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Mapping agency correcting Afghanistan charts

Mapmakers at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency have detected errors in topographic line maps of Afghanistan and are working to correct these mistakes, agency officials said today.

The maps are the 1:50, 000 ratio charts commonly used by infantrymen, combat controllers and engineers. The problems involve place names in Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan, officials said. The maps were produced since 2002.

Agency spokesman David Burpee said, agency officials identified instances where place names do not appear on the maps and instances where the place names are imprecisely placed on the maps. Further investigation revealed the agency’s Geographic Names Data Base also contains place-name discrepancies.

The database is the primary U.S. government repository for foreign digital place-name data, and was the source of the names appearing on the maps. “While reviewing these products, we are also looking for other critical defects; to date, we have found none,” Burpee said.

The agency discovered the discrepancies in mid-June. “We notified the Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, national users and commercial and international partners of our findings,” Burpee said. There have been no reports of real troubles due to the place name anomalies, officials said. They do present the potential for confusion, but no service member has reported a serious issue with the maps. In fact, aside from the place-name discrepancies, other information on the maps – such as grid- coordinate data, topography and road networks – “is the best available and continues to be used by customers,” Burpee said.

The agency already has begun correcting the errors on the maps. The first of the revised maps will be available in “weeks, not months,” said officials. Corrections to the database will take longer. The agency has formed a team of analysts to review and correct the maps based on operational priorities.