Building a Better Map

Clapper believes NGA’s key program is “Geo Scout,” which aims to modernize and update the organization’s old infrastructure—a patchwork of tools and resources cobbled together since the agency’s creation in the 1990s. The program comprises three major blocks, including the recently completed refurbishment of communications infrastructure. The second block—now underway—entails updating NGA’s data management process. Clapper said one of the agency’s facilities in Maryland used to be an archive of paper maps—stacked floor to ceiling—and is now a part of the transfer to a “digital archive” that will replace static paper maps for good. In just the last couple of years, the agency has increased its use of intelligence date acquired by unmanned aerial vehicles. Clapper says that has strengthened the bond between NGA and the Air Force. He calls Global Hawk a “vacuum cleaner collector” of imagery and a great tool to have in close tactical situations. Clapper says he is interested in the possibilities inherent in airships, which play a big part in USAF’s concept of “near space” exploitation. “Assuming you’re going to work out … control and stability issues … to me that’s a great area for exploration in the future,” Clapper maintains.