Good news, bad news for GIS managers

The federal government has asked major metropolitan areas to deliver a richer set of spatial data to help with the homeland security effort. Geographic information system managers find the sudden interest in their field gratifying, but view the data collection task as a bit overwhelming.

Arlington County, Va., for example, has less than 30 percent of the data the federal government recommends for a local GIS, said Mary Beth Fletcher, manager of Arlington's GIS mapping center. "We are having to gear up and look for resources to try to acquire and map a lot more data."

Some of the recommended data is maintained privately, such as information on gas and electric infrastructures. For that information, the county will have to ask utilities for their cooperation. In other cases, the county may have to collect data on its own. But the seven-person mapping center currently lacks the budget to hire personnel for fieldwork.

"There's a lot more interest" in GIS, Fletcher said, "but no more resources have been allocated."

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