Sens. Warner, Hatch reintroduce the Bipartisan Geospatial Data Act

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reintroduced today the bipartisan Geospatial Data Act (GDA), a bill that will improve coordination, reduce duplication, and increase data transparency in the acquisition of geospatial data.

congressGeospatial 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 and the federal government needs to improve management of geospatial data across the board.

“Some of the greatest innovations in our digital economy have come from early investments the federal government made in geospatial data through development of the Global Positioning Systems (GPS),” Senator Warner said. “Geospatial data has enormous applications in transforming both the private and public sectors—supporting apps, innovative tools, and activities as wide-ranging as emergency preparedness to finding a restaurant. Today, the federal government is the largest purchaser of geospatial data, but the federal government’s collection and utilization of this data has been undermined by duplication and a lack of transparency. This bill would bring greater accountability to the federal government’s use of geospatial data, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently.”

 “The uses and applications for geospatial technology are immense and constantly growing,” Senator Hatch said.“The process in which the federal government collects geospatial data currently wastes vast amounts of taxpayer dollars and fails to provide the most accurate information. The GDA will provide the tools to create a more robust and modern system of maps and digital data with a budget that avoids redundant expenditures. We need to optimize the method in which we collect geospatial data to advance the technology for states, counties, and citizens around the nation.”

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.

“From transportation, to natural resources, to homeland security, map-based digital information has quietly become mission critical to how work gets done and to future economic growth. We need an efficiency and accountability framework to build, sustain, and share geographic data assets for the entire nation. The GDA delivers just that,” said Bert Granberg, President of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC).

“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,” said Matthew Chase, Executive Director of the National Association of Counties.

The bill is also supported by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, the National Association of Counties, the National States Geographic Information Council, and MAAPS – An Association of Photogrammetry, Mapping, and Geospatial Firms.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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