NIMA sets mapmaking goal

NIMA sets mapmaking goal

Agency wants to cut processing time from weeks or months to 72 hours

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

As National Imagery and Mapping Agency officials implement the Defense Department's Joint Vision 2010 policy to compress map processing from weeks or months to 72 hours, they are deploying software more quickly and negotiating software site license agreements to save money.

Aided by an omnibus contract that lets NIMA award task orders to about 250 qualified prime contractors and subcontractors, "we're doing rapid technology insertion as it emerges" within two months after vendors develop products, said James J. Sippel, deputy director for exploitation systems.

The $600 million Omnibus Geospatial Information and Imagery Intelligence contract, a five-year program with 15 vendors, is the largest long-term outsourcing initiative pursued by NIMA, agency officials said.

NIMA's work force has dropped from 9,000 to 7,200 since 1996 and further cuts are planned, so agency officials have had to revise their usual map creation methods. The exploitation systems staff lost one-third of its employees two years ago.

"Ten years ago we used to say, 'What do we want to do?' and then build a program and see technology overtake us," said Mark Schultz, associate director of NIMA's Geospatial Information Management Division.

Keeping pace

Now "we're constantly changing" software and can be no more than two versions behind the current version, Sippel said. His organization is responsible for cradle-to-grave software maintenance, he said. NIMA is DOD's manager of imagery and geospatial data and plays a combat support role for the Defense and intelligence communities.

NIMA also holds a contract with of Sunnyvale, Calif., to buy software electronically. Agency officials also might use the department's Enterprise Software Initiative agreements, particularly if Microsoft Corp. signs a site license, Sippel said. NIMA has a division whose main task is negotiating the best prices for commercial software, he said.

"Right now, the ones we're wrestling with are software for which NIMA can afford to buy licenses for internal users but not for external users in DOD and the intelligence community," Sippel said. Funds are limited for that, he said, and in many cases NIMA can only recommend products to external users.

"There's a balancing of internal and external customers," Schultz said.

The bad side of NIMA's new strategy, Sippel said, is that agency officials do not know if commercial technology will save money in long-term software licensing and operations and maintenance costs. Money that had been used for R&D of legacy systems is now used mostly for software licensing, he said.

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