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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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Candidates Sought for FEMA’s “TMAC”

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, September 11, 2013
In July of last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, commonly known as "MAP-21”.  Public Law 112-141 included the highway bill, student loan reform, and provisions reforming the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance and mapping program.  MAPPS was deeply involved in securing several mapping reform provisions, which we’ve discussed in a previous blog post.

One provision in that law re-established the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, or TMAC, to provide advice and recommendations to the FEMA Administrator on the flood mapping program.  This week, I received a letter (attached to this post) from FEMA seeking nominations of candidates to represent the mapping profession on the TMAC.

I must submit MAPPS nominations BY THIS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13.  If you are interested in being a candidate for this advisory committee, please send me a C.V. immediately.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Congress  FEMA  MAP-21  Mapping  President Obama  TMAC 

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MAPPS to Testify Before House Subcommittee on Hydrographic Services Improvement Act

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dick McDonald, CP, PLS, (T3 Global Strategies, Bridgeville, PA) President of MAPPS, the national association for private sector geospatial firms, will testify tomorrow, Thursday, June 13 before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs

Mr. McDonald will testify on H.R. 1399, a bill to reauthorize the Hydrographic Services Improvement (HSIA) Act of 1998, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). HSIA authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to acquire hydrographic data, provide hydrographic services, conduct coastal change analyses necessary to ensure safe navigation along the coastal areas of the United States, and improve the management of coastal change in the Arctic. The legislation also directs the Comptroller General (GAO) to compare the cost of NOAA conducting hydrographic surveys compared to contracting with the private sector. 

In relation to H.R. 1399, Mr. McDonald will discuss the Digital Coast Act, H.R. 1382.  

The hearing will take place at 10:00 AM (EDT) in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill and will be webcast live on the Committee's website. 

Tags:  Congress  Digital Coast  HSIA  Hydrographic  NOAA 

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Why the IRS Scandal is Important to MAPPS Members

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, May 24, 2013

The current controversy over the IRS’s politically tainted scrutiny of conservative 501(c)(4) organizations is focusing attention on the Exempt Organizations Division of the federal tax agency. As the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported, this IRS division has been a longstanding administrative problem. Moreover, it is the office that is responsible for assuring that exempt organizations comply with applicable tax laws. And, it is in charge of overseeing the activities of exempt organizations so that such entities do not engage in unfair competition with private sector, for-profit firms, including small business.

Exempt organizations are not required to pay taxes on revenue that are related to the purpose for which they receive tax exemption. However, such organizations, including MAPPS, are required to pay an unrelated business income tax, or "UBIT” on non-exempt revenue. For example, dues, conference registration fees, sponsorships, publications and other similar normal MAPPS revenues are not taxable because they directly support the association’s exempt purpose. However, revenue from the sale of advertising on our web site is subject to UBIT, inasmuch as that is not related to the mission of MAPPS and is solely for the business benefit of the advertiser. MAPPS can sell advertising, but we must pay tax on that revenue.

A look at the tax law affecting the entire family of 501(c) organizations is in order, to include IRS oversight and enforcement of commercial activities of nonprofit organizations and UBIT, as well as how the IRS is lax in enforcing the law to prevent unfair nonprofit competition with private enterprise.

Recently, the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, the very office now the subject of several investigations, conducted a Colleges and Universities Compliance Project, which looked at the UBIT payments (or lack thereof) of colleges and universities. The April 25, 2013 IRS Report, according to a news article, "found increases to unrelated business taxable income for 90 percent of the colleges and universities examined, totaling about $90 million. There were over 180 changes to the amounts of unrelated business taxable income reported by colleges and universities on Form 990-T; and disallowance of more than $170 million in losses and net operating losses that could amount to more than $60 million in assessed taxes."

As Accuracy in Academia has reported, at the same time the IRS Exempt Organizations Division was targeting conservative groups, it was being lax on universities engaging in commercial activities without paying UBIT on revenue from such activities, in unfair competition with private sector, tax-paying companies.

