The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is devoted to acquiring, developing, and maintaining technologies, people and processes, providing products and services to decision makers, military service members, and first responders. Geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is the utilization and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the earth. GEOINT consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information.
The NGA's operations comprise strategic Intelligence, warfighter support, indications and warning, safety of navigation, foundation data, humanitarian and disaster relief, special event planning, and homeland defense. The organization provides GEOINT that enables the president and national policymakers to make decisions on counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, global political crises, and more. The NGA specializes in:
- Warfighter support —NGA enables the Department of Defense to plan missions, gain battlefield advantage, target adversaries with precision, and protect military forces.
- Indications and warning—NGA analyses high-risk areas on a global scale and provides warnings to military service members and national decision-makers through monitoring, analyzing, and reporting incoming threats.
- Safety of navigation—NGA provides and maintains the maps, charts, and publications for navigation in air and over sea with up-to-date information for U.S. military forces and global transport networks.
- Foundation data—NGA aids the Department of Defense and intelligence community in the production, procurement, assessment, and cataloging of geospatial data, including topographic, elevation and terrain, land cover, and geodetic information.
- Humanitarian and disaster relief —NGA supports federal agencies’ response to humanitarian and disaster relief missions, including the Department of State and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Special event planning—NGA supports planning for special events such as presidential inaugurations, state visits by foreign leaders, international conferences, and major public events (e.g. the Olympics or Super Bowl).
- Homeland Defense—NGA supplies GEOINT that contributes to counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and border and transportation security efforts.
The agency was founded in 1996 as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). According to Dr. Gary E. Weir, an NGA historian, the history of NGA stretches back beyond its name change or even the founding of NIMA. In his view, GEOINT has been at the center of the defining moments in U.S. history, and that these moments constitute the beginnings of the agency. By consolidating America’s imagery and geospatial assets within the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 1996, the U.S. created a single organization to contain the requisite skills and technologies for the development of new geospatial products. In 2003, this area of intelligence was consolidated further, integrating multiple sources of information, intelligence, and tradecrafts to establish a new discipline that former NGA director James Clapper officially named geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT.
The NGA has been involved in a range of disaster relief operations during major crises, including the discovery of war crimes in Kosovo, supporting the cities hosting the Olympics, participating in the response to Hurricane Katrina, and performing other work in Haiti and Japan. In the White House report reviewing the response to Hurricane Katrina, the NGA was praised for its prompt response to the crisis. GEOINT provided an early version of the same total picture for responders that the administration subsequently proposed for the entire nation as its plan to address major disasters in the future.
The Fiscal Year 2022 budget request included $62.3 billion for the National Intelligence Program (NIP). As of 2021, no other disclosures of classified NIP budget information besides the total figure had been available.