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3/13/2018 » 3/14/2018
2018 MAPPS Federal Programs Conference

 
 
 
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"Spatially Speaking" is the official MAPPS blog providing information on topics related to the association and profession and MAPPS involvement with the issues.

 

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A CALL TO SUPPORT STRENGTH IN THE GEOSPATIAL DATA ACT

Posted By MAPPS Board of Directors, Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Recent debate about the necessity and purpose in production and use of mapping/geospatial data has focused upon differences in opinion regarding how the data is procured and whom is allowed to produce it to standard.  In fact, the purpose of the Geospatial Data Act (S. 1253 and. H.R. 3522) is “to improve the coordination and use of geospatial data.” According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress, the bill is intended for “the development, implementation, and review of policies, practices, and standards relating to geospatial data” and to “ensure that geospatial data (National Spatial Data Infrastructure, (NSDI)) from multiple sources is available and easily integrated to enhance the understanding of the physical and cultural world”.

The bill, introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch with bi-partisan sponsorship, recognizes the important role the private sector plays in geospatial data in several provisions.  It seeks greater transparency in government geospatial activities, including the disclosure of certain information.  The CRS analysis says “agencies whose functions involve geospatial data shall implement a strategy for advancing geographic information and related geospatial data activities appropriate to that agency's mission in support of the strategic plan for the infrastructure. Such agencies shall disclose each contract, cooperative agreement, grant, or other transaction that deals with geospatial data.”  MAPPS and its partners applaud this commitment to transparency and focus on mission-specific requirements of Federal agencies.

Procurement, or contracting with the private sector, is inherent to the Geospatial Data Act and its goal of making the NSDI a success.  The carefully crafted legislation addresses a variety of challenges, components and stakeholders in geospatial data and the NSDI, both governmental (Federal, state and local) and the private sector.  Provisions that assure quality in the procurement of the collection and acquisition of geospatial data are integral to the overall goals and objectives of the legislation. As introduced, S. 1253 and H.R. 3522 provide that contacting for such geospatial data services are based on demonstrated competence and qualifications of competing firms. Such quality is essential to the success of government programs and activities that are dependent on reliable, accurate, and professionally acquired data and services.

MAPPS supports the Geospatial Data Act and are committed to working with the legislation’s sponsors in Congress to further revise, improve and perfect the bill’s language as it relates to the use of the private sector and long-established procurement policies.  We respectfully urge by other organizations not to weaken the bill as it stands today. MAPPS calls on other geospatial stakeholders to end their opposition to S. 1253 and H.R. 3522 and support the aforementioned provisions in the bill that serve the public interest, improve the geospatial activities and move the NSDI closer to a reality in service to the Nation and its citizens.


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Tax Reform and UAS

Posted By John M. Palatiello, Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tax_Cuts_Jobs_Act_1

Tax reform preserves cash accounting

Before John Palatiello became the first MAPPS Executive Director in 1987, he provided other consulting services to the association.  When Congress considered the last major reform tax bill, in 1986, MAPPS worked with a coalition in the A/E community to preserve cash based accounting for certain professional service firms.  Language preserving cash(versus accrual) was an option that was proposed to included in the 1986 Act. We won.  Congress specifically mentioned surveying and mapping as being among the professional service firms that could continue to use cash accounting for tax purposes. To this day, that is reflected in tax regulations.  At that time, MAPPS was involved in a study that found that as much as 1/3 of an A/E firm's (including surveying and mapping firms) revenue was in accounts receivable at any point in time.  If that point in time was the end of the firm's tax year, and the firm was legally required to use accrual accounting, then the firm would have to pay tax on income – 1/3 of its annual revenue – not yet realized, and in some cases, income that would never be realized.  This was viewed as a great burden on small A/E firms, including those in surveying and mapping.  This argument helped save the day for A/E/S/M firms' ability to continue to use cash accounting in the 1986 tax reform bill that became law.  In recent years, MAPPS (John M. Palatiello and John "JB" Byrd) continued to keep Congress informed of this important tax provision. In a victory for MAPPS members, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, the tax reform and reduction bill introduced in Congress last week, makes no changes to accounting rules affecting surveying and mapping firms, and thus preserves cash accounting.  

 

 

USDOT, FAA create UAS pilot program for drone regulation update

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello last week joined Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta, and other officials at the unveiling of a pilot program of projects, pursuant to President Trump's announcement to test relaxed regulations governing the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones.  At the Drone Integration Pilot Program launch, Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, cited surveyors among the key stakeholders who will benefit from the program.  The program will award grants to state, local, and tribal governments who partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration by testing operations such as flying over people, beyond visual line of site, and in other situations currently prohibited by regulation in order to gain experience and gather data on new, relaxed regulations.  See the program information for dates, deadlines and further information.

