Mission of the NRO

Innovative Overhead Intelligence Systems for National Security

In recent years, the NRO has implemented a series of actions declassifying some of its operations. The organization was declassified in September 1992 followed by the location of its headquarters in Chantilly, VA, in 1994. In February 1995, CORONA, a photoreconnaissance program in operation from 1960 to 1972, was declassified and 800,000 CORONA images were transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration. In December 1996, the NRO announced for the first time, in advance, the launch of a reconnaissance satellite.


NRO director once stated their concept of operations as “collect in space, process in cyberspace.” This model underscores the importance of protecting their own agency IT but also underscores how even space is connected to IT. Those bringing solutions to NRO need to understand this connectivity.

Items of Interest

 Spy Agency Budget Reveals IT Projects

NRO is building a next-generation network called Ardent Gunslinger and carrying out a space network architecture project called Puppet Master according to their fiscal 2011 budget request. The request details numerous projects (many mostly redacted). Networking is a key part of the NRO IT projects. The Ardent Gunslinger project will be a “three-tiered replacement next-generation CORE backbone.” Puppet Master will re-architect the systems that transmit command and telemetry data for spacecraft and launch vehicles.

Key Trends

  • Consistently losing R+D and other dollars due to budget pressures.
  • However, need for aggressive launch schedule to maintain space arm of community is keeping funding up for operations.
  • NRO CIO Jill Singer believes cloud will bring “faster, better, cheaper and safer” IT to the IC (and NRO).

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