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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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Flightline Converges with New Media

Posted By Administrator, Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012
After more than 25 years of publication, FLIGHTLINE has come to an end. The last edition of the venerable MAPPS newsletter was published in December.

2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of MAPPS. The association was founded in 1982 and FLIGHTLINE was launched in December 1985, ending a 26 year run.

In its place, we’re implementing a change for the better. Rather than a bimonthly PDF newsletter, we are introducing a more frequent Blog.  Presently, the MAPPS Blog can be found at In the future, MAPPS members will receive an email with a link to the blog.

Why the change? 

Media and communications are changing. Many firms and organizations are migrating from newsletters to a blogs, as this new media provides more frequent and timely dissemination of news and information. The blog will post information more frequently than the newsletter and the news, information and commentary will be fresher and more relevant to the members of MAPPS. 

Moreover, the name FLIGHTLINE has become dated and less applicable to the services many MAPPS member firms provide.  With the advent of satellite remote sensing, airborne LiDAR, ground and mobile mapping systems and other data acquisitions techniques that today’s geospatial firms utilize, the idea of a flightline is becoming less descriptive of the profession’s activities.

Many firms and organizations are migrating from a newsletter to a blog, as this new media provides more frequent and timely dissemination of news and information.  

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LightSquared Will Result in Unfair Government Competition with the Private Sector

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, November 3, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011
On its face, the LightSquared proposal and the issue of unfair government competition with the private sector would seem to have nothing in common. As a for-profit corporation, LightSquared is raising private capital, hiring private sector employees, and paying taxes. At this point, it is seeking a regulatory approval from the federal government (spectrum from the Federal Communications Commission), not tax dollars, grants or other financial assistance from the taxpayers.

But LightSquared has stubbed its toe in a way that particularly disadvantages and disenfranchises numerous private companies, and those in surveying and mapping in particular. Unfair government competition with private enterprise is rearing its ugly head again.  Here’s how.

Several Federal agencies, including departments of defense, agriculture, transportation, interior and commerce, have voiced concern that LightSquared’s interference with GPS will adversely affect agency operations. LightSquared argues that the GPS industry, including the surveying and mapping profession, are interfering with LightSquared’s spectrum, not the other way around.

That claim notwithstanding, LightSquared has attempted to cushion its impact on existing users – in the government. While reports are the firm has spent more than $9 million to develop filters to ensure its signal did not go into the spectrum licensed to GPS, LightSquared says the GPS industry should pay for the filters and patches to their instruments, arguing that the GPS user community should have vacated the disputed spectrum years ago, and is therefore responsible for its own upgrades.

Now it is reported that LightSquared has committed an additional $50 million to retrofit or replace GPS devices in use by federal agencies.

This will result in an unfair advantage for the government over the private sector. Federal agencies, USGS, NOAA, Corps of Engineers, just to name a few that have their own in-house surveying and mapping equipment, crews and service capabilities, would have a no-cost fix to their LightSquared interference problems, while private sector firms, including small business surveyors, photogrammetrists and other GPS users, will have to pay for their own upgrades and repairs.

Unfair government competition with the private sector has long been a major concern for small business.  Every time a White House Conference on Small Business has been convened, government performance of commercial activities (those that meet the "Yellow Pages Test” -- if a service is commercially available and can be found from private enterprise in the Yellow Pages, the government shouldn’t be doing it) as a top issue.  LightSquared’s proposal to fix the GPS interference problem for federal agencies while leaving private enterprise to fend for itself will only exacerbate the problem.

Whether an intended or unintended consequence, Congress and the FCC should insist that prior to any approval, LightSquared should be responsible for preventing interference with all GPS users, not just some and certainly not just those in government.

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MAPPS Announces Date Change for March Federal Programs Conference

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011
MAPPS has formally announced a change of dates for the 2012 Federal Programs Conference in Washington, DC. The event will now take place:

March 27 & 28, 2012

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives announced its legislative calendar for 2012. The Congress anticiaptes that the House will not be in session on March 13 - 14, the dates originally set for the annual MAPPS Federal Programs Conference. This will mark the first time in the 20+ year history of the Federal Programs Conference that we have had to adjust the dates to accommodate the Congressional schedule.

The value of the MAPPS Federal Programs Conference includes the meetings MAPPS members have with their elected officials and their staff to discuss legislation affecting the private sector geospatial community. Therefore, in order to provide MAPPS members the maximum opportunity to bring their message to their elected officials,  the MAPPS staff, with the approval of the MAPPS Board of Directors, has decided to change the dates of the 2012 Federal Programs Conference.

