The Business of Government Hour


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The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

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John Helgerson interview

Friday, July 6th, 2001 - 20:00
John Helgerson
Radio show date: 
Sat, 07/07/2001
Intro text: 
John Helgerson
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Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 4, 2001

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the co-chair of The Endowment for The Business of Government. We created The Endowment in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. Find out more about The Endowment and its programs by visiting us on the web at

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation today is with John Helgerson, deputy director, National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

Welcome, John.

Mr. Helgerson: Good afternoon, Paul. Happy to be here.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner,

Bill Phillips. Welcome, Bill.

Mr. Phillips: Paul, thank you.

Mr. Lawrence: Well John, let's start by finding out more about the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, or NIMA. I understand it's a relatively young organization. Could you tell us about it and its mission?

Mr. Helgerson: You're absolutely right. NIMA, this fall, will be celebrating its 5th birthday. We were created in October of 1996, and to this day we're the newest, youngest therefore member of the intelligence community, and also the newest combat support agency within the Department of Defense.

We have a kind of an unusual situation in that we have two masters. We're an agency who is, as I say, in the intelligence community, and in DOD, and interestingly, our budget comes in about equal parts from those two sources.

NIMA has at the moment something on the order of 7,000 employees, almost all of whom are civilians. But we have a critical minority of military employees as well, and probably 4 or 5,000 contractors who work with NIMA full-time. So it's a substantial operation.

Our headquarters, Paul, are in Bethesda, Maryland, but we have a big population of the workforce in Northern Virginia, in the District of Columbia, in the Navy Yard, and also about 2,500 employees out in St. Louis. So it gives me an opportunity to get around the metropolitan area here, and also out to St. Louis regularly.

You asked about our history. In fact, the two largest components that came together to make up NIMA were the former Defense Mapping Agency, which was headquartered in Bethesda, and substantially smaller but still a big operation, CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center, a lot of people know as NPIC.

But in fact � and I won't give you much of our earliest history � we like to say that our heritage goes all the way back to the founding of our republic. There was a fellow named Colonel Erskine, who was George Washington's mapmaker, and our headquarters building is named Erskine Hall.

So we've a rich heritage, and now NIMA tries to capture it all.

Mr. Lawrence: What type of skills do these 7,000 people have?

Mr. Helgerson: Well, the workforce, the largest single group are cartographers, and what we now call geospatial analysts, and probably the next largest group would be the imagery analysts. They make up the bulk of the workforce, but in fact, they are complemented with a whole lot of experts in acquisition, and computer science, and attorneys, and finance officers, and everything it takes to keep a modern government agency going.

Mr. Phillips: John, you've used a couple of words here. You've mentioned imagery, geospatial information, imagery intelligence. What exactly are those things?

Mr. Helgerson: Bill, there is a little bit of jargon that goes with our business. But those words are not as complicated as they might seem. Imagery is our catchall phrase of saying, really, photography. The imagery that NIMA acquires and exploits is mostly acquired with satellites that are built and launched by the National Reconnaissance Office, our critical mission partner.

But we also use imagery that comes from aircraft that the military collects, in some cases civilian firms collect. We also get imagery from aerial vehicles, or drones. So whatever may be the source, NIMA collects it all, tries to archive and exploit it and get the fruits of that to the people who need it.

Which brings me to the second category related to imagery, and that is imagery intelligence, or imagery analysis. I guess the simplest way to put this, Bill, is that while we provide raw imagery to ourselves in NIMA, and particular to military forces, usually deployed, but also the services in the Washington area and elsewhere, the real payoff from our enterprise is the imagery intelligence.

That comes from the work of our experienced analysts who look at this raw material, and make something of it. So if you or I were to look at an image, we might be at a loss about what good it might be. But a highly trained imagery analyst would say, "Hey, you know, what really is here is a newly constructed nuclear plant in Country X, or a missile facility in North Korea, or even a terrorist training camp elsewhere."

So the imagery itself is of use for certain purposes. The imagery intelligence, or analysis, is infinitely more valuable, and that's where the skilled personnel come in.

The third general category that you mentioned, and that I had mentioned, is what we call geospatial information, which really is the modern term for what used to be mapping and cartography. Basically, geospatial information is about any feature on the earth, natural or man-made, and its location and significance.

