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Myth Busters: What’s the True Motivation for Geospatial Coordination?

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, May 23, 2013

MAPPS has long been active in working with the public sector to encourage the efficient utilization of geospatial data. As an advocate and partner, the association has been a proponent of reforms within the government and the private sector. However, recently those motives have been called into question.

Despite being a long time participant in policy issues, such as Congressman Doug Lamborn’s legislation, the "Map It Once, Use It Many Times” Act, H.R. 1604, MAPPS has been the subject of recent criticism that has been based largely on myth. Let’s look some facts regarding Rep. Lamborn’s legislation.

Myth: MAPPS is leading a private sector takeover of Federal mapping activities in the United States.

In fact, MAPPS’s support for greater utilization of the private sector in Federal mapping is based on decades of independent studies and recommendations … including many by the government itself.


As long ago as 1932, a committee of the House of Representatives expressed concern over the extent to which the government engaged in activities which might be more appropriately performed by the private sector. Among the activities identified as engaged in government competition with the private sector was mapping. Each time a study has been conducted on the Federal surveying and mapping ("geospatial”) establishment, a common conclusion has been reached. Whether conducted by the White House, Congress, the agencies themselves, OMB or independent Federal research organizations, these studies recommended more contracting in this field. The following are excerpts from these studies:

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

Office of Management and Budget

Task Force on Mapping, Charting, Geodesy and Surveying, 1973

The Investigative Staff recognizes...contract is essential that this option be explored more fully...early consideration must be given to the use of qualified private contractors

House Appropriations Committee

Investigative Staff

Study of BLM and Forest Service Cadastral Survey Programs, 1980

commercial resources offer time-proven expertise and professionalism in a wide range of cartographic activities.

National Academy of Sciences

Study on NOAA's Office of Charting and Geodetic Services, 1985

The private sector can play an important role in providing BLM with the massive amounts of data it requires for its three LIS (land information systems) components. BLM can avoid investing in necessary labor and technology by drawing on the capabilities of the private sector for the data gathering phase

Bureau of Land Management

"Managing our Land Information Resources", 1989

(contracting) is an important management tool to raise productivity, cut costs and improve the quality of Government services (the advantage of which is) efficiency, quality and innovation in the delivery of goods and services ... specific areas where the Government could place greater reliance on private sector providers include ... map-making activities

Budget of the United States Government, FY 1990

Office of Management and Budget, January, 1989

(USGS should be) allocating adequate NMD resources to information management and user/donor coordination, and if necessary, increasing these relative to traditional data production programs

National Academy of Sciences

"Spatial Data Needs", February, 1990

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will experiment with a program of public-private competition to help fulfill its mission ... The experience of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which contracts out 30 to 40 percent of its ocean floor charting to private firms, shows that the private sector can and will do this kind of work.

Office of the Vice President

"Creating A Government That Works Better & Costs Less"

Report of the National Performance Review, September, 1993

Thirty-nine federal departments, agencies and bureaus, including the U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, Defense Mapping Agency and National Mapping Division of the Department of the Interior, employ 7,000 workers and spend approximately $1 billion in surveying and mapmaking. Mapmaking is a service that is readily available from private industry at competitive costs. All government mapmaking activities should be opened to bids from private-sector suppliers.

Heritage Foundation

"Cutting the Deficit and Improving Services by Contracting Out", March, 1995

"During the course of our hearings, it became abundantly clear that there are certain activities that the Federal government has performed in-house which can and should be converted to the private sector. Areas such as architecture and engineering, surveying and mapping, laboratory testing, information technology, and laundry services have no place in government. These activities should be promptly transitioned to the private sector.”

Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY)

Debate in Senate on his legislation that became the FAIR Act,

Congressional Record, July 27, 1998

Direct that US commercial satellite imagery be the primary source of data used for government mapping … facilitate the acquisition of commercial imagery for other Federal agencies … expand the market for the imagery.

