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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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MAPPS Creates Forums to Facilitate Engagement

Posted By John Palatiello, Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014

It is my pleasure to inform you of an exciting new activity in MAPPS.

In November, the MAPPS Board of Directors met for two days to engage in a 360 degree review of the association.  Given the economy, government budgets and shutdowns, generational changes, emerging markets and technologies, and the rise of social media, the Board met with a representative group of members, former members, prospective members, and government partners to get feedback on what the association is doing right, and where MAPPS can improve.

As a result, one new program is already being launched.

The Board has reorganized MAPPS committees, task forces, and working groups.  

We are launching a new series of MAPPS "Forums" to replace several previous committees and task forces. Forums are communities within MAPPS that address issues affecting firms, their products and services, and markets.  Each member firm of MAPPS is encouraged to join at least one forum.  The forums will not only meet at MAPPS conferences, but host conference calls, organize webinars, and engage in communications using the features of the MAPPS web site. 

The forums will provide members an even greater sense of "belonging” and add value to being a member firm in MAPPS.  Forums are a way for you to share and gain information and knowledge, network, solve problems, and work with your peers to improve your business and contribute to the well being of the geospatial profession at and apart from attendance at MAPPS meetings and conferences.
Our initial forums will be on:
Aerial Acquisition
Commercial Remote Sensing & Licensed Data
Emerging Markets & Technologies
Government & University Competition
Ocean & Coastal Mapping
Small Business

Each forum meet at the Winter Conference in San Diego.
A description of each is on the MAPPS web site, along with a way for you to enroll.  This is a wonderful opportunity to get even more benefit from your membership in MAPPS, as well as a great way to give back to your profession.

Finally, if there is something in which you have an interest that is NOT part of one of these forums, the MAPPS Board would welcome your ideas for additional forums.  Please email me with your thoughts and suggestions.

Once again, in an economy where you’re counting every dollar, it’s good to know you can count on MAPPS.

Tags:  Aviation  Cadastre  Commercial Remote Sensing  Forums  GEOINT  Government Competition  Licensed Data  Small Business  Surveying  UAV  University Competition 

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Are labor unions trying to infiltrate the surveying and mapping market?

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Thursday, November 7, 2013

In recent months, we have seen evidence of increased activity on the part of a national labor union, and its locals, affecting the geospatial community generally and survey crews in particular.

The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) is attempting to influence survey firms/survey crews or labor policy affecting surveying and survey crews.  Earlier this year, the IUOE convinced the U.S. Department of Labor to reverse 50+ years of federal policy and define members of survey crews as "laborers and mechanics”, subjecting them to the "prevailing wage” provisions of the controversial Davis-Bacon Act.  Soon thereafter, the Department of Labor began to create a union-sponsored "apprenticeship” program occupation of rodman/chainman. The Operating Engineers then succeeded in getting a state department of transportation (DoT) to impose a statewide prevailing wage mandate for survey crews on all its projects.  Finally, there has been an attempt to impose "project labor agreements” (PLA) on firms employing survey crews on state transportation projects.

A Spatially Speaking Blog post earlier this year explained the issue. MAPPS filed a letter with Congress for a hearing on Davis-Bacon, opposing the Labor Department ruling.

We have been asked by the Committee on Education and Workforce of the U.S. House of Representatives to compile other instances of union activities in our field.  This will be helpful to the committee’s oversight and investigation of these activities.

Davis-Bacon and union organization of surveying and mapping firms is unnecessary.  As NSPS Executive Director Curtis W. Sumner, LS, said in his testimony before Congress, employees in the surveying and mapping field are well compensated and in high demand.  The administrative burden and recordkeeping that will be imposed on small businesses in the field will be exorbitant. There is no evidence that workers in the geospatial workforce need union representation. 

If you have had any recent experience with the IUOE or any other union making an inquiry, initiating an activity, or otherwise increasing its presence in the surveying, mapping and geospatial field, please provide details to John "JB” Byrd, MAPPS Government Affairs Manager or leave your experience below in our comments section.

