If you're lost, the NGA can probably get you where you need to go. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA) roots run as deep as 1803 when Lewis and Clark were sent by Thomas Jefferson to explore and map the Louisiana Territory. Today, exploration and mapping is the responsibility of the agency. A Department of Defense combat support agency, the NGA merges imagery, maps, charts, and environmental data to produce "geospatial intelligence" to provide support for US national defense, homeland security, and safety of navigation. Its data is used to enable rapid decision-making on the battlefield, help resolve international disputes, aid in disaster relief efforts, and develop safer airways, and more.
The NGA operates offices in Maryland, Missouri, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC.
In 1996 the US Congress, the CIA, and the DoD combined the efforts of the country's mapping and imagery analysis efforts, creating the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. It changed its name in 2003 to the NGA.
NGA is expected to take on a larger role as the US military gears up for a troop surge into Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Military analysts say the US government plans to increase geospatial intelligence for troops in the theater by roughly 25%, including mapping and charting, targeting information, high-resolution imagery in support of force protection, special operations, and other functions.
The agency's data has been used in a wide variety of non-military projects, including helping resolve long-standing border disputes between Peru and Ecuador, surveying the World Trade Center site after the September 11 attacks to help determine the destruction, and assisting federal emergency management officials in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
NGA has also provided geospatial assistance to the Olympic Games, in Salt Lake City in 2002, Athens in 2004, and Turin, Italy, in 2006.