Thursday, December 6, 2012

GAO Report Issued: Geospatial Information

Coming six months after the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a background study on important geospatial data issues facing the nation, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has joined the discussion with some comments of its own.  In a report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the GAO is reporting that poor coordination of geospatial information programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and three other Federal agencies (Commerce, Interior, and Transportation) is wasting tax payer money by allowing duplication of efforts. To put this finding in context, the first paragraph of the report relies heavily on Emergency Services Sector examples as a way to remind readers about the importance of geospatial data. Below for more: 
(GAO, November 26, 2012)

Comment: I've personally crossed paths with an investigative team from the GAO a total of once. If that experience is any indication, I'm here to tell you the individuals who populate the GAO are hard working, dedicated public servants who do their best to bring understanding to things that are beyond understanding for most of us. That being said, it's my opinion that this report falls short because it fails to examine a very important aspect of the current situation - there are two major competing approaches when it comes to geospatial data and the Federal government. First there are the traditional structures and systems that this report examines, ones which primarily owe their existence to a foundation laid down many years ago by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Then there is the "new kid on the block" approach - one that has its own taxonomy and ability to collect, classify and use data in a closed environment. Ignored by the report, this second approach (HIFLD/HSIP) owes its existence primarily to efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and its surrogates. On the state level and below, these two competing approaches "chafe" and contribute to many of the issues on the Federal level that the GAO has identified. Consequently, the GAO would have served the interests of all by including an examination of this issue in its discussion. 

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