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A Call to Support Strength in the Geospatial Data Act

Tuesday, November 14, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: MAPPS Board of Directors
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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.