Stimulus Proposal #4 by John Palatiello: Funding The National Map

By John Palatiello

Author's Note

Beginning in mid-December, 2008, when there began discussion of development of an economic stimulus proposal to be considered in Congress in January 2009, the MAPPS Board of Directors began consideration of proposals to recommend to the Obama Administration and Congress to include geospatial activities in the stimulus package. The goal was to develop a proposal within MAPPS, vet it with other geospatial organizations, and develop a coalition strategy to win approval by Congress and the Administration. However, other individual proposals were made public without any consultation with MAPPS or other geospatial associations, thus pre-empting the MAPPS draft. Rather than confusing Congress with yet another proposal or approving one member's stimulus proposal over another's, MAPPS did not act on this draft paper. Rather, MAPPS did approve and signed its name to the unanimously-approved COGO letter to the U.S. Senate.

When the agenda for the February 4-5 meeting of the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) was provided to its members, and discussion of the inclusion of geospatial programs in the stimulus was included, I decided to provide the following paper to my colleagues on the NGAC so that they could make decisions with all potential solutions on the table. Thus, the following paper has not been submitted to Congress or the Obama Administration. This paper has not been approved or adopted by MAPPS or any other organization. The views expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect those of any other individual, group of individuals, or any firm or association. The author would like to thank Kevin Corbley, Corbley Communications, Inc., for his editorial assistance in the preparation of this document.

Funding The National Map to Stimulate the Economy, Create Jobs, and Provide a Foundation for Recovery

As Congress and the Obama Administration develop a package of recovery and reinvestment to stimulate the U.S. economy, it should include funding to accelerate the development of The National Map (TNM) - a fundamental component of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).

The NSDI was established by the Clinton Administration (Executive Order 12906) in 1994 and reaffirmed by the Bush Administration in Executive Order 13286 in 2003. The NSDI includes the technology, policies, and people necessary to promote geospatial data sharing throughout all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academia.

The National Map is a government-wide initiative managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in partnership with state, regional, local and tribal government. It provides the basic topographic information that underpins the NSDI. Contracts for The National Map have already been competitively awarded, which means it is ready to go now.

A renewed and increased investment in The National Map will help provide a sustainable foundation for short term and long term economic growth with a positive impact that will be felt immediately. In addition to creating new jobs capable of supporting the "green" economy far into the future, The National Map is vital to the cost-effective deployment of the public works and infrastructure projects that are centerpieces of the President's Recovery and Reinvestment Package. As envisioned and approved by previous administrations, The National Map will serve as the critical foundation upon which a national GIS as well as other NSDI-related initiatives can be built.

Government agencies and other organizations are frequently asked for quick responses to natural disasters, industrial accidents, environmental crises, and homeland security alerts. Much of the information needed to make sound decisions in such cases is based on geography. There is constant pressure to make wise decisions in a more cost effective and efficient manner. Accurate and current geospatial data are critical to these decisions. In an economic crisis such as the one facing us now, the value of The National Map is no different. Whether the project at hand is the construction of a new highway, development of a 21st Century "smart" power grid or protection of a fragile coastal environment, infrastructure programs that will infuse our economy with investment dollars and new jobs require access to accurate and timely geospatial information. The National Map eliminates the costly duplication of mapping efforts by multiple federal and state agencies by putting a single database of crucial geospatial information into the hands of public and private sector decision-makers so they can ensure that every dollar spent on infrastructure yields a maximum positive return on investment to the U.S. economy.

The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), a Federal advisory committee established to provide advice to the Federal government on geospatial issues, has described the need for this geospatial data by noting that geospatial applications are increasingly being recognized as a means of improving the quality of life of citizens, facilitating economic development, contributing to environmental stewardship, and enabling responsible development of natural resources. Geospatial systems provide a foundation for and support the health, welfare, and safety of citizens. Geospatial technologies are increasingly being leveraged as effective solutions to critical issues in such diverse areas as energy, water rights, climate change, criminal justice and homeland security (including emergency preparedness and response), health care delivery and disease tracking, infrastructure development, telecommunications, banking and finance, agriculture, natural resources, and the environment. The U.S. Geological Survey has reported The National Map will play critical roles in a wide variety of applications ranging from national security to energy independence, including the planning of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power.

