NSGIC 2004 - Conference Overview: A focus on FEMA

By Joe Francica

2004ConferenceOverview_1 National States Geographic Information Council 2004 Conference Overview

Austin, TX - National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) president Bill Johnson, welcomed the approximately 325 attendees to the 2004 Annual Conference, an increase by nearly 50% from last year.Conference Chairperson, Rick Memmel, GIS Coordinator from Wyoming, welcomed the group as did planning committee members Toni Spicci, GIS Coordinator of Missouri and Mike Ouimet, GIS Coordinator of Texas.

Focus on FEMA

The focus of the conference was squarely on understanding how states interface to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Map Modernization program.FEMA representatives explained their operating plan and business model during the entire afternoon session of the first day.Due to severely outdated maps for flood hazard risk assessment, FEMA is embarking on a five-year plan to update these maps under a program called Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps or DFIRM, and is intended to save $45 Billion over this period.More information on the project can be found at http://hazards.fema.gov or at the National Flood Insurance Program website.

How do we do data coordination better between NSGIC members and FEMA

There is a Cooperative agreement between NSGIC and FEMA.FEMA is drafting a formal data coordination policy for data collection for Map Modernization.

Why have a cooperative agreement:

  • A key element of FEMAs strategy is to use quality local data whenever it is available and cost share when data is available
  • Interactions with Federal agencies seeking local data often leave state and local governments frustrated
The goal of the program is to focus on flood information, minimize duplicative data requests from federal agencies, recognize the value of existing coordination efforts at a sub-federal level and to comply with federal requirements.

FEMA's Multi-year Flood Hazard Identification Plan (MHIP) is currently in the initial input phase.MHIP is going to be updated every year.There is a planned five-year cost and schedule for flood studies nationwide at a county level. It defines what a "modernized" map is.In President Bush's budget there are regional mapping budgets established using formula based on flood risk and cost realism.Each region uses stakeholder input and national goals to establish budgets and schedules at a county level.The plan is continuously monitored and updated.More information about MHIP and an interactive mapping atlas can be found here.

FEMA is emphasizing data coordination.They plan to integrate this into their information technology system that is being implemented for Map Modernization and to get the data into the Geospatial One Stop (GOS).Multi-Hazard Implementation Plan will establish a five-year plan and schedule mapping and insure that work for the upcoming year is identified.

  • Work through existing programs: NDOP;
  • Work directly with partners - standard process for each state; coordinate with National Map staff of other federal agencies.
  • Data used for flood hazard studies will be documented and posted to NSDI/GOS
  • Most data will be available through the MHIP
  • FEMA will be able to report on data purchased and data shared.
FEMA's RMC - Regional Management Centers

FEMA's vision for its Regional Management Centers is to have centralized management but decentralized execution.The objective is to bridge the relationship between FEMA HQ and its regional operations.They want to assist the regions with the execution of study projects and to meet program goals.In addition, FEMA wants to touch each county in the US within five years to understand their flood risk programs.

The key roles of the RMC's include:

  • Work the FEMA Regions to monitor and manage engineering and mapping activities conducted by IDIQs, CTPs, and Others
  • Region specific Data Development and Coordination
  • Letter of Map Changes (LOMC) Pilot Decentralization (LOMAs, LOMRs)
  • Community Outreach - Assist FEMA Regions with awareness and training
Do we need new data?

For Base Maps...

  • FEMA expects that in most cases existing orthophotos will be sufficient to product quality flood data
  • Exceptions will be if physical changes since the creation of the base map will cause
    • Errors in the correct horizontal registration of the floodplains
    • Substantial confusion for map users
  • Innovative partnerships will be considered but FEMA base map costs must be small relative to overall flood study project
For Topographic Data...
  • Quality standards will be risk-based
  • Expect that in the highest risk areas there will be sometimes be a need for new elevations data
  • FEMA focus is on the floodplain and the most costs efficient way to meet the quality standards
News From Washington

Also in the opening session was a presentation focused on the "News from Washington." Shannon Weinberg, deputy council to the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census, chaired by Representative Adam Putnam, provided some statistics on the amount of spending by the U.S.Government on information technology. The committee estimated that $59 Billion is spent each year is spent on IT services and products.

The committee oversees initiatives such as the Geospatial One-Stop, one of the 25 e-Government programs identified by the Bush Administration. The committee is charged with asking some tough questions such as, "How much money does the federal government spend each year on geospatial technology." The estimate is approximately $4-8 Billion per year, but the administration does not know for certain.The subcommittee is concerned with keeping track of this spending.In 2003, Mark Foreman estimated that much of the spending was repetitive and unnecessary.One significant challenge is that there is not the proper infrastructure for information sharing.Many federal agencies are spending money on the same data.So, better coordination of procurement is necessary.One suggestion devised in cooperation with NSGIC was to appoint a general coordinator for GIS in the federal government. Vertical coordination was also identified as a need because the States and private industry hold the vast majority of geospatial data.Therefore, there is a recognition that better data sharing is necessary between the states and federal government, and better coordination with requests by the federal agencies to state coordinators will be required to improve the efficiency of any cooperative programs.

Update on Changes at the U.S.Geological Survey

Karen Siderelis, Associate Director for Geospatial Information for the U.S.Geological Survey (USGS) also addressed the plenary session.Her presentation focused on the new initiatives just announced by the USGS regarding the establishment of the National Geospatial Programs Office (NGPO).

Ms.Siderelis explained that Chip Groat, Director of the USGS, made the recent changes to help support the National Spatial Data Initiative through the NGPO.
The following Goals were stated:

  • Rich data holdings in many hands
  • Skilled expertise of many entities
  • Data continually acquired in many ways
  • Great advances in many technologies
  • Endless potential for many uses
  • Essential partnerships in many communities
National Geospatial Program Office is to have responsibilities for:
  • Align national geospatial activities and responsibilities
    • Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)
    • Geospatial One-Stop (GOS)
    • The National Map
    • Interior Enterprise GIS
  • Reaffirm the direction of individual activities
  • Expand partnership offices
  • Assess USGS geospatial products and services that the USGS may provide - large-scale topographic mapping program - should the USGS continue to support this project? What might a cartographic product look like if the program was to continue in the 21st century?
The director also wanted to increase the Geographic Research Focus and provide renewed focus to geography as a science within the USGS.The goal was to put geography on par with other sciences within the USGS (biology, geology, etc., for example).

The next 90 Days for NGPO were to (beginning September 1, 2004):

  • Develop and deliver plan for the NGPO
  • Contribute to the completion of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Future Direction Initiative
  • Ensure the two-plan complement on another
  • Seek partner involvement at every stage
  • Identify NSDI Future Directions
  • Forging partnerships with purpose
  • Making Framework real
  • Communicating the message
The USGS want tocontinue the vision of The National Map (TNM)
  • Seamless continuously maintained nationally consistent set of base geographic data
  • Establish TNM as a national framework for science
  • Make data available over the internet
The NGPO Directives were to use portfolio management by looking across all the programs and make strategic decisions about all the things in their geospatial project portfolio.Ms Siderelis explained that this may entail rescaling some projects and others may stand down from their current mission. Anyone is invited to provide input to the process by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Published Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

Written by Joe Francica

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