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4 Implementation of a National Map INTRODUCTION This chapter reviews the next steps proposed by the USGS in their vision of The National Map and outlines the implementation challenges, likely roles of partners, needed changes in USGS culture, and research needs. The chapter ends with a discussion of user requirements, since these will need to be met for the project to be successful. NEXT STEPS FOR THE USGS The USGS vision document (USGS, 2001) outlines a series of “next steps” in lieu of an implementation plan. These next steps are seen as dependent upon research and development. Short-term goals are stated to be attainable using existing technologies. Mid- and long-term goals are stated to be dependent upon research in applied topics within cartography, geographic information science, remote sensing, and information science. The next steps foreseen by the USGS include a formal review (which includes this report), the alignment of USGS activities with the vision, and the forging of the relationships necessary to create the partnerships to shape the vision. The core of the implementation plan is to
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complete a five-year plan for the USGS Cooperative Topographic Mapping program, including setting data architecture, operations, goals, and timelines; develop a business model for implementation; identify and make necessary changes in business practices; identify workforce implications; investigate existing holdings and data partnerships for compatibility with the concept, and define data content; expand the state liaison activities by building pilots; and identify needs for legislative initiatives as implementation progresses. The absence of a thorough implementation plan can only be seen as an impediment to progress. At the USGS “Status of The National Map” website (USGS, 2002e), a graphic indicates that (1) a consistent user interface is to be developed by October 2002; (2) by February 2003 there are to be multiple Web map services and consistent theme descriptions; (3) by August 2003 a consistent symbology will be decided; and (4) by September 2003 a digital data extraction and graphic generation capability will exist. The vision document (USGS, 2001) states that “significant accomplishments must be programmed for the fiscal year 2002–06 timeframe”; The National Map will be accomplished in phases; and “the goal for full implementation of The National Map by 2010 is part of the vision.” A more detailed vision is necessary for an effective implementation plan. Although the goals to be attained and the roles to be played in developing The National Map are discussed at length in USGS (2001), the specifics cannot be left to develop solely through pilot projects. Although pilot projects are an important first step for testing ideas and approaches, potential partners in the broader geospatial community need an understanding of the specifics of how they could be involved, the benefits to them, and the resources they will likely need to contribute if they are to buy into the concept. There are few barriers for the USGS in creating such an implementation plan, and indeed, progress may already have been made beyond the documents circulated as part of the visioning process. The discussion in this chapter includes issues relating to implementation that are developed as recommendations in Chapter 5. Foremost is the need to identify and highlight the major challenges the USGS will face in implementing the concept of The National Map.
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CHALLENGES The main challenges to implementation are organizational rather than technical. The USGS and FGDC have a history of developing standards for spatial data, and the USGS has decades of experience in digital cartographic data. By working with other federal agencies, perhaps in the existing FGDC working group structure (e.g., see comments of Patti Day, Appendix D) rather than through a separate federal advisory committee, USGS could develop both a design and an implementation plan, and should do so as rapidly as possible. Rapid development of an implementation plan is critical because it will increase the chance of leveraging existing data so that much can be accomplished in a short time. The initial version of the enhanced National Atlas would be the existing digital map holdings of the USGS, enhanced with public domain data from elsewhere in the federal government, such as TIGER, the National Shoreline database, and the BLM’s Geographic Coordinate database. The enhanced atlas can therefore be initiated by reorganizing existing holdings, and by bridging government departments, in the way envisioned in Geospatial One-Stop (see Box 1.4). The initial version of The National Map would consist of immediately accessible, best available data from tribal, state, and local public domain sources (including ongoing pilot projects). A large number of U.S. cities are being overflown to collect high-resolution air photography that will become the basis of new federal and local datasets as part of the homeland security activities under way with NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency) support. It would be counterproductive not to include the fruits of this project in The National Map. Thus the initial challenge, that of specification of content and moving beyond pilot studies, can be overcome with budget support. A far more complex challenge is to create the new role for the USGS and its partners as described in the vision document under “next steps” as “[forging] relationships with organizations interested in The National Map vision.” One aspect of this challenge is the large number and varied structure of local GIS systems (including a variety of procedures, data elements, and data dictionaries). The USGS will need to develop a wide array of partnership and implementation models that address the cultural and legal issues surrounding locally developed spatial data. Local entities may be governed by rules and statutes imposed by states or their own jurisdictions. This challenge is further complicated by a trend toward regionalization of local GIS systems through metropolitan planning agencies, interjurisdictional consortia or other voluntary associations that may have the status of local government. Ownership of spatial data may in some