Memo from Director, CIA to Director, National Imagery and Mapping Agency (now National Geospatial – Intelligence Agency)

Central Intelligence Agency, 2002

The fundamental goal of U.S. commercial remote sensing space policy is to advance and protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by maintaining the nation's leadership in remote sensing space activities, and by sustaining and enhancing the U.S. remote sensing industry. Doing so will also foster economic growth, contribute to environmental stewardship, and enable scientific and technological excellence. In support of this goal, the U.S. Government will: Rely to the maximum practical extent on U.S. commercial remote sensing space capabilities for filling imagery and geospatial needs for military, intelligence, foreign policy, homeland security, and civil users;

White House

"Commercial Remote Sensing Space Policy”, May, 2003

The roles and responsibilities of decision-makers must evolve if we are to leverage geospatial information and tools to our best advantage. This entails building and maintaining different relationships and enabling new and creative ways to do business. To accomplish this:

The role of government should shift from implementer to facilitator/enabler and role model, allowing agencies to become more flexible and responsive.

Different relationships should be established, both horizontally across functions and vertically across levels of government and the private sector, to ensure that resources are used most effectively.

The committee concluded that to respond to a world in which data and technology are evolving more rapidly that the institutions that use them, a new model for development and use of geospatial information by the transportation system is needed...The actions necessary to make widespread use of geospatial data in a systematic way could be achieved through a focused alliance and collaboration among public, private, and academic communities. A key is in recognizing that the role of federal agencies is to enable state and local agencies and the private sector to carry out their missions. A practical role, rather than to mandate data requirements, would be to solicit data from data owners and providers and to encourage data sharing among agencies, users, and decision makers.

The past decade has shown that it is impractical for federal and state transportation agencies to collect, maintain, and develop comprehensive geospatial data sets to support broad decision-making activities. A more viable approach appears to be to encourage agencies -- public or private -- that are closest to the source to collect and maintain data necessary for their missions and to facilitate sharing of these data while developing expertise to integrate them into broader decision-support environments."

Transportation Research Board (TRB)

"Geospatial Information Infrastructure for Transportation Organizations: Toward a Foundation for Improved Decision Making", 2004

"Historically, state DoT’s have used Federal highway money, as well as their transportation funds, to build in-house capabilities in surveying, mapping, engineering and planning … states have their own crews, equipment and capabilities that duplicate services available from private firms. States often have airplanes and cameras for mapping aerial photography, analytical stereoplotters (mapping computers), GPS satellite surveying receivers, LIDAR systems, photographic laboratories and other expensive equipment to perform services already available, from private firms. Some state DOT's even market these services outside their own agency, performing work for other state agencies, city and county government, even non-government organizations, in direct competition with the private sector.”

Reason Foundation

"Building Highways or Bureaucracies?”, 2004

Myth: MAPPS member firms profit from inefficiency, redundancy and lack of coordination through a business model of "Capture it Once, And Sell It To As Many Difference Agencies as Possible".

This charge shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how Federal contracting operates. Historically, when a government agency has contracted for mapping and geospatial data, it has done so on a "fee for service" basis. Any agency enters into a contract with a private sector firm, the firm collects and processes the data, and the data, developed to the agency’s standards and specifications, is delivered to the agency with all rights, including the right of ownership. The agency puts the data in the public domain for access and utilization by other agencies, and the general public.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found "federal agencies had not effectively implemented policies and procedures that would help them to identify and coordinate geospatial data acquisitions across the government. As a result, the agencies make duplicative investments and risk missing opportunities to jointly acquire data.” This duplication is not only from agency-to-agency, but there is government duplication of the private sector. When a government agency starts, or carries out, an activity that is already available from the private sector, is that duplication any less wasteful than when agency A duplicates agency B? Indeed, Federal agencies are required to comply with Office of Management and Budget Circular A-16, which requires that agencies, "search all sources, including the National Spatial Data Clearinghouse, to determine if existing federal, state, local or private data meets agency needs before expending funds for data collection” (emphasis added).

Myth: MAPPS now wants to charge citizens for data that has historically been free, through a new tax or user fee.