The venue for the 2012 Federal Programs Conference has not changed.  It will still be at the Westin City Center, 1400 M Street, NW, Washington DC 20005.

2012 will mark the 21st annual Federal Programs Conference. The program will include federal agency speakers to update the membership on current and future programs resulting in contracts with the private geospatial profession.  

Registration and the agenda for the March 27 & 28, 2012 conference will be available in January 2012.  Please mark your calendar and plan to attend this conference -- the most important event on the annual MAPPS calendar.

In the meantime, make plans to attend the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference -- November 15 & 17, 2011 and the Winter Conference January 22-26, 2012.

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U.S. House Votes to Repeal 3% withholding on contracts for goods and services

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Friday, October 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011
The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday voted 405-16 in favor of repealing Section 511 of Public Law No. 109-222, which mandates a requirement that federal, sate and local governments withhold 3 percent of their payments on contracts for goods and services.

On several occasions MAPPS has urged the IRS to eliminate the 3 percent withholding.

The bill will now wait for a vote in the Senate before a final approval from President Obama.

Unlike some more controversial bills that have been passed through the House, this bill has had support by both parties. President Obama had included a delay in the effective date of the withholding in his recently unveiled jobs package.

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MAPPS Announces Speakers for Fall Policy Conference

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011
MAPPS is pleased to report that an official from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is  confirmed as a speaker at the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference.

Peder Magee, a senior attorney in the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, will speak to MAPPS members on Thursday, November 17.

Mr. Magee works on a variety of policy and litigation matters, including online behavioral marketing, and was involved in the December 2010 "Preliminary FTC Staff Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers."

The report proposed that firms be required to obtain a citizen's approval prior to collecting, storing or using "precise geolocation" data. MAPPS led a geospatial community effort to persuade the FTC to remove or revise the proposal.

Other presentations will feature:

Jerry Johnston of EPA, who will provide a demonstration of the "Geospatial Platform" being developed by the US Government. Johnston will discuss important issues affecting whether and how your firm's data can be on the platform.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is launching a new program to utilize remote sensing technologies, including LIDAR and others, in its airports program. An Advisory Circular has been issued. FAA will brief MAPPS members on the circular and the potential program.

Other presentations will be announced shortly.

The conference will also feature meetings of the MAPPS Federal Agency Liaison Committees (NGA, USDA, USGS, NOAA, DoD & DHS, and FAA & TSA), which includes valuable information from our Federal agency partners. This year, the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference will be held on Thursday, November 17 at the Hilton Washington Dulles Hotel in Herndon, VA, concurrent with the ASPRS/Pecora Symposium.

Early registration for the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference ends October 30. The MAPPS Fall Policy Conference features sessions on topics of interest to the geospatial community. Presentations will focus on policy issues that affect your firm and your markets.

The MAPPS Fall Policy Conference is only open to MAPPS members. If your firm has not joined MAPPS, we invite private sector firms to join today.

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Longer Depreciation Schedules and Air Traffic Control

Posted By Rich Breitlow, Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Richard Breitlow is an account executive with AGFA Materials Corporation, where he specializes in aerial photography product sales. He is the former chairman of the Aerial Acquisition Committee of MAPPS with more than 38 years’ experience in the aerial photography business.

Recently, President Obama proposed a Federal debt and deficit reduction plan that includes slower and longer depreciation schedules for business owned aircraft. While billed as eliminating a tax loophole for corporate executives’ jets, the proposal would also adversely affect small businesses, including aerial imagery and geospatial data collection operators. MAPPS has already commented

Now the "President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction" has been released, including a proposed $100 per flight fee for air traffic control services. This double-whammy on the aerial survey profession is both economically unwise and politically burdensome and unfair.

Like other aviation related associations, MAPPS recognizes the need to pay for air traffic control (ATC) services. General aviation has historically paid for those services through fuel taxes, commonly referred to as "pay at the pump". The proposed $100 fee per flight would add a whole new accounting requirement and new level of government bureaucracy just to administer and enforce the new requirement. The best way for general aviation to pay for ATC services is to continue to pay at the pump. Whether the current amount taxed is appropriate, or should be raised is another argument. Certainly there is a lot of waste in FAA spending that should be eliminated before increases are considered.