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cases be difficult to determine or may require the approval of multiple entities to make local data available. It is unlikely that a single comprehensive partnering model will be effective in securing substantial local participation in The National Map. ROLES The USGS vision document considers that “partnerships are the key to the success of The National Map.” Partners include other federal agencies, tribal, state, regional, and local governments, private industry, academia, libraries, and the general public. In each case the USGS has prior experience in building working relationships. The review stage of the USGS National Map vision has been open and available for each of these groups, primarily through the Internet but also through published outlets. There are many potential nontraditional partners who generate or use spatial data and should be involved. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will play a critical role in bioterrorism prevention, and spatial elements of this challenge would be enhanced through data partnerships. The committee agrees with the USGS that partnerships are key to success. Such a philosophy is embedded in past reviews of mapping activities (see Appendix C) and in the rules under which the USGS and other federal agencies operate. Given the obvious need for a national map (see Chapter 2), the question raised by the committee was why does such a map not already exist, and what has prevented it from existing? A review of the prior recommendations in Appendix C shows that the road to the concept of The National Map has been paved with good intentions. The USGS should play the roles mandated in OMB Circular No. A-16 (see Box 2.1) with coordination through the FGDC. Central to the proposed USGS activities are the coordination of data acquisition, creation of effective incentives for local and private contributions to the NSDI through partnerships1 and other means that assure timely and accurate maps, and coordination with other federal agencies. Since the revision of Circular No. A-16 in 2002 (OMB, 2002), the USGS is required to play the coordinating role that it now proposes in the vision document. Because this goal has been only partially fulfilled, how can the USGS 1 See comments by Shoreh Elhami and Hugh Archer in Appendix D on the inclusion of all levels of government and some ideas for resources and arrangements for these partnerships.
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increase its efforts to build The National Map and enhanced National Atlas through partnerships? Processes and protocols will be needed to ensure that successive tiers of government or organizations can serve as providers of datasets within their jurisdictions. Each level of government would help the next, more local level. It will be vital to involve the local level in revision and maintenance if the seven-day update goal of the USGS is to be met. GIS and mapping technologies are swiftly becoming core functions of government, particularly at the state and local levels. Many state and local governments have made GIS a part of their information technology environments, extending its use throughout their organizations as a valuable analysis and management tool. The movement of GIS to mainstream technology status (e.g., McGarigle, 2000) requires that organizations manage this technology the same way they manage other enterprise systems. Many of these governments are becoming aware of the value of information architecture as a discipline that permits the rational and efficient development of enterprise-wide information systems. One of the greatest benefits of information architecture is the ability to plan for development of integrated information systems that allow information from disparate systems to be exchanged with relative ease. The USGS concept of The National Map depends in large measure on the ability of many organizations to exchange data. As governments move to adopt formal information technology architectures, it is essential that GIS and spatial data be identified as components of that architecture, and that information technology professionals be encouraged to develop architectures that will accommodate the requirements established for The National Map. Federal programs that seek links with tribal, state, and local governments often have used distributed organizational structures to build these links. The USGS has a regional structure but also has a large number of field offices that the USGS already acknowledges could play this role. Many federal agencies have used states as the first tier of area integrators (e.g., see comments of Gene Trobia, Appendix D). An area integrator is a tier between the source of the finest spatial resolution data and the federal government. The USGS’s regional structure is a tier above that of the state, though the current pilot projects have a stronger state orientation (see Table 2.1). The USGS vision document refers to area maintenance offices and field centers as two tiers that are envisioned for The National Map. The task will be enormous for area integrators to evaluate existing data and integrate data from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of institutions to achieve the consistent seamless base map themes, and to integrate,
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certify, and then redistribute them. The USGS will need to consider how to ensure consistency and quality through training and cross-checking of data. Area integration is doable, however, as demonstrated by the USDA, which has started area integration of spatial data by county to support its National GIS Implementation plan (USDA, 2002). The USGS should clearly identify a distributed organizational structure, using its existing regional tier, which allows effective area integration at the right level of spatial aggregation. In so doing, the bottom-up component of The National Map and enhanced National Atlas needs to be clearly recognized. Lessons from the pilot projects (see Table 2.1) show that Delaware is too small and Texas too big for effective area integration, in the committee’s view. The USGS and its partners need to identify the most effective spatial distribution of integration, and how it relates to each partner’s regions, recognizing that these will almost certainly overlap. Efficiencies and better coordination will be realized if USGS integration offices are managed in partnership with other state integration offices (such as state geographic information councils that currently perform interagency coordination functions) and other distributed federal offices and centers. CULTURE CHANGE The culture of historical paper map production is a counterforce to the type of cultural reinvention necessary for the USGS to change its role. To achieve its goals the USGS will need to phase out lithographic map printing, with the understanding that new user studies and research will investigate innovative alternative means of spatial data delivery to users. Hardcopy printing will likely need to be retained but improved. Regardless, the static quadrangle will need to be replaced by dynamic content and new print-on-demand technologies (see Chapter 3). The greatest culture change, however, will be to reorient the USGS toward the proposed partnerships with a level of aggressiveness and willingness to cooperate that the USGS acknowledges to be unprecedented (see also comments of James Plasker in Appendix D). The USGS notes on page 16 of the vision document that organizational issues “will be among the most challenging…” The “next steps” component of the vision document implies that this reorientation will require retraining; reallocation of workforce; new roles to be played, such as promotion and stewardship; new contacts with a multitude of agencies and volunteers; and a new suite of applied research projects.
