Pentagon Awards $7.3 Billion Contracts for Outsourced Spy Imagery

Friday, August 20, 2010
Dubai Airport (photo: GeoEye)

It used to be that the production and maintenance of spy satellites was in government hands, but now this important aspect of national security is routinely outsourced. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Department of Defense’s operator of military spy satellites, is again relying on private companies to provide a new generation of reconnaissance imagery. NGA recently awarded $7.3 billion in contracts for its EnhancedView commercial imagery program, which is intended to yield higher resolution photos of earth targets than what is currently available to the military.

Receiving 10-year contracts from NGIA were DigitalGlobe Inc. of Longmont, Colorado, for $3.5 billion, and GeoEye Imagery Collection Systems Inc. of Dulles, Virginia, for $3.8 billion.
The serious privatizing of spy satellites began when George W. Bush took over the presidency in 2001. The man in charge of the NGA (then know as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency) was retired Lieutenant General James Clapper, Jr. By the time Clapper left the NGA in June 2006, most of its imagery gathering responsibilities had been turned over to DigitalGlobe and GeoEye. Five months later, Clapper joined the board of directors of GeoEye. On June 5, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Clapper to be Director of National Intelligence. He was confirmed by the Senate on August 5.
DigitalGlobe operates three satellites capable of collecting imagery at resolutions of better than 1 meter, and GeoEye has two satellites in orbit that can photograph objects as small as half a meter in size.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
NGA Awards EnhancedView Commercial Imagery Contract (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency)
NGA Awards Big Satellite Imagery Contracts (by Warren Ferster, Space News)
Director of National Intelligence: Who is James Clapper? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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