The Obama Administration portrayed the proposed fee as a tax on corporate jets. However the actual wording only excludes military aircraft, public aircraft, recreational piston aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights. All aerial survey flights in controlled airspace would be subject to the proposed fee, regardless of aircraft type. MAPPS has gone on record in opposition to per flight air traffic control fees.

Adding a $100 fee per flight for ATC services would only further burden a profession already hard-hit by the decline in the housing market, and the economy in general, and would certainly have a negative impact on hiring. This fee would have just the opposite effect of the intent of the President's "jobs bill".

Lobbyists for commercial airlines have long favored measures to shift a larger share of the burden for ATC services to general aviation. However, attempts in the past to include a per flight ATC user fee or "charge" in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Authorization bill have been met with stiff opposition.

The current effort will, and should, meet a similar fate.

While the President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction appears to have little chance of passing Congress, parts of it could find its way into the "Super Committee's" plan to reduce the national debt and annual government deficit. This is where the real danger lies.

In order to protect the interests of the aerial survey profession, and the public and clients we serve, I suggest:
  • the current Pay at the Pump method be preserved as the best way for general aviation to help pay for ATC services and the "fee per flight" concept be rejected,
  • Identify "Super Committee” members who are aviation friendly and urge them to either reject the fee outright, or adopt wording to exclude flights that are primarily work operations, such as small businesses operating aircraft for aerial surveys.
  • Identify FAA activities that can be reformed, eliminated or privatized to save money and explore a more balanced and equitable method of paying for FAA and ATC services that does not unfairly target general aviation generally or aerial survey operations in particular.

Tags:  ATC  Aviation  Congress  FAA  Tax 

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MAPPS Opposes 3% Withholding on Federal Contracts at IRS Public Hearing

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, September 15, 2011
On September 12 MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was one of five witnesses who testified at a public hearing by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) entitled, "Withholding on Payments by Government Entities to Persons Providing Property or Services.” The hearing was to address legislation enacted by Congress calling for a 3 percent withholding on all federal contracts, including mapping, surveying and geospatial activities, with the IRS in charge of implementing regulations on  section 3402(t) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Palatiello reiterated MAPPS opposition to the 3 percent withholding. He said even with a recent change in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (section 52.232-10), A/E firms, including those in surveying and mapping, still face a potential retainage or withholding of 13 percent on Federal contracts, an amount often in excess of the net profit. He said small business cannot afford to be in the banking business, making interest free loans to the federal government. He also said the withholding will drive firms out of the Federal contracting market at a time when we should be encouraging more competition.

As a means to help business, Palatiello urged that all long-term contracts be grandfathered. In particular, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract should be grandfathered, and the 3%withholding should not apply to any task order entered into or against the ID/IQ contract after the effective date of the IRS regulation.  The same policy should apply to other types of contract vehicles, such as GSA Schedule and Basic Ordering Agreements (BOAs), he told the IRS.

In 2009, MAPPS testified at an IRS oversight hearing opposing 3 percent withholding.

MAPPS is a member of the Government Withholding Coalition (the Coalition), led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Coalition was formed to seek repeal of Section 511 of Public Law No. 109-222, which mandates the sweeping new requirement that federal, sate and local governments withhold 3% of their payments for goods and services (the government withholding regime).

Currently there is bi-partisan support in Congress to repeal the withholding. H.R. 674 and S. 164 are intended to "amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the imposition of 3 percent withholding on certain payments made to vendors by government entities.” The bills are cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 250 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 21 U.S. Senators. This legislation is a priority for the Republican leadership in the House and is scheduled to be debated this fall. President Obama has included a delay in the effective date of the withholding in his recently unveiled jobs package.

Tags:  3% withholding  Congress  Contracts  IRS  Tax 

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Those Aren’t Rich Corporate Executives’ Jets, They’re Small Businesses – The Backbone of America’s Economy

Posted By John Palatiello, Thursday, September 15, 2011

President Obama - and almost every other political figure on the American landscape – has at one time or another declared that small business is the backbone of America’s economy. Then why is the President proposing to raise taxes on the very entrepreneurs he’s counting on to create jobs?

 Photo provided by Keystone Aerial Surveys
On Monday, President Obama formally sent his "American Jobs Act” to Congress.  As promised in his address to Congress and the Nation last Thursday, the package includes measures to pay for his latest proposal to jump start the American economy. Included in the bill is a provision on "General Aviation Aircraft Treated As 7-Year Property”. That’s tax jargon for the President’s now infamous but inaccurate attack on a tax loophole for corporate jets.

