Groups request consolidated oversight of geospatial IT

Geospatial professionals and industry groups today asked Congress to designate two or more subcommittees in the House and Senate as having explicit jurisdiction over federal geospatial activities.

Currently, about 40 federal agencies are involved in geospatial activities, according to the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations, which represents 15 professional societies and trade groups. More than 30 congressional committees participate in evaluating regulation and procurement of federal geographic information technology, the coalition said.

“We are not attempting to create new stand-alone committees, but we want to make certain that Congress has an effective structure for oversight and legislation over the increasing federal government activity in geospatial technologies, and its relationship with state, regional, local and tribal government, universities and the private sector," Cy Smith, the coalition's chairman, said in a news release.

Smith is the immediate past president of the National States Geographic Information Council, which represents geospatial information-technology managers in state agencies.

The coalition recommended, as the “logical” home for geospatial jurisdiction, the House Natural Resources Committee or the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee or the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In 1993, the federal government was spending about $4 billion on geospatial IT, but there are no more recent figures available on such spending, Smith wrote in a Jan. 6 letter to the leaders of the House and Senate.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton named the Interior Department as the lead federal agency on the Federal Geographic Data Committee. In 2008, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne named a National Geospatial Advisory Committee.  The Office of Management and Budget initiated the SmartBuy geospatial line of business to consolidate procurement of geospatial IT.

Other coalition members include American Congress on Surveying and Mapping; Cartography and Geographic Information Society; and Geospatial Information and Technology Association.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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