The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

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.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

LTG James R. Clapper interview

Friday, May 13th, 2005 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"Both the National Security Agency and NGA have put great emphasis on bringing together geospatial intelligence and signal intelligence. It’s been particularly applicable and successful in the global war on terrorism. This is a great success story."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 05/14/2005
Intro text: 
Missions and Programs; Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Innovation; Technology and E-Government...

Missions and Programs; Leadership; Strategic Thinking; Innovation; Technology and E-Government

Complete transcript: 

Friday, March 29, 2005

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Lieutenant General James Clapper, Air Force (Ret.), Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Good morning, General Clapper.

Mr. Clapper: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is John Kamensky.

Good morning, John.

Mr. Kamensky: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, General Clapper, let's start by getting our audience grounded in the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Can you tell us about its history and its mission?

Mr. Clapper: The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, or NGA, was originally founded in 1996, and was then called the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And it is the most recently formed part of the national intelligence community, and probably the least known. We are both a combat support agency within the Department of Defense and a component of the national intelligence community, and our basic mission is geospatial intelligence. What's that? It's basically what can be learned from studying the Earth, either natural or manmade activities and objects which have national security implications.

Mr. Lawrence: Can you give us a sense of the size of the organization and the skill set of the folks who work on your team?

Mr. Clapper: The agency is about between 14,000, 15,000 people; roughly half are government employees, and the other half are contractor full-time equivalents. And basically the operational, if I can call them that, skill sets which revolve around our analysis and production mission devolve from expertise on the Earth, and so we have what we call imagery analysts who look at photographs of the Earth and derive intelligence or information from that. And it isn't just a bold reading of the picture, it is looking at the picture in the context of what did it look like yesterday, the same scene yesterday, last week, last month, or last year, so it's put in context. So subtleties of change can be detected, from which you can glean important intelligence information.

We also have a mission we inherited from one of our predecessor organizations, the old Defense Mapping Agency, a navigational safety mission, so we provide aids to navigation for both aviators as well as the maritime community. We operate, for example, a 7 x 24 broadcast capability to warn anyone at sea of hazards to navigation. We have to account for every location of every drill rig in the world as a hazard of navigation. So again, the theme here in our skill sets devolve around expertise and knowledge of the Earth, starting with under the Earth, and that is an understanding of gravity, and we have people that specialize in that. And then our mission extends to both the terrestrial and maritime regimes.

Mr. Kamensky: What is your role and responsibilities as Director of NGA?

Mr. Clapper: Well, John, it would roughly equate to that of a CEO of a comparably sized company, and so my responsibly is the overall direction of the agency -- and of course, I have a cadr� of senior managers who work for me, assist me in carrying out the functions of the agency. So our largest organization is, as you'd expect, is our analysis and production organization. We also have, of course, a Chief Financial Officer, an Inspector General; we have a General Counsel; we have a large and capable human capital management organization which sort of does, bad metaphor, cradle to grave, from recruiting all the way to retirement, training education and all that.

So it is comparable, I think, to a large corporation, an international corporation, since we are deployed globally. We have people in virtually every time zone on the Earth. And I have an extended deployed force both overseas and elsewhere in the United States. So it is very comparable, I think, to a large company.

Mr. Lawrence: Can you tell us about your previous roles? How does one become Director of NGA?

Mr. Clapper: Well, I served for 32 years in the Air Force on active duty, and I retired in 1995, and my last assignment was as director of another intelligence agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency. And I have spent my entire career in intelligence; in fact, my whole family tree is in that business. I followed my father's footsteps, who was an Army intelligence officer, and my career was spent pretty much exclusively in the intelligence business, so I was fortunate enough to have a series or sort of career-building assignments that culminated in the assignment as Director of Defense Intelligence Agency.

And then I went to industry for six years, which I've worked for three companies, and then when I was asked to come back, I found that experience was invaluable in my current duties, particularly in light of the fact we're so heavily dependent on contractors.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, let me ask you about the contrast between the two sectors. I'd be curious in terms of sort of the management skills required to run an intelligence agency. You talked about being in a couple, and then to have you elaborate then on the skills required in the private sector and how those have been applicable.