The fact of the matter is most general aviation aircraft is owned by small to mid-sized businesses, not corporate fat cats.  These planes and helicopters are not used to whisk CEO’s off to exotic destinations.  Rather, they are used for aerial photography in support of surveying and mapping of new highways, monitor dangerous encroachment of underground pipelines, conduct danger tree surveys to prevent power outages, apply fertilizer and pesticides to crops for maximum yield of food by farmers, researching the atmosphere and environment, keep an eye on traffic, and move employees, customers, cargo and products.

The President’s plan is based on polling and focus group sessions that show average Americans frustration with tax loopholes that permit some individuals and businesses to pay little or no taxes. In fact, what is at issue is the length of time a taxpayer is permitted for depreciation of an asset, in this case an airplane. Owners of business aircraft can depreciate their investment over five years. President Obama has proposed changing the depreciation schedule for general aviation aircraft to seven years calling the current five year schedule a tax loophole. The depreciation schedule for general aviation aircraft has been in existence since the early 1980s.  Business aircraft are treated similarly to other assets such as cars, trucks, and certain equipment, which can be depreciated over a five year period when purchased for business use.

According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), in the first six months of 2011, total general aviation airplane shipments worldwide fell 15.5 percent, from 936 in 2010 to 791 this year.  There is no doubt the Obama proposal would only make this situation worse.

Shorter depreciation schedules create jobs. The faster a business can expense capital equipment, the faster it can buy more – putting more people to work. Making it difficult for businesses to purchase and depreciate aircraft will not punish wealthy CEO’s, but reduce jobs for the pilots, crews, mechanics, airport operations workers, and ultimately the folks that work the assembly lines at aircraft factories. At a time when application of digital aerial imagery, LIDAR and other airborne acquired geospatial data is exploding, aerial photographers, surveyors, and users of geospatial services will also see their jobs jeopardized.

It is difficult to see how taxing aircraft supports the broader goal of addressing the nation's job crisis. This proposal is virtually identical to what happened in 1990 when Congress imposed a "luxury” tax on yachts. The rich people who could afford these boats were unaffected, but the workers built them lost their jobs. As a result, Congress scrambled to repeal the tax. Pardon the pun, but Congress should not let the plane tax proposal ever get off the ground.

Tags:  Aviation  Congress  Jobs  Tax 

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COGO Submits Comments to FCC on LightSquared.

Posted By NIck Palatiello, Friday, July 29, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
COGO, of which MAPPS is a member, has commented to the FCC that the application by LightSquared will adversely affect activities of the geospatial community.

MAPPS urges member firms and geospatial professionals to submit comments to the FCC. The deadline to submit is tomorrow, July

Tags:  COGO  FCC  GPS  LightSquared 

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GPS is Being Threatened, LightSquared Update

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, July 25, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
GPS is being threatened. An application to the Federal Communications Commission by the firm LightSquared, to gain spectrum access for a planned wholesale 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless broadband communications network integrated with satellite coverage across the United States, has raised concerns from a broad cross-section of GPS users due to LightSquared’s interference with GPS.

Earlier this year, MAPPS filed a comment with the FCC in opposition to the LightSquared application.

Additionally, MAPPS was active in gaining unanimous approval of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) for a letter in opposition to LightSquared and FGDC or NGAC

An excellent resource for information on this issue is the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

While FCC previously granted LightSquared a conditional waiver, the FCC also directed that LightSquared conduct tests to determine the extent of the interference with GPS.

The Technical Working Group (TWG), which consisted of LightSquared and representatives from the GPS user and manufacturer communities tested more than 100 different GPS devices. The tests, conducte in several test environments, found network deployment proposed by LightSquared would indeed cause interference to millions of GPS users. FCC released the report on June 30 and issued a new call for comments. Such comments are due July 30.

MAPPS has again submitted comments. Individual geospatial professionals, as well as MAPPS member firms, are encouraged to submit comments of their own.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving to prevent FCC approval of the LightSquared application. The appropriations bill to fund the FCC for fiscal year 2012 (which begins October 1, 2011) includes a provision limiting FCC’s funding until it resolves the concerns of possible widespread harmful interference to the GPS system before giving final approval to the application.

Tags:  COGO  Comment  FCC  FGDC  GPS  LightSquared  NGAC 

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