The NSDI includes specified framework data theme layers to help with applications to the aforementioned societal issues. See Appendix A.

The National Map includes orthoimagery (aerial photographs), elevation, geographic names, hydrography, boundaries, transportation, structures, and land cover. Other types of geographic information (for example, data on rainfall, soil erosion and other ecological characteristics) can be combined with The National Map in a geographic information system (GIS) to create specific new maps, map views, or analyses. The National Map is a significant contribution to the NSDI and will better serve the Nation by providing high quality, integrated base geospatial data and improved products and services.

Providing funds for TNM in the stimulus bill provides an opportunity to collect and make available basic geographic information needed to support short and long term economic growth in the United States.

Funding for TNM is a sound, sustainable investment that meets all the commonly accepted criteria for stimulus funding.

(1) TNM will save and create private sector jobs. Several years ago, the USGS implemented a contracting program that utilizes the vast and capable private sector of geospatial firms. Contracts are in place (Geospatial Products and Services Contracts or GPSC) that include five (5) prime contractors and more than 90 subcontractors. The MAPPS 2006 salary survey found that on a nationwide basis, the average salary for non-executive personnel in its member firms was $54,000. Thus, a stimulus investment in TNM will help create good paying, middle class jobs in geospatial data collection and production. Given the fact that contracts have already been awarded through a competitive process, TNM is a project "ready to go".

(2) TNM is an existing, authorized activity. TNM is new generation of mapping that continues a longstanding USGS mission. TNM is authorized by the organic USGS Act (20 Stat. 394; 43 U.S.C. 31) and (25 Stat. 505, 526). Seed funding was provided by Congress in 2004 through the FY 2005 House Report on Interior Appropriations when Congress included "$2,355,000 for national map activities". TNM is not a local or pork barrel program, but a documented, justifiable, authorized program that has been through a rigorous process of creating and establishing a public administration framework. TNM implements numerous recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences.

(3) TNM will create jobs that will continue in the long term. The geospatial community has been identified by the U.S. Department of Labor as one of the fastest growing in the U.S. workforce. An investment in TNM will support a community that is increasing, not declining, and one where there will continue to be a demand for workers and where employers will be able to sustain the jobs after stimulus funding ends.

(4) TNM will create "green jobs" that will support a new economy. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide data to protect the environment and to balance economic and conservation interests. Professionals in green occupations ranging from forestry to marine science, conservative biology to landscape ecology, are finding GIS tools help them predict, monitor and solve environmental problems. GIS provides a way to visually present data in a map form. A GIS map can show anything from crime rates to population growth, highlighting data distribution over a specific geographic location. GIS watershed maps often include data on rainfall, soil erosion and other ecological changes. New urbanism, which emphasizes sustainable and transit-oriented development increasingly relies on GIS and the technology is an asset to state, regional and local planning departments as planning consultants help communities look at the big picture by connecting transportation lines and designing more sustainable living and working environments. (SEE:"> and Many GIS technicians can work at home and tele-commute. New, digital technologies eliminate the need for photo processing, thus making the mapping process cleaner and more environmentally friendly.

(5) TNM will have a significant multiplier effect, leveraging additional investment and jobs creation. Aerial Photography is 5 - 10% of Typical Mapping Costs. Mapping Costs are 5 - 15 % of Engineering Costs. Engineering Costs are 6 - 8 % of the Construction Costs. And Construction Costs are 90% of Project Costs. Thus, every dollar invested in aerial photography has a multiplier of 9074. In data from an actual project, $6,000 invested in an aerial photo mission for a road construction resulted in a $49 million total construction (surveying, mapping, engineering and construction) activity.

