Geospatial Information:

Better Coordination Needed to Identify and Reduce Duplicative Investments

GAO-04-703: Published: Jun 23, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2004.

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From homeland security to tracking outbreaks of disease, to investigating the space shuttle disaster to responding to natural disasters, the collection, maintenance, and use of location-based (geospatial) information has become critical to many federal agencies' abilities to achieve their goals. Local governments and the private sector also rely on such data to support essential functions. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which the federal government is coordinating the sharing of geospatial assets, including through oversight measures in place at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in order to identify and reduce redundancies in geospatial data and systems.

OMB, individual federal agencies, and cross-government committees and initiatives such as the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Geospatial One-Stop project have taken actions to coordinate the government's geospatial investments across agencies and with state and local governments. However, these efforts have not been fully successful in reducing redundancies in geospatial investments for several reasons. First, a complete and up-to-date strategic plan for doing so has not been in place. Second, agencies have not consistently complied with OMB guidance that seeks to identify and reduce duplication. Finally, OMB's oversight of federal geospatial activities has not been effective because its methods--the annual budget review process, the federal enterprise architecture effort, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee's reporting process--are insufficiently developed and have not produced consistent and complete information. As a result of these shortcomings, federal agencies are still independently acquiring and maintaining potentially duplicative and costly data sets and systems. Until these problems are resolved, duplicative geospatial investments are likely to persist.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget have developed the Geospatial Line of Business (Geo LOB), which is intended to enable geospatial interoperability across federal programs. According to OMB, the LOB was developed to leverage commonalities and establish common solutions and target architecture approaches that identify systems, best practices, migration strategies. The business case for the Geo LOB outlines the milestones and outcome-related strategic goals and objectives for this program. As a result, the government has an up-to-date strategic plan for coordinating geospatial data and eliminating duplicative geospatial investments.

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes outcome-related strategic goals and objectives.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget have developed the Geospatial Line of Business (Geo LOB), which is intended to enable geospatial interoperability across federal programs. According to OMB, the LOB was developed to leverage commonalities and established common solutions and target architecture approaches that identify systems, best practices, migration strategies. The business case for the Geo LOB outlines the milestones and outcome-related strategic goals and objectives for this program. As a result, the government has an up-to-date strategic plan for coordinating geospatial data and eliminating duplicative geospatial investments.

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes outcome-related strategic goals and objectives.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget have developed the Geospatial Line of Business (Geo LOB), which is intended to enable geospatial interoperability across federal programs. According to OMB, the LOB was developed to leverage commonalities and established common solutions and target architecture approaches that identify systems, best practices, migration strategies. The business case for Geo LOB outlines the milestones for achieving the goals and objectives for this program. Additionally, the Geospatial Line of Business Common Solutions and Target Architecture provides a detailed plan for how the program's goals and objectives will be achieved. As a result, the government has an up-to-date strategic plan for coordinating geospatial data and eliminating duplicative geospatial investments.

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes a plan for how the goals and objectives are to be achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget have developed the Geospatial Line of Business (Geo LOB), which is intended to enable geospatial interoperability across federal programs. According to OMB, the LOB was developed to leverage commonalities and established common solutions and target architecture approaches that identify systems, best practices, migration strategies. The business case for the Geo LOB outlines the milestones for achieving the goals and objectives for this program. Additionally, the Geospatial Line of Business Common Solutions and Target Architecture provides a detailed plan for how the program's goals and objectives will be achieved. As a result, the government has an up-to-date strategic plan for coordinating geospatial data and eliminating duplicative geospatial investments.

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes a plan for how the goals and objectives are to be achieved.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget have developed the Geospatial Line of Business (Geo LOB), which is intended to enable geospatial interoperability across federal programs. In February 2008, they issued a new strategic plan for the Geo LOB, which outlines major milestones for implementing this initiative. An updated Geo LOB program plan for the initiative was issued in March 2008, in support of the strategic plan. This plan outlines the program's approach to managing and mitigating current and potential issues associated with the initiative. As a result, the program manager will be able to help better ensure that the plan's goals and objectives are achievable.

