Geospatial Data Act

While all the headlines coming from Washington these days are focused on taxes there is also an important bill working its way through both houses that affects the geospatial industry.

The purpose of the Geospatial Data Act (S. 1253 and. H.R. 3522) is “to improve the coordination and use of geospatial data.” According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress, the bill is intended for “the development, implementation, and review of policies, practices, and standards relating to geospatial data” and to “ensure that geospatial data (National Spatial Data Infrastructure, (NSDI)) from multiple sources is available and easily integrated to enhance the understanding of the physical and cultural world”.

The bill recognizes the important role the private sector plays in geospatial data in several provisions. It seeks greater transparency in government geospatial activities, including the disclosure of certain information. The CRS analysis says “agencies whose functions involve geospatial data shall implement a strategy for advancing geographic information and related geospatial data activities appropriate to that agency’s mission in support of the strategic plan for the infrastructure. Such agencies shall disclose each contract, cooperative agreement, grant, or other transaction that deals with geospatial data.

Procurement, or contracting with the private sector, is inherent to the Geospatial Data Act and its goal of making the NSDI a success. The carefully crafted legislation addresses a variety of challenges, components and stakeholders in geospatial data and the NSDI, both governmental (Federal, state and local) and the private sector. Provisions that assure quality in the procurement of the collection and acquisition of geospatial data are integral to the overall goals and objectives of the legislation. As introduced, S. 1253 and H.R. 3522 provide that contacting for such geospatial data services are based on demonstrated competence and qualifications of competing firms. Such quality is essential to the success of government programs and activities that are dependent on reliable, accurate, and professionally acquired data and services. Moreover, the bills include a provision to preserve and comply with existing law that protects public health, welfare and safety.

Organizations including ASCE and NSPS support the Geospatial Data Act as introduced and are resisting efforts by other organizations to weaken these important provisions.

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