Agencies Make Progress Streamlining Geospatial Data Gathering


The government has taken positive steps toward curbing duplication in the data gathering from geospatial satellites used for national security and disaster response, the Government Accountability Office recently reported.

But the efforts coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget and the multi-agency Federal Geographic Data Committee have left several recommendations only partially addressed, according to Dec. 5 testimony to a House Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee by GAO analyst David Powner.

GAO during the past four years has identified 300 steps agencies could take in 131 program areas to reduce duplication, among them redundant investments in geospatial information technology among multiple federal and state agencies. The Obama administration for several years has pursued a reorganization of the Commerce Department and other business agencies to reduce duplication, but Congress has shown little interest.

In this month’s update of a year-old critique, GAO said OMB had issued guidance to the Commerce, Interior and Transportation departments on documenting the nature of investments using common standards, specifications and formats to create a National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

But sub-agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics may still not be able to track how much funding is being spent on geospatial systems and data because of insufficient progress in designating a point of contact to develop the data and create each agency’s portion of the nationwide plan. That plan involves states and localities as well as the private sector.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee has “developed and endorsed key standards and had established a clearinghouse of metadata,” GAO found. But the “clearinghouse was not being used by agencies to identify planned geospatial investments to promote coordination and reduce duplication. In addition, the committee had not yet fully planned for or implemented an approach to manage geospatial data as related groups of investments to allow agencies to more effectively plan geospatial data collection efforts and minimize duplicative investments, and its strategic plan was missing key elements.”

No new recommendations were offered.

(Image via archerix/

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