Mr. Clapper: Well in the private sector, of course, the bottom line is the main thing, so you're always driven by revenue considerations and bringing in more business to the company and making a profit. We in the intelligence business are not in a profit-making context, and basically what we do is largely a free good. We support our many users -- consumers, customers, whatever you want to call them. But what we do is a free good. So there is a major difference in my mind when you do not have that common denominator incentive of the financial bottom line, and what you're trying to do is provide support for endeavors that often are attended to people in harms way. So, not to be melodramatic about it, but it can be a lifesaving proposition; that is what we do in intelligence. So that is a huge difference from the private sector.

Mr. Lawrence: How about in terms of just comparing things like speed of decision-making, in terms of -- I think a lot of people who have spent much more time in the private sector who come to government for the first time reflect on that, you know, surprise and then understanding of the difference in speed.

Mr. Clapper: Well, actually for my part, I think there are some parallels and similarities between the private sector and my experience with the government. This being the intelligence business, where there is a premium often placed on agility, and I think that's true as well in successful companies. And the companies I was with, all three of whom were good companies, were able when the time called for it to be agile. And I think that is certainly true in the case of intelligence. We're often accused of, being in the government, of being bureaucratic and all that sort of thing, but what we have found, particularly since September 11, is there is a very high premium being placed on agility and nimbleness and responsiveness, much more so than the 42 years I've been doing intelligence that I'd never seen before.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, you talked about going to the private sector; what drew you back to government service?

Mr. Clapper: Well, it was kind of a surprise. In August of 2001, I got a phone call from the Department of Defense, and I was asked to come in to interview to see whether I would consider coming back to serve as an intelligence agency director, and for me, frankly, it was kind of a no-brainer. I certainly enjoyed my time in industry, and the three companies that I worked for were great to me, but I never really got the psychic income that I got when I was in private service. And so when I had the opportunity to come back, and had the honor of being asked to come back, I jumped at it. And of course, this was about a month before September 11. In fact, I began my tenure at NGA ten days after 9/11, and it's been a pretty fast train ever since.

Mr. Lawrence: Earlier in this part of the conversation, you talked about changing the name from NIMA to NGA. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Mr. Clapper: Right. The name NIMA, National Imagery and Mapping Agency, was somewhat of a compromise at the time because -- well, you may not appreciate this, but it was basically involved the marriage of two very disparate cultures; that is, imagery intelligence, imagery analysis on one hand, and mapping, charting, and geodesy on the other. And they had been organizationally and functionally separate for many, many, many, many years. So the notion of putting them together was somewhat of a radical thing at the time. And the vision of the founding fathers and mothers of the agency in the mid '90s was to amalgamate or synthesize these two previously disparate endeavors.

The name National Imagery and Mapping Agency really served to continue that separateness; that imagery analysis and mapping/charting geodesy is two separate endeavors. We, the leadership, had an off-site in January 2002, which was a fairly profound thing for us, and we decided we'd been singing "Amazing Grace" at the wake long enough, and that it was time to get on with what the intended vision of the agency was -- which was the melding of the two into what we call geospatial intelligence. Ergo, we need to change the name, so the name itself would not perpetuate that separateness, if you will.

So we prepared a legislative package which went through both houses of Congress, and amazingly enough, they both agreed, and so President Bush signed our name change into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2004, which thus renamed the agency.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, that's interesting. I didn't realize there was so much thought behind it.

What are the top priorities for NGA in 2005? We'll ask General Clapper, NGA's Director, to explain this to us when our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Lieutenant James Clapper, Air Force (Ret.), Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky.

Mr. Kamensky: General Clapper, can you give us an overview of NGA's top priorities for this coming year?

