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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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Don't Make LiDAR Criminal

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
As reported in LiDAR News yesterday, MAPPS has be working on an issue with LiDAR techonology and the FAA over the past several months. We have developed a one-pager  which has been distributed to members of the geospatial profession and to Members of Congress.

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Bill, S. 223, and the House of Representatives has passed a free-standing bill, H.R. 386, to make it a criminal offense for anyone who "aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft.” The legislation defines a "laser pointer” as "any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.” However, this language was NOT included in H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization Bill, and therefore reconciliation is needed during a House-Senate Conference.

MAPPS is deeply concerned that this definition is too broad and vague. It could include LiDAR (Light Detecting And Ranging), a state-of-the art mapping technology that can measure the distance to or other characteristics of an area of land or an object by illuminating the area or item with light beams or pulses from a laser. LiDAR indeed uses a directed beam of light to identify a specific position, but does NOT pose the safety threat of the lasers intended by the legislation. A LiDAR device could be defined as pointing a laser beam, however LiDAR devices are not pointers.

LiDAR is a technology developed by NASA that is now fully commercialized. It is used for accurate floodplain mapping, conducting "danger tree surveys” of overhead power lines, measuring vegetative cover or biomass for climate change analysis and hundreds of other applications. There are more than 50 aerial LiDAR systems in operation in the United States.

One of the major users of LiDAR is the FAA itself. The FAA uses Single Point LiDAR devices to monitor airports throughout the United States. These devices point at aircraft for the purpose of getting the position of the aircraft during ground movement on the taxiway. LiDAR services, contracted by individual airport authorizes, utilize Stationary Tripod Scanners to survey the interiors and exteriors of structures at airports, Airborne LiDAR is used to conduct obstruction surveys, master planning and pavement surveys of runways. Each of these FAA-related operations would be in violation of the legislative language. In addition, USACE, NGA, USGS, FEMA, NOAA, and other agencies contract for LiDAR.

The legislation is clear in its intent to prohibit inappropriate use of the laser pointer, particularly when the objective is to disrupt or harm a pilot in the cockpit. With a slight modification, the legislative language could meet its intent, without impeding the safe and legitimate used of LiDAR technology.
JUNE 2011 UPDATE: Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt announced June 1 that the FAA will begin to impose civil penalties against people who point a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft. Today’s interpretation reflects the fact that pointing a laser at an aircraft from the ground could seriously impair a pilot’s vision and interfere with the flight crew’s ability to safely handle its responsibilities. The maximum civil penalty the FAA can impose on an individual for violating the FAA’s regulations that prohibit interfering with a flight crew is $11,000 per violation.

MAPPS urges that Congressional intent clearly state that LiDAR technology is not a danger to aviation operations, and that this technology enables public policy decisions. This Congressional intent should be entered into the Congressional Record and/or the Conference Report via a colloquy and/or by an official statement.

The following modification is respectfully recommended:

"any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.

For Further Information Contact: MAPPS John "JB” Byrd, Government Affairs Manager
1856 Old Reston Avenue, Suite 205, Reston, VA 20190 P: 703-787-6996; F: 703-787-7550; E: jbyrd@mapps.org; www.mapps.org

Tags:  FAA  LiDAR 

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Potpourri

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.

Tags:  A-76  Congress  Defense  DHS  FCC  FGDC  FLAIR Act  LiDAR  LightSquared  NOAA 

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Update on the FTC Privacy Rule and it’s Impact on “Precise Geolocation Data”

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
The staff of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) facilitated a meeting on Wednesday, April 27 to engage geospatial interests in federal, state and local government agencies, and the private sector in a dialogue with the staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the FTC staff report, "Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change" and its proposal that firms engaged in collection, sharing or use of "precise geolocation data" about a citizen be required to obtain "affirmative express consent”  or advance approval of each such citizen.

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was invited to the meeting representing the private sector firms in the MAPPS membership.
The meeting resulted in a number of revelations.  But first, a little background.