So, together, these really are the heart of our business: imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, John, tell us about your career. I understand that you have come to NIMA fairly recently. So I'd be interested in knowing, how does one get there?

Mr. Helgerson: You're right. I have not been at NIMA all that long. I am delighted to say now that I've been there 15 months as the agency's deputy director, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

The "how I got there" was probably not typical of NIMA employees. I began my professional career � I'd been a political science graduate from Duke University, and I had advanced degrees there, and then had gone off to be on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati, a professor of international relations.

But one thing led to another. And I have spent most of my career as a CIA officer, primarily but not exclusively in the analytic ranks. And I spent also one assignment in a State Department job in London.

And in all of these capacities, but particularly as a CIA analyst, and later as a mid-level manager, and later still as one of CIA's deputy directors, I was always a user of the imagery and the geospatial product that came from these legacy organizations that now make up NIMA.

So I was a great fan of imagery and geospatial work, and a promoter of it. And so when the job of deputy director of NIMA came open, the director of Central Intelligence and the deputy secretary of Defense wanted a civilian deputy to complement the military director. Our director is a distinguished Army officer, Lieutenant General Jim King.

And the thought is that given our complicated relationships and situation within the Washington Department of Defense and intelligence community, as I say, the thought was to have a director who is military, and a deputy who is civilian or in principle, perhaps, vice-versa.

But this led to my going to NIMA. And as I say, I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Mr. Phillips: John, you mention a number of different jobs in the course of your career. Which had the biggest challenges, and offered the best preparation?

Mr. Helgerson: Well, Bill, that's a tough question. I've had a great variety of jobs over the years in government and academic world before that as I mentioned. And each has been challenging in its own way.

But I think if one applies the test of what was most relevant to the job I now hold at NIMA, I would refer to the one I mentioned briefly earlier, and that is when I was deputy director for intelligence at CIA, I headed an organization of fairly substantial size, and with a fairly substantial budget.

But more important, I had that job during the earlier George Bush administration, at a time when we were going through great organizational change. I had a fundamental role in standing up the unit that is the CIA's counter-narcotics outfit, and I had a role in much of the downsizing of the people and resources that had been devoted to analyzing the former Soviet Union.

So it was a period of very profound change. And I think that job, probably more than any other, gave me a real advantage as I came to be deputy director of NIMA.

Mr. Lawrence: We're talking with John Helgerson, deputy director of NIMA. This is The Business of Government Hour. We'll rejoin our conversation in just a few minutes. (Break)


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and today's conversation is with John Helgerson, deputy of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Bill Phillips. Bill?

Mr. Phillips: John, in the last year or so, what was the most innovative or dramatic development involving NIMA?

Mr. Helgerson: Well Bill, there's been a lot going on at NIMA over the last year, but if you forced me to mention one specific item, I guess the thing that would come to my mind first would be the Endeavor Space Shuttle mission that flew now almost exactly a year ago, a little over a year ago.

This was a cooperative effort between my agency, NIMA, and NASA, which of course does most of the space work. But what it was, was a truly unique undertaking in which we together put into space a modified radar system, that mapped the earth in a way that has simply never been done before.

So this was the highlight of NIMA's year, and indeed the highlight of a scientific year, in many respects. There were also some kind of fun aspects to it. We had, for example, on that crew that NASA assembled, a group of astronauts that came from Germany and Japan as well as the U.S. And it was a crew that included two female astronauts.

But what they accomplished was truly incredible. We mapped or measured approximately 80 percent of the planet. That is every mountain and valley and hill and dale. Owing to the orbitology of it all, so to speak, we did not get good radar mapping of the polar regions, but we did capture the area of the earth, about 80 percent of it, as I say, where 95 percent of the world's population live.

And this exercise took some 11 days and got even higher quality data than we had dared expect. To give you some sense of what was accomplished, an area the size of Alaska, for example, was mapped in about 15 minutes. And the state of Florida, with this radar system, was mapped in about 90 seconds.

All this was done with a � as I say, a radar system. And part of it extended out on a 200-foot mast that was the longest, rigid structure ever deployed in space.

So we were really excited about this. And in large part, excited because of the payoff that will come down the road. Needless to say, we got a mountain of data from all this, and we have another mission partner, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory out at Cal Tech, who are doing the processing of this data.