Mr. Clapper: Well, I guess the first priority would be to continue to and instantiate -- a 25-cent word there for "institutionalizing" -- the idea or the concept of geospatial intelligence. That's kind of priority one. We have put a lot of emphasis on what we call a performance-based culture, since in NGA we have had a pay-for-performance system for about six years now, which is a growing trend in the government. And this is quite a radical departure from the classic way that the civil service officers have been compensated in the past, where we attempt to make differentiation among employee performance, and then award them financially accordingly. So we will continue to refine that process.

When NIMA, as the agency was then called, was stood up in 1996, it inherited a pretty sick infrastructure, in that the antecedent infrastructures which were separate -- and by that I mean the communications and the computer capabilities, which were not compatible and all that sort of thing -- and we have spent a lot of time, energy, and money on rectifying that infrastructure so that we can cope with the volumes of data that we have to cope with. So that clearly is another instance. There's what we call convergence, which is meant to capture the notion of building a very robust, as we call it, TPED capability, which is an acronym for Tasking, Processing, Exploitation, Dissemination.

And what we are being confronted with is a rather substantial deluge of data that comes to us from many sources: satellites, be they government or commercial; airborne, and other sources of data, and that is going to increase exponentially. So we must absolutely, positively build ourselves a very robust, modernized infrastructure to accommodate and ingest all that material, and most importantly, convey it, do something with it so that users can make use of it. So those are I think big-hitters as we approach 2005.

Mr. Lawrence: Let me ask again about convergence, because I know you wrote a letter to the entire workforce, talking about its importance. I was hoping you could elaborate later a little bit more about that. And also, what's the role of the employees in convergence?

Mr. Clapper: Well, I have tried to convey the importance of this to not only the employees internally, but of course our Executive Branch overseers, as well as the Congress, so they understand why this is important. Typically and historically, the way we've approached this in the past has been, if we field a collection system; say, a satellite system or an airborne system, then somewhat as an afterthought, we will also then attend to the ground structure that has to accommodate or ingest the material that's collected from the collection platform, whatever it is. And then we do this, classically, on a one-off basis, so as our collection systems multiply, we just cannot continue this inefficient approach to having a TEPD structure that is done on a one-off basis, one per collection system.

The technology is such today that we can converge all these separate ground structures into one robust system, and then make it easier both for our analysts internally to use it, to ingest, and look at, and analyze this material, and also for our users to extract from the data, from our databases, what they need. So to us, to me personally, convergence is crucial to our future.

If we're going to keep up with what I call the four Vs: which are the volume, velocity, variety, and veracity, meaning the accuracies that are being expected of us; and if we're going to keep up with that, we have to build this robust TEPD, or Tasking Processing Exploitation Dissemination System. Employees have a huge role in this, because they're the ones that are going to make it work. So it's obviously important; it's crucial that I enlist their understanding of what convergence means, and their participation to make it work.

Mr. Lawrence: Along the lines of convergence, could you tell us about the National System for Geospatial Intelligence, NSG, as I understand it. Why is this important?

Mr. Clapper: The National System for Geospatial Intelligence is the compilation of, or the amalgam, I guess, of the people, the systems, the technology, the policies, and doctrine that comprise the enterprise of National Geospatial Intelligence. What that implies is not only the agency that I'm director of, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, but the larger community that we serve, since we of course engage with the military departments, the services, the warfighters, as well as partnerships that we have with the civil agencies, since we serve other Cabinet departments besides DoD. So it is the totality of this system, since we provide the workstations and the like, that support people who also draw on our products and services. So it is the stewardship of this larger system that it's kind of a second hat that I wear, in addition to that as Director.

Mr. Lawrence: And how about Geospatial Intelligence, or GEOINT, if I've said that right. Could you tell us about this?

Mr. Clapper: Well, Geospatial Intelligence is, as I say, represents this amalgam of imagery and imagery intelligence, so it is a picture on the ground in a geospatial or geographical context, and it is from that then you derive information of national security, that has national security implications. So for example, if the military is very interested in such questions as where are the bad guys, where could they move, and what it is the road network that might support their movement or mine, where are the bridges, where are the key infrastructures. So if all that data on the ground, on the terrestrial dimension, over which other forms of intelligence-oriented information can be overlaid, it gives, say, a military commander in the field the picture of the environment in which he or she is going to operate.

