Article Entry

28 Oct 2008



Added by Category: Guest Q&A

Honorable James R. Clapper Jr.,

We are excited to have the Honorable James R. Clapper Jr., Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)), as our very first high-level interview/feature for got geoint?. General Clapper spoke with the editorial staff of got geoint? just prior to the 2008 GEOINT Symposium, where he also will be a keynote speaker.

Gen. Clapper has been called the “father” of GEOINT and we were honored that he shared his vision on the history and future of the geospatial intelligence tradecraft.


Some would call you the “father” of GEOINT. What is your perspective on where we’ve been since the idea of GEOINT was “born”?

While I appreciate the moniker of being called the “father” of GEOINT, it wasn’t a new idea on my part. The founding “fathers and mothers” in the early 1990s actually had the vision behind the formation of GEOINT, which was the marriage of mapping, charting and geodesy with imagery analysis and intelligence. And this is a classic case of the sum of the melding being much more than the actual parts.

Regarding my evolution into GEOINT, I was initially quite stuck by a report done by the NIMA [National Imagery and Mapping Agency] Commission published circa December 2000. And, I actually came on as the NIMA Director two days after 9-11, which was an interesting and challenging time to start as the director of this agency. And it soon became evident that GEOINT was a compelling and useful idea when it was effectuated. And, our first challenge was Afghanistan – when we essentially began the marriage of the two disparate disciplines into what we informally called geospatial intelligence.

Then in January 2002, we hosted a significant off-site retreat where the agency’s leadership decided to bring the National Imagery and Mapping Agency into one functional agency, as opposed to being two disparate functions. This ultimately laid the foundation for renaming the agency and for where we are today. In my almost five years with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [NGA], we worked hard to promote the concept of geospatial intelligence as a unified discipline.

And Vice Admiral [Robert] Murrett has done a great job of continuing the institutionalization of our discipline. And events like the GEOINT symposia have certainly played a major role in further pushing our tradecraft forward.


Speaking of the GEOINT symposia, you’ve also been at the GEOINT Symposium since its beginning. As we head into our 5th GEOINT Symposium, can you tell us what your vision for the GEOINT tradecraft where is it heading?

I think the growth of the Foundation, as well as the annual increase in attendance and exhibitors at GEOINT is emblematic of the overall growth of our tradecraft.

What is shaping the direction of our tradecraft is the fundamental premise that everyone has to got to be someplace on the Earth. And that is why geospatial intelligence is the obvious common denominator for all of the other layers of intelligence. Information can be overlaid over that basic geospatial intelligence foundation … to the extent that you can update it … and make it available pervasively to users and customers. And that is the vector that I see the tradecraft heading toward.


Going back to what you said earlier about the direction of the tradecraft, what role, if any, do you see geospatial intelligence capabilities or solutions playing in the areas or of cyber, biometrics, and space? Is there an intersection?

Having the geospatial intelligence foundation as common denominator – whether its cyber, biometric or space – for portraying and visualizing other forms of information and intelligence is one of the greatest strengths of our tradecraft.

Again, the notion that everyone has to be some place plays heavily in our tradecraft. And there is a useful intersection of SIGINT and GEOINT, which plays out effectively and very compellingly in Iraq and Afghanistan. I just returned from a week and half trip there and saw many graphic examples of the intersection of all intelligence disciplines being brought together in a very effective way – in the war on terrorism and the prosecution of what we are doing in both of those countries.


In your role as the USD(I), what role do you see geospatial intelligence playing for the defense intelligence community?

I see geospatial intelligence as the foundation for other intelligence disciplines. Others are also recognizing the growing value that geospatial intelligence provides as a discipline. And, the manifestation of that is the tremendous outreach that NGA has undertaken in terms of embedding with both sister agencies or customers.


Let’s talk about this new social media/Web 2.0 landscape that is coming into our community. We have A-Space, Intellipedia, and of course, USGIF’s new unclassified blog, “got geoint?” Do you see these types of – user generated forums – a step forward for information sharing?

Absolutely. This is the wave of the future, and something that geezers like myself may find a bit intimidating, but I certainly see the tremendous value in it. From promoting the collaboration and interactions for any number of users – where you can create perpetuate, expand and contract communities of interest as well as promote informal and the not-so-informal dialogue, among various analytic centers forms this social media world and it is the future.


What do you hope to achieve or what are you most looking forward to at GEOINT this year?

I think the GEOINT symposia are a great snap shot in time where the agencies and its partners get together we come together, collaborate and determine where we are going from a technology perspective. And, hope to play an active part of this dialogue this year.

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