Addendum for 2013 Annual Report

Here are articles and success stories not included in the printed version of the 2013 Annual Report due to the excellent number of responses from the agencies.

  1. The HIFLD Builds Partnerships and Obtains Best Available Data that is Useful, Usable, and Used
  2. Publication of New U.S. Government Country Codes Standard
  3. Using Near Real-Time Data to Improve the Integrity of the Federal Crop Insurance Program
  4. Forest Service Aerial Application of Fire Retardant Avoidance Mapping
  5. Linking NWI Mappers with Wetland Users for Better Maps and a Growing Number of Applications
  6. The Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework
  7. Crowd-Sourcing The National Map: Using Volunteers for Enhanced Data Collection
  8. Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas Offers Easy Access to Interagency Maps and Metadata
  9. Forest Service Developing National Strategy to Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse


The HIFLD Builds Partnerships and Obtains Best Available Data that is Useful, Usable, and Used

During the past year, The Homeland Infrastructure Foundation-Level Data Working Group (HIFLD WG) partnership has expanded to include more than 5,900 mission partners representing the 14 executive departments, 98 agencies, 50 States (and 3 territories), and more than 700 private sector organizations to directly enhance the Federal, State, and local government’s ability to support domestic infrastructure data gathering, sharing and protection, visualization, and spatial knowledge management. The HIFLD WG Executive Members are led by representatives from the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs – OASD (HD&ASA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s Office of Infrastructure Protection (NPPD IP), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Integrated Working Group – Readiness, Response and Recovery (IWG-R3), the Department of Interior (DOI) U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geospatial Program (NGP), and the DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This partnership is a model of good government that has strengthened Federal, State, local, and private sector partnerships across the Homeland Defense (HD), Homeland Security (HLS), National Preparedness – Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery (NP-PPMR&R) mission communities. For close to 12 years, the HIFLD WG has held more than 58 infrastructure sector themed meetings nationwide to share information and best practices about geospatial analysis.

In fiscal year 2013, the HIFLD WG provided four working group sessions to bring together approximately 600 Federal, State, and local geospatial professionals. Over the last year, the HIFLD WG focused on cyber security, energy resiliency, and Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) feedback, GEOINT Apps and online services, national policies, domestic infrastructure security, geospatial data, wildfires, and formalizing data partnerships.
The HIFLD WG utilized these meetings to share information and foster partnerships to support the acquisition of the best available Federal datasets to improve the Homeland Security Infrastructure Program (HSIP) Gold, which is an aggregation of 475 layers of common operational infrastructure data from best available Federal, State, and local government sources, private sector organizations, and commercial geospatial data providers. HSIP data is currently the base map for multiple government-supported geospatial viewers, applications, analytic tools, and other visualization capabilities. HSIP data is accessible to over 546,000 supported users and potential users, making it the most used, useful, and usable common operational infrastructure dataset available supporting the mission. 

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Publication of New U.S. Government Country Codes Standard 

In 1995 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the institute’s intent to withdraw the standard FIPS 10-4, Countries, Dependencies, Areas of Special Sovereignty, and Their Principal Administrative Divisions. In 2008 the NIST officially withdrew FIPS 10-4. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) acted as the maintenance authority for FIPS 10-4 and has informally continued in this role because many U.S. Government systems and programs currently rely on this standard.

Between 2006 and 2010, NGA began briefing the geospatial data community on the impact of the NIST withdrawal of FIPS 10-4 and on the need to develop a way forward for the U.S. Government. In June 2011 the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics directed that the Department of Defense migrate from the FIPS 10-4 standard to a U.S. profile of the ISO 3166 standard. The U.S. Government is unable to adopt the ISO 3166 standard in its entirety because, by U.S. Public Law 80-242 (1947), it is required to use names approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). ISO 3166 contains inconsistencies and some conflicts with the BGN, as well as with some U.S. Department of State recognition policies.

In December 2011 the Geospatial Intelligence Standards Working Group (GWG) held an information session to introduce a new Country Codes Working Group (CCWG) to the community. The CCWG officially stood up in May 2012 to serve as the National System for Geospatial-Intelligence and the Federal Government’s community forum to manage U.S. Government country codes requirements.