Mr. Lawrence: I know that NGA is also leading the way in terms of standardizing the sharing of geospatial information and I've been reading about the standards technical working group. Why is this important?

Mr. Clapper: Well as we try to serve as the leader; the steward, if you will, for this larger system, it's important that we and people looking to us to do this that we sort of prescribe the building codes, if you will, and that you've done that under a laboratory kind of seal of approval. So if you're going to buy a piece of equipment, a computer, whatever it is, that it's got to be compatible with the larger national system for geospatial intelligence. So that then implies sort of endorsement, or actually the description and prescription of standards. Now, this gets to be very complex, because we deal internationally, since we have many, many agreements with foreign countries or foreign counterparts. So there's a set of international standards; there are, of course, a set of commercial standards. And our approach, frankly, is if there's a capability hardware/software that can be procured off the shelf that will satisfy our need, that's what we should do. So you have the commercial standards, and then you have the military spec standards, and what we are attempting to do is to sort of compile those into a single directive, so that we've got all these geospatial intelligence standards in one place. Again, it's kind of the building codes, in order to promote collaboration and interoperability.

Mr. Kamensky: In addition to Geospatial Intelligence, NGA has had a role in supporting recovery from national disasters, like the World Trade Center, the Space Shuttle, the hurricanes in Florida. I understand that NGA is also helping the relief efforts in the Tsunami-impacted regions. How is NGA providing support there?

Mr. Clapper: John, it's a growth business for us, if I could use that term. It goes back actually to before the Agency was formed. And the predecessor elements of the Agency have always had a disaster relief mission, so if you have some natural disaster; say, flood, hurricane, earthquake, whatever it is, just domestically, the Agency and its predecessors would bring to bear either the national means, or more recently, commercial means to enable planners and responders to look at -- literally, no pun intended, the big picture. So you can look at a large area and see the extent of damage, you can see the impacts; for example, on road networks. You can see where you have to concentrate your relief efforts first; you can see what the impact has been on the infrastructure. So that FEMA at the national level, and in a domestic context, at the State level as well, we can provide them with these views or pictures that show the larger area of damage that's been affected, so they can use that as a planning aid, as well.

Now, this mission easily translates or transforms into support to Homeland Security. So we have an extensive effort to support our Homeland Security efforts, and all we've done here is apply the same tactics, techniques, and procedures; the same products, services, solutions, that we have long done in an overseas context, and just overlay them into a domestic context as well. So every special event in the United States: Super Bowl, political conventions, inauguration, whatever it is, we are there with a deployed team, and we provide that common operating picture on which the other agencies, federal, state, local, and regional, can all share, so they're all looking at the same map, if you will, the same geospatial depiction.

Similarly, in the Tsunami disaster, we were able to do the same thing, only overseas; for the eleven countries that were affected in the Indian Ocean littoral was -- an unbelievable magnitude of this disaster. And of course, it has had profound impact on the littoral environment around the Indian Ocean. So we will have to be redoing all the geospatial depictions, the maps and the like because of the change to the littoral; both maritime conditions, as well as terrestrial.

Mr. Kamensky: Littoral being coastline?

Mr. Clapper: Yes, right.

Mr. Lawrence: That's interesting; I didn't realize you had to redo the maps.

Many are talking these days about the need for intelligence agencies to collaborate and work more closely. What are the management challenges that need to be addressed to make this happen?

We'll ask General Clapper, NGA Director, about these when The Business of Government Hour continues.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Lieutenant General James Clapper, Air Force (Ret.), Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

And also joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky.

Well, General, President Bush signed the U.S. Intelligence Reform Bill into law into December 2004. Could you tell us about what some of the key provisions are, and how this bill affects NGA?

