The Advanced Distributed Simulation (ADS) Synthetic Environments Program seeks to create robust virtual worlds from operational terrain and environmental data sources of sufficient fidelity and currency to interact with the real world. While some applications can be met by direct exploitation of standard digital terrain data, more demanding applications -- particularly those support operations 'close to the ground' -- are well-served by emerging capabilities for 'value-adding' by the user working with controlled imagery. For users to rigorously refine and exploit controlled imagery within functionally different workstations they must have a shared framework to allow interoperability within and between these environments in terms of passing image and object coordinates and other information using a variety of validated sensor models. The Synthetic Environments Program is now being expanded to address rapid construction of virtual worlds with research initiatives in digital mapping, softcopy workstations, and cartographic image understanding. The Synthetic Environments Program is also participating in a joint initiative for a sensor model applications programer's interface (API) to ensure that a common controlled imagery exploitation framework is available to all researchers, developers and users. This presentation provides an introduction to ADS and the associated requirements for synthetic environments to support synthetic theaters of war. It provides a technical rationale for exploring applications of image understanding technology to automated cartography in support of ADS and related programs benefitting from automated analysis of mapping, earth resources and reconnaissance imagery. And it provides an overview and status of the joint initiative for a sensor model API.