FY 2001 FGDC Annual Report Narrative Summary
This Report summarizes the information submitted by FGDC Member Federal Agencies, Subcommittees and Working Groups. The information for the FY2001 Annual Report was gathered through a questionnaire intended to identify the scope and depth of spatial data activities across FGDC member agencies. The agency responses provided much useful information regarding general indicators of progress in NSDI implementation and spatial data coordination. However the responses did not lend themselves to quantifying specific measures such as Metadata usage, Clearinghouse or Standards implementation. Although the FGDC Staff and the Coordination Group reviewed the questionnaire several times, there were varied interpretations and responses by agencies to a number of questions.
The responses provided useful information regarding GPRA Goals, E-Gov, Standards, Clearinghouse and Metadata that is presented in this summary report. The individual reports provide more specific information and the matrix summarizing the responses is intended to give the reader a quick overview of the individual submissions.
The importance of spatial data is increasingly identified in Federal Agency missions through budget and policy initiatives. In the FY 2001 FGDC Annual Report, 62% of respondents list Agency GPRA strategic plan goals specifically related to spatial data activities. However, though these goals are related to spatial data they tend to vary widely in terms of scope and specificity. The more general GPRA goals are difficult to quantify and do not support the long-term evidence of progress when comparing cost/benefit analysis for agency geospatial data investments. Examples of broad goals reported include: "Build and use new information networks" (NOAA), "Reduce human suffering and enhance the recovery of communities after disaster strikes" (FEMA), and "Ensure the acquisition and use of an appropriate corporate infrastructure to enable the efficient delivery of a variety of uses" (USFS). Examples of more specific goals include "Assess the number of people potentially impacted by Superfund Hazardous Waste sites" (HHS), "Ensure that the transportation services Producer Price Index (PPI) grows less rapidly than the overall PPI through 2005" (BTS), and "Have 2,800 soil surveys available in digital form by 2008" (NRCS).
More and more Agencies operate spatially enabled service functions. In the FY 2001 FGDC Annual Report, 77% of Agency respondents reported that geospatial information allows them to provide better service through E-Gov. The geospatial information available on agency internet sites ranges from one-stop information sites like the NOAA National Environmental Data Index, to the BTS National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS), to the USFS on-line campground reservation services (complete with interactive navigational maps), to the disaster response maps listed on the FEMA website. The USGS website has information available and searchable regarding programs, including: National Mapping Program, National Geologic Mapping Program, USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, USGS Gap Analysis Program, the Land Use History of North America (LUHNA) Program, and the Biomonitoring of Environmental Status and Trends Program. Agencies are also using intranet systems to provide better spatial data services for their employees - an example being a FEMA intranet site that enables the creation of customized maps at staff workstations.
The FGDC develops geospatial data standards for implementing the NSDI, in consultation and cooperation with State, local, and tribal governments, the private sector and academic community, and, to the extent feasible, the international community. Although 100% of the responding Agencies report using standards, sometimes it is difficult to determine if the responding Agencies are using Agency-specific and subject-specific standards, as opposed to FGDC Standards and voluntary consensus standards. Examples of standards listed in the Agency reports that are not FGDC, National (ANSI) or International (ISO) include: Standards for map layouts and projections; GIS software standard for desktop mapping; specifications for Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRM); and National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS) standards.
Clearinghouse & Metadata
The NSDI Clearinghouse Activity, sponsored through the FGDC committee activities, is a decentralized system of servers located on the Internet, which contain field-level descriptions of available digital spatial data. This descriptive information, known as metadata, is collected in a standard format to facilitate query and consistent presentation across multiple participating sites. A fundamental goal of Clearinghouse is to provide access to digital spatial data through metadata. 69% of the responding Agencies have metadata available and discoverable online through an NSDI-compatible clearinghouse node. However, though 69% of the respondents have some information available through the Clearinghouse, it is not possible to ascertain from the submissions the total amount of each Agency's data holdings served through the Clearinghouse. Nor is it possible to identify agency data holdings that are absent from the Clearinghouse but would benefit the community by being added.
Circular A-16 Revision
While the questionnaire did not yield all of the information anticipated, one fact clearly stands out - the technology and applications of spatial data are changing and expanding rapidly across the Federal government. Numerous studies and high-level interagency roundtable discussions have articulated the need for improving geospatial data coordination as spatial data has become a requisite part of understanding and responding to today's complex problems and issues. Responding to this challenge and opportunity, the FGDC submitted to OMB on October 2, a proposed revision to Circular A-16. The proposed revision of Circular A-16 expands the breadth of coordination carried out by the Committee, providing a comprehensive infrastructure for coordination and cooperation in the collection, production, sharing, and dissemination of spatial data. The actions described in the revised circular provide for the protection of the Federal government's growing investment in spatial data, and seek to maximize benefits from this investment. Though the circular strengthens and clarifies the earlier version, significant efforts will be required on the part of all agencies to identify and strengthen their internal and external coordination efforts to better support the NSDI and focus on product development.
The FGDC has prepared a comprehensive proposal to enhance the Federal government's coordination of spatial data activities through the revision of Circular A-16. The proposal promotes the designation of Federal agencies to provide the leadership needed for building an effective and efficient National Spatial Data Infrastructure that will help to enable Nationwide availability for spatial data that is compatible, consistent, scale-independent, integrable, and seamless across the entire nation for use in a wide variety of geographic applications focused on protecting this Nation. While awaiting OMB review and approval of the revised Circular A-16, the FGDC will continue to work towards the goals described in the proposed circular. To capture more detailed future progress within FGDC member agencies, modifications to the questionnaire will be needed.