. "3. Getting Started in Remote Sensing: Common Barriers and Bottlenecks." Using Remote Sensing in State and Local Government: Information for Management and Decision Making. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003.
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FINANCIAL AND BUDGETARY CONSTRAINTS
Financial constraints can have a major impact on state and local government operations. Workshop participants emphasized that fiscal constraints faced by jurisdictions in the nonfederal public sector are increasing. Many state and local governments are currently experiencing reduced revenues and even budgetary deficits. Because remote sensing is not often perceived as a must-have technology, the current fiscal situation in the nonfederal public sector could curtail or even eliminate any expansion of remote sensing activities in the sector.
The initial costs of developing an in-house remote sensing capacity can be considerable. There is, first, the cost of imagery itself. Though federal agencies provide data at a minimal cost and some types of data can be obtained free, the resolution of their data may not meet the needs of a public sector client that, particularly in urban and suburban areas, may require higher resolution. Such data must be purchased on the domestic or international market at commercial prices far in excess of the price of federal data.
In addition to data, however, there are other costs faced by state and local governments in developing an internal remote sensing capability, and these associated costs can add up to considerably more than the cost of the imagery. In the first report of this steering committee, Transforming Remote Sensing Data into Information and Applications, there was discussion of the many expenditures that must be assumed by a public entity intending to use remote sensing for the first time, and a recommendation that NASA should study the short- and long-term costs and benefits of developing remote sensing applications (see Appendix A). The steering committee reiterates the importance of this recommendation for informing state and local governments about the costs and benefits of using remote sensing data (Box 3.1).
These costs include, at a minimum, the initial cost and the cost of regularly updating hardware, software, and technical training for personnel. If trained personnel are not available on staff, introducing remote sensing may also include the cost of hiring new personnel with the appropriate technical and data skills or training existing GIS personnel. A viable alternative for many governments to establishing an in-house capability is to contract with a university or a private firm for remote sensing services. This approach may be expensive, however, and it does not build capacity within government for the horizontal diffusion of remote sensing applications.1
The contribution of universities in providing education and training to the remote sensing workforce and in creating new types of applications is discussed at length in the steering committee’s first report, Space Studies Board and Ocean Studies Board, National Research Council, Transform ing Remote Sensing Data into Information and Applications, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001, pp. 42-44. The executive summary of that report is reprinted here as Appendix A.