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MAPPS: Geospatial Legislation and You

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MAPPS: Geospatial Legislation and You

Robert White

WhiteStar is a long standing member of the only national association of firms in the surveying, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States - MAPPS. The group is bipartisan, and meets formally twice each calendar year to discuss legislation having an impact on mapping and mapping programs in the US.  We just held our winter meeting in Tampa.  The organization’s leadership works full time between meetings on issues guided by the MAPPS board of directors and members.   National parcel mapping, cadastral mapping, lidar, 3D Elevation data (3-DEP) and geological mapping (and its associated funding or lack thereof) are a few of the topics of interest to industry, WhiteStar and its customers.  

For example, did you know that the US has no GIS database of the real estate property it owns?  Without such information, every agency from the Post Office to Defense to the USGS and BLM in the Department of Interior have literally no idea of the precise properties each owns, whether it makes financial sense to own them, or if they’re duplicative of other facilities.  Some baby steps were taken in the last Congress towards with the passage into law of H.R. 6451 and 4465 strengthen the Federal Real Property Council to identify properties for collocation opportunities and a Public Buildings Reform Board to identify properties for disposal.  These were signed into law by President Obama in December, 2016. 

For the past several Congresses, MAPPS and its members have been working for the passage of the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly (108th-115th Congresses) designated "Managing Federal Real Property" one of the high-risk areas within the Federal government most prone to waste, fraud and abuse.  Senator Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the last incarnation of the FLAIR Act, and included it in the energy bill that passed the Senate, but unfortunately time ran out at the end of the session for House and Senate conferees to agree on an energy package.  We expect the bill will be reintroduced, and we are particularly fond of the strong GIS language in the last version and hope to see that again.

There is also no nationally coordinated parcel dataset for the USA.  It is a national disgrace that such a dataset does not exist to support infrastructure, emergencies, disasters and other applications. One wonders how FEMA can fulfill its mandate at all, and we all know what a failure the National Flood Insurance Program has been without proper maps and data.  WhiteStar has a team of people actively culling and obtaining parcel data from every available county in the United States.

In March, MAPPS members including yours truly will go to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to work with Senators and Representatives to garner support for important initiatives that the MAPPS Board of Directors has identified such as the FLAIR act and the National Parcel Dataset Initiative.  We hope that the new administration will listen more earnestly to arguments about waste reduction and efficiency improvements.  

Recently I was appointed the chairman of the MAPPS Cadastre Task Force, so I am actively seeking your input on what you think is important for the health of your business in the current session of Congress.   

"From oil and gas well location surveys to topography, boundaries to pipelines, remote sensing, LiDAR data, digital imagery, and hyperspectral data to support oil and gas exploration, development, decommissioning and monitoring projects, MAPPS has been in the forefront of utilization of geospatial technologies, sound energy and infrastructure policy, and the need for a current, accurate inventory of government-owned land and buildings."

                    John Palatiello - MAPPS Executive Director