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35 Years of Progress

Posted By Regina M. Carter, Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Personally

As I sat through sessions at the MAPPS Summer Conference, including the enlightening and entertaining Oral History featuring numerous past presidents of MAPPS, I scanned the room and realized that I have been a member of MAPPS and a participant in these conferences longer than everyone else in the room, save my old friend Jim Spell, the retired president and founder of Horizons, Inc. and one of the founding fathers of MAPPS, and possibly Bobby Tuck and George Southard.

I began to reflect on what this organization has meant to my firm, my employees and me personally.

Without reservation, I can say that the growth and profitability of my firm, and my personal prosperity, can be traced to MAPPS.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in that conclusion.

I remember, going back to the 1980s, meeting John Palatiello for the first time.  I was struck by John’s vision and enthusiasm. At the time, MAPPS was a fledgling assortment of small photogrammetry firms.  

I, and my colleagues who were principals, owners and partners of early MAPPS member firms, knew our profession had challenges.  Government agencies routinely duplicated and competed with our firms, the few contracts that went out were mostly low bid.  Our community was viewed as a collection of small, “mom and pop” firms that had neither professional standing nor technological capability.

Where we saw barriers, John saw potential.  He immediately instilled in us a confidence that our voice could be heard in Washington, DC, that our elected representatives would listen, that we had a strong, positive story to tell about private sector mapping firms, and that by working together, we could affect change.

Applying his experience as a staff assistant on Capitol Hill and his tenure on the staff of ACSM and ASPRS, John built MAPPS into a powerhouse whose influence far exceeded its size.  He led us through a strategic plan to identify goals and opportunities to grow our market, trained us on the legislative process, established a political action committee, and started taking us to Congress.

Personally, John helped me get appointed by my U.S. Senator, Jim Inhofe, as a Delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business.  When I arrived in Washington, DC for the conference, John helped me as I chaired a committee on procurement, where we won approval of unfair government competition as one of the top planks in the conference’s platform, and the number one procurement-related issue.  Through John’s leadership, friendship and assistance, I was introduced to principals, owners and partners of MAPPS firms that were larger than mine, where I was able to form strategic partnerships that has brought tens of millions of dollars in revenue to my firm.  That not only increased our profits, but enabled me to grow, hire new staff, and invest in new technology.  It also enabled us to work in geographic markets we could not otherwise penetrate.

Being active in MAPPS, and serving on the Board of Directors, also gave me an opportunity to see how things get done in Washington, DC.  I gained an appreciation for how tough politics can be – long before the advent of today’s toxic atmosphere.  It was difficult to try to win work from Federal agencies on one hand, and on the other hand sit on the MAPPS Board while we lobbied for contracting out and qualifications based selection.  John has always been our buffer, our shield, and yes, our bulldog! Call it the “good cop, bad cop” routine, but it worked.  My firm has never been penalized in any way for our active participation in MAPPS. In fact, we’ve been rewarded for being in MAPPS in more ways than I can count.

Upon reading the blog by my dear friends Ron Drake and Axel Hoffmann, I recalled the wonderful history of MAPPS and began reflecting on what got us to the dynamic, healthy, hi-tech, growing, and profitable geospatial market we enjoy today.  Ron and Axel are right, we should not take that for granted.  Nor should we forget the role MAPPS as an organization and John Palatiello as a leader played in getting us to where we are today.  As we celebrated the 35th anniversary of MAPPS in Colorado Springs this past summer, I thought we were remiss in not acknowledging and recognizing the critical role John, and Sally Palatiello have played, and how so many of us have personally benefitted from their dedication to our cause.   All of us owe John a debt of gratitude, and more.

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Regina M. (Jean) Carter is President of Aerial Data Service, Inc., Tulsa, OK.  She served on the MAPPS Board of Directors from 1992 to 1994 and was Treasurer of MAPPS.


Tags:  MAPPS Summer Conference 

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Don’t Grumble About Farmers With Your Mouth Full

Posted By Axel Hoffmann and Ron Drake, Retired Members, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today, principals of America’s leading geospatial firms enjoy a large, mature and profitable market for their professional services, data products, and other goods and services.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal, state and local government contracts, numerous commercial opportunities, and expanding new markets not even contemplated even a decade ago abound, keeping many firms busy even in the recent down economy.  Competition on contracts on the basis of qualifications with fees negotiated or awards based on best value, rather than the lowest bidder, is now the norm. To many firms, the most pressing challenge is not finding work, but finding qualified and trained workers.  Association meetings now feature open and cooperative presentations on best practices in the business, professional and technical ways of running enterprises.  And business-to-business strategic partnerships have become a common, everyday way of winning and executing projects.

This “embarrassment of riches” has not always been the case and should not be taken for granted.   Long before the term “geospatial” even entered our lexicon, hard work, political action, dedication and stamina by a group of visionary principals, owners and partners of a cadre of firms grounded in photogrammetry banded together to plot the rise of today’s private sector spatial data community.

