Other options include an independent information agency, but that too is probably impractical. Other organizational possibilities are government-owned corporations such as the Tennessee Valley Authority or a council. These are also difficult to establish. The most practical solution, although not our choice in the best of all worlds, would be to strengthen or augment programs in existing agencies or departments.

Although most of the civilian mapping authority has traditionally been associated with agencies within the Department of the Interior, we assert that an equally acceptable site for a spatial information authority would be within the Department of Commerce. The Department of Commerce should be considered as a possible location for the NSDI authority both because of the important contributions that the private sector will make to the infrastructure and because of the implications for economic development and international competitiveness associated with the NSDI. Within Commerce, the Bureau of the Census has major responsibilities in collecting and analyzing a wide variety of information that is spatially referenced and created the TIGER spatial data set, which was designed for the 1990 census. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been involved in the SDTS process and other standard setting activities; standards are an important part of their mandate. Also within Commerce, the NOAA has significant data collection functions housed within the National Ocean Service and large data centers within the National Environmental Satellite and Data and Information Services. The vast majority of spatial data that are collected within the United States have either economic or environmental uses, which also makes the Department of Commerce a logical home for an information-based authority. In either case, this program deserves priority consideration at the cabinet level and requires the backing of legislation specifying required funds and objectives.

2. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), which operates under the aegis of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), should continue to be the working body of the agencies to coordinate the interagency program as defined in OMB Circular A-16. However, strengthening the charter and programs of the FGDC are needed to

  • expand the development and speed the creation and implementation of standards (content, quality, performance, and exchange), procedures, and specifications for spatially referenced digital data, and

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