But over the next two or three years, we � NIMA � and the civilian scientific community and the military community, will get the data and the information that will allow them to deal with things like floods and earthquakes, and analyze ecological zones, do better weather forecasts, climate change, and so on. And even such pedestrian but critical uses as land use planning, or where best to put the towers that make our cell phones operate.

So we in the defense community think of it in large part in terms of mission planning for defense operations, or what it will do for missile and weapons guidance systems. But I think, really, the larger and the basic payoff from this mission will be in the humanitarian, scientific, civilian areas.

So, NIMA's really proud of this. And it was clearly the highlight of our past year, because we feel we've made a real contribution to so many enterprises, both in and out of government.

Mr. Lawrence: John, in preparing for our discussion today, I was surprised to learn of your role in the unclassified arena of safety of navigation at sea. What can you tell us about your role in this area?

Mr. Helgerson: Well, Paul, your reaction there is typical. In fact, safety of navigation at sea is a major mission of NIMA, and it's one that's been mandated in legislation going back far beyond our own history.

We have on the wall in one of our offices, for example, a message that was sent by the radio operator on a ship at sea in the North Atlantic to the Titanic, prior to its sinking, after it struck an iceberg. But interestingly, that message about icebergs in the area did not get from the radio operator on the Titanic to the captain of the ship, nor to others, on a timely basis.

So, without reading too much into that lesson, we of course take from it the critical role that timely provision of information related to safety and navigation is absolutely critical. Now, we have within NIMA a component called the Maritime Safety Information Center. And its job is to run a worldwide navigation warning service that broadcasts information to ships at sea, military and civilian, 24 hours a day.

In fact, our customers in the modern world don't wait for a message from the Titanic or anybody else. They access our Maritime Safety website 9,000 times a day, free of charge, to get maritime safety information.

So, what does it really translate into? If you were not working at PricewaterhouseCoopers some weekend, but were sailing in the Caribbean, you can, through this website or otherwise accessing our information, get the latest information on broken buoys or inoperative lighthouses, or even activities of pirates in the area.

So we are very proud of this work. I should say it relates almost entirely to foreign waters and ports outside the U.S. As an intelligence agency, there are certain restrictions on what we can do within U.S. territory.

One other aspect of our business related to maritime safety that I should mention, we of course are putting all this information in digital form as quickly as we can, so people don't rely only on the paper publications. And thinking again about your earlier question, Bill, about the last year, another highlight, again about a year ago, was that a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the USS Healy made the first transit around the famed Northwest Passage north of Greenland, relying entirely on NIMA's so-called digital nautical chart. That is, they had no paper charts at all � or at least they were directed to keep them hidden. And they used the digital nautical chart to make this passage.

I have to say we at NIMA were immensely proud that this project has progressed to the point where the Navy and the Coast Guard can do that. But frankly, we were also relieved when they had completed that passage.

But it's a big effort. And down the road, U.S. Navy is at the forefront of this transition. They will go entirely to digital nautical charts. The civilian sailing community will be close behind, or, in some cases, even ahead. And we support both.

Mr. Phillips: As if that's not enough, we also understand that NIMA works in the area of aeronautical safety. John, can you tell us a bit about your activities there?

Mr. Helgerson: Well, happy to, Bill. I'll say a little less about this, because unlike the maritime area, less of what we do in the aeronautical area is available to the public. We don't provide information, for example, directly to commercial users. But a good deal of our information is available for purchase through the Commerce Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But basically, what we do is provide the information that enables every U.S. military aircraft to operate safely in takeoffs, or landings, or en route navigation. Last year, for example, we produced 12 million charts for the cockpit. These are things that fold up in a complicated way, so you don't have it spread all over the cockpit.

But the truth is, once on the ground, you can unfold it in such a way that it will cover the cockpit and give you some shade on the parking apron. We hope our products are useful for more than providing shade. But here, as in the maritime area, the trick is to move from the 12 million paper charts, to all digital formats. We're well down that road, but as I say, this effort relates primarily to the military, rather than to civilian and commercial users. That's more indirect support.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, it's time for a break. We'll be back in a few minutes with more of The Business of Government Hour, and our conversation with John Helgerson of NIMA. (Break)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and today's conversation is with John Helgerson, deputy director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Bill Phillips.

