Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) - Government Competition
MAPPS members have been concerned over the increasing duplication of and competition with the private sector by the Corps of Engineers, particularly in the field of surveying, mapping and geospatial activities.
Surveying and mapping have historically been considered "commercial” activities. There is a vast and broad private sector of firms that engage in our free enterprise system providing services to government agencies, individuals, and other businesses. These firms, now more commonly known as being in the "geospatial” profession, represent one of the fastest growth sectors of our economy, in terms of job creation, according to the Department of Labor.
For many years, the Corps of Engineers had one of the most successful and extensive contracting program among all Federal agencies with surveying and mapping requirements and activities. In fact, in 1993 the Clinton Administration’s "National Performance Review” cited the success of the Corps’ hydrographic surveying contacting program as a reason the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) begin to utilize the private sector for such services.
In the late 1980s - early 1990s at a hearing on legislation to get USGS to contract out more of its mapping, the Corps of Engineers testified on how it successfully contracted with the private sector for a significant amount of its surveying and mapping requirements. In recent years, while USGS, NOAA (and other federal agencies) indeed have moved to use the private sector for a considerable amount of their surveying and mapping, the Corps has gone in the opposite, and in our view, wrong direction. The Corps has expended a significant amount of money to purchase equipment to support in-house performance of surveying, mapping and geospatial activities, at the expense of contracting with the private sector. That has included mapping hardware and software, hydrographic boats and surveying data acquisition equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, to name just a few.
Since 1997, MAPPS and the Corps have had a written, signed partnering agreement that has as one of its goals to "promote a healthy and diverse private sector surveying and mapping profession”. However, over the last few years, USACE is not living up to that agreement. Our continuing concern is regarding the extent to which the Corps is increasingly (1) insourcing work traditionally performed by the private sector, (2) failing to utilize the private sector for a broad range of surveying and mapping activities, and (3) purchasing equipment to support in-house performance of services that are commercially available by contract from the private sector, including small business.
At a time of scarce Federal funds for infrastructure, including water resource projects, the Corps should be increasing its use of private surveying and mapping firms, not wasting tax dollars and contributing to private sector unemployment by competing with and duplicating the private sector.
MAPPS supports the increased reliance on the capable, qualified and efficient private sector in surveying and mapping.