Were it not for the perseverance and cohesiveness of these “founding fathers”, mapping and geospatial activities today would be characterized by government performance of most of the services and functions now routinely outsourced.  The few contracts let by government would be on a “down and dirty” low-bid basis.  Few mapping and geospatial services would be subject to either state licensing or private organization certification.  And each firm would play their cards close to the vest, sharing little information on how they function for fear of divulging critical information to an arch competitor.

The aforementioned is exactly what described the community in the early 1980’s. While not among the founders in 1982, we both served on the MAPPS Board of Directors in 1990’s and witnessed first-hand how the private geospatial community grew to what it is today.  Trust us -- nothing was handed to private mapping, photogrammetry and GIS firms.  The mature, healthy market we have today was hard earned.  

When MAPPS was formed in 1982, a few federal agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Navy and Air Force contracted for topographic, planimetric or cadastral services.  Virtually the entirety of the USGS budget was dedicated to in-house staff salaries and equipment.  The Defense Mapping Agency, predecessor to today’s National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, contracted for printing and color separation work, to the lowest bidder, and drove several firms out of business.  The government workforce in surveying, mapping, charting and geodesy in agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbered in the thousands, while contracts from these agencies barely registered.  It was not that a qualified private sector did not exist.  It was simply ignored.  A 1973 report by the Federal Mapping Task Force on Mapping, Charting, Geodesy and Surveying (1973), convened by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found “private cartographic contract capability is not being used sufficiently. We found this capacity to be broad and varied and capable of rendering skilled support ... Contract capability is a viable management alternative ... Its use should be encouraged in lieu of continued in-house build-up.''

For more than a decade, little was done to push for implementation of this recommendation.  No politically effective organization of mapping firms existed and it was not in Federal employees’ self interest to voluntarily privatize mapping activities.   So, in 1987, MAPPS hired as its first Executive Director, an ambitious and savvy young political professional, fresh from Capitol Hill – John Palatiello. The first order of business was to develop and implement a government relations strategy to advocate for increased utilization of the private sector for mapping activities. Meetings with Federal officials were held, at which the MAPPS leadership politely and respectfully promoted the capabilities of the private sector and sought a “win-win” balance between government and contractor performance of surveying, mapping, charting, geodesy and emerging GIS activities.  The MAPPS’ advocacy was greeted with responses from Federal officials that ranged from “over my dead body” to “if you ‘mom and pop’ firms make an investment in digital technology, we might throw some work your way” (The digital photogrammetry revolution had been ingrained in private firms more than 5 years earlier) to “we tried contracting, but you guys couldn’t get the job done” (but failing to admit the agencies’ lowest bidder procurement practices doomed the contracting experiment from the start).

The members of MAPPS were emboldened, not discouraged, when their offer of cooperation rather than competition was rejected by the agencies.  The private firm owners simply moved their political strategy from the agencies to the White House and the U.S. Congress.  

A three-pronged legislative approach was advocated: (1) increase the use and application of mapping data to government programs, activities and applications, (2) utilize the private sector for the collection and creation of mapping data and (3) clarify the requirement that the award of contracts for surveying and mapping be based on the qualifications of competing firms, just as Congress had intended when it enacted the “Brooks Act” for architecture-engineering and related services.

The privatization revolution of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was taking hold, and MAPPS was committed to being part of it.  As a result, President Reagan’s last budget submission to Congress designated mapping as a highest priority Federal privatization opportunity.  The Clinton-Gore Administration proposed breaking up the NOAA hydrographic survey monopoly through competitive contracting by the private sector.  And when the Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, MAPPS won several appropriations bill provisions mandating contracting of mapping services to the private sector.

Today, the MAPPS Strategic Plan still embodies these three fundamental principles.  Whether it is direct federal activities, or grants to state agencies, such as DoTs, MAPPS continues to seek a balance between legitimate inherently governmental responsibilities and functions that are commercially available.  The association also maintains its promotion of increased use of geospatial and GIS applications to government programs ranging from environment to infrastructure, from defense and homeland security to agriculture, natural resources, demographics and health care.  And it continues to be part of the MAPPS agenda that competition based on qualifications ultimately gives the taxpayer the best return on investment.  These principles are now in numerous pieces of legislation that has become law, a large part of Federal policy, and a standard practice in many agencies.

Over the 35-year history of MAPPS, more than 100 individuals have been elected by their professional peers to steer the association as members of the Board of Directors.   The Board has consistently reached out to the membership to gauge sentiments on policy issues affecting private firms.  Each time, the members have reaffirmed their commitment to these principles, which at least one agency has dubbed “The Holy Grail” of MAPPS. While the road to today’s success has not always been easy, it has been necessary … and ultimately successful.  Along with our colleagues who have been on the MAPPS Board over these 35 years, beginning with our “Founding Fathers”, we have steadfastly worked to serve the public interest and the well being of our member firms.