The idea of a user fee to finance government’s need for geospatial data is neither new nor original to MAPPS. The concept was suggested in a National Academy of Sciences report, Beyond Mapping: Meeting National Needs Through Enhanced Geographic Information Science(2006) and was previously proffered by the now-defunct Spatial Technologies Industry Association (STIA) and discussed in the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) more than a decade ago.

It is no secret that MAPPS has a task force that is studying the idea of a user fee to finance. Articles have been published and presentations have been made to groups throughout the community. It has been an open and inviting process. The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), representing every major association in the field, has agreed to engage in a dialogue on the concept. MAPPS has not concluded that any proposed user fee would be assessed on data. Moreover, H.R. 1604 does not establish or assess such a fee; it only authorizes a study of the user fee concept. If one does not believe a new and more effective way to raise money for basic government framework data is needed, then one must be satisfied that nearly 20 years after President Clinton issued an Executive Order calling for a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), the nation now has robust, current, accurate, accessible, interoperable, and complete geodetic control, cadastral, orthoimagery, elevation, hydrography , administrative unit, and transportation data.

Myth: H.R. 1604 will gut the Federal mapping workforce

The legislation sets forth an important set of inherently governmental functions for Federal employees in government agencies and calls for an evaluation of the respective roles and responsibilities Federal, State, local, regional, tribal, private sector, academic, and nonprofit institutions in geospatial activities. The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) has long advocated attention to roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders, players, and sectors in building the NSDI. Such a definition was also called for by the National Academy of Public Administration in its report, Geographic Information for the 21st Century: Building a Strategy for the Nation(1998). As detailed above, increased use of the private sector and better definition of the role of government in mapping and geospatial activities has long been recommended in government studies.

Myth: Universities only create their own cartography labs to create the campus map

Scores of universities have become "entrepreneurial” and created entities that actually market their services outside the university itself, in direct competition with the private sector. This is not a small or recent problem. University competition with private enterprise has recently been the subject of an IRS investigation and a Congressional hearing. Want proof of university competition with the private sector? Look, for example, here, here or here, to see just a sampling.

Myth: Google, Microsoft, Apple and even Amazon are making sizable investments in spatial data, therefore if you are a true believe in free market capitalism, the government doesn’t need to be involved

Ever look at the data in many of these firms’ archives or platforms? Their data source is commonly the Federal government. Congress found "there are millions of sq km of ortho imagery and terrain published to Google Earth and Maps that has been contributed to Google through partnerships with local, state, and federal programs. These include: USDA-FSA (NAIP), USGS/EROS (DOQQs, current and historical aerial imagery, historical satellite imagery, terrain), and the National Archives … the largest single source of sub-meter aerial coverage that Google has is the direct result of USGS partnerships with state, regional, and local governments for aerial collections.”

Teddy Roosevelt once said, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

MAPPS has always been in the arena. Whether one agrees with policies MAPPS supports, such as Congressman Doug Lamborn’s legislation, the "Map It Once, Use It Many Times” Act, H.R. 1604, or not, MAPPS puts forward proposed solutions. Others fail to do so, resorting only to critiques of MAPPS and being "cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

Tags:  Congress  Coordination  Duplication  Geospatial  MIO-UIMT 

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NGA Announces Estimated Release Dates for GEOINT Data Services (GDS) RFP

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, April 26, 2013

Today, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) posted their anticipated release of the GEOINT Data Services (GDS) Request for Proposal (RFP). The timeline, established and announced by NGA on FedBizOpps, is as follows:

Content Management Regions A, B and C – Apr 2013

Aeronautical Charts Production and Text Production – May 2013

Maritime Content Management, Atlantic and Pacific Regions – May 2013

Commercial Airborne – June 2013

Land Use/Land Cover – July 2013

Global Ortho Image Services – July 2013


Firms should monitor FedBizOppos for official updates. 

Questions should be directed to the Contracting Officer, Ms. Susan Pollmann at (314) 676-0174, unclassified email at

Tags:  GeoINT  NGA  RFP 

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Does QBS Save Money?