Mr. Clapper: Well, this is, no question, the most profound piece of legislation affecting the intelligence community since the National Security Act of 1947, and I think the most profound feature of it, frankly, is the separation of what had been the Director of Central Intelligence from being dual-headed as both the DCI as well the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; the DNI, as he will be called, assuming Ambassador Negroponte is confirmed, will be presiding over all the agencies, to include the CIA. So the implications of that I think are quite profound, and we're not actually going to know until we actually start doing this.

There's a lot of analysis going on right now of the legislation, which I personally think is interesting, but it isn't going to be terribly informative. I think the real test here is going to be the first acts of the DNI; that is, what he does and says the first hour, first day, first week, first month, first year, because that will be huge in terms of the precedents that will be set on how this position is actually going to perform and what it's actually going to do. So I think we're going to watch this space mode, frankly, as to how this all turns out and how this evolves, and of course, it's going to be very interesting.

As far as our agency is concerned, what I have told the work force is that it's my belief that what we do is so vital, so important to our users, our consumers, that I don't see, at least initially, a whole lot of change as a direct result of the onset of the DNI. I'm sure there will be changes, but I think the basic mission that we perform will continue.

Mr. Kamensky: Some say that a small revolution is underway in the intelligence service. For the first time, National Security Agency experts are working with analysts at NGA. What were the drivers for these two agencies to join forces now, and how are the National Security Agency and NGA working closer together than any intelligence organizations in history?

Mr. Clapper: Well, John, that's a great question, and I appreciate getting it because I think this has been a good news story. It's not been heralded too much. Obviously, all the intelligence community has been impelled by the tragedy of 9/11. There have been, even before the legislation, a lot of changes, for the good, in the intelligence community. General Hayden, who is the Director of the National Security Agency, and is the nominee to be the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and I are long associates and colleagues and have known each other for many years.

I served on the NSA Advisory Board for four years while I was retired, and I basically grew up in the NSA system. I had a couple of assignments there and I'm pretty familiar with NSA. So when I came to NIMA, now NGA, I was frankly struck by the parallels and similarities between the two agencies. We basically operate in the same time zone, yet we don't compete. We are very complementary in what we do. And so it's almost a natural fit for the two agencies to get together and collaborate. So we've done a lot in terms of exchanging hostages, if you will. We are on each other's footprint big-time. We have senior executives that we have exchanged in each agency, which is a tremendous experience for them and both the agencies. I can't go into the details here because of the classification, but suffice to say that we have put a lot of the emphasis on bringing together our two disciplines, geospatial intelligence and signal intelligence, at the pointy end of the stick, if you will. It's been particularly applicable and particularly successful in the global war on terrorism, but to me, this is a great success story.

Mr. Kamensky: You and former CIA Director George Tenet and former NSA Director Michael Hayden commented together that speed and agility is the key to the war on terrorism, not more levels of bureaucracy in Washington. How are intelligence agencies speeding up this work flow?

Mr. Clapper: One thing we are doing, both -- everyone as an intelligence community, but particularly NSA and NGA is pretty representative -- experts from each of our agencies in the field, with the forces pursuing the terrorists in the global war on terrorism. This has been I think a tremendous success as well. There's no substitute for having our experts right there with the operators, with the warfighters, enduring the same privations, the same challenges, and most importantly, understanding the exact mission. And there is a time sensitivity involved here, and so we empower our folks who are forward-deployed with the warfighters to draw on or reach back to the home agency for whatever support is needed. So we've had to build up a cadr� of deployers to sustain this presence.

But there really isn't any substitute for having them out there embedded in a decision loop which can't come back to the Beltway and then back out there. They have to be a part of that process. And all the intelligence community members, all the agencies, are involved in rendering that sort of direct support up close and personal.

Mr. Kamensky: What are some of the challenges and what's being done to overcome them?

Mr. Clapper: Well, one of the challenges that we have is, of course, sustaining these deployments. It's one thing when, you know, the first emergency happens, but then when you get into a regime of sustaining these deployments for months and months, now years at a time, what we've done is raise a cadr� of deployers that we train and equip, and they're all civilians who volunteered to do this. And of course, we compensate them extra for that. But, you know, teach them how to fire an M-16 and drive a Humvee and all these other things that military people need to do, because that's then environment they need to operate in, so they get their shots up to date, and their wills up to date, and all of that, and then we deploy them, and that's a challenge.