In the 1980s, America’s farmers staged protests in Washington against low farm prices, parking tractors along The Mall, disrupting traffic, and lobbying Congress with campaign buttons and bumper stickers that read, “Don’t Grumble About Farmers With Your Mouth Full”.  (These protests also gave rise to the annual “Farm Aid” concerts that now feature leading rock and country music artists.)

Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  It is important that today’s generation of principals, owners, partners, and senior executives of private geospatial  firms, and their counterparts in government agencies, are knowledgeable and appreciative of the history of our profession, where we were, and how we came to where we are today.  Just as one should not grumble about farmers with one’s mouth full, newer MAPPS members should not reap the benefits of years of struggle and be critical of the sometimes aggressive, but ultimately successful, way MAPPS created today’s market.   A return to the way things were before the involvement of MAPPS would not be in anyone’s best interests.

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Axel Hoffmann, former owner of Hammon, Jensen, Wallen & Associates, Oakland, CA was a MAPPS Director from 1991 to 1994.  Ronald L. Drake a former owner/partner of Wilson & Company, Salina, KS, was a MAPPS Director from 1997 to 1999.


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Thought Leaders

Posted By John (JB) Byrd, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas.  Another definition of thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.

Today, as it has throughout its 35-year history, MAPPS is a thought leader in the geospatial community.  The association’s views and input are regularly requested by Congress, government agencies, other associations, the market, and the membership itself.

At our Summer Conference, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), a not-for-profit organization that partners with insurers and law enforcement agencies, chose MAPPS as the venue to unveil its proposed national imagery and geospatial data program. This program, that may result in millions of dollars in services from scores of MAPPS member firms, was briefed at a MAPPS event because the association and its members are considered both thought and technical leaders in the field.

When MAPPS members recognized that a void existed in education and training of the next generation of business leaders in geospatial firms, they came to MAPPS, for the establishment of an Emerging Leaders program.  Our organization was viewed as a trusted source above any other association. Today, MAPPS has such a program.

Congress has viewed MAPPS as a thought leader on the FLAIR Act, Digital Coast, 3DEP, FEMA flood mapping reform, and a variety of other important issues.  MAPPS is the “go-to” association on geospatial legislation.  When the Geospatial Data Act was introduced in Congress, the senior professional staff of the Senate Commerce Committee, the panel to which the bill was referred, immediately came to MAPPS for input and recommendations.

For more than nine years MAPPS has been at the forefront of education policy, technology, and information related to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Our input has regularly been sought by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and we‘ve had members appointed to three UAS advisory committees: beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), registration, and controlled airspace.  No other geospatial organization has had such input into UAS policy and regulation.  MAPPS was the only geospatial organization invited by the Obama Administration to participate in last year’s Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation and was invited by the White House to participate in a stakeholder process on Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  MAPPS was also asked to participate with the National Conference of State Legislatures in the development of research on “Current Unmanned Aircraft State Law”.

The MAPPS position as a though leader extends to the states as well.  MAPPS was named in a bill in the Pennsylvania legislature that has become law for a seat on the State Geospatial Coordinating Board (GeoBoard), MAPPS was asked to testify before the Wisconsin state legislature on UAS, and MAPPS is assisting the surveying licensing board in Maryland with regulations on mapping.

It was an idea born in MAPPS, to pre-position contracts for imagery and other geospatial data for emergency response, that resulted in the awarding of the Remote Sensing to Support Incident Management and Homeland Security (RSIM) contracts by the Department of Homeland Security.

When the federal government’s Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data (HIFLD) subcommittee organized the 2016 “Parcels for the Nation” Summit, it partnered with MAPPS. The Federal Highway Administration consulted MAPPS on implementation of Federal law regarding utilization of the private sector for surveying and mapping by state departments of transportation.  The Corps of Engineers sought the assistance of MAPPS when resolving difficulties regarding management aircraft and aerial imagery and contracting.

In recent months, the office of the Secretary of the Interior, White House staff, and other leaders of the Trump Administration solicited input from MAPPS on LANDSAT commercialization, regulations, privatization, and government consolidation and reorganization.

When data initiatives such as the Imagery for the Nation (IFTN), Transportation for the Nation (TFTN) and others proved abortive, the USGS came to MAPPS for guidance on launching a national program that would be a success.  Today, 3DEP is being funded and is gaining widespread support based on the strong MAPPS-USGS partnership, and we continually collaborate with USGS on 3DEP strategy.

As an association of member firms, MAPPS is a thought leader because of the firms, and their principals, who are members.  These are just a few of the more recent examples of where the input, recommendations and thought leadership of MAPPS has been sought, and where we have impacted policy, legislation, professional practice and the market.  This thought leadership shows that the benefit of membership in MAPPS is not just what a firm receives, but how the association is a vehicle and forum for giving back to the profession and our Nation.