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, April 26, 2013

A colleague from the engineering profession asked me an interesting question, "Does the qualifications based selection (QBS) process for selecting firms for architecture, engineering (A/E) and related services (including surveying and mapping) save or cost taxpayers money?”

That is a frequently asked question. 

The federal law was codified in 1972 ("Brooks Act”, 40 U.S.C. 1101 et. seq. and implemented in part 36.6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), 48 CFR 36.6) 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.

While many services performed under the Brooks Act are not related to construction, such as surveying and mapping activities that support resource management, program administration, E-911 and a variety of other non-design or construction projects and applications, the savings are nonetheless realized.

The 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. Some 47 states have enacted their own competence and qualifications based selection laws for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services. Others use it as standard procedure. No state has a specific law requiring bidding of these services.

The rationale for Congress codifying a practice that had been successful for more than 100 years before Congress passed, and President Nixon signed the Brooks Act on a bipartisan basis in 1972 was quality, public safety, and cost-effectiveness.

QBS was recognized as a competitive process in the landmark Competition in Contracting Act (P.L. 98-369) which Congress enacted in 1984 in response to the coffee pot and toilet seat scandal in the Pentagon. During an earlier Senate debate on the federal A/E selection law, Senator Gurney of Florida said, "any Federal procurement officer...will tell you that competition based on professional-technical qualifications is every bit as hot and demanding as competition based on price, perhaps more so.” 

Government contracting officers, who are accustomed to buying specific products, rather than professional services, gravitate to low bids. As Senator Henry "Scoop” Jackson of Washington State said on the floor of the U.S. Senate during debate on the federal QBS law, a "contracting officer faced with widely ranging price proposals or bids would be under pressure to accept the low price.”

Among the studies which have concluded that QBS in fact has saved tax dollars include An Analysis of Issues Pertaining to Qualifications Based Selection by Paul S. Chinowsky, PhD (University of Colorado) and Gordon A. Kinsley, PhD (Georgia Tech). It found that government agencies that use qualifications-based selection are better able to control construction costs and achieve a consistently high degree of project satisfaction than those using price based procurement methods.

The study drew from a database of approximately 200 public and private construction projects in 23 US states, included transportation, water, commercial, and industrial projects, ranging in size from relatively small projects to those costing hundreds of millions dollars. Its authors compared various procurement methods, including QBS, Best Value, and Low-Bid, with such factors as total project cost, projected life-cycle cost, construction schedule, and project quality outcome. Results showed that using QBS to procure the design component of a construction project "consistently meant lower overall construction costs, reduced change orders, better project results and more highly satisfied owners than in other procurement methods.”

The authors, both experts and noted researchers in the engineering and construction field, concluded that QBS should continue to be the procurement method of choice for public contracting officers seeking to acquire A/E services to meet increasingly challenging infrastructure needs.

A specific study comparing costs between agencies that use QBS and those that select on price also found that the QBS process saves money. Selecting Architects and Engineers for Public Building Projects: An Analysis and Comparison of the Maryland and Florida Systems compared projects in Florida, which used QBS, with those in Maryland, which for a period of time employed price competition. The comparative study found Maryland’s A/E selection process was significantly more time consuming and expensive than Florida’s. In Maryland, the necessity of preparing detailed programs on which A/Es can base price proposals results in added expense to the state in the form of administrative staff, time delays and consultant costs, and overall budget. The increased administrative costs in Maryland resulted from the necessity of preparing detailed programs on which A/Es can submit price proposals. These additional system costs were not evident in Florida. While A/E fees were lower in Maryland than in Florida, the added costs of the Maryland process far outweighed the savings in A/E fees that resulted from a process in which the state developed detailed programs and A/E selections were made with price as an initial factor.

Since Maryland’s law requiring selection based on price went into effect, there was an 11.6 percent increase in personnel and a 17.9 percent increase in the budget (in constant dollars) for construction projects.