In February 2009, the FTC issued a report "Behavioral Advertising Tracking, Targeting, & Technology” wherein it defined behavioral advertising as "the practice of tracking an individual’s online activities in order to deliver advertising tailored to the individual’s interests.”  While the report used the term "precise geographic location”, it was limited to internet activities, such as the use of "cookies" (FTC defined a cookie as a small text file that a website’s server places on a computer’s web browser. The cookie transmits information back to the website’s server about the browsing activities of the computer user on the site.) As a result of this relatively narrow scope of the report, it did not garner the attention of the geospatial community.

Legislation billed as protecting consumer privacy was drafted and introduced in Congress in 2010.  The Privacy report, a follow-up to the Behavior Advertising study, was much broader in its scope, application and reach, as well as its discussion of geolocation and its proposal for regulation of such activities, thus attracting the concern and attention of geospatial professionals.  MAPPS submitted comments to the FTC, issued a call for members' action, made a presentation to the National Geospatial Advisory, and secured letters of opposition to the FTC proposal from FGDC,vthe Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), numerous MAPPS members and other stakeholders in the geospatial community.    

The MAPPS comment to FTC came on the heels of letters to the FCC, the Commerce Department, and Congress.

The community’s comments to FTC caused the April 27 FGDC-facilitated meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters building in Washington, DC.

At the April 27 meeting, Palatiello pointed out that since the FTC only has jurisdiction over private, for profit companies (and not nonprofits organizations or universities, or government agencies), the FTC proposal would result in an unlevel playing field and unfair government competition with private firms.  The FTC staff confirmed its existing statutory authority is limited to commercial companies.  The discrimination against these companies was called unfair by a Federal agency official in the meeting.  Palatiello noted that while government agencies are not covered by FTC’s enforcement powers, the FTC privacy proposal did not exempt private firms working as contractors to government agencies.

The FTC staff, led by Christopher Olsen, Bureau of Consumer Protection, as well as attorneys Peder Magee and Katie Ratte of FTC's Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, complimented MAPPS for mobilizing comments from its members and the broader geospatial community.  Olsen called the comments "helpful” to calling attention to the expansive and undefined use of the term "precise geolocation data”.  He said "what you people (geospatial professionals) do is beyond what we intended” and admitted FTC needs to "put meat on the bones” of a definition of precise geolocation data in its final report.

Olson said the FTC staff’s intent is to control "pinpoint unique individuals in a precise location” and the collection of information on the "location of an individual, computer or device”.

Palatiello called such a narrowing "helpful” and "reassuring”.  He noted that MAPPS attempted, but was unable to define "precise geolocation data” for the purpose of FTC or Congressional intentions on privacy, but did recommend an exemption from such term.  That exemption included:

1. Any information about the location and shape of, and the relationships among, geographic features, including remotely sensed and map data;

2. Any graphical or digital data depicting natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related thereto, including surveys, maps, charts, remote sensing data, and images;

3. Collection, storage, retrieval, or dissemination of graphical or digital data to depict natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related to such data, including any such data that comprises a survey, map, chart, geographic information system, remotely sensed image or data, or an aerial photograph by surveyors, photogrammetrists, hydrographers, geodesists, cartographers, or other such mapping and geospatial professionals; and data originating from commercial satellite systems licensed to operate by the U.S. government, global positioning systems, geographic information systems, and airborne or terrestrial mapping equipment.

Palatiello also echoed comments by MAPPS member Kevin Pomfret, Esq (LeClairRyan, Richmond, VA) that any such definition or exemption must not preclude the development of new technologies, activities or applications or thwart the innovation that is driving the market.

Tags:  Congress  FCC  FTC  Geolocation Data  Privacy 

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Update on the FTC Privacy Rule and it’s Impact on “Precise Geolocation Data”

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
 
The staff of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) facilitated a meeting on Wednesday, April 27 to engage geospatial interests in federal, state and local government agencies, and the private sector in a dialogue with the staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the FTC staff report, "Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change" and its proposal that firms engaged in collection, sharing or use of "precise geolocation data" about a citizen be required to obtain "affirmative express consent” or advance approval of each such citizen.

MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello was invited to the meeting representing the private sector firms in the MAPPS membership.
The meeting resulted in a number of revelations. But first, a little background.
In February 2009, the FTC issued a report "Behavioral Advertising Tracking, Targeting, & Technology” wherein it defined behavioral advertising as "the practice of tracking an individual’s online activities in order to deliver advertising tailored to the individual’s interests.” While the report used the term "precise geographic location”, it was limited to internet activities, such as the use of "cookies" (FTC defined a cookie as a small text file that a website’s server places on a computer’s web browser. The cookie transmits information back to the website’s server about the browsing activities of the computer user on the site.) As a result of this relatively narrow scope of the report, it did not garner the attention of the geospatial community.

Legislation billed as protecting consumer privacy was drafted and introduced in Congress in 2010. The Privacy report, a follow-up to the Behavior Advertising study, was much broader in its scope, application and reach, as well as its discussion of geolocation and its proposal for regulation of such activities, thus attracting the concern and attention of geospatial professionals. MAPPS submitted comments to the FTC, issued a call for members' action, made a presentation to the National Geospatial Advisory, and secured letters of opposition to the FTC proposal from FGDC, the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), numerous MAPPS members and other stakeholders in the geospatial community.
 
The MAPPS comment to FTC came on the heels of letters to the FCC, the Commerce Department, and Congress.

 
The community’s comments to FTC caused the April 27 FGDC-facilitated meeting, held at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters building in Washington, DC.
 
 
At the April 27 meeting, Palatiello pointed out that since the FTC only has jurisdiction over private, for profit companies (and not nonprofits organizations or universities, or government agencies), the FTC proposal would result in an unlevel playing field and unfair government competition with private firms. The FTC staff confirmed its existing statutory authority is limited to commercial companies. The discrimination against these companies was called unfair by a Federal agency official in the meeting. Palatiello noted that while government agencies are not covered by FTC’s enforcement powers, the FTC privacy proposal did not exempt private firms working as contractors to government agencies.

 
The FTC staff, led by Christopher Olsen, Bureau of Consumer Protection, as well as attorneys Peder Magee and Katie Ratte of FTC's Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, complimented MAPPS for mobilizing comments from its members and the broader geospatial community. Olsen called the comments "helpful” to calling attention to the expansive and undefined use of the term "precise geolocation data”. He said "what you people (geospatial professionals) do is beyond what we intended” and admitted FTC needs to "put meat on the bones” of a definition of precise geolocation data in its final report.

 
Olson said the FTC staff’s intent is to control "pinpoint unique individuals in a precise location” and the collection of information on the "location of an individual, computer or device”.


Palatiello called such a narrowing "helpful” and "reassuring”. He noted that MAPPS attempted, but was unable to define "precise geolocation data” for the purpose of FTC or Congressional intentions on privacy, but did recommend an exemption from such term. That exemption included:
  
 
1. Any information about the location and shape of, and the relationships among, geographic features, including remotely sensed and map data;

 
2. Any graphical or digital data depicting natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related thereto, including surveys, maps, charts, remote sensing data, and images;

 
3. Collection, storage, retrieval, or dissemination of graphical or digital data to depict natural or manmade physical features, phenomena, or boundaries of the earth and any information related to such data, including any such data that comprises a survey, map, chart, geographic information system, remotely sensed image or data, or an aerial photograph by surveyors, photogrammetrists, hydrographers, geodesists, cartographers, or other such mapping and geospatial professionals; and Data originating from commercial satellite systems licensed to operate by the U.S. government, global positioning systems, geographic information systems, and airborne or terrestrial mapping equipment.


 
 
Palatiello also echoed comments by MAPPS member Kevin Pomfret, Esq (LeClairRyan, Richmond, VA) that any such definition or exemption must not preclude the development of new technologies, activities or applications or thwart the innovation that is driving the market.

