The U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) was established October 1, 1996, by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency Act of 1996. 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. Because it has responsibilities to customers outside the U.S. Department of Defense, NIMA has also been designated a part of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

The creation of NIMA centralized responsibility for imagery and mapping, representing a fundamental step toward achieving the Department of Defense vision of "dominant battle space awareness." NIMA was created to exploit the potential of enhanced collection systems, digital processing technology and the prospective expansion in commercial imagery than its separate predecessor organizations.

With Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, NIMA operates major facilities in the northern Virginia, Washington, D.C, and St. Louis, Missouri, areas as well as support and liaison offices worldwide.

NIMA states that is mission is to provide "timely, relevant, and accurate Geospatial Intelligence in support of national security".

The creation of NIMA brought together the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), the Central Imagery Office (CIO), and the Defense Dissemination Program Office (DDPO) in their entirety; and the mission and functions of CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center. Also included in NIMA are imagery exploitation, dissemination and processing elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office.

The NIMA work force is populated by professionals in fields such as cartography, imagery analysis, marine analysis, the physical sciences, geodesy, computer and telecommunication engineering, and photogrammetry.

According to NIMA's September-October 2003 State of the Agency report (external link), with the signing of the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill, NIMA will officially change its name to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

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