the public and private sectors and a reordering of traditional priorities and organizational structures.
Although the field is still emerging, it is clear that GIS technology, to which computers are central, will be pervasive by 2010. The need for a high-quality, comprehensive, current national base data to serve as the geometric framework to which specialized data sets (themes, overlays, coverage, layers—whatever terminology comes to be widely accepted) can be registered is developing at a far faster rate than anyone could have predicted even five years ago. Users who become familiar with the utility of the 1:100,000 TIGER files in the early 1990s are likely to want the more detailed 1:24,000 files of the NDCDB long before they are ready, unless the pace of development is accelerated significantly. Pressure is mounting for the immediate digital equivalent of topographic maps that were decades in the making. If such data are not available soon, untold millions and possibly even billions of dollars will be spent to create redundant data bases that will only meet users’ short-term needs.
This report has reviewed changing user requirements for products and services produced by the USGS in its NMD. To summarize, the committee finds there are four classes of geographic or spatial information users requiring NMD consideration: (1) those whose needs are and continue to be met satisfactorily by printed maps; (2) those whose needs are met by printed maps and digital data currently available; (3) those whose current needs for digital data could be met by NDCDB if it were available; and (4) those who have needs that were never met by USGS maps and will still not be met by NDCDB unless additional data are included. The committee suggests that acceleration of the pace of digital data production will satisfy users in classes two and three, but that it must also be combined with some changes in content to satisfy users in class four.
This country has a tradition of localized control in the public sector and a belief in the power of free market forces operating in the private sector to best serve the national interest. But in an era of instantaneous nationwide and worldwide transmission of information, it may no longer make sense to compartmentalize data production responsibility in quite the same ways as have prevailed in the past. Survival in an increasingly global economy, dominated by ever larger private/public sector coalitions in countries outside the United States, may be possible only if commitments are made in this country to a national policy for increased information development and sharing.
The committee believes that geographic/spatial data at scales from local to global form an essential part of the national information infrastructure. It urges the Congress and the administration to pursue aggressively programs and funding that would allow USGS/NMD to play a central role in the management and dissemination of this critical national resource. By responding to the recommendations contained in this report, the committee believes the USGS/NMD will continue a transformation already well under way.