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This article was published on August 20, 2010

US spy mapping agency: Only Google can meet our needs for a new project

US spy mapping agency: Only Google can meet our needs for a new project
Chad Catacchio
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Chad Catacchio

Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in th Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in the US and China. Check out his personal blog to connect with him or follow him on Twitter (if you dare).

The United States’ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has announced that it intends to make Google the “sole-source” for the NGA’s Geospatial Visualization Enterprises Services project.

A “sole-source” provider means that the NGA believes that Google is the only qualified provider and is the only company that can bid on the project. The announcement was made yesterday and competitors have until August 24 to voice their objections to this decision.

The NGA’s Geospatial Visualization Enterprises Services contract is for a, “secured, hosted environment that provides web-based access to geospatial visualization services and Open Geospatial Consortium complaint web service interfaces.”

The NGA said in a statement that:

“Google is the only source that can meet the Government’s requirement for worldwide access, unlimited processing, and Open Geospatial Consortium complaint web service interfaces.”

The contract is for at least one year with two option years after that (it’s unclear from the announcement which side would trigger the option).

So what is the NGA? According to Wikipedia:

“The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is an agency of the United States Government with the primary mission of collection, analysis, and distribution of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) in support of national security… and is part of the Department of Defense. In addition, NGA is a key component of the United States Intelligence Community.”

NextGov reached out to Microsoft to see what they thought of all of this, reporting that, “Microsoft spokesman Keith Hodson said the company’s Bing Maps Server can meet the NGA’s requirements.”

An academic geospatial expert that we contacted, who wished to not be named, told us that, “Google Earth sells a massive enterprise infrastructure product. Though Bing has commercial licenses, I’m not sure about their standalone (where the client runs their own secure server clones) enterprise infrastructure.” As evidence, our source pointed us to Google’s and Bing Map’s enterprise mapping pages, which shows that Google has at least put a lot more into how they are showcasing their standalone enterprise infrastructure.

This comes about ten days after GeoEye and DigitalGlobe were awarded multi-billion dollar contracts with the NGA to provide satellite imagery. The monetary terms of this deal were not announced.

We’ve contacted Google PR and an additional expert for comment and will update if/when we get responses.