Posted By Nick Palatiello,
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
MAPPS has been deeply involved in a number of important issues of late, so this blog post will be a potpourri on several topics of interest to the private geospatial community.
The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) met in Washington, DC on June 8. Surprisingly and disappointingly, it was the first meeting of the group responsible for coordination of federal geospatial activities since President Obama took office 2½ years ago. The agenda was long on reports and short on votes, decisions, and actions. In fact, no votes were taken or policy decisions made. A lot of frustration was expressed and promises were made for action before the next meeting, the date of which was not established. I was pleased to be recognized by Acting Chair, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle, to express concern for three threats to the geospatial community – government service and private practice alike. Those were the threat the LightSquared application to the FCC poses for interference with GPS signals and all GPS users, the FCC "privacy” rules that propose to limit the collection, storage and use of "precise geolocation data” without defining that term, and the criminalization of directing laser pointers at aircraft or their flight path, with LiDAR manufacturers’ interpreting the definition of the term "laser pointer” to include LiDAR. Fortunately, Ms. Castle took note of all three and agreed to follow up on each.
Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced a Senate version of the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act, to provide a current, accurate inventory of all land owned by the federal government, and to have an inventory of existing inventories conducted to identify those that are out of date, obsolete, redundant, non-interoperable or can otherwise be eliminated in favor of the new, current, accurate GIS-based cadaster. S. 1153 is a companion to H.R. 1620, which was introduced in the House earlier this year by Rep. Ron Kind (R-WI) and Rob Bishop (R-UT). ACSM and NSGIC are among the groups that have joined MAPPS in support of the bill in the past. The bill was also recommended by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. The NRC/NAS report recommendations have in turn been endorsed by the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) and the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO).
The issue of government duplicating and competing with the private sector in the performance of commercially-available activities is getting a lot of attention these days.
The tragic tornado that hit Joplin, MO has also stirred up a storm of controversy. NOAA dispatches an aircraft from Tampa, FL to capture aerial imagery. Problem is, such digital aerial imagery had already been acquired, days earlier, by two private firms in Missouri, Surdex and MJ Harden. The NOAA aerial photography unit has been documented by the Commerce Department Inspector General as being inferior to the private sector in cost and quality and privatization of the government capability has been recommended. Moreover, a federal law, known as the Economy Act, implemented in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, requires an agency proposing to provide a service to another agency to prepare a determination and findings (D&F) that "the supplies or services cannot be obtained as conveniently or economically by contracting directly with a private source.” It is not known if NOAA prepared the D&F or if it did, how did it justify being more convenient or economical than aerial imagery already acquired.
The U.S. of Representatives has tackled two aspects of government performing commercial activities. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill for 2012 by Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) puts Congress on record as being opposed to insourcing - an Obama Administration program to convert work currently performed by private sector contractor firms to performance by Federal government employees. In her speech in the House debate, Rep. Hayworth mentioned mapping as an example of a commercial activity that has been insourced in some agencies. The Hayworth amendment was approved on a voice vote.
A provision in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 was stripped of a provision that would have prevented DHS from contracting out activities currently carried out by government employees, even if commercially available. The amendment to remove the anti-free enterprise language, offered by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), was approved by a 218-204 vote.
More news about MAPPS activities will be available next week in our bi-montly newsletter FLIGHTLINE, a link will be posted on the blog. Additionally, MAPPS is gearing up for a full program at the 2011 Summer Conference June 26-30 in Bolton Landing (Lake George), NY.