There is the challenge of communications; staying connected, particularly in the business for imagery, which is widely known as a voracious bandwidth eater of communication. It takes a lot of communications capacity to move imagery around. So that's always a challenge, a connectivity for the people -- we have people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other garden spots like that, and staying connected with them in such a way that we can respond to their needs, keep them equipped, keep them supported, is a big challenge. And then of course, having to do that in a secure mode, and complying with security policies and the like. So those are all some challenges that we're working, and by and large, I think pretty successfully overcoming.

Mr. Kamensky: Many intelligence agencies have expressed a need for more intelligence analysts. How's NGA approaching its planning on recruiting, training, and retaining?

Mr. Clapper: We, like the rest of the Intelligence community, are on the upslope. We were on down slope, personnel-wise, prior to 9/11. And of course, that has occasioned a growth spurt for us. And so all of us are out recruiting -- and I think it speaks well of the patriotism of our citizenry, and particularly our young people, because all of us collectively have thousands of r�sum�s of applicants who want to come work for us, which of course is good, because we can be selective. The mode we're in right now is, of course, one of the problems we have is there is a clearance requirement, background investigations and that sort of thing, and so we have people in the pipeline. And sometimes these clearances can take a long time, so we have the challenge of staying connected with our applicants, hopefully keeping them interested in what we offer to them.

So we are bringing in hundreds of people right now, which poses a real strain on our pipeline, particularly training. And what we've had to do is set up a mentoring system, where every new employee, particularly new analyst, is assigned a more experienced member of the analytic cadr� to sort of show them the ropes. And so we're having to do this. And of course, we have to continue our day-to-day mission, so that is a daunting challenge. But I've been on the obverse of that, where you're trying to reduce the workforce, and frankly, I'd rather be in the mode we're in today.

Mr. Lawrence: In the first segment when you were describing your team, you talked about the significant contribution of contractors. How is NGA working with contractors and making that link between business and government?

Mr. Clapper: Well, this is something that affected me. The six years that I was out of the government and in the industry, I worked as a contractor for the intelligence community, so I had that dimension, and I learned a lot from that experience. And that frankly has influenced me and the Agency accordingly. So we like to think that we're very contractor-friendly. My definition of what is what I would call the sacred trust of the government has actually gotten much smaller since I was a contractor, because there's a lot of work that contractors can and do do for us. In fact, if all the contractors didn't come to work tomorrow, we would be out of business. We are that dependent on them. They are a part of us.

I have tried to promote as much teamwork between and among government and contractor as possible, acknowledging though that we the government has a fiduciary and contractual oversight responsibility to ensure that what the contractors do meets the specifications of the contract. One of the processes I've established is what we call an industry interaction program, which is rather formalized, but what it is designed to do is to offer a contractor who has something to offer, something they want to show, they want to demonstrate, they want to brief us on, so we have a dedicated staff to systematically bring these people in and ensure they are exposed to the right parts of the NGA staff, and then we'll help them, to the extent that we can, ply what they might have to offer, if it is something that we need. So since half our workforce are contractor full-time equivalents, this is a hugely important segment of our workforce.

Mr. Lawrence: That's interesting about that formal interaction.

What does the future hold for NGA? We'll ask General Clapper, its Director, for his prospective as our conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with Lieutenant General James Clapper, Air Force (Ret.), Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

And joining us in our conversation is John Kamensky.

Well, General Clapper, can you tell us about the future of imagery and satellite technology, and the challenges NGA may face in the future?

Mr. Clapper: Well, the future for us, I think, is very bright. I think the idea, the concept, of geospatial intelligence, which I feel is quite compelling, is catching on. It is growing; I think people appreciate it. It can serve many customers, be they in the Department of Defense, which of course is our major customer, but, other Cabinet departments. We support the Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, and of course the Department of Homeland Security, with this notion of geospatial intelligence. What we're faced with in the future is greater and greater volumes of data as we acquire more collection capabilities, be they from satellites or from aircrafts or from terrestrial sources, so the challenge for us is going to be coping with the volume of data that we will ingest, the variety of sources and sensors that it will come from, and ensuring the veracity of what we produce.