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RESEARCH NEEDS Over the years, the USGS has played a role in cartographic research. Diminished funding and a revised role will require the agency to seek out further cooperative research and development agreements with the private sector and to work more closely with academic institutions and other organizations. The USGS has accomplished some research through its own Office of Research, but these capabilities will need to be rebuilt if the vision of The National Map is to be realized. The research needs are many (e.g., USGS, 2001; NRC, 2002). In the committee’s opinion the following questions will need to be addressed in addition to those identified in Appendix 2 of the USGS vision document. Feature extraction. Can computers detect, recognize, and then automatically represent in spatial databases features captured in high-resolution imagery? Can automated methods be devised to detect, measure, and update changes over time? Can methods be devised to anticipate and prioritize areas where changes are of higher frequency and magnitude? Validation, quality control, and accuracy assessment. Can automated procedures be developed that process and evaluate spatial data without human intervention? Could these systems be used to apply the “seal of approval” concept to a spatial data custodianship role? Can quality control procedures be nested or even continuous in their approach, rather than simply “accept” or “reject”? How can spatial variation of error be modeled, how is it introduced during processing, and how might it be reduced (NRC, 2002)? Watermarking and steganography. Are methods that control spatial data access sufficient to protect intellectual property and ownership? Can methods be devised and applied that allow proprietary and public data to coexist without theft or risk of security breaches? Technology. What forthcoming technologies will affect the design and content of The National Map, and how can these changes be anticipated and planned? Media. What media are suitable for storage of The National Map? What role will compression play (e.g., NRC, 2002)? How much redundancy (such as mirror sites) is necessary to ensure uninterrupted service?
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Volunteer system. If members of the general public can submit data into The National Map (or at least the NSDI), what sorts of systems are necessary to validate and include these data in The National Map and atlas when these data meet standards? What portal is suitable for the reporting of such updates? Would engaging a wide range of volunteers help to build support for a National Map? Large distributed database security and reliability. How can the components of The National Map be made secure and reliable? Barrier-free access to information. How can we continue to expand the use and application of spatial information to users who may have physical limitations and assure compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disability Act (e.g., see comments of Ernest Baldwin and Yves Belzile, Appendix D)? DETERMINING USER REQUIREMENTS A key issue for any mapping solution that offers data products is an understanding of the “engines” that require the data products as “fuel” (Ronald Birk, NASA, personal communication, 2002). There is considerable debate about who will be the potential users of The National Map and the enhanced National Atlas. Depending on how the databases are designed and how the content is specified, these resources could potentially serve most of the spatial data needs of local, tribal, state, and private sector, as well as federal users. The USGS will need to do a requirements analysis of existing and potential users to support its data quality goals. Understanding the customer is key to success (e.g., see comments of Hugh Bender, Appendix D). Data requirements vary throughout the nation and among user groups. Indeed, they vary for each user; for example, local, state, and tribal users will have different needs during emergencies than for more routine operations, and will need to know what federal data are available to supplement their existing databases. A user requirements analysis will be a challenging but necessary step for the USGS. The USGS will also need to develop a business plan with milestones and metrics for judging accountability and performance of those involved in the National Map effort. For example, themes should be monitored for reduction or elimination of duplication, perhaps using similar reporting techniques to those in Geospatial One-Stop (see Box 1.4). Redundant data production and maintenance would be considered a
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“cost.” Using road features as an example, a user requirements analysis would define the attributes and characteristics of a viable set of street centerlines and reveal the business rules to create road features that meet user expectations. In general, the business plan would be enhanced by inclusion of cost-benefit analyses or projected benefits. Such a practice is commonplace at the local level to justify funding requests (Alan Leidner, personal communication, 2002). The USGS’s National Map vision is too oriented toward the needs of the federal sector. Although broad acceptance, support, and cooperation within the federal government are essential for the success of the project, much of the concept is based on reconstituting the 1:24,000 scale topographic quadrangles. The content and scale of those maps are useful at the scale of many federal activities and applications, however the 1:24,000 scale is too small for many tribal, state, and local applications. New data at this scale offer no incentive for participation by these levels of governments. To succeed, The