In November 2012, after extensive community coordination, review, and engagement, NGA published the Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes (GENC) Standard Edition 1.0 as the U.S. Government Profile of the ISO 3166-1 country codes standard, and as the U.S. Government replacement for the former FIPS 10-4 country codes standard. The GENC Standard provides an authoritative set of country codes and names for use by the Federal Government for information exchange, using the ISO 3166 code elements whenever possible, with modifications only where necessary to comply with U.S. law and U.S. Government recognition policies.

The GENC Standard Edition 2.0 is currently under development and will expand the GENC content to include names and codes for geopolitical entities at the principal subdivision level, in alignment with the ISO 3166-2 Standard.

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Using Near Real-Time Data to Improve the Integrity of the Federal Crop Insurance Program

Challenge: Because of a serious gap in weather data across the United States, when an agriculture producer submitted an insurance claim for crop loss, the Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) who sell and service crop insurance did not have a consistent and reliable weather source to accurately determine if a producer’s claim was valid.

Action: In response to this issue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency (RMA) contracted with Oregon State University’s PRISM Climate Group to develop a Web portal that both RMA and the AIPs could use to expedite claims by determining if the claimed weather event occurred and if the event supported a loss claim. The National Water and Climate Center, which had been funding the development of the high-resolution spatial climate datasets known as PRISM (Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model) since the early 1990s and helped support the development of 1981–2010 climate normals (averages), needed to provide a long-term context for a given weather event. Until now, PRISM data had been restricted to monthly and annual time intervals. However, the newly created Web portal provides daily PRISM data for the conterminous States at 800-meter resolution with a turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours. With near real-time data available at individual field resolution, suspected fraudulent claims can be immediately challenged with greater confidence. 

Result: Since the development of the PRISM/RMA Weather and Climate Portal, RMA and the AIPs have a reliable weather tool to determine if producers’ claims of crop losses are valid.

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Example of accumulated precipitation that fell during much of July 2013 compared to the longer term 1981–2010 climate normals (averages).

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Forest Service Aerial Application of Fire Retardant Avoidance Mapping

Challenge: In 2010, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was directed by the U.S. District Court for the State of Montana to provide a full Environmental Impact Statement on the impact of aerial fire retardant on federally listed threatened and endangered species. This directive required defining and implementing a process to make this information available for decisionmaking aspects of wildland fire suppression.

Action: The USFS developed a standardized set of operational aerial fire retardant avoidance map products that are used by wildland firefighting personnel within the USFS as well as by partners to the agency. Creation of these geospatial products required development of a set of mapping standards in order to be consistent between all national forests and to meet existing Forest Service adopted NSDI standards for enterprise GIS architecture and infrastructure. All national forests across the contiguous United States were required not only to supply data for existing terrestrial and hydrographic aerial retardant avoidance areas, but also share this information with all stakeholders. Thus, the process of updating and disseminating this data was paramount to allow for the successful use of the information in a fire situation. The goal was to provide standardized data that meets both national office and local user needs. This was no small task.

Result: The USFS created nearly 10,500 georeferenced PFD quadrangle retardant avoidance maps using data that were compiled from every national forest in the contiguous United States. Further, geospatial data components of these maps were published to the USFS Enterprise Data Warehouse and associated map services were created to share information within the agency, as well as to all partners in the fire community. The team levered existing datasets that had already completed the process of formally meeting USFS geospatial standards, so that supporting background information contained in each avoidance map (boundaries, transportation, etc.) would not require reinventing the wheel. Final mapping products now meet the needs of aviation personnel (tablet/GPS-based data), fire planners (digital and hardcopy maps), and resource support personnel.
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Operational application of aerial fire retardant. Photo by U.S. Forest Service Region 1.
Aerial fire retardant avoidance quadrangle for the Foolhen Mountain Quadrangle in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Map by U.S. Forest Service Geospatial Service and Technology Center (GSTC).