(6) Geospatial data, through TNM, will help provide the groundwork for creation of the new clean energy power grid that includes wind, solar and other non-fossil, renewable energy sources. (

(7) The Federal government currently lacks a data infrastructure that enables the measuring, monitoring, verifying and validating of the effects of global climate change. TNM can provide the NSDI baseline data to accurately, empirically and scientifically understand the consequences of climate change and develop appropriate, measured responses.

(8) TNM can accommodate and expedite other NSDI-related initiatives, such as the Imagery for the Nation, National Lidar Initiative, National Land Parcel Data, Digital Coast, Elevation for the Nation, Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping, National Land Imaging Program, and Transportation for the Nation. TNM is also a vital precursor for industry-led initiatives such as a National GIS.

As The National Map was envisioned in the establishment of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, the U.S. Geological Survey has identified and budget three primary components to the project: a Topographic layer containing up-to-date nationwide terrain, or elevation, information; an updating of basic map and feature location data, including water bodies, transportation networks, land cover classes and buildings; and newly acquired aerial imagery covering the entire United States. Other independent assessments of TNM needs include a nationwide parcel (property) data layer and a database of wildlife corridors and crucial habitats.

The USGS can also use partnerships, cooperative agreements and memoranda of understanding to work with other Federal agencies to assist with their NSDI programs to create jobs completing such national priorities as flood mapping, agricultural orthophoto imagery mapping, parcels and federal land inventorying, and integrated ocean and coastal mapping (including the coastal remote sensing and the Digital Coast, coastal shoreline mapping, reducing the backlog of coastal surveys and nautical charting), water resources and BRAC.

In conclusion, to create meaningful jobs that will get America working again, on projects that contribute to sustained economic growth, that contribute to desirable national goals, in a sector where jobs creation will result lasting employment opportunities, and which will leverage a significant multiplier of other economic activity, Congress should fund The National Map in the economic stimulus package. In order to assure that funds are expended wisely and in support of these objectives, it is recommended provisions be included requiring (1) projects be carried out through contracting with the private sector for commercially available services, (2) all contracting be through the use of USGS contracts awarded on a competitive basis pursuant to 40 USC 1101, or if contracted by the states, through an equivalent qualifications based selection process, and (3) all work be performed in the United States by citizens or persons legally entitled to work in the United States.

Suggested bill language

For an additional amount for The National Map and to implement the National Spatial Data Infrastructure pursuant to Executive Order 12906, as authorized under 20 Stat. 394; 43 U.S.C. 31 and 25 Stat. 505, 526, $________________ to the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, to remain available until expended: Provided, That (1) No commercially available geospatial activity shall be performed directly by any department, agency, instrumentality of any State or local government or of the Government of the United States; (2) each contract shall be awarded in the manner prescribed in 40 USC 1101 or an equivalent qualifications based selection process prescribed by an applicable State statute; and (3) all work be performed in the United States by citizens or persons legally entitled to work in the United States.

Suggested report language

Prior to the economic slowdown, the Department of Labor identified the geospatial community as one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. workforce. Numerous studies, particularly those by the National Academy of Sciences, have identified critical needs for investment in geospatial data, most of which have not been adequately funded. In recognition of the nation's need for geospatial data and the potential to stimulate the creation of quality, lasting jobs in the private sector, $__________ is provided for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior, for an additional amount for The National Map and other activities to implement the National Spatial Data Infrastructure pursuant to Executive Order 12906. The USGS shall work with other agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Farm Service Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Corps of Engineers, with geospatial data collection activities flood mapping, agricultural orthophoto imagery mapping, parcels and federal land inventorying, and integrated ocean and coastal mapping (including the coastal remote sensing and the Digital Coast, coastal shoreline mapping, reducing the backlog of coastal surveys and nautical charting), water resources and BRAC to support the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Published Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Written by John Palatiello

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