technical Architecture, Defense Information Infrastructure's Common Operating Environment
and Shared Data Environment standards.
NIMA recently awarded a $333 million, five-year contract to Science Applications
International Corp. of San Diego for system integration and engineering services. SAIC
will consolidate the disparate systems, which help produce maps and other military imagery
Headquartered in Fairfax, Va., NIMA was formed by consolidating the Defense Mapping
Agency, Central Imagery Office, Defense Dissemination Program Office and CIA's National
Photographic Interpretation Center. It also is made up of imagery dissemination resources
drawn from the Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office and
National Reconnaissance Office.
The agency can create a symbiosis of imagery, intelligence and mapping, Smith said.
"We're moving from proprietary government systems, where we have huge investments
with millions of lines of code," he said, "to open systems based on commercial
The success or failure of NIMA depends on how well the agency improves the flow of
imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information to the Defense and intelligence
communities, Smith said. But budget cuts led NIMA to suspend some information technology
plans, including outsourcing its geospatial production.
"We would be outsourcing more this year if I could afford it," he said.
NIMA is working to get qualified commercial vendors to perform baseline geospatial
information production, a job that only government employees have performed in the past,
by using national, tactical and commercial sources.
When NIMA first sought commercial sources in October 1995, no vendors responded. After
NIMA encouraged team contracts, four vendor teams participated in a digital production
NIMA plans to award a follow-on production contract to another team through an omnibus
If the fiscal 1999 budget allows, NIMA will ask Congress for a big increase in money
for vendor support, NIMA officials said.
The agency submitted a budget of almost $83 million for next year for geospatial
information and services.
NIMA has had some success with outsourcing.
The agency outsourced the administration and maintenance of its IBM Corp. mainframe
operations inherited from the Defense Mapping Agency.
More than 100 employees in St. Louis and Washington also have been replaced with