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There are a set of issues regarding how a national land parcel program would be managed and coordinated. There is no question that a standardized integrated national system for land parcel data would be complex and its success would depend on intergovernmental cooperation and adherence to standards. There is certainly a risk that the system would attempt to meet too many objectives. As in any information system the risk of failure would increase with the scope of the project.
As described in Chapter 4, there are numerous federal programs related to land parcel data, but coordinating across the various agencies to create a consistent database has been difficult. GAO found that more than 30 federal agencies control hundreds of thousands of real property assets worldwide, including facilities and land, worth hundreds of billions of dollars (GAO, 2003a). Even though the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been designated the steward for federal land ownership it is not the single focal point for those functions. For example, the General Services Administration (GSA) manages information about real estate, buildings, and facilities, and a variety of land agencies (USFS, National Park Service, BLM) manage information about surface and subsurface land depending on the mission of the agency. A complete list of federal properties does not exist, let alone with accurate geospatial information. This poses technical challenges to the creation of national land parcel data. The federal government’s poor management of its real property assets is one of the high-risk activities of the government, as identified by GAO (2005). In testimony before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on March 2, 2005, then-Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said, “The Department currently uses 26 different financial management systems and over 100 different property systems. Employees must enter procurement transactions multiple times in different systems so that the data are captured in real property inventories, financial systems, and acquisition systems. This fractured approach is both costly and burdensome to manage” (Norton, 2005).
Congress has repeatedly called for inventories of federal lands, but these have often been single-purpose, single-agency requirements. For example, Section 1711 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1711) requires that the Secretary of the Interior prepare and maintain a continuing inventory of public lands, including their boundaries. A similar inventory of forest and agricultural lands by the Secretary of Agriculture has also been stipulated by several acts. The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act requires all foreign owners of any U.S. land used for agricultural, forestry, or timber production to report their holdings to the Secretary of Agriculture so that USDA can provide an annual report. Other provisions of law have required the federal government to inventory land for various purposes, such as for (1) an Abandoned Mine Land Inventory, (2) a National Wetlands Inventory, (3) siting a refinery, (4) identifying facilities and properties that can be used to provide emergency housing in case of disasters, or (5) assess-