Geographic Information Systems:

Information on Federal Use and Coordination

IMTEC-91-72FS: Published: Sep 27, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on federal geographic information systems (GIS), which are digital computer systems designed to capture, store, display, analyze, and model data referenced to locations on the earth's surface, focusing on: (1) GIS use by federal agencies; and (2) the scope of federal GIS coordination.

GAO found that: (1) agencies reported using GIS for such purposes as natural resources monitoring, environmental assessment, hazardous and toxic waste tracking, tactical and strategic defense data analysis, and nuclear safety, health care and narcotics assessments; (2) in fiscal year (FY) 1990 54 agencies reported expenditures of up to $1 million, 16 agencies spent between $1 million and $5 million, and 4 agencies spent over $5 million on GIS; (3) agencies polled found common standards for exchanging data to be the most useful activity in developing GIS; (4) the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of surveying, mapping, and other spatial data; (5) the number of agencies reporting widespread GIS use is expected to increase from 18 agencies in FY 1990 to 44 in FY 1992; (6) FGDC is developing the National Geographic Data System, which will include selected spatial databases developed and used by federal agencies; (7) many agencies lack official mechanisms or programs to coordinate their GIS projects or cooperate with other federal, state, or legal agencies; and (8) most agencies have not developed written policies regarding GIS or instructions for disposing of spatial data.

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