 
 

Tags:  Commerce  FTC  Geolocation Data  Privacy 

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Congressional Action Could Create New Demand for Geospatial Data

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Two pieces of legislation working their way through Congress could create new demand for geospatial data that may result in more business opportunities for MAPPS member firms.  Provisions adding guy-wires and freestanding towers as features shown in FAA aeronautical charting data and adding x,y, and z coordinates to structures on FEMA flood insurance rate maps have received initial approval in the U.S. House of Representatives.

FAA Authorization

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) had noticed that in recent years, low-flying aviators have faced an increased threat of uncharted, man-made obstructions that are difficult to see and avoid. There have been a number of pilot fatalities caused by collisions with unlit and unmarked guy-wire and freestanding towers. The most recent fatality occurred on January 10 when an agricultural aircraft collided with a guy-wire tower in Oakley, California.

Aviators who routinely operate aircraft at low altitudes face the threat of colliding with these structures, some of which have a diameter of only six to eight inches and are secured with guy-wires that connect at multiple heights and anchor to the ground. Affected pilots include Emergency Medical Services, firefighters, agricultural crop dusters, fish and wildlife service aircraft, mosquito control and many others.

Rep. Neugebauer offered an amendment to H.R. 658, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act, to direct the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a feasibility study on the development of an internet-based public resource that would list the exact height, longitude, and latitude of potential low-altitude aviation obstructions. The provision of this data would enable the public and pilots who fly at low levels to know where these structures are located. The data would allow aviators to obtain the information necessary to avoid these structures in their flight plans.

MAPPS supported the amendment.   When FAA conducts the study, we will have a seat at the table.  H.R. 658 subsequently passed the House.  A companion bill, S. 223, has passed the U.S. Senate, without the tower and guy-wire provision.  A House-Senate Conference Committee will soon meet to reconcile differences between the two chambers’ bills.

FEMA Flood Insurance Reform

The House Financial Services Committee has begun work on H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), chair of the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity.  The Subcommittee reported the bill to the full committee on April 6 with a provision approved as an amendment offered by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) to study the collection display of the vertical positioning of structures on FEMA flood insurance maps. The bill re-establishes a Technical Mapping Advisory Committee (TMAC), of which there would be members from the private mapping community.  The Stivers Amendment asks the TMAC to do an analysis of collecting vertical positioning data.

To view the webcast of the subcommittee mark-up, go to http://financialservices.house.gov/Hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1838, where the Stivers amendment can be found at 5:45 to 10:25.

This was the result of Ken Scruggs' (Midwest Aerial Photography, Galloway, OH) visit with Congressman Stivers during the Federal Programs Conference.

This is evidence that grass roots, individual citizen/MAPPS member contact with your elected representative WORKS!
Good work, Ken and JB (and everyone else who helped).

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  FAA  FIRM Act 

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MAPPS Host 20th Annual Federal Programs Conference

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Numerous policy and market opportunity pronouncements were unveiled at the 20th annual MAPPS Federal Programs Conference, held March 15-16 in Washington, DC. More than 90 MAPPS member firm principals, owners, partners and senior pro- fessionals converged in the nation's capital for briefings and meetings with more than 20 Federal agency officials, as well as more than 150 vis- its to the offices of Represen- tatives and Senators in the U.S. Congress.

At the Federal agency briefings on March 15, MAPPS members were treated to first-look information that could lead to upcoming business opportunities for private geo- spatial firms. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s (NGA’s) Dennis Morgan announced that its request for proposals for Geospatial Intelligence (GeoINT) Data Readiness (GDR) contacts, the successor to the current Global Geospatial Intelligence (GGI) contracts, will be issued later this year. Additionally, FEMA‟s Paul Rooney noted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its request for qualifications from firms for contracts for Remote Sensing to Support Incident Management and Homeland Security days be- fore the MAPPS session.