Thank you in advance for your input.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it is good to know you can count on MAPPS.

Tags:  Congress  Davis-Bacon  Geospatial  Labor  Mapping  NSPS  Surveying  Unions 

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MAPPS Minute - Legislative Action Alert!

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MAPPS Legislative Alert - Contact Your Member of Congress and Urge a "Yes" Vote to the Young Amendment on "Surveying and Mapping" to H.R. 3080 the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2013

MAPPS members have been concerned over the increasing duplication of and competition with the private sector by the Corps of Engineers, particularly in the field of surveying, mapping and geospatial activities. Learn more.

MAPPS supports an amendment to H.R. 3080 to increase the Corps' reliance on the capable, qualified and efficient private sector in surveying and mapping. MAPPS is pleased to announce that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) will offer an amendment to H.R. 3080 that would authorize USACE to rely on the private sector for surveying, mapping and geospatial services and activities to the maximum extent practical.
Debate and consideration for H.R. 3080 is scheduled to being Wednesday, October 23, contact your Representative today! This action is in the House not the Senate.

Tags:  Insourcing  Mapping  Surveying  USACE  Water Resources  WRRDA 

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Davis-Bacon Rule Could Impact MAPPS Members

Posted By John "JB" Byrd, Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a ruling, reversing more than 50 years or policy and precedent, to expand the application of the "Davis-Bacon Act” to members of survey crews.  Davis-Bacon is a 1931, Depression-Era law that requires the payment of the "prevailing” local wage to construction workers.  Since at least the John F. Kennedy Administration in 1962, the Labor Department has ruled that members of survey crews are exempt from the law, except to the extent such workers "perform manual work, such as clearing brush and sharpening stakes” which then-Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg observed "are not commonplace”.

In March of this year, the Labor Department ruled, in response to a request from the Operating Engineers Union, that survey technicians are "laborers and mechanics” under the Davis-Bacon Act, subject to the prevailing wage provisions.

Congress held a hearing on the issue on June 18. National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Executive Director Curtis W. Sumner, LS, testified in opposition to the ruling. NSPS has also asked the Labor Department to reverse its position. MAPPS supported the NSPS position in a letter entered into the House subcommittee hearing record, as was a letter by more than a dozen organizations.  Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, criticized the Labor Department’s actions.

This issue raises several important questions for firms performing photogrammetric and related services.  Are photogrammetry projects truly "construction-related” and subject to Davis-Bacon, or pre, post, or non-construction and outside the law’s scope?  Is survey control part of the surveying now covered?  Are technicians setting photo control engaged in Davis-Bacon covered activities for more than 20 percent of a workweek?

Sumner said the decision came with "no public notice that the Labor Department was considering a change in its regulations; no request for public input or comments; no notification seeking of advice, comment or input from the surveying profession and employers/management; and in fact no public announcement of the new policy”.  He called the ruling "detrimental to the surveying profession” and said it will "be an administrative nightmare for surveying firms, contracting agencies, and the Labor Department … (and ) will result in confusion and costly compliance issues”.

Comments, reactions and discussion from MAPPS members is encouraged.

Tags:  Davis-Bacon  Jobs  Surveying  Workforce 

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Does QBS Save Money?

Posted By John Palatiello, Friday, April 26, 2013

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

That is a frequently asked question. 

The federal law was codified in 1972 ("Brooks Act”, 40 U.S.C. 1101 et. seq. and implemented in part 36.6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), 48 CFR 36.6) to protect the interest of taxpayers. It is federal law because over the life of a project, the engineering and related design services account for less than one-half of one percent of total costs. Yet, these important services play a major role in determining the other 99.5 percent of the project's "life cycle costs”, such as construction, operation, and maintenance.

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

The process has been so successful at the federal level that it is recommended by the American Bar Association in its model procurement code for state and local government. Some 47 states have enacted their own competence and qualifications based selection laws for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services. Others use it as standard procedure. No state has a specific law requiring bidding of these services.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags:  Architecture  Budget  COFPAES  Engineering  Mapping  Money  Procurement  QBS  Surveying 

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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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