Well John, we've learned through the trade press that you've been modernizing your information handling capabilities. Can you tell us about that?

Mr. Helgerson: We've talked earlier in this hour about what NIMA does in the imagery business, and in the geospatial business. That is, the mapping side, and how the two are coming together.

Nowhere is this more the case than in this effort you've referred to to modernize how we handle all this information. It's kind of hard to know where to start here in a way that's most useful, except I might tell you a fact I try sometimes to keep hidden, and that is that last year, NIMA produced on the order of 30 million paper maps.

At the same time, we've built up a so-called gateway where our users � that is, deployed military forces or civilian analysts in government, whoever they may be � can, with a click of their mouse, access our geospatial mapping information, and create -- on the spot -- their own map from this digital data so that the area of operation is not where the four maps come together, or in the fold, but it's right in the middle.

So we get now tens of thousands of hits per month on this NIMA electronic gateway. Our aspiration, of course, is to get to a situation where we no longer produce the 30 million maps, but everybody gets their information through the gateway or similar systems. Getting from one to the other, of course, is a challenge.

Now, related, just to use a separate example about modernizing information handling in the imagery business, it's no secret that imagery is a bandwidth hog like no other. And we at NIMA have created and are building and deploying a whole set of digital libraries, both large and small, to handle the classified imagery that we deal with, as well as imagery that we are now acquiring and will be increasingly acquiring from commercial sources.

So we supply data, for example, to national-level analysts, up to and occasionally literally including the President himself, from huge data sets. And at the same time, we produce and market our imagery information in very compact forms to enable someone deployed in the field to get it with a handheld computer.

The overall effort in this process, Paul, is that we're trying to move this system of libraries � and we are � almost exclusively, on the order of 95 percent, to a situation where it rests on COTS hardware and software. That is, commercial off the shelf.

Going the COTS way is not always cheap, but it does keep us in NIMA and all of our users in the military and civilian communities abreast of current technologies. It sharpens our partnership with industry and enables us to change with changing times in a way that we could not do when we used idiosyncratic government solutions to these kind of problems.

In addition to these libraries that we've built and are deploying, I should not fail to mention that we are also providing systems supports to military services, military commands, civilian analysts literally around the world. And again, I keep thinking of your earliest question about what happened that's important over the last year.

One of the other things that's just really critical in my mind is that for three of our major unified commands, we have now replaced all of their government-built exploitation capability � imagery work stations, and so on � with a modern commercial-based capability that's superior in performance and cheaper to maintain than those Legacy systems that they replaced.

So this is another real highlight of our business. We at NIMA, in addition to delivering the imagery and the geospatial substantive information, deliver the systems that enable others to use that information, now cheaper and more reliably than ever.

But modernizing the information handling, is one of our greatest challenges. But we've got a lot of partners, both in government and industry, and we'll clearly continue this.

Mr. Phillips: John, at the outset of our conversation, you mentioned that NIMA was formed by a combination of several different organizations and agencies. What issues and challenges did you face as you tried to manage the changes inherent in reorganization, and what lessons could you pass along to other leaders going through similar reorganizations?

Mr. Helgerson: Well Bill, that's another tough question. And it was a tough challenge initially for NIMA, because we did inherit components, sometimes very substantial components in terms of manpower and budget, from both the civilian and military legacy organizations.

There were enough differences that it was a challenge. And clearly, the only way to go � and I claim no credit, because it was largely accomplished before I came to NIMA � but managers and employees at all levels realized that they all had to be involved. So, transition teams were formed that included representatives of all these organizations, each focused on one or another specific area of activities under NIMA's charter.

And they established the sort of top-level organizational framework for whatever functional area that was, and then other groups took care of the implementation.

I guess if there's one obvious lesson that I'd pass along to any other leaders or managers grappling with this kind of thing, it would be that obvious one that I've mentioned already, namely, involve personnel at all levels in all areas of the reorganization. You have to have the buy-in. You have to provide the direction, but everybody's got to get involved to make it work.

I'd have to say, concluding thought on this question that although it's now five years down the road, the process of change never ends. I hope we'll have a chance to talk in a few minutes about our human resources system, for example, which we created as a part of all this change that we believe really is a leader in government.

