NSGIC Stands Behind Geospatial Data Act, Lauds New Language Clarifying Intent

By Molly Schar | July 6, 2017

The Geospatial Data Act (S.1253) has been the subject of much discussion in the past couple of weeks after receiving significant attention by some members of the geospatial community concerned about the potential of the proposed legislation to add restrictions to federal procurement of geospatial data and services.

NSGIC - the voice of the states on geospatial issues - continues to support S.1253, expected to be stronger than ever after minor language revisions that clarify the original intent of the bill to substantially strengthen efforts to build a robust national spatial data infrastructure (NSDI) and reduce duplication of data gathering and processing activities. The changes to S.1253 focus on Sections 2 and 11 and clarify that the intent of the bill is not to expand the scope of the Brooks Act or the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

“We are pleased Senators Hatch, Warner and Wyden, co-sponsors of the Geospatial Data Act, are actively working with members of the geospatial community to address a misconception raised by several stakeholders regarding the intent of the bill,” says NSGIC President Bert Granberg. “This bill will be stronger, and it will better position the nation for increased benefits from the use of map technologies to drive efficiency in all activities from everyday services, infrastructure management, economic development, and even large scale disaster response.”

In the bill’s Section 2, the definition of the term “geospatial data” was based originally on the NCEES Model Rules for Land Surveying. That document articulates the distinction between geospatial data and activities that require a licensed professional and those that do not. (Read more about how the model rules came to be and now apply.) Subsection (5)(C) clause (ii) and (iii) in the bill are modified slightly to incorporate additional language from the NCEES Model Rules. Specifically, the phrase “when used to represent authoritative locations” is added to ensure that clauses (ii) and (iii) appropriately describe the geospatial data that must be collected by a licensed professional. That means those are the geospatial data and activities for which the Brooks Act is applicable.

Section 11 (b) is also modified to refer more specifically to Section 2(5)(C) clauses (ii) and (iii) only. This more clearly defines that the Brooks Act is only applicable to the portions of the geospatial data definition that refer to data that must be collected by a licensed professional. The same modification is made to Section 11, subsection (c). That change more clearly defines that the revisions required by the bill to the FAR are only applicable to the portions of the geospatial data definition that refer to data that must be collected by a licensed professional.

Additional language is also added to clarify that the definition of geospatial data for the purposes of S.1253 does not include certain geospatial intelligence data collected by U.S. agencies.

At a high level, the Geospatial Data Act will make the following improvements that will impact the framework data layers and other resources that constitute the NSDI:

  • Codify the existing executive orders and other guidance documents that direct work by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), the body charged with promoting the coordinated development, use, sharing and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis;
  • Provide FGDC with the authority to make other agencies follow existing common sense rules;
  • Provide Congressional oversight over geospatial activities of FGDC members and other agencies;
  • Require reporting that will allow Congress to track progress on the NSDI and ensure funding is spent wisely;
  • Provide a great deal more clout to input developed by the multi-sector membership of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee and require FGDC to address the advisory committee’s concerns; and
  • Require federal agencies to coordinate and work in partnership with other federal agencies, agencies of state, tribal and local governments, institutions of higher education, and the private sector to efficiently and cost-effectively collect, integrate, maintain, disseminate, and preserve geospatial data.

Learn more about NSGIC’s top geospatial policy issues and legislative priorities.