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Imagery Intelligence: Issues for Congress
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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Intelligence derived from satellites has become an essential element of military operations and foreign policymaking. In particular, precise imagery from space-based collection systems makes possible the effective use of precision-guided munitions that is becoming the basis of U.S. defense planning. Imagery intelligence also provides the factual bases for addressing many foreign policy issues. Imagery is collected by satellites acquired and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office NRO, an organization with a record of enormous technological achievements since its creation in 1961. Imagery collected by the NRO is processed, analyzed, exploited, and disseminated by another organization, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency NIMA. NIMA was established in 1996, incorporating the Defense Mapping Agency and various intelligence offices. Congress has been concerned with satellite imagery because of its critical importance and its high costs. Independent commissions established by Congress to assess the state of the imagery intelligence effort have concluded that significant changes need to be made in the way the Nations imagery effort is conducted. There is a consensus that greater emphasis should be placed on better collection targeting and improving processing, exploitation, and dissemination the processes collectively termed TPED that greater attention should be given to acquiring commercial imagery and that the management of the imagery effort may need to be changed. Even before the events of September 11, 2001, there appeared to be a fairly widespread view within congressional committees that at least some additional funding should be directed towards imagery collection and TPED. Subsequent military campaigns have underscored the use of imagery in military operations and other counterterrorist efforts.
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