Maryland’s A/E selection process took considerably longer to complete than Florida’s. The total delay relating to the A/E portion of the capital construction process in Maryland was almost 10 months. The delays occurred while detailed program descriptions were being prepared, during the actual selection process and during the design and approval phase. The Maryland Department of General Services completed the A/E portion of the capital construction process, from the point that funds are approved to the beginning of the actual construction cycle, in 31 months. The same steps are completed, on average, in 21 months in Florida agencies.

The study concluded that Maryland’s A/E selection process was significantly more time consuming and expensive than Florida’s. In Maryland, the necessity of preparing detailed programs on which A/Es can base price proposals results in added expense to the state in the form of administrative staff, time delays and consultant costs.

As a result, the Maryland legislature repealed its bidding law and enacted a state "mini-Brooks Act” or QBS statute.

The United States is fortunate that major building failures are rare. After incidents such as the collapse of the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City (MO) and the implosion of the roof of the Hartford (CT) Civic Center, Congress investigated these incidents and issued a report on "Structural Failures in Public Facilities” in 1984. It found, "procurement practices that lead to or promote the selection of architects and engineers on a low bid basis should be changed to require prequalification of bidders with greater consideration given to prior related experience and past performance.” The chairman of the subcommittee conducting the study and publishing the report was then Rep. Al Gore, Jr. (D-TN).

No study making an "apples to apples” comparison of bidding versus qualifications selection has ever been conducted on surveying, mapping or geospatial services. However, numerous agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report high satisfaction with the process.

The simple answer is yes, QBS saves money. The famous showman, P.T. Barnum is well known for saying, "There’s a sucker born every minute”. What is less known is that Barnum also observed, "The smartest way of deriving the greatest profit in the long run is to give people as much as possible for their money.”?

The Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES), of which MAPPS is a member, will host a workshop on successful implementation of the qualifications based selection (QBS) process for procurement of professional A-E and related services on Tuesday, May 14 in Washington, DC.

The workshop is designed for Federal, state and local government personnel responsible for contracting for professional A-E services, including surveying and mapping, as well as private practice professionals and firm personnel involved in marketing, business development, and contract administration. Click here to learn more.

Tags:  Architecture  Budget  COFPAES  Engineering  Mapping  Money  Procurement  QBS  Surveying 

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MAPPS Recap of SPAR International 2013

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MAPPS participated as a supporting organization at the SPAR International conference last week in Colorado Springs, CO.

3D, terrestrial scanning and mobile mapping markets play an important role in the surveying, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States. The commercial focus of SPAR International is particularly aligned with the objectives of MAPPS, which is to promote the business interests of the profession.

On Monday, April 15, the Colorado chapter of MAPPS (CO-MAPPS) held a meeting at the conference featuring Jorge Diaz, Program Administrator, Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and Danielle Blakely, Sr. International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center of Denver who discussed opportunities in the international market and resources within the state of Colorado for businesses, including grants and financial assistance, to assist firms with exporting. The session was a prequel to the MAPPS International Markets Conferenceto be held November 13-14 in Alexandria, VA.

I made a presentation on Wednesday, April 17, on the "Opportunities and Threats" facing the 3D marketplace. I provided an overview on the new demand for surveying and mapping as a result of the MAP-21 Act enacted into law in July 2012 and an update on the anticipated demand for LIDAR in the United States as a result of the proposed US Geological Survey’s 3D Elevation Program (3DEP). I also highlighted legislative hurdles facing the profession using new technologies such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Two weeks ago, Idaho became the second state to have legislation signed by the governor affecting the use of unmanned aerial system. The new law, which will take affect July 1, includes an exemption for the use of UAVs "in mapping or resource management.” This is a signification exemption for the surveying and mapping community with the recognition by the legislature for the use of the technology.

As the association of the leading firms in airborne, terrestrial, mobile and bathymetric scanning market, MAPPS has been in the forefront of advocacy of this technology, use of the private sector in the collection, processing and value-added application of 3D data, and qualifications based selection for those services. SPAR International is an event that features the latest developments in the technologies and capabilities the private sector can provide to the market.

