The Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017, which was introduced in the Senate (S. 2128) and a companion bill in the House (H.R.4395), has some history. It was originally proposed in 2015 by Orrin Hatch, a Republican Senator from Utah, and sponsored by five Republicans and five Democrats. The 2015 bill consisted of ten sections and basically codified and strengthened federal government practices relating to geospatial data. The 2015 bill enjoyed wide support in the geospatial community throughout the U.S. and was generally viewed as a positive step forward. In the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, two additional sections were added to the bill that broadly extended the definition of survey data and mandated rules (Brooks Act) for procurement of geospatial services by the federal government. Virtually the entire GIS and geospatial community reacted strongly and urged that the bill not be passed in its revised form because it would effectively exclude the entire geo community from recording the location of anything. Since then the bill appears to have been revised back to its original form. The texts of the latest Senate bill (S. 2128) and House bill (H.R.4395) no longer include Section 11 and 12 which were intended to apply the Brooks Act to a broad range of geospatial data and services.
At the GITA 2018 conference in Phoenix, Mark E. Limbruner, President of Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA), gave an update on the Geospatial Data Act of 2017. As of 11/15/2017 the Senate bill had been read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The House bill has been referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
To summarize briefly, the bill formalizes the role that the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) shall have in leading the development, implementation, and review of policies, practices, and standards relating to geospatial data. It also establishes the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) to provide advice and recommendations to the committee. The FGDC would exercise Federal oversight over federal geospatial expenditure and be responsible for ensuring a coordinated interoperable strategy for geospatial data in the Federal arena. Each Federal agency would be expected to fit its plan for geospatial data into the FGDC's strategic plan. Four years after enactment of the bill, federal funding would be withheld for the collection, production, acquisition, maintenance, or dissemination of geospatial data that does not comply with the standards established by the committee. The bill also mandates that the FGDC would operate GeoPlatform, an electronic service that would provids access to geospatial data and metadata.
Mark pointed out that if sections 11 and 12 had been retained in the bill, the law could be interpreted so say that only a registered professional (engineer or surveyor) would be legally permitted to capture or manipulate any information tied to a point on the Earth including
- Most GIS, mapping, cartography, and imagery products and data;
- Data that may represented by points, lines, and polygons;
- Data depicting the distribution of natural or cultural resources, features, or phenomena;
- Data utilized by a Federal agencies;
- Data used to create general maps or prepared for atlases, educational materials, etc.
- Geospatial data used by law enforcement
- Geospatial data used by the military;
- Data that may be developed from; GPS units, aerial photography, unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.
Mark said that GITA has opposed the bill the appended procurement language because
- The bill creates an exclusionary environment
- Has a negative impact on small firms.
- Stifles competition within the dynamic and innovative geospatial sector.
- Ignores the fact that the geospatial industry has implemented several certification programs to insure the ethical and responsible performance of geospatial services
- Makes no allowance for GISPs to be considered certified professionals.
- Creates an atmosphere where GIS services are merely considered a function of the A&E industry.
Mark said that GITA is supportive of the original Geospatial Data Act because the benefits to federal, state and regional geospatial data users and technology are immeasurable. The combined efforts will elevate the profile of the relevant federal committees and councils, as well as the entire geospatial industry. Mark emphasized that should the “procurement” language reappear in the bill during further debates, GITA will actively work to defeat the bill.
(Thanks to Glenn O'Grady of URISA for pointing me to the latest version of the Senate Bill.)