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MAPPS Legislative Affairs Update

Posted By MAPPS, Wednesday, August 9, 2017

MAPPS Government Affairs Manager John "JB" Byrd provided the MAPPS membership a briefing on the status of geospatial issues in Congress and a forecast on what Congress may attempt to address when it returns in September from its Summer recess. This presentation provides valuable intelligence on the relevant issues impacting MAPPS member firms and many of the the markets they serve. This August update outlines where the MAPPS legislative efforts stand on issues such as appropriations for 3DEP and other programs, reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), FAA, Digital Coast, FLAIR Act, Infrastructure and others.

Download File (PDF)

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The Truth About S. 1253

Posted By John M. Palatiello, Friday, July 7, 2017

The Truth About S. 1253

A bill recently introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and others, known as the Geospatial Data Act, S.1253, has caused a stir among some geospatial organizations.  Primarily developed at the urging of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), the National Association of Counties (NACo), the legislation is intended to improve the governance and coordination of federal geospatial activities.  MAPPS and NSPS were among the organizations consulted by the bill’s sponsor and it reflects many of these organizations’ suggestions.

A provision in the bill reinforces and helps clarify the application of the Brooks Act’s qualifications based selection (QBS) process to surveying and mapping activities. Opponents of the bill, and the QBS provision, make several claims that are opinions, not facts.

Some claim the Brooks Act is “exclusionary procurement” that would “limit competition”.  In fact, since 1984, the Brooks Act has been recognized as a “competitive procedure” in a Federal law known as the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA), which means “procedures under which the head of an agency enters into a contract pursuant to full and open competition”.

Moreover, it has long been recognized that agencies receive more proposals using the QBS process than when price competition is utilized.  Rather than limiting competition, QBS attracts more competition.

It has also been claimed that geospatial services are part of information technology (IT), not the field of architecture and engineering (AE).  Again, that may be one person’s opinion, but the facts show no Federal law, policy or classification lumps geospatial with IT.  Rather, surveying and mapping, and now “geospatial” activities have long been considered part of the broad field of architecture and engineering, not only in procurement, but employment and other government categorization, including the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS).

Another attack opines that the Brooks Act is anti-small business.  Again, the facts dismiss this erroneous allegation.  According to the most recent data available from the Small Business Administration, small businesses receive 37 percent of all surveying and mapping contracts.  The national goal across all industries and profession, set by Congress, is 23 percent.  Thus, small business is very successful competing under the Brooks Act, and small firms do better under the QBS than under bidding.

These opinions are predicated on a complete misunderstanding, or an intentional misrepresentation, of the Brooks Act.  Claims that the law, and the Geospatial Data Act, would limit competition on federal geospatial contracts to “licensed A&E firms”.  That's not the case in current federal procurement under the Brooks Act.  While any services that fall under applicable state licensing law for architecture, engineering, surveying, and mapping must follow the Brooks Act’s qualifications based selection process and comply with such licensing, other related services are not subject to such licensing.  Major contract programs such as the USGS GPSC contracts that serve 3DEP among other activities, the NOAA Coastal Geospatial Services contracts that serve Digital Coast and other activities, the USACE Center of Expertise for Photogrammetric Mapping contracts, the DHS Remote Sensing to Support Incident Management and Homeland Security contracts, and many others all contract based on qualifications without limiting competition to licensed A&E firms. This fact is memorialized in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers policy regulations which state, “all surveying and mapping procured by USACE must use Brooks Act procedures … In USACE, the performance of surveying and mapping services will not be limited to A-E firms, but may include surveying and mapping professionals such as licensed surveyors, geodesists, and cartographers.”

This principle is clearly stated, almost verbatim, in the Geospatial Data Act, (“data collected through the provision of services performed by professionals such as surveyors, photogrammetrists, hydrographers, geodesists, or cartographers”).

Finally, some allege that a case brought against the Federal government for failing to properly implement in regulations the intent of Congress in several legislative acts resulted in “summary judgement in ruling against the MAPPS plaintiffs”.  In fact, the case brought by MAPPS and other associations was dismissed for lack of standing, not on the facts or legal issues in the matter.

To use one of today’s popular terms, these allegations constitute “fake news”.  The opinion attacks are without merit or factual basis.  MAPPS has worked closely with Senator Hatch and others, particularly NSGIC, on this legislation.  Senator Hatch’s staff welcomed and considered input from all interested parties and made drafts of the bill available for comment prior to the bill’s introduction.  Rather than participate, a number of groups sat on the sidelines and then lobbed grenades from the outside, a full month after the bill was formally introduced.  This does nothing to help advance the goal of Senator Hatch and his bipartisan cosponsors, which is to provide sorely needed reform to the governance, organization and coordination of federal geospatial activities.

