OMB: Rein-in spending on geospatial systems

Federal agencies spend billions of dollars on geospatial systems, but as much as 50 percent is duplicative spending, a senior administration official told lawmakers today.

Nearly every government program uses geospatial technology in some capacity, but too often agencies are buying the same data and same applications over and over, said Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for e-government and IT.

But OMB does not know exactly how much money agencies spend on acquiring this information—and thus doesn’t know exactly how much is duplicative—because of poor reporting, Forman told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census.

“We have done a number of administrative approaches to collect that information,” he said. “We have insights into the largest IT investments, and we have taken initial steps to gather data on the data acquisition, which for some agencies is not considered an IT investment. We need to do more and we need to be more rigorous, which we intend to do as part of this next budget process.”

OMB will collect information on spending by analyzing agencies’ business case submissions, comparing business lines in the Federal Enterprise Architecture and reviewing the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s annual report, Forman said.

“The check and balance for us will come down to the architecture,” he said.

Forman said he also expects the Geospatial One-Stop e-government project to change the way agencies use this data and how they buy geospatial technologies.

The Interior Department manages Geospatial One-Stop and will launch a portal June 30 that will bring together information from around the country, said Scott Cameron, deputy assistant secretary of Interior for performance and management. It also will include a mapping feature that lets federal, state and local government officials create layered maps, he told the subcommittee.

(Click for a link to a PDF of related testimony from the General Accounting Office)

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