Most of what takes place in the intelligence world does so behind closed doors, which makes it difficult to determine who’s pulling what strings. But bits and pieces of relevant data do make it into the public domain, and sometimes, associated fingerprints can be found, or at least inferred.

Public clues to the action behind the scenes include the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s recent award of EnhancedView contracts to imaging satellite operators DigitalGlobe and GeoEye with a combined potential value of $7.3 billion over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin recently disclosed that it expects a multibillion-dollar contract for a classified satellite program in 2012, an award whose timing is consistent with the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office’s plans for its Next Generation Optical imaging system.

EnhancedView and Next Generation Optical are the pillars of the so-called two-plus-two imagery collection strategy that features two highly capable satellites for the most demanding requirements and reliance on commercial providers for more routine collection needs. Although it’s never over until it’s over in Washington, the two-plus-two strategy — in doubt as recently as early this year — appears now to be on solid ground.

One of its leading proponents has been U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who as chairman of the House Intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence is in position to influence the outcome of closed-door debates on these kinds of matters. The evidence that he carried the day on two-plus-two is largely circumstantial, of course, but it’s strong enough to land him on this year’s list of difference-makers in space.