15 Jan 2009
A Proposal for National Economic Recovery An Investment in Geospatial Information Infrastructure Building a National GIS
We would like to thank the bloggers over at MapDotNet for pointing out this most enlightening white paper from Jack Dangermond of ESRI and Anne Hale Miglarese of Booze Allen Hamilton. We decided to actually re-run the entire white paper — as opposed to linking to it. In addition, you can check out MapDotNet’s commentary on the white paper here. The following paper calls for a national GIS system and falls in line with yesterday’s post on COGO. Please take a good read of this, and we would like to hear your comments and thoughts.
A Proposal for National Economic Recovery
An Investment in Geospatial Information Infrastructure Building a National GIS
Jack Dangermond, ESRI, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Hale Miglarese, Booz Allen Hamilton, Miglarese_anne@bah.com
America’s financial crisis, the worst since the end of World War II, will force difficult actions and deci-
sions. Large expenditures of taxpayer money must be designed to yield products of long-term benefit
to the country. America has an information economy, and a robust geospatial infrastructure (system of digital maps and tools) is just as vital to its continued development as was the physical infrastructure to
the industrial economy. A National GIS, properly designed and effectively implemented, providing public access and using best technologies, will speed economic recovery by producing jobs and putting shovels in the ground more quickly. It will also leave the country with a public utility, a modern geospatial information system, that itself can become a foundation for new generations of industries and technologies in the future.
The Stimulus Plan being developed by Congress and the incoming Obama Administration is an enor-
mous undertaking to revive the American economy. Potentially, it will involve thousands of infrastruc-
ture and other projects intended to create jobs and restart economic growth while producing things
of lasting value to American taxpayers. The challenge to properly manage and execute this effort will
be daunting, requiring unprecedented access to data and information at all levels of government and
the private sector.
This is the moment for America to build a national Geographic Information System (GIS), that is, a
unified, up-to-date, publicly-accessible national digital map, enriched with data from all available
sources, and supported by GIS technology. This system can be built quickly, immediately creating
high tech jobs, and will serve as a public resource for project planners to support transportation
infrastructure, water resource management, alternative energy research, and project siting. It will
also provide a foundation for monitoring the US economic recovery across our communities, allowing
activities to get underway as soon as possible and leaving a legacy for the future.
The benefits of a national GIS are universal. The Western Governor’s Association declared GIS a key
component of our national critical infrastructure. The National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO)
has consistently rated GIS as a mission critical component at the state level and along with the Na-
tional States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) which values this technology as an opportunity
to foster federal, state and local partnerships and collaboration. The National Geospatial Advisory
Committee (NGAC) adopted a set of transition recommendations for the new Administration in
October 2008. The NGAC recommendations represent a broad consensus among the key public and
private stakeholders in the geospatial technology field, and form a principal basis for this proposal.
Why a National GIS
Agencies have been laying the foundation for national GIS for years. It falls within umbrella terms
like Imagery for the Nation, The National Map, the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, and the
pioneering work of the U.S. Geological Survey, Census Bureau, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Interior, among others.
It is supported by technical studies from the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), the
National Research Council, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), and the National States
Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). Now is the time to pull them together.
GIS technology is uniquely capable of providing unity to the complex Stimulus Plan. GIS can integrate data from agencies across all levels of government, providing decision makers a powerful tool to marshal knowledge on items as diverse as personnel, finance, economics, infrastructure, and resources, all organized within maps or images showing geographic basics such as topography, roads, parcels, buildings, utility networks, landmarks, soil types, and political and physical land divisions. It brings together all key national datasets to support action – which is why it is considered a “must” for emergency response organizations across the country.
A national GIS will place at our fingertips a comprehensive description of our nation’s assets, resources and operations, all linked geographically. Once completed, it will be a priceless national resource and an indispensable tool for planners and business alike.
A national GIS can be built immediately, engaging hundreds of private firms. It will speed the start of
job-rich infrastructure projects. Its biggest impact will be on projects critical to energy development,
water resources, homeland security, defense, climate change, health care delivery, telecommunica-
tions, transportation, and the environment. Without national GIS as a management tool, efforts will
be haphazard and project planners will be hamstrung. A National GIS must be a cornerstone pro-
gram funded by the Stimulus Plan, a fulcrum to wring the greatest result for each dollar spent.
Technical fundamentals of a National GIS
A GIS system integrates information from many sources and authors using standardized protocols
so that information can be harmonized and incorporated into a consistent framework to support
multiple missions at all levels of government and private business. It can be built and maintained
largely using on-going business processes such as The National Map initiative of Interior Department’s
Geological Survey (USGS), and it can rely heavily on existing software, hardware, and networks, in-
tegrated by a lead organization setting standards and protocols. Existing modern GIS server technol-
ogy, together with open standards and Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), can provide enabling
components for a national GIS immediately. This architecture maximizes collaboration among gov-
ernment and private entities. Guarantees of privacy, confidentiality, protection of proprietary financial
data, and similar concerns can be built in at the foundation and at every level. This national system
will result in the following:
- A series of standard geographic datasets (framework layers described below);
- A series of workflows that transactionally maintain (update) these datasets;
- A system for data management responsibility (FGDC governance);
- A suite of tailored applications;
- A designated Federal entity to oversee the effort;
- The necessary technology to support a National GIS system.
Leadership and cost for a National GIS
Both the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) and the Department of Interior have de-
veloped detailed recommendations on how to build a National GIS. A key first step is to implement
fully the Imagery for the Nation initiative, an intergovernmental plan to create a full Federal-level GIS
based on nationwide aerial imaging and mapping, participation by agencies across the Federal land-
scape, and technological consistency.
Next, a comprehensive national updating of mapping and topographical information is essential to
create a complete current portrait of America – what is referred to as The National Map. This step,
along with outreach to incorporate key additional databases maintained by state and local govern-
ments and the private sector, and elements such as Parcels, Transportation, Hydro, Elevation, Critical
Habitat and Boundaries, will be needed to make the system most effective for project decision-
makers and infrastructure planners. We anticipate the total cost to be approximately 1.2 billion, spread over three years. We can provide detailed cost breakdowns upon request. Interagency plans, contracts, and management systems are already in place today to implement this initiative. Overall management could be provided by the Secretary of the Interior, who chairs the Federal Geographic Data Committee, with significant involvement from USDA, DOC and DHS/FEMA.
In addition, program funding can be leveraged through cooperative efforts with partners in State and local government and the private sector. The National Geospatial Advisory Committee can provide ongoing strategy and recommendations for program design and implementation. A national GIS can be built immediately, engaging hundreds of private firms. It will speed the start of job-rich infrastructure projects.
But the key is to get it done now. Crisis always brings with it opportunities. A National GIS, prop-
erly designed and effectively implemented, providing public access and using best technologies, will
speed economic recovery by producing jobs and putting shovels in the ground more quickly. It will
also leave the country with a public utility, a modern geospatial information system, that itself can
become a foundation for new generations of industries and technologies in the future.