National Map will need to be multiresolution, with data maintenance at the appropriate levels of government. Workshop participant William Craig suggested building on the NRC evaluation of FGDC partnership programs (NRC, 2001) that outlined responsibilities for data collection and maintenance (see Table 4.1). Craig suggests that state and local government need to see some benefits to themselves for participating in this effort. The honor of recognition of their efforts will be appreciated, but their additional effort in cooperating will be substantial, including modifying existing work to fit new standards, even if the result is a better product. I see two potential benefits that would draw them in: returning PLSS corners to the vision of The National Map and cost-sharing on various projects of mutual interest, including orthophotography and high resolution digital elevation. USGS and its federal partners may feel unable to promise such matches, but state and local governments would be excited at the prospect of getting that assistance and willing to take the case to their members of Congress for support. The USGS vision is also too USGS-centric. Partnerships are needed with other federal agencies, and the FGDC subcommittees may provide a forum for understanding federal requirements in addition to those of other potential users. NOAA’s National Ocean Service (see comments from Anne Hale Miglarese, Appendix D) and the Bureau of the Census (Robert Marx, Bureau of the Census, personal communication, 2002) have endorsed the USGS vision of The National Map. Census has demonstrated that it can ingest data from local governments (e.g., see Box 2.3), and its
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approach provides a good model for what will be a critical factor in the ultimate success of The National Map and enhanced National Atlas: participation at the local level. TABLE 4.1 Possible Responsibilities for Data Layers in an Integrated National Map and Enhanced National Atlas Setting Possible Responsibilities Theme Federal State Local Digital orthoimagery (scale dependent) Primarya at coarse resolution Supplementary Primary at fine resolution Elevation Primary at coarse resolution Supplementary for roads and state projects Primary at fine resolution Bathymetry Primary for offshore Supplementary for lakes and reservoirs Supplementary for ponds Hydrography Primary Supplementary Supplementary Transportation Supplementary Primary for highways Primary for streets Government units Primary for states and international Primary for state-owned parcels and counties Primary for municipalities Boundaries of public lands Primary Supplementary Supplementary Structures Supplementary Supplementary Primary Geographic names Primary for cultural features Supplementary Primary for street names Land cover and land use Primary for land cover Supplementary for both Primary for land use
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Possible Responsibilities Theme Federal State Local Cadastral information Primary for PLSS, leases, and easements on public lands Supplementary Primary Geodetic control Primary Supplementary Supplementary SOURCE: Adapted from NRC (2001) by workshop participant William Craig, with minor additions from the study committee on geographic names and elevation. Italicized text denotes additions to the original table in NRC (2001). a“Primary”: supersedes other sources for most themes but orthoimagery and elevation can have multiple representations. SUMMARY The USGS’s vision document proposes completion of The National Map by 2010. To achieve this, USGS will need to work on product definition, specifications, and an implementation plan. Too many of the vision’s central questions have been postponed as decisions for implementation. The USGS should, as it indicates it will, begin work immediately on producing such a plan. Nevertheless, the opportunities, data, technology, and will to accomplish the building of the enhanced National Atlas already exist. More difficult will be adapting the USGS into a new role, that of data integrator, guarantor, certifier, and custodian of the integrated base map data. This USGS role is already mandated by OMB Circular No. A-16, and the committee estimates that if the 1990 version of A-16 had been fully implemented and funded by OMB, the nation would now have nationally consistent, integrated data themes at 1:24,000 (and perhaps 1:12,000). The cultural change required at USGS will be extensive and will involve moving completely away from paper products toward a new distributed model in which data are simultaneously produced, integrated, updated, and redistributed. In the past these tasks were separated by years. The USGS has done a good job of assessing its research needs, although there are additional needs. The USGS should rebuild its research capacity and seek partnerships with other federal agencies, industry, and
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with academia to fulfill these research needs. The majority of the needs are technical and applied. Nevertheless, for long-term survival The National Map and enhanced National Atlas need a research agenda that focuses on technical challenges and the new options that these databases create. Many of the data development, data maintenance, and integration tasks currently believed to be USGS responsibilities may best be done in collaboration with partners. A user requirements assessment, perhaps conducted through the FDGC structure, will increase project participation and buy-in and increase the value of the data holdings. An effective implementation plan will recognize that needs vary at the local tier, and that the focus should not be solely federal-down but also local-up.
Representative terms from entire chapter: