National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Seal of the NGA
Flag of the NGA

NGA Campus East, headquarters of the agency
Agency overview
FormedOctober 1, 1996 (1996-10-01) (as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency)
Preceding agency
  • Defense Mapping Agency, Central Imagery Office, and Defense Dissemination Program Office
HeadquartersFort Belvoir, Virginia, U.S.[1]
38°45′12″N 77°11′49″W / 38.7532°N 77.1969°W / 38.7532; -77.1969
Motto"Know the Earth, Show the Way... from Seabed to Space"
EmployeesAbout 14,500[2]
Annual budgetClassified (at least $4.9 billion, as of 2013)[3]
Agency executives
Parent departmentDepartment of Defense

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a combat support agency within the United States Department of Defense whose primary mission is collecting, analyzing, and distributing geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) in support of national security. Initially known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) from 1996 to 2003, it is a member of the United States Intelligence Community.[7]

NGA headquarters, also known as NGA Campus East or NCE, is located at Fort Belvoir North Area in Springfield, Virginia. The agency also operates major facilities in the St. Louis, Missouri area (referred to as NGA Campus West or NCW), as well as support and liaison offices worldwide. The NGA headquarters, at 2,300,000 square feet (210,000 m2), is the third-largest government building in the Washington metropolitan area after The Pentagon and the Ronald Reagan Building.[8]

In addition to using GEOINT for U.S. military and intelligence efforts, NGA provides assistance during natural and artificial disasters, aids in security planning for major events such as the Olympic Games,[9] disseminates maritime safety information,[10] and gathers data on climate change.[11]

The eighth and current director of the agency is Vice Admiral Frank D. Whitworth III.[5]


U.S. mapping and charting efforts remained relatively unchanged until World War I, when aerial photography became a major contributor to battlefield intelligence. Using stereo viewers, photo-interpreters reviewed thousands of images. Many of these were of the same target at different angles and times, giving rise to what became modern imagery analysis and mapmaking.

Engineer Reproduction Plant (ERP)

The Engineer Reproduction Plant was the Army Corps of Engineers's first attempt to centralize mapping production, printing, and distribution.[when?] It was located on the grounds of the Army War College in Washington, D.C. Previously, topographic mapping had largely been a function of individual field engineer units using field surveying techniques or copying existing or captured products. In addition, ERP assumed the "supervision and maintenance" of the War Department Map Collection, effective April 1, 1939.

Army Map Service (AMS) / U.S. Army Topographic Command (USATC)

With the advent of the Second World War aviation, field surveys began giving way to photogrammetry, photo interpretation, and geodesy. During wartime, it became increasingly possible to compile maps with minimal field work. Out of this emerged AMS, which absorbed the existing ERP in May 1942. It was located at the Dalecarlia Site (including buildings now named for John C. Frémont and Charles H. Ruth) on MacArthur Blvd., just outside Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County, Maryland, and adjacent to the Dalecarlia Reservoir. AMS was designated as an Engineer field activity, effective July 1, 1942, by General Order 22, OCE, June 19, 1942. The Army Map Service also combined many of the Army's remaining geographic intelligence organizations and the Engineer Technical Intelligence Division. AMS was redesignated the U.S. Army Topographic Command (USATC) on September 1, 1968, and continued as an independent organization until 1972, when it was merged into the new Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) and redesignated as the DMA Topographic Center (DMATC) (see below).

Aeronautical Chart Plant (ACP)

This article is missing information about the (1381st) Geodetic Survey Squadron, the Air Photographic and Charting Service, and the Aerospace Cartographic and Geodetic Service. Please expand the article to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page. (November 2021)

After the war, as airplane capacity and range improved, the need for charts grew. The Army Air Corps established its map unit, which was renamed ACP in 1943 and was located in St. Louis, Missouri. ACP was known as the U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center (ACIC) from 1952 to 1972 (See DMAAC below).

National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC)

Seal of the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC)

Shortly before leaving office in January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the creation of the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC), a joint project of the CIA and DIA. NPIC was a component of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology (DDS&T) and its primary function was imagery analysis.[12] NPIC became part of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (now NGA) in 1996.[13]

Directors of NPIC
Director Term of office
Arthur C. Lundahl May 1953 – July 1973
John J. Hicks July 1973 – May 1978
Brigadier Gen. Rutledge P. Hazzard June 1978 – February 1984
Robert M. Huffstutler Feb 1984 – Jan 1988
Frank J. Ruocco February 1988 – February 1991
Leo A. Hazlewood February 1991 – September 1993
Nancy E. Bone October 1993 – September 1996

Cuban Missile Crisis

Main article: Cuban Missile Crisis

This article is missing information about the erroneous and corrected geolocation of Cuba. Please expand the article to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page. (November 2021)

NPIC first identified the Soviet Union's basing of missiles in Cuba in 1962. By exploiting images from U-2 overflights and film from canisters ejected by orbiting Corona satellites,[14] NPIC analysts developed the information necessary to inform U.S. policymakers and influence operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Their analysis garnered worldwide attention when the Kennedy Administration declassified and made public a portion of the images depicting the Soviet missiles on Cuban soil; Adlai Stevenson presented the images to the United Nations Security Council on October 25, 1962.

Defense Mapping Agency (DMA)

The Defense Mapping Agency was created on January 1, 1972, to consolidate all U.S. military mapping activities. DMA's "birth certificate", DoD Directive 5105.40, resulted from a formerly classified Presidential directive, "Organization and Management of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Community" (November 5, 1971), which directed the consolidation of mapping functions previously dispersed among the military services.[15] DMA became operational on July 1, 1972, pursuant to General Order 3, DMA (June 16, 1972). On October 1, 1996, DMA was folded into the National Imagery and Mapping Agency – which later became NGA.[16]

DMA was first headquartered at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C, then at Falls Church, Virginia. Its mostly civilian workforce was concentrated at production sites in Bethesda, Maryland, Northern Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri. DMA was formed from the Mapping, Charting, and Geodesy Division, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and from various mapping-related organizations of the military services.[17]

DMAHC was formed in 1972 when the Navy's Hydrographic Office split its two components: The charting component was attached to DMAHC, and the survey component moved to the Naval Oceanographic Office, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on the grounds of what is now the Stennis Space Center. DMAHC was responsible for creating terrestrial maps of coastal areas worldwide and hydrographic charts for DoD. DMAHC was initially located in Suitland, Maryland, but later relocated to Brookmont (Bethesda), Maryland.

DMATC was located in Brookmont (Bethesda), Maryland. It was responsible for creating topographic maps worldwide for DoD. DMATC's location in Bethesda, Maryland is the former site of NGA's headquarters.

DMAHC and DMATC eventually merged to form DMAHTC, with offices in Brookmont (Bethesda), Maryland.

DMAAC originated with the U.S. Air Force's Aeronautical Chart and Information Center (ACIC) and was located in St. Louis, Missouri.

National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA)

NIMA's logo, seal, and flag

NIMA was established on October 1, 1996, by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997.[18] The creation of NIMA followed more than a year of study, debate, and planning by the defense, intelligence, and policy-making communities (as well as the Congress) and continuing consultations with customer organizations. The creation of NIMA centralized responsibility for imagery and mapping.

NIMA combined the DMA, the Central Imagery Office (CIO), and the Defense Dissemination Program Office (DDPO) in their entirety, and the mission and functions of the NPIC. Also merged into NIMA were the imagery exploitation, dissemination, and processing elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office.

NIMA's creation was clouded by the natural reluctance of cultures to merge and the fear that their respective missions—mapping in support of defense activities versus intelligence production, principally in support of national policymakers—would be subordinated, each to the other.[19]


NGA's old headquarters in Brookmont, Maryland prior to 2012. It had been the headquarters of NGA and its predecessor agencies since 1945. After the move to its current headquarters, this facility was renovated and became Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda.

With the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 on November 24, 2003,[20] NIMA was renamed NGA to better reflect its primary mission in the area of GEOINT.[21]

2005 BRAC and Impact on NGA

As a part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, all major Washington, D.C.–area NGA facilities, including those in Bethesda, Maryland; Reston, Virginia; and Washington, D.C., would be consolidated at a new facility at the Fort Belvoir proving grounds. This new facility, later known as NCE, houses several thousand people and is situated on the former Engineer Proving Ground site near Fort Belvoir. NGA facilities in St. Louis were not affected by the 2005 BRAC process.[22]

The cost of the new center, as of March 2009, was expected to be $2.4 billion. The center's campus is approximately 2,400,000 square feet (220,000 m2) and was completed in September 2011.[23]

Next NGA St. Louis

NGA is currently constructing a new facility in St. Louis, Missouri, Next NGA St. Louis, at a cost of $1.7 billion. The facility is expected to hold 3,000 employees and open by 2025.[24] St. Louis' city legislature is currently reconsidering legislation to surround Next NGA St. Louis with a protection zone that would bar certain businesses, such as gas stations, hazardous material companies, and foreign government-supported enterprises, from building around the site for security purposes.[25]


Agency structure

Executive Leadership Team

NGA is headed by a director, currently Navy Vice Adm. Frank D. Whitworth; the director is followed in precedence by the deputy director and chief of staff, currently Brett Markham.[26] The holders of these three offices comprise NGA's executive leadership team.

Chief of Staff

While NGA's director and deputy director oversee the agency as a whole, the Chief of Staff is tasked with overseeing NGA's executive support staff, administrative services, logistics, personnel security, human resources, employee training and development, corporate communications, and congressional engagement.[26]

Directorates and directorate leaders

NGA is split into various directorates led by directors (D/XX) and associate deputy directors (ADD/XX) with "XX" standing in for each direcorate's two-letter designation.[26] Known directorates and leadership figures include but are not limited to the:

An Analysis and Production Directorate (P or "Production" Directorate) existed in 2011,[31] although NGA presently has a Directorate for Analysis which may be a replacement or separated portion of the Analysis and Production Directorate.[27]

The deputy associate director of operations directly oversees NGA Operations Center (itself led by a director and deputy director)[26] the Office of NGA Defense, the Office of Expeditionary Operations, and NGA leadership at the three National Reconnaissance Office Aerospace Data facilities.[32]

Other internal groups and leaders

NGA contains NGA Support Teams (NST), which work with directorates, are detailed internationally, deploy with warfighters, or liaise with service branches.[26][29][41] Multiple NGA Command NSTs also exist.[42] NGA's western operations, such as the construction of Next NGA St. Louis campus in St. Louis, Missouri, are headed by the NGA St. Louis executive (who can concurrently serve in other leadership roles).[32] There is also an NGA Equality Executive.[33] Other organizations present in NGA, which may or may not be components of directorates, include:

Additionally, military Service GEOINT Offices (SGOs) liaise with NGA, but belong to their respective military service branches and represent their geospatial intelligence needs.[41] The Canadian Armed Forces deploys a liaison team to NGA; that team's operations officer also acts as NGA's Commonwealth liaison.[29]

NGA is a member of the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) and the larger Allied System for Geospatial Intelligence (ASG), which includes close allies Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.[29] The U.S. and those four nations also form the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.[51]


NGA employs professionals in aeronautical analysis, cartography, geospatial analysis, imagery analysis, marine analysis, the physical sciences, geodesy, computer and telecommunication engineering, and photogrammetry, as well as those in the national security and law enforcement fields.

List of NIMA / NGA Directors

This table lists all Directors of the NIMA and NGA and their term of office. The agency transitioned from NIMA to NGA during Lieutenant General King's directorship.

No. Director Term
Portrait Name Took office Left office Term length
Joseph J. Dantone
Rear Admiral
Joseph J. Dantone
~October 1996March 1998~1 year, 151 days
James C. King
Lieutenant General
James C. King
March 1998September 2001~3 years, 184 days
James Clapper
James ClapperSeptember 2001~July 7, 2006~4 years, 309 days
Robert B. Murrett
Vice Admiral
Robert B. Murrett
~July 7, 2006August 2010~4 years, 25 days
Letitia Long
Letitia LongAugust 2010October 3, 2014~4 years, 63 days
Robert Cardillo
Robert CardilloOctober 3, 2014February 7, 20194 years, 127 days
Robert D. Sharp
Vice Admiral
Robert D. Sharp
February 7, 2019June 3, 20223 years, 116 days
Frank D. Whitworth III
Vice Admiral
Frank D. Whitworth III
June 3, 2022Incumbent1 year, 347 days

Civilian, Department of Defense, and Intelligence Community activities


NIMA / NGA has been involved in several controversies.


See also


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Further reading