Additionally, another example is that in the coming two, three, four years, we will be consolidating dramatically our physical facilities footprint. We're going to close down, for example, the facility that we have in the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, so that we can consolidate in our Bethesda location all of the East Coast operational elements of NIMA.

That will bring together the old imagery and the old mapping enterprises, so that they can more effectively do the melded, common leading edge work that we need to do as we move into this digital age.

As part of that, of course, again, the consultation process as we consolidate our facilities and continue this change � we're dealing with the Congress, we're dealing with local civic organizations where these changes occur. We're dealing with local governments, doing the environmental impact studies and the rest.

So the lesson I draw from all this is you have to involve an awful lot of people in and outside your organization to make fundamental organizational change the success that it has to be for mission accomplishment.

Mr. Lawrence: John, NIMA recently announced negotiations to privatize the work done by 600 people. What are the potential benefits of this venture, and where are you in the process?

Mr. Helgerson: Well Paul, we're well into it. We discovered at NIMA the same thing many other government agencies have discovered, and that is a great proportion of what is done in the information services and information technology areas is not unique to government.

The same things need to be done in your firm, throughout the private sector, and throughout government. So these areas where we do not have a comparative advantage, we're turning over to the private sector. The work done by approximately 300 people in the Washington area is affected by this, and the work done by approximately 300 people in St. Louis is also affected.

Now, what we've found is that there is a way that we can do this that allows this effort to be phased to the private sector over a period of the next few years, so that we expect that we will not need any mandatory reduction in force. But we have a workforce-friendly approach to this, I believe that will allow the change to occur entirely through retirements and routine departures.

The overall point of it is that commercial vendors have shown that they can do this kind of work faster, and easier and with a comparative advantage that government does not have.

Mr. Lawrence: We'll be right back with more of The Business of Government Hour, and our conversation with John Helgerson, deputy director of NIMA. (Break)

Mr. Lawrence: We're back with The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. And today's conversation is with John Helgerson, deputy director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And joining us in our conversation is another PwC partner, Bill Phillips.

Well John, we finished the last segment by talking about future outsourcing � or outsourcing efforts. And so I'm just sort of curious about the future of such efforts at NIMA.

Mr. Helgerson: Paul, that is an important subject. We were talking about outsourcing or privatization that NIMA's doing, primarily in the IS/IT areas. But it is worth coming back to, because we do a lot of such work, even in our fundamental mission area unrelated to IS and IT.

For example, we've talked this afternoon about the geospatial or mapping work that NIMA does. And many of our overseers, and indeed even our own employees, are surprised to find that almost half of all the geospatial work that NIMA does is in fact produced by private contractors.

Now, this trend undoubtedly will continue and expand, although it's frankly impossible to say just how far it will go, because it's largely a function of the capability of industry to take on this responsibility. But industry has become steadily more capable, and we are happy to outsource as it becomes competitively sensible to do that.

I should say, in this general connection of talking about privatization and outsourcing, that it's not only the support operations and even the mission analytic work that's being outsourced, but increasingly, NIMA is relying on commercial imagery providers to provide even the raw material with which we do our work.

The commercial imagery industry is a new one, and is still maturing. But each of the last couple of years, NIMA has spent on the order of $35 million on commercial imagery or related processing capabilities. And we have no doubt that the tempo will increase here.

The commercial imagery potentially is a wonderful solution to providing much of the raw material that we need to do our mapping mission. And more than that, it provides important back-up for intelligence uses as well. So that if we have areas that are high priority, we are more than willing, we are delighted to turn to the commercial sector.

Right now, there's one U.S. vendor, Space Imaging, that has its own satellite up. And there are other U.S. vendors that sell commercial imagery product. We are heartened by their initial successes, and we certainly look forward to a more robust commercial industry connection with additional launches by these other vendors in the future.

This clearly is a growth industry. So we use and rely on the private sector in a great many respects.

Mr. Lawrence: John, let's talk about the people at NIMA, and specifically the fact that I understand that you have a very innovative human resources system. Some have said in fact you're at the forefront of government and commercial best practices. Can you tell us about that system?

