U.S. Senators Introduce Bipartisan Geospatial Data Act

March 17, 2015  - By 0 Comments

United States Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and John Warner, D-VA, have introduced the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act in the U.S. Congress.

“The federal government wastes vast amounts of taxpayer dollars by not properly managing and coordinating our federal investments in geospatial data,” Sen. Hatch said in a press release. “This common-sense legislation will improve coordination, reduce duplication and promote data transparency.”

“Geospatial data has endless possibilities for transforming both the private and public sectors — from helping local governments develop emergency preparedness plans to fueling the creation of apps that let you find parking spots, restaurants, and even homes for sale based on where you’re standing,” said Sen. Warner. “The federal government is the largest purchaser of geospatial data but some very basic questions about how and where agencies are already investing in this data can’t be answered. Our bill would bring transparency and accountability to the collection of this data and ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted on duplicative efforts.”

The federal government has recognized the need to organize and coordinate the collection and management of geospatial data since at least 1990, when the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) most recently revised Circular A-16 to establish the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and to promote the coordinated use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data nationwide. Unfortunately, the progress made over the last two decades has been inadequate, according to a statement by Sen. Hatch. “The federal government needs to improve management of geospatial data across the board,” the statement said.

The Geospatial Data Act is designed to codify and strengthen OMB Circular A-16 and require federal agencies to implement international consensus standards, assist in eliminating duplication, avoid redundant expenditures, accelerate the development of electronic government to meet the needs and expectations of citizens and agency programmatic mandates, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public management.

Additionally, the bill is intended to provide a clear definition for geospatial data and metadata, will require an accounting of the costs associated with the acquisition or creation of geospatial data, and will improve government transparency and availability to public information.

In February, the Government Accountability Office published its third report on the issue, titled “Geospatial Data: Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing a Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts.” The report outlines the intrinsic value of geospatial data, and recommended various measures for better coordination of geospatial activities.

The leaders of national geospatial organizations applauded the bill. “People believe that the United States of America has a robust system of maps and digital data. We don’t, but we should,” said Shelby D. Johnson, president of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). “The federal government was never given the tools to do the job right. This act is a good step toward solving the problems, and our members strongly support it. We also applaud Senator Hatch and Senator Warner for their foresight in dealing with this problem.”

“GIS data is an important tool for counties when it comes to making land use decisions, maintaining infrastructure, and responding to emergencies,” said Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties. “We support this bill because counties need accurate, modern mapping data to perform key duties and deliver services to their residents. We commend Senators Hatch and Warner for introducing this legislation and urge their colleagues to join them in supporting it.”

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Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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