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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags:  3DEP  FY14  GAO  IFSAR  LIDAR  President  USGS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m quoting again from the 1973 OMB report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previous GAO studies on mapping or "geospatial" duplication:

Comprehensive OMB Task Force report, 1973.

Download File (MOV)

Tags:  3DEP  Congress  Duplication  FLAIR Act  GAO 

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GAO Reports Shortcomings in Federal Geospatial Coordination

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The long-awaited Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of Federal geospatial coordination – Geospatial Information: OMB and Agencies Need to Make Coordination a Priority to Reduce Duplication has been released.

The report is a rather damning indictment of the agencies' activities. There has been little improvement in coordination since the last time GAO looked at this (Better Coordination Needed to Identify and Reduce Duplicative Investments,GAO-04-703, June 23, 2004), and in some aspects, the situation has worsened.

MAPPS was consulted in the development of this study by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the panel’s ranking Republican, who requested the GAO review. Their committee has broad jurisdiction, including governmentwide policies, and has the ability to facilitate oversight and investigations of government activities.

While the report does not mention H.R. 4233, the "Map It Once, Use It Many Times” Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), chairman of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over USGS, the home of the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s executive secretariat, GAO suggests that reforms, reorganizations and processes called for in the bill be implemented. Not the least of which are improving coordination and reducing duplication, to include a national strategy for coordinating geospatial investments.

Nor did GAO discuss the enactment of section 100220 of PL 112-141, the provision in the FEMA portion of the MAP-21 Act that calls for an innovative, coordinated funding pool for the collection of elevation data for flood mapping and other purposes. Other major items missed by GAO were reorganization ideas, such as a consolidated surveying and mapping administration, as was previously recommended by OMB in 1973 (the OMB report is not available on-line, but a history of federal mapping and geospatial coordination is found at and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) ( Moreover, while GAO dedicated considerable attention to the Department of Commerce and its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), GAO did not address the inefficiency, waste and duplication in NOAA’s aerial photography function ( Furthermore, there was no mention of the duplication that exists due to the interpretation by the Census Bureau (also part of the Commerce Department) of Title 13 restrictions on sharing geospatial data. Finally, while the report has a detailed discussion of parcel data, it fails to mention section 1094(3) of Public Law 111-203, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (commonly referred to as "Dodd-Frank”), which amended the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), to authorize the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to collect the "parcel number to permit geocoding” on mortgage transactions.

I was disappointed that GAO only interviewed me and apparently did not talk to anyone else in the private sector. The study team did not address issues I raised, such as how the government duplicates and competes with the private sector and how the language in OMB Circular A-16, or its Supplemental Guidance, on such duplication is either insufficient or ignored.

To be fair, there are positive things happening within various agencies, and progress is being made, to improve coordination, avoid duplication and enhance opportunities for the private sector. GAO acknowledged the USGS effort on a National Enhanced Elevation Assessment, which MAPPS has supported, that effort’s maturity into a viable 3DEP initiative was not mentioned. MAPPS has worked closely to make 3DEP a reality, and the MAP-21 provision, mentioned above, is a notable development. GAO endorsed the establishment or designation of a senior geospatial official in cabinet agencies, something MAPPS has long advocated. It was MAPPS, after all, that was instrumental in securing legislation that created a Geospatial Management Office in the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, the successful coordination and partnership efforts carried out by the NOAA Coastal Services Center through its "Digital Coast" activity, which MAPPS has called a "best practices” model in testimony before Congress, also did not attract GAO’s attention. Additionally, GAO failed to recognize that USGS, through the Geospatial Information Office at Department of the Interior and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), is developing a "Data as a Service” component to the Geospatial Platform that will enable agencies to utilize QBS, ID/IQ contracts and provide substantive opportunities for numerous private sector firms.

Senator Lieberman is retiring and while Senator Collins is term-limited as the ranking member of the governmental affairs committee, she is expected to remain on the panel. Nevertheless, the report provides valuable information for oversight and reform by Congress and the Obama Administration. Moreover, it throws another log on the fire of examples of government duplication compiled by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) , who is next in line to succeed Senator Collins on the GOP side of the committee. The new chairman is expected to be Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), whom MAPPS has assisted with issues such as a geo-based federal land inventory.

The Senate committee is well aware of many of these issues, and discussed them with GAO. The committee may request subsequent reports that will go into further detail on a wide range of geospatial areas. And oversight of geospatial management will continue to be a priority for the House subcommittee in the 113th Congress.

Tags:  Duplication  GAO  Geospatial  Government 

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