SPAR Point Group, conference organizer of SPAR, announced on April 10 that it acquired International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) and European LiDAR Mapping Forum (ELMF) from UK-based Intelligent Exhibitions.

This is the third time that MAPPS has partnered with SPAR International. MAPPS had a booth in the exhibit hall to meet with members, prospects and members of the user community.

Status of UAV Legislation at the State level in the U.S. as of April 18, 2013. Source ACLU.

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Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) Reintroduces the "Map It Once, Use It Many Times" Act

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, April 18, 2013
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) has reintroduced the "Map It Once, Use It Many Times" Act. The bill in this Congress is H.R. 1604 (bill text not yet available). It includes several revisions to the bill in the last session of Congress based on a hearing held on the bill in May 2012 and comments the Congressman received.

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$11 Million in Funding for USGS 3-Dimensional Elevation Program (3DEP) Included in President Obama’s FY14 Proposed Budget

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013

President Obama’s proposed FY 14 budget, released April 10, 2013, includes $11 million in funding for a 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) in the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

"We commend President Obama and his administration for their recognition of the importance of elevation data for the Nation and the proposed investment in geospatial activities that can save tax payers dollars by accurately mapping the nation with modern technology,” said John Palatiello, MAPPS Executive Director. "In light of the recent GAO report calling for a reduction in duplication of mapping activities, the 3-D Elevation Program (3DEP) is an example of a program that can achieve this goal by leveraging various agency investments and contracting with the private sector to reduce government duplication of and unfair competition with the private sector. Through the leadership of USGS, the 3DEP program is also reducing duplication within the government by bringing agency stakeholders together to ‘map it once and use it many times’ through the coordination of mapping data needs.”

The USGS will use the Geospatial Products and Services Contract (GPSC) as the acquisition vehicle for the collection of LIDAR and IFSAR data for the 3DEP program. USGS is working with states and other federal agencies to increase the area in which data is collected and to reduce duplication.

3DEP is highlighted within the "Natural Hazards” program with the Department of the Interior Budget for USGS (page 56) and includes $9.0 million for the 3DEP program for the collection LIDAR, $1.0 million for IFSAR data collection and mapping in Alaska and an estimated $850,000 for the collection of priority ecosystem assessments, which will consist of LIDAR acquisition.

This is only the President’s proposed budget. To be fully funded, 3DEP and other programs within the President’s budget will need to receive appropriations from Congress. MAPPS will continue to work with Congress and advocate the value that is realized by government agencies and the citizens of the United States by investing in geospatial technologies and utilizing the capabilities and services provided by the private sector.

Tags:  3DEP  FY14  GAO  IFSAR  LIDAR  President  USGS 

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MAPPS Statement on 2013 GAO Report on Duplication Among Federal Agency Programs and Activities

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, April 9, 2013

John Palatiello, Executive Director of MAPPS, the national association of private sector geospatial firms, issued the following statement on today’s Government Accountability Office report "2013 Annual Report: Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits" and testimony before Congress: 

"The Government Accountability Office should be commended for its investigation into duplication among Federal agencies and its particular attention to geospatial activities. MAPPS looks forward to working with Congress, GAO and the agencies on reform initiatives.

To put this issue in perspective, I would like to read a passage to you and ask if this sounds familiar:

‘The last major study of Federal surveying and mapping nearly 40 years ago found a disturbing proliferation and duplication of activity among many different agencies. Today these activities are found among an even greater number, suggesting that over the years the conventional budgetary process alone could not constrain the growth of surveying and mapping outside the core agencies, which apparently were not getting the job done. Now a new generation of problems — urban sprawl, pollution, energy crisis — are
creating additional pressures which threaten even further lag in services and diffusion of effort. This can be corrected by improving efficiency through new technology and by centralizing management, which together offer the key to a better ratio of expenditure to service.’

That is not from the 2013 GAO report, but from a 1973 OMB Report. We've had a problem with duplication in Federal mapping for 80 years, and it hasn’t been fixed.

Not only is there duplication from one agency to another, but the government duplicates and competes with the private sector.

