NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency)

NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency)

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) was formed in October, 1996, to provide the United States military and intelligence agencies with up-to-date and accurate imaging and geospatial information. NIMA is a Department of Defense agency and is a member of the United States intelligence community. NIMA uses satellite and aerial imaging equipment to produce maps that can be used by both military planners and soldiers in the field.

NIMA assumed the duties of the Defense Mapping Agency, the Central Imagery Office, the Defense Dissemination Program Office, the National Photographic Interpretation Center, and parts of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. NIMA now serves as the sole source for mapping and imaging needs of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

NIMA uses satellite photographic, radar, and infrared imaging information to create and analyze a database of cartographic and geodetic images. NIMA can then customize these images to suit the needs of its customers. NIMA's database allows the creation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional (elevation) models of any part of the world. NIMA also catalogs man-made and natural features, which can be used for navigational or intelligence purposes.

For information gathering, NIMA uses Department of Defense, NRO, and other government owned imaging satellites. NIMA also contracts out for the use of privately owned imaging satellites in a cost-saving effort. NIMA declassifies many of the images obtained from these commercial satellites for use by American allies.

The National Imagery and Mapping Agency contributes to achieving United States foreign policy and national security objectives by providing intelligence agencies and policymakers with current imagery information. Military and civilian intelligence agencies use NIMA's cartographic and geospatial intelligence to monitor the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, track arms shipments, and ensure that global treaties are being upheld.

NIMA's primary function is to provide accurate geospatial information for combat planning and support. NIMA tailors its products to fit the needs of its target audience. When the United States began military operations in Afghanistan in 2001, American military forces had little information on Afghan geography and topography. NIMA assisted the various U.S. forces involved in this conflict by quickly producing high quality maps for strategists and soldiers. NIMA used its resources to produce different maps for different operations. Maps for Naval aviators included detailed information about targets for the U.S. bombing campaign. Maps for special operations forces noted possible food and water locations, as well as the locations of enemies and non-combatants.

NIMA provided similar logistical support for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. During the planning stages of the war, NIMA provided policymakers and military coordinators with maps that included the locations of enemy forces, suspected chemical and biological weapons depots, and potential government and military targets. Maps also noted strategic locations, including oil wells. During combat, NIMA's technologically advanced imaging systems supplied U.S. forces with near real-time maps that allowed American forces to engage enemy combatants before visually confirming the enemies' presence.

NIMA is currently working on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), a mission that recorded elevation data for most of the Earth's surface. By accumulating elevation data from a single source, NIMA will be able to produce a uniform elevation map of the Earth.



Department of Defense. "United States National Imagery and Mapping Agency." < > (May 2003).


Mapping Technology
NASA (National Air and Space Administration)
DOD (United States Department of Defense)

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