National Geospatial Programs Office Update

By Adena Schutzberg

At NSGIC this week, Hank Garie of USGS outlined some of the plans and work already in motion of the newly formed National Geospatial Programs Office.The Office (NGPO) was announced on August 17 of last year.One source of the plan for NGPO, Garie explained, came out of a meeting in Reston with NSGIC folks over Chinese food.That plan was drafted on a paper bag and evolved via further sessions and meetings with interested parties, over the last several months.The goal of this "bold step" of reorganization is to align national geospatial activities and responsibilities including FGDC, Geospatial One-Stop (GOS), The National Map (TMN) and Interior Enterprise GIS.Other goals include exploring the roles of the field and partnerships offices and examining the USGS' products and services.

The current plan for the reorganization to focus on three "transformational areas," to head towards:

• A geographic system for the nation, "GIS for the Nation" - "a system of systems"

• A focus on "matters and places of national importance" - make a move from the idea of an infrastructure (which perhaps is not the best term to sell the idea) toward a structure that solves problems (that is to focus on geographies, like New York City or topics like flooding), topics that matter for policy makers.Infrastructure, it seems, doesn't seem to be the right term to catch their attention.

• Management excellence - develop decision transparency, determine and implement best use of resources to leverage resources of partners

NGPO's purpose is to provide "leadership to place geographic knowledge at the fingertips of the Nation." The mission is to provide leadership and guidance to key stakeholders (act as a facilitator) and to actually doing things (create and run GOS, host data, create [or cause the creation of] map products, manage national service contracts).
The vision for the organization flows from the national spatial data structure (NSDI) vision: to make geodata available across the nation.There's a goal date of June 30, 2006 by which NGPO wants to transform key parts of government.

Strategic directions have been identified and work is already in progress.Progress will be reported to the Director of USGS.Project leaders introduced just a few of the efforts.

Unified Geospatial Enterprise Architecture
The goal is a high level architecture that allows the unification of disparate geospatial architectural efforts.It will align with the Federal Enterprise Architecture and accommodate the non-federal community.The project has three key steps: adopt principles, establish advisory council and technical working group, and promote common standards.There's a sense that this'll be a geospatial profile of the Federal Enterprise Architecture.

Update Governance Structure
It's time to update the NSDI governance model, perhaps to create a national Geospatial Coordinating Body and promote the governance as a national commitment.(More on that below)

Technology Modernization
The key components of a "GIS for the Nation" includes discovery tools, partners, and the promotion and presentation of a base of knowledge.The challenge is identifying a process to insure the construction, that is, a blue print.NGPO might be an "integrator" for the data producing players (Federal, local, tribal).The blanket (framework layers) and quilt (local data) metaphor used for TMN now moves one step further.It's now a tapestry, a richly woven fabric of the input, which includes "other stuff" than just geodata.That "stuff" might include reports, models, policies, applications, scientific knowledge (location based information).Some data will be open and widely available other may be "access controlled." Local governments can get data directly to users when needed, such as in the case of emergencies, explained Garie, but the "access control" is aimed at encouraging sensitive data to be part of the system of systems.While Garie didn't use the terms TMN and GOS, this sounds to me like the merging and/or uniting of the two.

A second part of this "GIS for the Nation" are Geographic Information Templates which document the workflows to create standard products.These might come from best practices already in use and form "almost a cookbook" for new or existing players who create data.Garie asked the attendees to contribute to such documents and then to help "market and share" the result.It was suggested that the project might begin with developing documents for FGDC framework data layers, and move on to others of interest, like those of particular interest for homeland security.The starting point is already in work - documenting TMN processes.It was made clear that such documents should be developed for the state and local levels, too.

The principle strategy for the creation of NSDI is partnerships.USGS currently hosts some 40 liaison offices "on the landscape" - that is not in the capitol area but out in the states.Two USGS offices Florida and Idaho are re-staffing; three new ones are opening.USGS is working on umbrella agreements that will connect NGPO and state or regional or local consortia focusing on advancing NSDI.Also, USGS wants to develop long-term plans for NSDI, which build on the I-Plans of recent years.(Remember I-Teams and I-Plans?) Those would guide investment, facilitate sustainable processes and the like.

Incentive Based Partnerships
Proposed 2005 Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP) grants might include monies for NSDI stewardship (for building a state council, building a strategic plan, enhancing stewardship), making the framework real, and other things.

Published Friday, March 18th, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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