I’m quoting again from the 1973 OMB report:

‘Private cartographic contract capability is not being used sufficiently. We found this capacity to be broad and varied and capable of rendering skilled support to Federal MC&G (mapping, charting and geodesy) programs. Contract capability is a viable management alternative, and using it would be consistent with the President's desire to limit the size of the Federal payroll.’

Again that’s not 2013, its 1973. The President mentioned is not Obama, or Bush, or Clinton or Reagan, but Nixon. The private sector in mapping is even more qualified and capable than it was 40 years ago.

The problem is not that we’re not spending enough on mapping, the problem is we’re not spending smart enough. Among our Federal employees, there are good people stuck in a bad system.

The economy of the United States can grow, jobs can be created, and the Federal debt can be lowered through better mapping and geospatial data of our Nation. A better structure and new systems must be implemented to eliminate duplication among agencies, as well as eliminate government competition with and duplication of the private sector.

Programs such as the "Digital Coast” activity in NOAA, "Data Acquisition as a Service” being developed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee, the "3DEP” or "Three-Dimensional Elevation Program” being launched by the USGS, are great first steps toward better coordination and effective utilization of the private sector.

Legislation such as the Map It Once, Use It Many Times Act by Representative Doug Lamborn of Colorado, and the Digital Coast Act by Representative Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland and Representative Don Young of Alaska, the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform or FLAIR Act, by Representatives Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Rob Bishop of Utah, as well as by Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah are serious and meaningful legislative proposals to reform Federal mapping activities.

Congress also bears some responsibility for the fact that scores of Federal agencies have mapping and geospatial activities in stove-pipe or silos. Responsibility for oversight and authorization of Federal geospatial activities is spread among more than 30 House and Senate committees and subcommittees.

Change is long overdue. MAPPS commends GAO for highlighting this problem and we stand ready to help Congress, GAO and the Obama Administration with effective solutions that benefit our Nation.


Previous GAO studies on mapping or "geospatial" duplication:

Comprehensive OMB Task Force report, 1973.

Download File (MOV)

Tags:  3DEP  Congress  Duplication  FLAIR Act  GAO 

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MAPPS to Conduct Salary and Non-Cash Benefits Survey

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Salary Survey is Coming...The Salary Survey is Coming!

Clip art licensed from Clip Art Gallery on

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on


MAPPS is once again conducting its Salary and Non-Cash Benefits Survey. This is the most comprehensive compensation survey in the geospatial profession. It is the best way to benchmark your firm's wage and income with others in the community.

The salary survey is one of the most requested documents by private sector firms when submitting salary information for procurement negotiations and by Human Resource managers to benchmark the benefits to the rest of the geospatial community. MAPPS members have said that this survey is invaluable and worth the cost of membership in the association.

The survey will be web based. It will be emailed to member firms beginning April 15.

In order to have a homogenous universe, the survey will only be sent to Regular Member Firms (US service and data firms).  Associate Members (hardware and software providers, consultants and non-US firms) will not participate in the survey, but will receive a free copy of the final report.  Regular Member Firms that complete the survey form will receive a free copy of the final report.

The final report will be available for purchase by Regular Member Firms that do not participate in the survey, and to non-members at a premium price.

A presentation on the survey results will be offered at the MAPPS Summer Conference, July 22 - 26, 2013 at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine.

The survey will be conducted by Compdata Surveys, an independent third party professional data collection company. Individual firm responses and data will be treated with complete confidence. No MAPPS staff or member will see any firm's information.

MAPPS Regular Member Firms are encouraged to participate in the survey. The better the response from the membership, the better the quality of the final data will be. 

Not a member of MAPPS? Join the association today! By joining, your firm is able to participate in the survey and receive a free copy of the final report.

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Cash Accounting in Tax Reform

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Congress considered Tax Reform in 1986, MAPPS worked with a coalition in the A/E community to preserve cash based accounting for certain professional service firms.

We were successful. Language preserving cash (versus accrual) as an option was included in the 1986 Act. Congress even specified that architecture-engineering services (A/E) included surveying and mapping! Take a looks at the current tax regulations.