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes identification of key risk factors that could significantly affect the achievement of the general goals and objectives and a mitigation plan for those risk factors.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget have developed the Geospatial Line of Business (Geo LOB), which is intended to enable geospatial interoperability across federal programs. In February 2008, they issued a new strategic plan for the Geo LOB, which outlines major milestones for implementing this initiative. An updated Geo LOB program plan for the initiative was issued in March 2008, in support of the strategic plan. This plan outlined the program's approach to managing and mitigating current and potential issues associated with the initiative. As a result, the program manager will be able to help better ensure that the plan's goals and objectives are achievable.

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes identification of key risk factors that could significantly affect the achievement of the general goals and objectives and a mitigation plan for those risk factors.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Federal Geographic Data Committee engaged in a "Future Directions" initiative in 2004 to develop a national geospatial strategy and implementation plan to further advance the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The initiative resulted in a document published in June 2004 entitled "Towards a National Geospatial Strategy and Implementation Plan," that includes near-term milestones for developing a governance structure and coordinating geospatial programs to further the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The plan includes specific performance goals and measures, such as: "By 2006, fifty state coordinating councils are in place and routinely contributing to the governance of the NSDI."

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes performance goals and measures that will be used to ensure that the goals and objectives of the NSDI are being met.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Federal Geographic Data Committee engaged in a "Future Directions" initiative in 2004 to develop a national geospatial strategy and implementation plan to further advance the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The initiative resulted in a document published in June 2004 entitled "Towards a National Geospatial Strategy and Implementation Plan," that includes near-term milestones for developing a governance structure and coordinating geospatial programs to further the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The plan includes specific performance goals and measures, such as: "By 2006, fifty state coordinating councils are in place and routinely contributing to the governance of the NSDI."

    Recommendation: In order to encourage more coordination of geospatial assets, reduce needless redundancies, and decrease costs, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the FGDC, should establish milestones for the development of an updated national geospatial data strategic plan, ensuring that the plan includes performance goals and measures that will be used to ensure that the goals and objectives of the NSDI are being met.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) established the Geospatial Line of Business, which is an initiative aimed at developing a federal government-wide geospatial investment strategy to facilitate more coordinated budget planning and acquisitions of geospatial data and services. The Geospatial LoB commenced a task force in March 2006 comprised of over twenty Federal agencies, to develop a set of common solutions and a target architecture to enhance the management and effectiveness of federal geospatial programs and investments. As a result, OMB's efforts have helped to better coordinate proposals for potential geospatial investments, as well as promote coordinated use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data nationwide.

    Recommendation: To encourage better agency compliance with Circular A-16, the Director of OMB should develop criteria for assessing the extent of interagency coordination on proposals for potential geospatial investments. Based on these criteria, funding for potential geospatial investments should be delayed or denied when coordination is not adequately addressed in agencies' proposals.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB's Circular A-11, most recently revised in June 2006, provides guidance to agencies on how to prepare and submit business cases for major proposed investments. The recent revision of A-11 includes language requiring agencies to categorize their planned acquisition and use of geospatial data. Additional guidance on how data should be categorized appears in Circular A-16, which is devoted to geospatial information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should strengthen the agency's oversight actions to more effectively coordinate federal geospatial data and systems acquisitions and thereby reduce potentially redundant investments. Specifically, OMB should require that information about planned geospatial data acquisitions provided in agencies' business cases include specific categorizations of all geospatial data according to the standardized data themes defined by FGDC and described in OMB Circular A-16.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 2006, OMB issued a memorandum to the heads of federal agencies regarding establishment of senior agency officials for geospatial information. This memo addressed the need to increase the number of federal agencies reporting annually to FGDC by expanding the list of such agencies to include all 27 major federal departments and agencies. The 2005 FGDC annual report, released on August 11, 2006, also includes all of these agencies.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should strengthen the agency's oversight actions to more effectively coordinate federal geospatial data and systems acquisitions and thereby reduce potentially redundant investments. Specifically, OMB should require that all federal agencies submit annual reports to FGDC on their GIS investments, including geospatial systems and data sets already in place.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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