While MAPPS was in Washington, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released its proposal to revise "size standards” or definitions of small businesses in a variety of Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services categories. The classification for surveying and mapping, as well as architecture and engineering, is proposed to rise from $4.5 to $19 million in gross annual receipts, measured on a three year average.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided an update on its role in producing a national broadband map, compiled from individual state mapping efforts, and plans for a next-gen 911 system. Michael Byrne, the Geo- spatial Information Officer (GIO) of the FCC, assured MAPPS members that the FCC is well aware of the GPS interference posed by the LightSquared application, that the FCC understands the concerns expressed by MAPPS and others in our community, and that the LightSquared application will either be rejected or amended to assure no interference with GPS. While noting he could not comment on an ongoing investigation, Byrne said FCC’s inquiry of certain Google activities will not result in regulation of the broader geospatial community. He reported the caution provided by MAPPS was helpful in educating the FCC on the activities of the private geospatial profession. The privacy issue was also addressed by Karen Siderelis, GIO of the Department of the Interior and chairman of the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s (FGDC)’s executive committee. She reported on a meeting between FGDC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff in which the FTC said it was "flooded” with comments on proposed regulations prohibiting the collection, storage or use of "precise geolocation data" without a citizens' prior approval. Siderelis said the FTC admitted it inappropriately used the term, resulting in an "unintended consequence” that would be corrected in the final rule. FTC is also considering a work- shop with the geospatial community to identify ways to implement privacy protections against phishing and cyber stalking, without disturbing the legitimate activities of geospatial firms.

Both Siderelis and BLM Chief Cadastral Surveyor Don Buhler predicted a demand in boundary data on Indian lands resulting from settlement of the Cobell case. Buhler reported the Interior Department’s Inspector General found "the Bureau of Land Management's Cadastral Survey program was missing the opportunity to identify and perform surveys on high risk lands where significant potential revenues could be collected by the Department or Indian tribes. Proper survey and management of high risk lands with antiquated surveys has the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from lands with valuable resources.”

Bureau shared information on research and development opportunities for the 2020 Census to exploit technology on a secure (web) exchange process for ad- dress and spatial data, ways to ingest spatial and address data from partners, products and services that may facilitate the exchange of spatial and address data from Census to partners, and the use of imagery and change detection methods. She also said that the current Census policy that Title 13 restrictions prohibited sharing of master address file (MAF) and building structure point data is being reviewed.

David Kennedy, Assistant Administrator of NOAA for the National Ocean Service, provided details on a more than $80 million program for base mapping and charting activities, hydrographic surveys, integrated ocean and coastal mapping, and shoreline mapping. He also said an investigation was being launched in response to a MAPPS com- plaint about a recent bid for professional LiDAR data collection services in California that violated the Brooks Act and was awarded to a university.

On Wednesday, March 16, MAPPS members traveled to Capitol Hill to visit their Congressional delegations. As a result of the MAPPS efforts, ten cosponsors were secured for FEMA flood risk map reform legislation, seven lawmakers committed to cosponsoring the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act, providing a current, accurate, GIS-based inventory of Federal land ownership, nineteen Representatives and Senators pledged to cosponsor the Freedom from Government Competition Act and five members of the House agreed to introduce a bill to reform governance and coordination of Federal geospatial activities, known as the Map It Once, Use It Many Times (MIO-UIMT) Act.

Tags:  BLM  Congress  FCC  FEMA  FLAIR Act  GeoINT  MIO-UIMT  NGA  NOAA  SBA 

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Virginia Governor Signs Bill Creating Inventory of State-Owned Land

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell signed into law SB 1257 and HB 2003 providing for an inventory of state-owned land on April 2.

This bill by Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel and Delegate Jim LeMunyon, requires the Department of General Services (DGS) to conduct an inventory of all real property owned by state departments, agencies and institutions by January 1, 2012, and update the inventory at least annually thereafter.

The bill requires DGS to provide a listing of surplus properties on the Department's web site to include parcel identification consistent with national spatial data standards in addition to a street address.

Although McDonnell ordered all agencies to inventory all Old Dominion real property, such an action had not previously occurred since a Blue Ribbon Strike Force on Government Reform appointed by then Governor George Allen recommended in 1994 that "all state agencies should inventory and justify the retention of each individual real estate holding.”

