Support the Geospatial Data Act

The Geospatial Data Act of 2015 was introduced in Congress today.  This bipartisan bill will go a long way toward correcting inadequacies of the federal government regarding management geospatial data and National Spatial Data Infrastructure.  This bill was assigned to a congressional committee, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Geospatial professionals can support the Geospatial Data Act by contacting your senators and congressional representatives today to let them know why the Act is important both to your state and the nation, and if possible to offer your expertise helping them interpret the technical aspects of the Act.

Date: Monday, March 16, 2015
Subject: JOINT RELEASE: Hatch, Warner Introduce Bipartisan Geospatial Data Act

UNITED STATES SENATE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 16, 2015

Media Contacts:
Matt Whitlock (Hatch): 202-228-0210
Rachel Cohen (Warner): 202-228-6884

JOINT RELEASE – Hatch, Warner Introduce Bipartisan Geospatial Data Act

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch, R-UT, and John Warner, D-VA, issued the following statements after introducing the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act.

Sen. Hatch said, “The federal government wastes vast amounts of taxpayer dollars by not properly managing and coordinating our federal investments in geospatial data. This commonsense 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.”

Shelby D. Johnson, President of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) said, “People believe that the United States of America has a robust system of maps and digital data. We don’t, but we should. 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.”

Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties, said, “GIS data is an important tool for counties when it comes to making land use decisions, maintaining infrastructure, and responding to emergencies. 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.

Background

Geospatial data is the information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features, such as wells, roads, or forests. The federal government has recognized the need to organize and coordinate the collection and management of this 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. The federal government needs to improve management of geospatial data across the board.

The Geospatial Data Act will 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 will 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.

Following requests from Senators Hatch, Warner, Risch, and Carper, the Government Accountability Office recently published their third report on the issue, entitled “Geospatial Data—Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing a Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts.” The report outlined the intrinsic value of geospatial data, and recommended various measures for better coordination of geospatial activities.