At that time, we did a study that found that as much as 1/3 of an A/E firm's 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.

This argument helped us save the day for A/E firms' ability to continue to use cash accounting in the 1986 tax reform bill that became law.

The Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has released a discussion draft for 2013 Tax Reform, part of its broader effort on comprehensive tax reform that significantly lowers rates while making the tax code simpler and fairer. This draft is specifically focused on tax provisions affecting small business.

The draft proposes to continue cash accounting for certain professional service firms, but limits it to firms with gross receipts of $10 million or less.

What are your thoughts? How frequent is use of cash accounting for geospatial (or broader architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping) among firms with income over $10 million? Should the $10 million cap be raised? What should MAPPS advocate?

Let us know.

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The New Hampshire “Images from the Air” Legislation

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013

There’s an old expression that "Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others wonder what has happened”.

What distinguishes MAPPS for many other organizations is we make things happen.

Current legislation in the New Hampshire state legislature is a case in point. State Representative Neal Kurk (R-Weare) pre-filed a bill in December, 2012 "prohibiting images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air”.


As it turns out, that was not text from the bill, but simply a description used with the placeholder before the legislature went into session.


A number of blogs, web sites, and publications began posting stories about the bill. None included quotes from State Rep. Kurk or otherwise indicated the authors bothered to contact the lawmaker to inquire about the motivation or intent of the bill.


MAPPS did contact him and pointed out the problems a bill "prohibiting images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air” would pose for the aerial survey community, the background on the law, and the many applications of aerial imagery of residences provide to the health, welfare and safety of the good people of New Hampshire. Rep. Kurk immediately replied by email, indicated the bill had not yet been written, and that the issues raised by MAPPS would be addressed.


When the bill was introduced, HB619, I called Rep. Kurk to discuss continuing MAPPS concerns on the impact on private sector airborne surveys. We had a mutually beneficial 40-minute conversation. I provided information about which he was unaware, and he informed me of the specific concerns he was attempting to address – specifically invasive privacy intrusions and unwarranted governmental and law enforcement searches, particularly using a unmanned aerial vehicle or "drone”. He thanked me for my interest, indicated he was writing a substitute for his own bill, said the information I provided will useful in drafting the substitute, and that he was not interested in adversely affecting the legitimate business activities of firms in the geospatial profession.


His issue, and the specific language of the bill, will be to prohibit the use of drones (UAVs) by law enforcement for surveillance or to fire a weapon. With regard to surveillance, it will only apply to (1) the inside of a building and (2) imagery wherein individual persons are recognizable/identifiable. The bill will NOT affect imagery of the outside of any home or other structure. The prohibition above can be waived if the drone/imagery is by government, WITH a warrant by a court, or by a private firm with the consent of the affected/imaged person.

It does not go after normal aerial photography or satellite imagery.

We had quite a conversation on commercial imaging satellites, the origin and content of the FAA bill passed by Congress in 2012 and currently being implemented by FAA (regarding certification of UAVs), and Federal vs state law on airspace, remote sensing satellites, and related issues.


That substitute has been filed. The substitute has been narrowed to only address drones. It no longer would affect manned helicopter or fixed wing aircraft platforms, and since it is limited to airspace over New Hampshire NOT subject to Federal regulation, it would not affect commercial remote sensing satellites.

However, the substitute still limits and prohibits UAV data acquisition. It defines government to include a contractor and it does assign criminal penalties. And while it attempts to prevent weapons on-board drones, I fear he might have defined LIDAR as a laser-type weapon! The good news is we have an open dialogue with Rep. Kurk and we can continue to work through these remaining issues.


The point is, contacting legislators, even those in states other than your own, is effective. Rather than watching things happen, or wondering what happened, MAPPS makes things happen. If a bill is passed into law in New Hampshire, it will be very different than its original intent because MAPPS got involved. The authors of blogs, web sites, and publications who wrote about the bill without contacting its sponsor did the public and its readers a disservice.


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