Such inventories have been successful in other states. For example, Georgia now operates the Building, Land and Lease Inventory of Property (BLLIP), providing an interactive web-based geographic information system (GIS) designed to enable registered users to query, search and generate reports using real time information about state owned and leased properties and buildings. Ohio has implemented a Comprehensive Inventory of State Real Property, a database of 53,010 distinct state-owned parcels located throughout all of Ohio's 88 counties.

A comprehensive list of land and assets, up-to-date with their current use, will allow Virginia to assess whether public property is being used and maintained in the most efficient manner possible. It will help save the state money by identifying properties that can be sold, collecting upfront cash and expanding the tax base by letting the private sector develop and use the land and assets that the Commonwealth no longer needs.

Delegate LeMunyon and Sena-tor Vogel worked with MAPPS on the bill and LeMunyon spoke on his legislation at a January 2011 MAPPS Washington Policy Luncheon.

Tags:  Inventory  Land  Virginia 

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POB Magzine: The Business of MAPPS - PODCAST

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2011
From POB Magazine:

April 4, 2011

The world of professional associations is becoming increasingly complex. How can you choose which organizations are the best fit for you and your firm? A new podcast series goes behind the scenes with the executive directors to help you navigate the labyrinth. In this episode, POB talks to John Palatiello, executive director of MAPPS, who explains why the organization is described as focusing on "the business of maps."

Listen to the Full Podcast: Association Series, Episode 1 - The Business of MAPPS

Tags:  MAPPS  POB  Podcast 

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MAPPS Advocacy on Precise Geolocation Information Highlighted in Analysis of Filed Comments to the FTC

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, March 31, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Information Law Group has been monitoring privacy regulations at the State and Federal level, including the recent draft from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). MAPPS, along with other geospatial associations and private firms, submitted comments addressing the use of "precise geolocation data". MAPPS is concerned with this term as it "would result in a number of unintended consequences by severely limiting information collected by the geospatial community".

The Information Law Group has released their findings in a post titled What's Next for the FTC's Proposed Privacy Framework? 

Within the five points made by the group, Point #5 – FTC will define 'Precise Geolocation Data' in its Next Framework.

The independent group focused on the response from geospatial associations and private firms that submitted comments on this threat. MAPPS was diligent through this blog and outreach to the geospatial community about the potential threat this could pose to the profession. This was identified in the post:

"This serves to highlight how closely the reports of agencies with regulatory and enforcement authority, like the FTC, are scrutinized by groups and associations. More likely the FTC's inclusion of "precise geolocation data” was a placeholder nod to location-based tracking and information increasingly sent out by GPS-enabled smartphones. But words matter. Definitions define. And entities are wary of any governmental action that could effect their industry."

This is only the beginning to what is sure to be evolving debate at the Federal and State level with regards to consumer and internet privacy. MAPPS will continue to help educate officials about the benefits and broad use of geospatial and geolocation technologies.  This is noted at the end of the post, the broad concerns of our profession will be subject to scrutiny from a lack of understanding:

"In short, expect the FTC to address geospatial and geolocation issues further within any broader online privacy framework moving forward, though as noted above, the State Attorneys General, like the FTC, appear to have completely missed the broader concerns of this group. "

In addition, MAPPS mobilized geospatial organizations including COGO, FGDC and The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy (Spatial Law) to submit comments to the FTC. The geospatial market "flooded” both the FTC and FCC with comments. MAPPS will continue to monitor the FTC’s recommendations and update the community.

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Federal Prison Industries Reform Introduced in Congress

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
A bipartisan group of House members has introduced H.R. 3634, the "Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act of 2011".

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) offered the bill on December 12 with cosponsors that include Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

This bill is virtually identical to H.R. 2965, the bill that passed the House in 2006 by a 362-57 vote (Roll no. 443). MAPPS supported that bill. A companion bill was approved by a Senate committee, but was not enacted into law. However, other piecemeal FPI reforms have been put in place by Congress in recent years.

With unemployment continuing at dangerously high levels, 2012 may be the year Congress enacts a bill that has support from Republicans and Democrats, business and labor.

Like its predecessor, H.R. 3634 includes two provisions significant to MAPPS.