The underlying difficulty of tax fairness among exempt organizations and nonprofits is deeper and more longstanding. Gilbert M. Gaul and Neill A. Borowski of The Philadelphia Inquirer won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation that identified rampant abuses of America's nonprofit tax laws. Many of the issues raised in this series are still evident today.

A 1980 report by the Small Business Administration also singled out universities as a major source of tax dollar-supported unfair competition with private companies, particularly small firms -- "Unfair Competition by Nonprofit Organizations With Small Business: An Issue for the 1980s” (June, 1984). SBA offered testimony, when requested by the House and Senate Small Business Committees in 1988 and 1996 and conducted some research on non-profit competition in 1999

Many MAPPS member firms encounter unfair competition from universities. Look, for example, here, here or here, to see just a sampling. We’ve held sessions at MAPPS meetings on university competition.

The 1995 White House Conference on Small Business made this a priority issue when its plank read, "Congress should enact legislation that would prohibit government agencies and tax exempt and anti-trust exempt organizations from engaging in commercial activities in direct competition with small businesses.” That was among the top 15 vote-getters at the 1995 Conference and was number one among all the procurement-related issues in the final balloting.

An entire book has been written on this issue, Unfair Competition: The Profits of Nonprofits, James T. Bennett, Thomas H. DiLorenzo, Hamilton Press, 1989. 

The Ways and Means Committee last held extensive hearings on this problem in 1987 and had GAO conduct an investigation. The Small Business Committee has also held hearings, but that was back in 1996.

I testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in February and later participated in a Roundtable hosted by Rep. Reichert and Rep. Lewis, who make up the House Ways and Means Committee Special Panel on Tax-Exempt Organizations.

John Palatiello testifies April 11, 2013 before House Ways and Means Committee

To help Congress address this issue in more detail, focused on university competition with geospatial firms, please submit your examples of university competition to John "JB" Byrd, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager.

Tags:  Congress  IRS  Tax  UBIT 

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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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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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Top Ten Reasons to Attend the MAPPS Winter Meeting - #6, Professional Practice Issues

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The laws of supply and demand are not the only ones your firm has to live by.

Congress and state legislatures regularly enact new laws affecting professional geospatial practices.

At the MAPPS Winter Meeting, January 27 - 31, 2013 at the Trump International Hotel in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, laws affecting your firm will be presented.
  • Ethics - many states now define a broad definition of geospatial activities as the practice of surveying, requiring a license and compliance with a code of ethics. Whether or not you are a licensed practitioner, you are a professional held to a higher standard of ethical behavior than those in an "industry". Many states require annual ethics training. This session will provide you current information on ethics in the profession.

  • Privacy - Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, State Legislatures and the Courts are imposing new standards for protection of individual citizen privacy. Whether it is UAS, geolocation data, parcel or address information or aerial photography, you could be affected by this new regulatory scheme. Learn what is happening and what you can do about it.

  • Legislative Roundtable - MAPPS has the most active and effective public policy program in the geospatial community. A "roundtable" session will give you an opportunity to provide first-hand input into the MAPPS agenda for Congress and the Obama Administration for 2013.

P.S. MAPPS is conducting a legislative survey which has been sent to one key principal in each MAPPS member firm. The deadline to provide input on legislation that is important to your firm is this Friday, December 21.

To ensure you receive the special MAPPS conference rate be sure to make your reservations at the Trump International Resort before January 4. The hotel is easily accessible from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Miami International Airport (MIA).

Time is running out to receive the Regular Registration Rate, Deadline December 29!

Special Non-Member Offer
Attend the MAPPS meeting as a non-member*, if your firm joins by the end of the conference on January 31 the difference between the non-member and member rate will be credited to your firms membership! Register for the conference before December 29 and you could receive a $770 credit! Register for the conference here.

