any NSDI data layer extends to all levels of government including tribes. Therefore, the inclusion of cadastral data as an NSDI framework layer is significant evidence that the federal government recognizes the need to coordinate parcel data from all sources, not just federal property boundaries. The committee believes that stewardship of the cadastre framework data should be handled by a national land parcel coordinator. This function is distinct from that of the federal land parcel coordinator, in that it will address the development of nationally integrated land parcel data from all land managers, whether public or private. This individual and his or her team should manage a program that integrates parcel data from all levels of government. The committee believes that such a program would address the programmatic needs of the various federal agencies. It also believes that numerous federal E-Government initiatives such as the Federal Enterprise Architecture promote and actually require such a proactive approach to intergovernmental data coordination. In other words, the committee believes that all the necessary authority and precedents already exist to implement its vision for a national program for parcel data. Furthermore, the existing U.S. Geological Survey National Map and the Geospatial One-Stop programs could facilitate the discovery, visualization, and distribution of parcel data.
The question does not appear to be whether the federal government has the need, resources, or authority to implement a national parcel data program, but rather whether it has the motivation and incentives to confront difficult institutional and financial obstacles. Therefore the debate is whether these parcel-oriented designations under OMB Circular A-16 are meaningful. In many ways the Government Accountability Office (GAO) answered the question in its 2004 report Geospatial Information: Better Coordination Needed to Identify and Reduce Duplicative Investments (GAO, 2004). This report draws the following conclusions (GAO, 2004, pp. 7-8):
OMB, cross-government committees, and individual federal agencies have taken actions to coordinate geospatial investments across agencies and with state and local governments. However, these efforts have not been fully successful for several reasons:
A complete and up-to-date strategic plan is missing. The existing strategic plan for coordinating national geospatial resources and activities is out of date and lacks specific measures for identifying and reducing redundancies.
Federal agencies are not consistently complying with OMB direction to coordinate their investments.
OMB’s oversight methods have not been effective in identifying or eliminating instances of duplication. This has resulted from OMB not collecting consistent, key investment information from all agencies. Consequently, agencies continue to independently acquire and maintain potentially duplicative systems. This costly practice is likely to continue unless coordination is significantly improved.
Federal response in the aftermath of hurricane events demonstrates that federal funds are being spent for parcel data without proper coordination. Therefore, the committee agrees with the general analysis of the GAO that Circular A-16 is not being fully implemented and believes that the issues relating to parcel data are further exacerbated by the lack of clout or incentives to deal with difficult intergovernmental relationships.
In order to move forward with a national vision for parcel data it is essential to establish clear and unambiguous authority within the federal bureaucracy. The proper starting place would be to analyze the existing OMB A-16, FGDC, and NSDI related documents that appear to have designated the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be both the federal and the national land parcel coordinators. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that BLM has been performing many of the tasks associated with these roles. For example, it has fostered the development of an accepted standard for parcel data, surveyed the current status of parcel data, and identified best practices. It has also spearheaded the effort to create the National Integrated Land System and the Geographic Coordinate Data Base.