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TAX DAY - NOW IS THE TIME TO PLAN FOR OWNERSHIP TRANSITION

Posted By MAPPS, Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TAX DAY - NOW IS THE TIME TO PLAN FOR OWNERSHIP TRANSITION

By John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director

Today is the deadline for filing Federal taxes.  With that in mind, I recently talked taxes with Charlie Pecchio.  Charlie has been affiliated with a handful of MAPPS member firms, consults on ownership transition, and has been a presenter at a MAPPS conference and several state surveying societies on that topic.

“President Trump’s infrastructure program and proposed tax law changes mean that owners of surveying, mapping and geospatial companies should be working hard on ownership transition plans NOW for a sale of their business in the next few years, Pecchio said.

“The Trump Administration is developing a program to increase infrastructure spending and reduce federal regulations and which could easily boost GDP by about a trillion dollars.  Although Trump will face some opposition, the next four years could see infrastructure spending at triple the rate of the last four years.”

What does this mean for owners of geospatial firms?  “Proposed tax reform could lower the corporate tax rate for a company from 40% (combined federal and state) to an effective combined rate of 21.5%.  That would equate to an increase in the value of the company by over 30% based on a multiple of 5 times earnings.  Also, the taxes resulting from the sale of the business should be at the lowest rate they will ever be.  That’s a double positive for the seller,” Pecchio told me.

“Timing is everything,” he said. “Over the next four years, the increased revenue from Trump’s infrastructure program and the reduced tax burden should help to maximize the value of successful surveying, mapping and geospatial companies.”

 

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MAPPS Comments on Proposed QBS Rule Change in Alabama

Posted By MAPPS, Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BELS) hosted a PUBLIC HEARING on Tuesday, January 31, 2017. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss a proposed rule change regarding Qualification-Based Selection (QBS). THIS RULE COULD RESULT IN COMPETITIVE BIDDING, AND A REPEAL OF QUALIFICATIONS BASED SELECTION IN ALABAMA.

 

Click here for the propose rule and options.

Click here for the Alabama Society of Professional Land Surveyors letter.

Click here for additional information. (http://www.bels.alabama.gov/pdf/publications/APA-2_14.05.pdf)

The following is the comment filed by MAPPS: MAPPS, (www.mapps.org) a national association of private sector firms engaged in surveying, mapping and geospatial activities, opposes the changes proposed in Alabama in 330-X-14-.05, Practice.

MAPPS is a strong proponent of the qualifications based selection (QBS) process.  We believe QBS helps protect the public health, welfare and safety.

 

Traditionally, business and procurement procedures properly have emphasized awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, or using price as a dominant factor.  For many goods which one purchases -- paper, office equipment, desks, even construction services this process serves the government, citizens and the taxpayer well. Specifications can be written, products can be inspected and tested and safeguards can be built in to assure saving money.

Sometimes, however, it is mistakenly assumed professional surveying and mapping services fall into this category.

Unfortunately, the assumption ignores the increase in costs to administer the preparation of detailed scopes of work and bid specifications, evaluation of numerous bids, and to remedy serious consequences of unprofessional surveying and mapping. Quality, therefore, should always be the primary focus in the competition for surveying and mapping procurements.  Only after high quality performance is ensured should the focus turn to the contract price.

All Fifty states, including Alabama, impose strict educational and registration or licensing requirements for surveying professionals, and many including mapping in such licensing laws.  The high standards established by organizations like MAPPS for their members exemplify the professional nature of their work.

State licensing standards and government procurement regulations for professional services should be designed to protect the public health and safety during and after contract performance.   Thus, several state licensing boards, including Alabama, prohibit licensed professionals under their jurisdiction from engaging in competitive bidding to secure work. (See attached)

If inaccurate, a map could cloud land titles or jeopardize subsequent construction designs, planning activities or program management that must rely on accurate mapping data.  Just as a poorly designed dam can burst, subjecting the a client to huge claims, so too can a poorly planned or executed map unleash a flood of problems, creating an impediment to the expeditious completion of a project, causing substantial loss of time and money, and jeopardizing the public safety.  Like a well-made dam, a high quality map will stand the test of time and will ensure that the activity can proceed with its design, construction or resource planning project based on complete and precise groundwork.

In addition to the direct cost of the contract, the client must be concerned about such consequent indirect costs as physical destruction of property or clouded claims that could result from poor quality workmanship.

The use of negotiated procedures directs the focus of procurement activity where it should be, on the quality of the mapping services specifically suited to a given contract.  All competitors must submit their qualifications to the procuring agency; the agency assesses the relative expertise of the competing firms; and the one most qualified firm is selected for the particular procurement.  Such procedures produce a more cost effective survey than can be achieved under price bidding or best value procedures. 