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Linking NWI Mappers with Wetland Users for Better Maps and a Growing Number of Applications

Challenge: The kinds of imagery available, map creation protocols, and applications using the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) continue to grow. There is a need to share new information with geospatial map makers and to link them with users of geospatial data. In 2010, the Association of State Managers received an NSDI Cooperative Agreements Program grant to carry out key recommendations of the Implementation Plan for the FGDC Wetland Mapping Standard that supported expert communication and resolution of technical issues largely through the establishment of the Wetland Mapping Consortium.

Action: Although the CAP grant ended in 2011, the Wetland Mapping Consortium has continued to hold monthly webinars on wetland mapping techniques and best practices. Beginning in 2012, these webinars have been recorded and published on the ASWM website. In addition the Wetland Mapping Consortium worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Services to make wetland-relevant information from the Gridded Soil Survey Geographic (gSSURGO) Database available to users. The purpose was to support new wetland mapping efforts and more specifically to enhance identification of potential wetland restoration sites. Most recently ASWM requested assistance from consortium members and others to document the many ways that the National Wetland Inventory is used.

Result: The ongoing work of the consortium has linked wetland mappers with maps users. Innovative mapping techniques and best practices have been shared. New partnerships have developed. New applications for wetland maps continue to be identified. The recent effort to describe the many uses of NWI yielded 200 pages of case studies from across the country. These are articulated in the “National Wetland Inventory at Risk” available on the Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) website. In the coming months, ASWM will be posting State by State descriptions of the status of wetland mapping efforts and unique applications of NWI maps in every State.

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The Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework

Challenge: To meet mandated national bioenergy goals, the United States’ evolving bioenergy industry must be efficient, reliable, and sustainable. Industry, universities, and Federal agencies are supporting the generation of vast amounts of data and the development of numerous models and tools to promote new technologies in bioenergy, from production and logistics to distribution, delivery, and end use. Without a central reference point for data, analytical tools, literature, and other resources, the potential exists for duplicative work and reliance on datasets that do not represent the best available data, causing valuable resources to be wasted and the growth of the industry to be slowed.

Action: The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) developed the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF). The KDF is designed to facilitate informed decisionmaking by providing a means to synthesize, analyze, and visualize vast amounts of information. This GIS-based framework, built on open-source technology and data exchange standards, allows users to comprehensively analyze the economic and environmental impacts of various development options for biomass feedstocks, biorefineries, and infrastructure using disparate data. Furthermore, the KDF not only allows researchers to build off of each other’s work by bringing together best available data, tools, and models; it also provides a forum for collaboration and connecting subject matter experts.

Result: With over 350 registered users from national laboratories, expert working groups, industry members, universities, and other Federal agencies, the KDF has minimized the burdens of access for various forms of data and information, as well as reduced researcher time spent on preparing and distributing data to other scientists. For example, accessing the Billion-Ton Update data via the KDF has saved approximately $1 million by providing scientists direct access to a spatial data exploration tool, a custom download utility, and the full dataset itself. Moreover, the Biofuel Infrastructure, Logistics, and Transportation (BILT) and Routing models have been viewed approximately 1,500 times each, indicating that people are using the KDF to effectively analyze and enhance data. Having demonstrated success, the Bioenergy KDF framework has become the basis for similar capabilities in various research domains. EERE’s Bioenergy KDF framework is an example of Department of Energy’s commitment to coordinate our GIS efforts with our Federal, State, and private partners to reduce GIS costs, improve the quality of services, and increase efficiency to support environmental impacts of biomass issues affecting our world.
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The online KDF interface offers users news and research highlights, search functions, data access, mapping tools, and more.

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Crowd-Sourcing The National Map: Using Volunteers for Enhanced Data Collection

The National Map Corps (TNMCorps) encourages citizens to contribute by adding new and correcting existing structures data within The National Map database. Volunteers fill a void by providing current data where national authoritative data sources do not exist. Structures can include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations, cemeteries, and other important public places.

