| COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado May 20 The U.S.
government will eventually approve a bid by commercial space
imagery provider DigitalGlobe Inc to sell higher
resolution satellite images, the head of the U.S. National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said on Tuesday.
"It's going to happen. Technology is moving in that
direction," NGA Director Letitia Long told an annual space
conference hosted by the Space Foundation.
Long told reporters after her speech that NGA and other
intelligence agencies backed the effort, but the White House was
still coordinating the positions of the Pentagon, Commerce
Department, State Department and other agencies. She said she
did not know when a decision would be announced.
"It's not a question of yes or no. It's a question of when
and how," said a second senior U.S. official involved in the
coordination process. Approving sales of sharper imagery involed
myriad nuanced and complex issues, said the official.
DigitalGlobe has pressed the U.S. government for years to
allow it to sell higher resolution imagery but officials have
worried about undermining the intelligence advantage the
government has from even higher resolution satellite images.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last month
said that U.S. intelligence agencies had agreed to allow
commercial providers to sell higher resolution imagery. Sources
familiar with the process said they expected the government to
approve a phased implementation over the course of this year.
Long said other countries were rapidly developing their own
advanced imagery capabilities and she worried that U.S. industry
could lose its competitive edge.
Colorado-based DigitalGlobe applied nearly one year ago for
a license to increase the resolution of its imagery from 50 cm
to 25 cm. The company has said it hopes the U.S. government will
act quickly to finalize the decision. It is preparing to launch
its new WorldView 3 satellite in August, which would allow the
company to sell imagery accurate to 31 cm.
Long said allowing the company to sell higher resolution
imagery could allow adversaries to track U.S. troop movements,
but the license could be structured to more tightly control
imagery in the event of a military conflict.
That, however, could pose problems for the company's ability
to market its product overseas, she said.
"It's taking us a while because it's a complex issue," Long
said. "We want to do the best thing for the U.S. commercially,
as well as our nation's security."
Long also underscored the importance of the tools and
processes used to analyze imagery, noting that simply having
access to better resolution images would not necessarily give
potential adversaries an advantage.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Andrew Hay)