First, the bill prohibits agencies from specifying Federal Prison Industries (FPI), or its products, as a source in any Federal agency synopsis/solicitation. There have been incidents where architect-engineer (A/E) contracts have required the A/E firm to specify a FPI product, such as a modular furniture system, in its designs.

Most importantly, the bill prohibits FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens’ property or critical infrastructure location. Specifically, it bans FPI from providing "a service in which an inmate worker has access to personal or financial information about individual private citizens, including information relating to such person’s real property, however described, without giving prior notice to such persons or class of persons to the greatest extent practicable; geographic data regarding the location of surface and subsurface infrastructure providing communications, water and electrical power distribution, pipelines for the distribution of natural gas, bulk petroleum products and other commodities, and other utilities; or data that is classified.” This provision would prohibit FPI from engaging in most, if not all, geospatial activities.

With regard to services, the bill eliminated FPI’s status as a preferred source. A Federal agency can only contract with FPI for services, such as GIS, CAD, scanning, digitizing, if the buying agency’s contracting officers determines FPI’s services meet the agency’s need in a number of criteria, can perform on time, and provides the service at a fair market price. This eliminates enormous advantages FPI has enjoyed in providing services. With regard to products, FPI’s previous mandatory source status is ended in favor of full and open competition.

The bill also prohibits FPI from providing services in the commercial market. Although FPI’s original 1930’s enabling law prohibited prison-made products from commercial market entry, the organization secured a legal opinion during the Clinton Administration that said since Congress mentioned products in the 1930’s, and not services, then sale of prisoner provided services must be permitted, notwithstanding that the United States did not have a service economy in the 1930s. Several state attorneys general have issued similar opinions with regard to state prisons.

Federal Prison Industries, Inc., which operates under the trade name UNICOR, is a self-supporting, wholly-owned government corporation that employs federal prison inmates. A program of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons, FPI offers hundreds of products and services, including a number of data conversion activities.

A number of state prison industry operations have extensive GIS capabilities, including Colorado, Florida, and Texas, to name a few.

A recent MAPPS legislative issues poll found 51 percent of members continue to view prison industry reform legislation as a very important or somewhat important issue.

It has been reported that FPI won a contract from the Corps of Engineers to make signs. The funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA, commonly known as the stimulus bill. While the bill was intended to put law-abiding, unemployed Americans back to work, not to support inmates. The expenditure of Federal ARRA funds on prison industries is being investigated by Congress.

Here is a news story about the bill.

Under H.R. 3634, FPI’s Unicor, would be required to submit a detailed analysis of the impact to the private sector before entering into new product markets and would not be able to sell products commercially or internationally; the only customer could be the federal government. It also prohibits agencies from contracting with FPI in which inmates would have access to sensitive or classified information.

"This bill gives the taxpayer the greatest value for their hard-earned money by forcing federal agencies to bid for fair and reasonable prices and for products that best suit their needs. The bill preserves market access for these products or services to the hard-working men and women of our districts. This is simply one more easy, common sense way to preserve jobs and help restore economic security for America," Huizenga said.

"This legislation will protect the jobs of hard-working American taxpayers while providing valuable alternative rehabilitative opportunities to better prepare inmates for a successful return to society. It is a workable, bipartisan solution to the problem," Maloney said.

"It is time to allow for fair competition for U.S. manufacturers," Frank said.

"We should be looking to make government more efficient and cost-effective, and this bill does that. I support this legislation because it will save taxpayer money and open up the contracting process to competition by allowing businesses to bid for these contracts," Sensenbrenner said.

Other examples of the industries FPI competes in include: clothing and textiles, electronics, vehicular components and fleet management, industrial products, office furniture, electronics recycling, and services such as call center and data and document conversion.

The bill has already gathered interest from a broad coalition of business groups and has a bipartisan list of supporters in Congress from all across America. Original co-sponsors include Reps. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Edward Royce, (R-CA), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), and John Olver (D-MA).

In the past, studies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found FPI products and services did not meet agency requirements, were not delivered in a timely manner, and were at times more expensive that the private sector.

Tags:  Congress  FPI  Geolocation Data  remote sensing 

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