For smaller projects, particularly those between a land owner and surveyor, a simplified mini-QBS process should be utilized rather than price competition.  As an alternative to a full QBS selection, a small project process could include the client selecting a professional for surveying or mapping based on reputation, reference or similar qualifications criteria. Pricing should only be solicited from one professional.  If a fair and reasonable price cannot be agreed upon, the client should move on to another firm.  Cutting corners through price competition is "penny wise and pound foolish" and should not be authorized or condoned by BELS.

Several reasons for this are as follows:

1.  Negotiated procedures afford built-in protection, since either the selection process eliminates unqualified firms, or the negotiations reveal a firm's comparative lack of expertise.  In either case, the problem is discovered before the contract is awarded, not after the job is done.  Under price bidding procedures, however, the low bidder wins, regardless of the marginal capabilities it may have demonstrated previously.

2. The extreme difficulty of defining adequately, in advance of negotiations, the quantity and quality of the mapping and photogrammetric services to be secured is likely to lead to misunderstandings as to the scope of the services to be rendered and the expectations of the client concerning the services and the desired project.  The negotiating process allows the client to work as a team with qualified professionals to refine the client's contract requirements and develop more tailored, economical mapping.  Thus, in the pre-contract stage, the client benefits from the professional's years of experience and demonstrated competence.

3.  Negotiated procedures ultimately result in more efficient, economical procurements for the competing professional firms as well as the client, because of the very nature of surveying and mapping.  Since only the top ranked firms need to prepare boundary analyses and detailed estimates on the work, other competitors are free to pursue other contract opportunities without wasting money on a contract they will not win.

4. The client benefits from the professional photogrammetrist’s fiduciary obligation to their client.  Emphasis on the quality of the work establishes a relationship of cooperation and trust, whereas price competition pits honest professionals against competitors who are willing to cut corners or deliver substandard services to bid low.  When the low bid is the primary selection criterion, the interests of unscrupulous or inexperienced contractors are advanced over the interests of the public.  The low bid map often is inaccurate or incomplete because the client will pay far more, or contract with another to complete the project begun by the low bidder who went bankrupt trying to meet an unreasonably low contract price.  Rather than an adversary relationship, which is promoted in competitive bidding procedures, the mapping professional should negotiate their work, and work as a team.

5. The client must be mindful of the indirect or hidden costs, such as legal fees, court expenses and insurance claims that it can incur when boundary, trespass and other property disputes are caused by outdated or erroneous maps.  By negotiating contracts with private mapping professionals, the client can save in-house costs and increase mapping outputs significantly.  A client's inspection or quality control of a mapping project to monitor contract compliance is much more difficult than inspection of manufactured products or other professional services.  The map's geographic scope is often immense, and the only effective way the client can check for accuracy is to retrace the entire map.  Even a trained eye cannot find a map's critical flaws that could threaten the public's safety and its pocketbook in future years. Unlike materials, a map cannot be adequately sampled before and thoroughly tested after production.  The client or owner is totally dependent upon the integrity of his mapping professional -- you might say he is at his mercy -- for even a bad mapping plan can look good. It often takes months or years before errors and problems are discovered.

6. Maps are tied to existing control points on the ground, the location and condition of which are uncertain until a survey is performed.  Legal descriptions of boundaries may, or may not, indicate physical monuments.  These physical monuments may or may not be still in existence on the ground.  If they do exist, they may or may not be the original monuments, and they may or may not fit other physical evidence in the area.  One cannot price the unknown.

7. Mapping is usually dependent on other exiting surveys and recorded documents.  The evaluation of such surveys or documents is a matter of judgment which cannot be made until the professional has researched the project, both in the field and in the repository of deeds.  He may find that as the result of his new work, the existing survey may have to be rerun to achieve the accuracy required by the client, even though the records of the existing survey indicated otherwise beforehand.  He may find deeds or other documents that will affect the interpretation of the client's land description.  These conditions may not be known, nor even suspected, until the survey is substantially started. 

8. Mapping is weather dependent.  Cloud cover, storms, excessively hot weather, floods, rain, wind and other inclement conditions can delay or prolong an aerial photography and mapping project for indefinite periods of time.  Precise leveling is extremely sensitive to the vagaries of weather.  Fog affects sighting lengths.  Wind affects instrumentation and measurement.  Cloud cover prevents collection of data on project areas. Delays cost money.  The decision to stop or delay the operation should be based on a determination that the quality of the result will suffer, rather than on a profit-loss motive.

9. The accuracy of a map depends upon the manner and the conditions under which the work is performed and not just on the accuracy of closures.  A map could close within specified tolerances, but the work could be unacceptable because of the methods used.