The example I would cite is the ever-more exacting demands of precision-guided munitions. Today, the military places a very high premium on precision and accuracy. If they use a kinetic weapon on the ground, it must go where it was intended to go. So that places a very high premium on knowing the exact spot on the Earth where you're going to put that weapon. And as it turns out, NGA is the steward or reservoir for the master database to support this effort. So our challenge is going to be coping with this volume, the variety, and the velocity, the intervals during the day at which we will be taking a drink out of that fire hydrant, so to speak, and coping with it, so that's going to be our challenge in the future. Now, it's a challenge, but it's also a good news story, because I think that what that represents is the instantiation of the importance of geospatial intelligence.

Mr. Kamensky: How do you envision NGA in the next 5 to 10 years?

Mr. Clapper: Well, I think that, assuming we can continue with our program to converge and modernize, a lot of things that are done today kind of manually, we are still very much in the paper products mode. We produce millions and million of map products, for which there will always be a demand, but ultimately, we want to get to doing business with us the way you do business on the internet, in that you would come to use through our webpage, or whatever, and through a series of a few clicks -- not too many -- you'd be able to extract the layers of data that will support your particular mission, and that you can use that, manipulate it and tailor it to suit your own needs, you as a user, and so that we're not producing reams and reams of paper. So that I think is going to be our major transformation over the next five years, the modernization and automation of our processes.

Mr.Kamensky: And what advice can you give to government executives who face similar tasks of collaborating with other agencies and departments?

Mr. Clapper: Well, I think I'd look for the sweet spots. The approach that General Hayden and I took with the collaboration between our two agencies was basically to encourage those in each agency that this is something we wanted to see happen, and to look for good ideas on how we can collaborate, and the result has been where the sum is greater that the parts. And so I think looking for where there are complementary opportunities, and if there are policy barriers, or the like, that can be overcome through, in our case, the direction of the two agency directors, and then we do that.

The pattern that General Hayden and I have worked into is about once a quarter, we have a fairly formal meeting between the two of us, and we have our senior staff, and we alternate home and away, at his agency or ours, and we use the Huntley-Brinkley approach, where an agency senior from each of the agencies have to get up and brief together what they're doing in their particular area to promote collaboration, and it seems to work pretty well. There's always a flurry of activity two weeks before the next quarterly.

Mr. Lawrence: As I think about your description of your career at the beginning of our show, it's clear you've had a long and distinguished career as a public servant. What advice would you give to someone, perhaps a young person, interested in a career in public service?

Mr. Clapper: Well, go for it. I have done both, and in all, I spent the lion's share of my life and career in public service, and it is the what I call psychic income that I derive from the public service. To me, it's somewhat an ethereal or spiritual thing. It has not to do with making a lot of money, because you're not going to do that in the government. The government pays well, comfortably, you can make a comfortable living, but you're not going to be rich just working in the government. But there are certain satisfactions that come from the discharge of what I consider a sacred trust, particularly these days, because of the vital importance of intelligence in the war on terrorism. So I think it's a great place to be. It's very rewarding and satisfying to be a part of this national effort.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, I'm afraid that will have to be our last question.

General Clapper, John, and I want to thank you for squeezing us into your very, very busy schedule in joining us this morning.

Mr. Clapper: Well, John and Paul, I've enjoyed it. Thank you very much.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you again, General.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Lieutenant General James Clapper, Air Force (Ret.), Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and research and get a copy of today's transcript of this fascinating interview. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

For The Business of Government Radio Hour, I'm Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

LTG James R. Clapper interview
05/14/2005
"Both the National Security Agency and NGA have put great emphasis on bringing together geospatial intelligence and signal intelligence. It’s been particularly applicable and successful in the global war on terrorism. This is a great success story."

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