Geospatial Data Act: The Latest

By Molly Schar | August 9, 2017

I’ll start by saying that NSGIC’s position continues to be that we support the Geospatial Data Act of 2017. From the perspective of the state geographic information officers and coordinating bodies, the GDA charts a course for a true, useful, robust national spatial data infrastructure. This includes positioning the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) within the Office of Management and Budget, collaboratively sustaining the GeoPlatform for shared national data services, recommitting to the importance of data standards, and advancing other long-term strategic goals for geospatial infrastructure.

The GDA asks federal agencies (except where doing so would compromise national security) to look at where and how they spend money on GIS, and to provide that information to Congress. This is good stewardship of taxpayer dollars, because it will allow Congress and the public to see where efforts could be better aligned and cost savings achieved. And it looks not just at efforts that are overlapping between federal agencies, but also work being done at the state and local levels. This is important - you can’t manage well without measuring.

The GDA also strengthens the ability for non-federal stakeholders, including the private sector and academia, to provide input as part of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) to the FGDC. The FGDC, NGAC, and other governance constructs would all benefit from being codified into law by the GDA, versus the existing policy that is supported largely in the form of executive order.

The GDA is NOT intended to make any substantive change to the status quo when it comes to federal procurement requirements or processes, or when GIS-based work must be performed by a licensed surveyor. These areas, small portions of the overall bill, are the source of recent controversy. We know - we heard you. Some of the language added to the 2017 version of the GDA is confusing and has the potential for misinterpretation that could lead to undesired consequences. From the perspective of state GIOs and coordinating bodies, we don’t want that any more than the rest of the GIS community.

We now have an opportunity to clarify the intent and - together - craft language that leaves no room for misinterpretation. NSGIC is an active member of the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO), along with the following organizations:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS)
  • Association of American Geographers (AAG)
  • Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CGIS)
  • Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS)
  • GIS Certification Institute (GISCI)
  • International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO)
  • Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS)
  • National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS)
  • University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS)
  • United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF)
  • Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)

The COGO coalition of these 13 national geospatial organizations represents more than 170,000 individual GIS practitioners.

Every COGO organization has agreed to work together to recommend improved language for the areas of the bill for which objections were presented. And with all COGO organizations thoroughly engaged, and a broad community of GIS stakeholders paying attention, NSGIC expects the points of contention will be worked out in the next month or so. And at that time, the geospatial sector should be able to throw its collective energy behind this important bill.