Mr. Helgerson: As part of the change that we have gone through forming up NIMA from half dozen or more different agencies, we were virtually forced to come up with a whole new human resources system. And as long as we were doing it, we really went after the fundamentals of it, and have come up with a system that we are just very proud of.

The easiest way to describe it probably is that we have simply got away entirely from the 15 GS grades in the normal civil service system. We have in NIMA a paybanding system, with five bands that capture all of those 15 grades. So employees have many fewer promotions from one band to another, but within each of those broader bands, good work is rewarded.

So we have a pay for performance system that allows employees with strong performance to move ahead more quickly, and to be recognized for the contribution that they make. We put a great deal of effort into the paybanding, the pay for performance, and the ancillary efforts that are associated with it.

If there is any caution I would offer to other agencies or firms exploring such a thing, it is to think through very carefully the bureaucracy involved. We in NIMA built a system so that we could be absolutely confident it was fair and equitable. It is. We're proud of it, but it is also a bit cumbersome. And we are now working with teams drawn from employees at every level, to simplify it and to calibrate it in such a way that we retain our confidence that it's fair, but also we don't have to spend as much time, either as employees or managers, in implementing it.

So, we're proud of it, but we continue to refine it. We're glad we did it, but again, it's still a work in progress.

Mr. Phillips: There's a lot of press coverage about the impending wave of retirements, large numbers of retirements in the federal service. How is NIMA approaching that issue and that problem? What solutions have you put in place?

Mr. Helgerson: Well Bill, we are experiencing the same things that most other agencies are. Ten or 11% of NIMA's civilian population is eligible to retire today. Some 25 to 30 percent will be eligible to retire over the next five years.

What this translates into, or at least has in recent years, is that NIMA as a whole has an attrition rate of something like 5.6 %. Now there are those who argue that this is a problem. Frankly, I am of quite another school, and I believe that it's healthy to have attrition in that range.

If it were substantially larger, I would worry because of the cost of getting security clearances and bringing on board the technically qualified employees we need. But as far as NIMA's concerned, the attrition we now have, and the attrition that we foresee I believe is a healthy one. And we look at it frankly not as a problem, but as a grand opportunity to strengthen our organization.

Happily, and this is probably the most heartening thing of all, I have found in these 15 months I have been at NIMA that we have absolutely no difficulty in attracting the very highly qualified young people we need to join our organization, whether they're imagery analysts, or computer scientists, or whatever.

It just requires continual monitoring and effective programs, which we believe we have, to hire and retain the best.

Mr. Lawrence: Earlier in our conversation, you talked about how change would continue in government. So I'm curious. How will NIMA fit into the larger national security apparatus in the future?

Mr. Helgerson: Well, Paul, I am, again, very optimistic as we look ahead to the future, and in particular how NIMA fits into it. As I mentioned at the outset, we're a unique organization in that we live in both the intelligence community, and among the combat support agencies in DOD.

The history of these communities has been frankly one in which we've been stovepiped. That is, each done our own thing. The future clearly is one of more seamless integration among us.

To put it another way, if a national policymaker or war fighter wants information on a given country, or a region, or if they want information on a functional issue, whether it's terrorism or narcotics, or whatever, they should not have to go separately to the State Department, or to CIA for information on human source intelligence. Or they should not have to go then to NSA to say what does signals intelligence contribute, or to NIMA for imagery.

The consumer needs to be able to go to one place, like you do with your personal computer on the Internet at home in the evening, type in the country or region, and find out what they need to know from all these disciplines.

We believe that NIMA, because it produces geospatial information, and imagery information and intelligence, provides the real basic, common reference framework that is the basis on which you can layer all these other kinds of information.

So looking at the future, I think NIMA's role is a critical one, in that we provide the basic common reference framework. But more than that, our recent history has given us a lot of experience in how to bring different cultures, different missions together. I believe we really can help lead the way forward into the future.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, I'm afraid we're out of time, John. Bill and I want to thank you very much for being with us today. We've had a very interesting conversation.

Mr. Helgerson: Well Paul, it's been a pleasure. Bill, enjoyed talking with you.

Mr. Phillips: Thank you, John.

Mr. Lawrence: This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with John Helgerson, deputy director, National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

To learn more about our programs and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness, visit us on the web at See you next week.

John Helgerson interview
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