In 2012, the Colorado Pilot was launched. In less than 10 months, 143 volunteers collected, improved, or deleted data on more than 6,400 structures in Colorado. The volunteers’ actions were accurate and exceeded USGS quality standards. Volunteer-collected data showed an improvement of approximately 25 percent in both location and attribute accuracy for existing data points. Completeness, or the extent to which all appropriate features were identified and recorded, was nearly perfect.

Based on the significant results of the Colorado Pilot, the project expanded to include all 50 States in 2013. As of August 2013, over 780 volunteers have made more than 13,000 contributions. For more information please visit TNMCorps website.

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August 2013 status of contributions to The National Map by TNMCorps.

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Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas Offers Easy Access to Interagency Maps and Metadata

Challenge: As plans to restore the Gulf of Mexico after recent disasters have progressed, those working in the Gulf have turned to NOAA for data and information about all aspects of the Gulf of Mexico. One of the most requested resources has been the "Gulf of Mexico Coastal and Ocean Zones Strategic Assessment Data Atlas" published by NOAA's National Ocean Service in 1985 as a large hardcopy tabletop book. NOAA was challenged to provide access to these and similar data in digital form for easy discovery and ready access.

Action: To meet this challenge, NOAA’s National Coastal Data Development Center (NCDDC) brought together data providers from international, Federal, State, and nongovernmental organizations. A multi-agency executive steering committee was formed to guide Atlas development and to contribute data and expertise. The developed Atlas is a web-based tool that allows users to browse data as digital map plates organized by topic area. Datasets are also searchable through an accompanying Map Catalog and RSS feed.
The Atlas currently contains over 230 maps in 70 subject areas. Each data set is fully documented by metadata in both FGDC CGDSM and ISO schemas. Source data are available in native formats and as Web mapping services (WMS). The study area encompasses Gulf of Mexico coastal counties of the United States as well as Mexican municipal districts bordering Gulf of Mexico waters. The seaward boundaries of the study area extend to the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida.

Result: A diverse group of users has found the Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas to be an easy entry point to data from a wide range of interdisciplinary sources. As collaboration continues with new partners in Mexico and the Caribbean, the geographic footprint of the Atlas is expanding to ensure that the Atlas becomes a truly ecosystem-wide resource. The Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas is an operational example of the philosophy of leveraging resources among agencies and activities involved in geospatial data as outlined in the FGDC "Geospatial Platform Modernization Roadmap v4 - March 2011". 
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Members of the Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas Executive Steering Committee compare datasets from the Web-based tool and the hard copy Gulf of Mexico Coastal and Ocean Zones Strategic Assessment Data Atlas published by NOAA in 1985.

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Forest Service Developing National Strategy to Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse

Challenge: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is a cooperating agency with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tasked to develop a series of coordinated Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) across the Western United States in order to determine the current state of the Greater Sage-grouse on Federal lands, and to present ways to conserve the species. This project uses geospatial data and analysis in order to quantitatively support decisions within each EIS, but the true challenge is that this information is required to be consistent across agency boundaries. 

Action: Due to the fact that both agencies follow differing standards for various geospatial data themes, the foremost action required was to communicate agency best practices in order to determine the degree of consistency within data required to support the EIS. Both agencies followed similar practices in the way geospatial information were stored, in required data topology, and in meta file documentation. Partial implementation of National Spatial Data Infrastructure standards assisted in these areas. Differences in planning terminology between the BLM and the USFS were a significant obstacle to overcome, but necessary, as a common understanding of analysis requirements is required to achieve credible and consistent analysis results. Given these barriers to interagency collaboration with respect to providing sound, defensible GIS information, development of a common analysis and delivery approach was the crux of this program.

Result: The USFS delivered geospatial information to the BLM that was consistent across geographic planning areas and thematic resource categories in order to give project team members data analyses to serve as the backbone for decisions to be made within the resultant EISs. The key was to develop a common approach for the provision of data and analysis using existing agency standards.
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The Greater Sage-grouse. Photo by Tatiana Gettelman.
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Map showing distribution of Greater Sage-grouse habitat within USFS lands. Map by USFS Geospatial Service and Technology Center.