By requesting bids, a client assumes the responsibility for defining the scope of the services required and, thus, does not take any advantage of the knowledge and background of qualified professional engaged in providing such services.  All too few administrators and even engineers are knowledgeable in mapping, and their inadequacy in this regard is apparent in their requests for bids.  The knowledgeable person is aware of the indeterminate nature of mapping.  The reputable professional, if he is to bid, must either attempt to anticipate the many possible problems, determine which problems he feels will occur, and bid accordingly, or bid so high that he can include every possible condition (in which case he undoubtedly will not be the successful bidder).  If an honest attempt is made and unforeseen conditions occur, the mapper faces the decision to adhere to the specifications, thereby producing an inferior product (which he cannot ethically do) or perform the work to the best of his ability, thereby operating at a loss.  Either way, the client/taxpayer is the ultimate loser.

Numerous cases can be cited to prove that the lowest bid does not necessarily result in the lowest overall cost.  The old cry, "Bid as low as you dare, but make your money on the extras," is inevitable and the resulting relationship between the client and his surveyor assumes an arms length status which is not only not conducive to the completion of professional assignments, but in fact, effectively eliminates any exercise of professional judgment on the part of the mapper.

A broad coalition of design-related organizations supports qualifications-based selection procedures for surveying and mapping services. The Federal competence and qualifications-based selection law was codified in 1972 to protect the interest of taxpayers. It is Federal law because over the life of a project, the engineering and related design services account for less than one-half of one percent of total costs.  Yet, these important services play a major role in determining the other 99.5 percent of the project's "life cycle costs", such as construction, operation, and maintenance.  The same is true of the associated mapping or geographic information systems (GIS) project.

This process has been so successful at the Federal level that it is recommended by the American Bar Association in its model procurement code for State and local government.  The ABA model code specifically includes surveying and mapping.  Most States have enacted their own competence and qualifications-based selection laws for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services.  Others use it as a standard procedure.  No state has a specific law requiring bidding of these services.

For these reasons, MAPPS urges BELS not to diminish its support for or enforcement of a qualifications based selection process.  QBS is in the public interest and should be maintained.  If there is any alteration to the Alabama regulations, it should be to adopt a simplified QBS process for small surveying projects. Bidding should be discouraged to protect the public.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  alabama  al-mapps  qbs  surveyors 

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3DEP Model State Legislation

Posted By John M. Palatiello, Tuesday, December 27, 2016

MAPPS enjoys a strong partnership with the USGS, as well as other Federal agencies, in the promotion of 3DEP.

We’ve been a leader in building public support, as well as advocating for funding in Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and in the Federal agencies, as well as with state, regional and local government partners.

MAPPS will continue to work at the national level to campaign in Congress for 3DEP appropriations for Federal agencies.

To complement that effort, the MAPPS Board of Directors has endorsed another approach to 3DEP support.  A model bill for introduction in state legislatures has been developed by MAPPS staff and endorsed by the MAPPS Board.  The idea for this bill came from the officers of CO-MAPPS, our state chapter in Colorado, but can be implemented by MAPPS members in all 50 states.

The model bill, if introduced and enacted in any state legislature, will complement our national effort by providing a bottom-up, grass roots, state-level support for 3DEP.

The leadership of USGS is aware of the model bill.  While the agency cannot endorse legislation, the staff is supportive and appreciative of this effort.

This bill does not authorize or appropriate state funds.  It does, however, express support for 3DEP and provides for coordinated efforts within a state on statewide LiDAR.  This will not only provide greater efficiency (map it once, use it many times), but will save money by providing for the economy of scale of statewide LiDAR collection and enhances a state’s eligibility for USGS (Federal) funds through the USGS BAA process.

You will also note two features of this model bill: (1) performance of the data acquisition under the responsible charge of a licensed surveyor and (2) QBS for contracting, either under a state “mini-Brooks Act” or through the USGS GPSC contracts.  Links are provided to locate and insert references to the relevant state laws in your state

MAPPS recently hosted a meeting with a number of our partners in other associations who support 3DEP.  You may be interested in the update provided at the meeting by USGS.

All MAPPS members are encouraged to meet with their state legislators to discuss introduction of this model bill in your state.

Please also be aware that Lou Driber, National Map Liaison to FL, PR, and US-VI, US Geological Survey, will update on the 3D Elevation Program:  Year 1 a Success, Year 2 Ahead! at the upcoming MAPPS Winter Conference Program.  This presentation will provide an overview of 3DEP status and plans, highlighting the final tally of data acquisition of FY16 and projections for FY17, efforts to advance elevation and hydrography integration, and ongoing communication to build the investment needed for a nationwide elevation program.  The Winter Conference is January 13-17 at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, (greater Tampa area), Florida.

Additionally, at the conference, MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello and Government Affairs Manager John “JB” Byrd” will lead a discussion of  election results, the new administration and the 2017 Congressional agenda, and state legislation, with a focus on issues impacting business generally and the geospatial community in particular.

Please take a look at the updated MAPPS Winter Conference Program and registration information.

If you are not yet registered, please register today.  Also, make your hotel reservations at the Innisbrook Resort.  Click here to book your room on-line or call the Innisbrook Resort at 800-492-6899. 

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