*Membership in MAPPS is by firm not by individual unless an individual is an independent consultant. For more information about MAPPS membership, click here.
Top 10 Reasons:


Tags:  Congress  Ethics  Privacy  State Legislation  State License 

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August Action & Advocacy - Issue 2

Posted By John Byrd, Monday, August 13, 2012



Continuing your legislative advocacy this month, you will have additional opportunities to engage your Members of Congress on legislation important to the geospatial profession. Congress has adjourned for the August recess, and Members of Congress will spend significant time back in their states and districts meeting with constituents, such as you and your employees, over the next few weeks. With the November elections looming, this recess is an excellent opportunity to meet or reconnect with your respective U.S. Senators and Congressman. Whether you’re hosting your member of Congress for a tour of your headquarters or a related facility, or attending a town hall meeting, or luncheon hosted by a civic group, take a few minutes to discuss issues important to your firm, the profession, and to MAPPS.

This week’s focus will be on the Federal Prison Industries (FPI) Reform legislation. The Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act, H.R. 3634, requires Federal Prison Industries (also known as UNICOR) to compete for its contracts minimizing its unfair competition with private sector firms and their non-inmate workers and empowering Federal agencies to get the best value for taxpayers’ dollars. Reforming FPI through this legislation would prevent Federal inmates from engaging in geospatial activities including GIS and CADD services.

Has your member of Congress cosponsored H.R. 3634 or the soon to introduced Senate companion legislation?

If so, please thank them for cosponsoring this bill. If not, please ask them to cosponsor utilizing these talking points.

If your member of Congress proves tough to reach this week, then make sure to communicate cosponsorship of FPI Reform with their staff either in the district or state, or the Congressional staff based in Washington, DC. When you receive a commitment to cosponsor the FPI Reform, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach me.

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  FPI 

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MAPPS President Joins U.S. Representatives at News Conference on Federal Prison Industries

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 17, 2012

MAPPS President Dick McDonald, T-3 Global Strategies (Bridgeville, PA) joined U.S. Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Walter Jones (R- NC), and Don Manzullo (R-IL) at a news conference on Thursday, February 16 to announce House legislation that will permit manufacturers and service providers to compete on equal footing for contracts with the federal government by reforming Federal Prison Industries (FPI). Speakers at the media event included John Palatiello, President, Business Coalition for Fair Competition (Reston, VA); Alan Bubes, Chief Executive Officer, Linens of the Week (Washington, D.C.) and Jonathan Long, Program Manager, Propper International (Weldon Spring, Missouri). The event was held in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Room HVC-200 in Washington, DC.

Video of the news conference is available above. Read the news release from Rep. Huizenga.

Currently cosponsored by 12 bipartisan members of the U.S. House and supported by 10 business organizations, H.R. 3634 provides greater competition in federal contracting by permitting private sector firms, including small business, more opportunities by reducing FPI’s unfair advantages. Additionally, H.R. 3634 would prohibit FPI and its inmate workers from having access to a variety of geospatial information, about individual citizens' property or critical infrastructure location.

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 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 that 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/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," Rep. Maloney added.

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

"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:  Competition  Congress  FPI  Jobs  MAPPS  Prison  Private Sector  Reform 

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House Highway Bill Transforms Role of Government, Private Sector

Posted By John Palatiello, Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The U.S. House of Representatives is beginning debate on H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, commonly known as the "Highway Bill”.

There are numerous opportunities for greater private sector participation in the financing and delivery of infrastructure or public works. Dr. Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation summarized the need for increased utilization of the private sector in transportation when he told Congress in 2004, "the opportunities for private sector participation in transportation services runs a wide range. In many cases government agencies compete with private service providers or have forced private providers out of the market in order to maximize revenue for government services. In such instances the market would provide transportation services if government competition or regulation were removed.” He concluded, "Private sector participation in transportation services will either take the form of market provision or of provision under contract with a government agency in a public-private partnership. Government transportation services should not be allowed to compete with private services, nor should state or local governments ban or restrict private services to reduce competition with government services.”

The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, unveiled by Speaker John Boehner, Representatives John Mica and John J. Duncan, Jr. and other members of Congress, transforms the way the nation will design, build, own, operate and maintain these public works. For the first time in modern history, Congress is considering a bill that encourages, enables and empowers private companies to contribute to the nation’s infrastructure needs. Given the grade of "D” on the American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card, and the estimated $2.2 trillion price tag for bringing these facilities up to a passing grade, private products, services and investment are critically needed. Numerous provisions in the House bill do just that.

H.R. 7 provides for public-private partnerships for new toll highways, provisions to eliminate government competition in rest stops, buses, and other aspects of transportation and infrastructure. There are provisions encouraging use of the private sector for engineering and design services. And most important to MAPPS, the bill provides a long-overdue strengthening of current law regarding utilization of the private sector for surveying and mapping activities.

Since the original enactment of the federal-aid highway program in 1956, the law has provided that the private sector should be utilized for photogrammetric surveying and mapping activities. When Congress enacted the National Highway System Act in 1995, the provision (33 USC 306) was strengthened to require the Secretary to "issue guidance to encourage States to utilize, to the maximum extent practicable, private sector sources for surveying and mapping services for projects”.

Other than issuing a 1½ page guidance memorandum in 1998, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration have done little to implement, enforce or otherwise provide oversight of this provision. As a result, over the past 13 years, the opposite of the intent of Congress has occurred. In many state highway departments, scarce gas tax dollars are dedicated to operating in-house surveying and mapping functions that duplicate and compete with the private sector.

MAPPS members have long complained that a number of state DoT’s have used Federal highway money to build in-house capabilities in surveying and mapping. Numerous states have their own 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. With the recent advent of mobile mapping systems, private firms are once again experiencing state DoTs purchasing equipment for in-house activities without regard for the availability of mobile mapping services from private firms that have already invested in such systems. 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.

FHwA has not monitored State compliance with current Federal law and does not conduct audits or in any way perform oversight of State transportation agencies, which are expending Federal funds, to determine if these surveying and mapping programs are being operated in the most efficient and cost effective manner, to fully implement section 306, or to prevent government competition with the private sector.

Section 1707 of H.R. 7 strengthens the current law provision on utilization of the private sector for surveying and mapping by state DoTs. It makes the policy on private sector reliance mandatory rather than discretionary, and requires US DOT and FHwA to take more action on an ongoing basis to assure that states utilize, and do not duplicate or compete with, private mapping firms.

If the debate in the Presidential campaign has taught us one thing, it is that profit is not a dirty word. Harnessing the power of profit and the free enterprise system can advance the Nation’s Infrastructure needs.

Contact your Congressman TODAY and deliver a simple message: "Vote "YES” on H.R. 7”.

Tags:  Congress  DoT  Highway  mapping  Private Sector  surveying  Transportation 

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MAPPS Signs Coalition Letter Urging President and Congress to Invest in Construction and Design

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Tuesday, December 20, 2011
MAPPS joined 44 construction and design groups in a letter (December 7) to President Obama and Congress to pass legislation providing certainty in the construction community.

The letter has three "asks" for the President and Congress.

  1. Pass and sign surface transportation, aviation, water resources, and clean water and drinking water infrastructure authorization bills. Enactment of these authorizations will immediately provide programmatic and fiscal certainty that will help job creators in every state put people back to work.

  2. Pass and sign appropriations bills for the remainder of fiscal year 2012. Short-term continuing resolutions provide little or no certainty to public agencies or those who perform work for them. In fact, our members say that the failure to pass routine authorizations and appropriations bills undermines business confidence.

  3. Increase public-private partnerships. Any effort to reinvigorate the design and construction markets must successfully jumpstart new privately-funded construction. The strength of the private sector market is the single largest determining factor in the health of the construction industry. The best way to boost private demand for construction is to put in place pro-growth policies that will boost economic expansion.

The coalition posted the above ad in Roll Call, a newspaper focused on Congress, on December 8.

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  Congress  construction  jobs  Letters  mapping 

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