Conclusions and Recommendations
The chapter begins with the committee’s overarching conclusions. The remainder of the chapter contains a series of recommendations that could, when embraced and implemented, ensure that the USGS enters the twenty-first century with a sound national mapping strategy. The recommendations are sequenced to highlight partnerships as precursors to further steps, reflecting the report’s emphasis on partnerships for success of The National Map.
The workshop participants and the committee recognize that the National Map vision of the USGS is ambitious, challenging, and worth-while. Nevertheless, there is also a uniform sense that the project is not well defined and needs a thorough definition. Technically the project may be feasible; organizationally it will require a significant investment in restructuring and rethinking the systems that have changed little over the last two decades.
In this report the Committee on the U.S. Geological Survey Concept of The National Map discussed the similarities of The National Map and the existing National Atlas. The latter is described by USGS as being a
component of The National Map (USGS, 2001). In large part the National Atlas has been built using coordination and partnerships, using a national standard to develop nationally consistent small-scale databases from larger-scale data. Data themes are owned and maintained by different federal agencies and updates are provided to the USGS for inclusion in the National Atlas. The same should be true of The National Map, though at larger scales and with more partners.
The USGS concept of The National Map has two principal components, each dependent on the other. We have used a blanket and patchwork quilt metaphor in explaining these two components. The blanket, which we have termed the enhanced National Atlas (to extend the existing program), is a consistent national digital map coverage maintained at one or more scales. This blanket coverage that includes Framework layers would be built from public domain data and broadly disseminated following the philosophy in OMB Circular No. A-16. The second component, the patchwork quilt National Map, would be the result of contributed imagery and maps from local, state, and tribal governments, and from private and nonprofit organizations, contributed as part of a sweeping collaborative effort. This quilt would consist of patches of larger-scale data adhering to national standards but with varied resolutions and filled with smaller-scale data from the enhanced National Atlas when no other source exists. Some of the data will be public, some proprietary with publicly accessible metadata.
The USGS would serve as the integrator for all map contributions, assembling and merging data, and certifying and issuing a “seal of approval” to data included in The National Map or as an update in the nationally consistent enhanced National Atlas. As the Delaware pilot has shown, the USGS goal of seven-day updates could be attainable using the enhanced National Atlas/National Map approach. Such a dynamic National Map will need to support multiple scales, resolutions, classifications, and feature types provided by National Map partners. It will also require extraordinary coordination.
Implementation of the enhanced National Atlas could be attainable in stages. Larger-scale Framework data at the 1:12,000 or 1:24,000 scale such as geodetic control, digital orthoimagery, Public Land Survey System data, and public ownership boundaries could become part of the enhanced National Atlas in the near term. Other data types, such as hydrography and transportation, may not be completed for several years, since they require significant integration with other data types at the 1:12,000 or 1:24,000 scale.
Implementation of the patchwork quilt component, The National Map, is insufficiently specified in the USGS’s vision document to estimate a
timeframe, and a cultural change at the USGS will be required if the project is to be genuinely national in scope. Much of the existing data at the local scale has not been developed using national standards and will require revision or recollection to be integrated with other datasets. However, new larger scale projects, such as the 133 Cities project (USGS, 2002f) in support of homeland security, can be completed using national standards and would be an early addition to The National Map. The USGS can also learn from organizational and technical challenges that have been tackled during implementation of the 133 Cities project.
THE ROLES OF THE USGS IN PARTNERSHIPS
1. Conclusion: The National Map concept is currently loosely defined. An explicit implementation strategy and definition of data characteristics is absent. The USGS vision document adds to the mix of already complex programs and terminologies, and reads as a USGS-specific document rather than a concept document for a compelling new national program that reaches far beyond a single federal agency. There is little new in the vision document that has not already been written or discussed as part of NSDI and the Framework program, and beyond what is already mandated for USGS by the recently revised OMB Circular No. A-16. Furthermore, there is at least a 10-year history of recommendations directed mostly at the USGS to build partnerships and Framework data, and yet the mapping mission is still at the conceptual stage. Some of the earlier ideas, if they had been implemented before today, could have led to completion of The National Map, as outlined.
An effective implementation plan should synthesize federal business requirements for geographic data, including (1) the role the data play in accomplishing agency missions and programs, and (2) the level of resolution, accuracy, completeness, and update cycle for each theme to meet these requirements. The plan should strike a balance between meeting all needs and what the federal agencies can reasonably fund, perhaps as partners in joint budget initiatives. It is critical to the success of the USGS proposal that the plan include methods and incentives, financial when necessary, for state and local government participation in data development in support of their missions, particularly with respect to public safety and emergency services involving police, fire and rescue, and 911 personnel (including methods for controlling data access where appropriate). The experiences of other federal agencies working in partnership with other levels of government will be a valuable resource to the USGS as the implementation plan is constructed.
In light of recent natural and human-induced disasters and the heightened interest in homeland security, there is a need to move quickly to an implementation plan. The nation has a vested interest in ensuring rapid implementation of a nationally integrated spatial database to meet national needs, including national security, environmental protection, and land stewardship. The benefits include not only more efficient use of natural resources, prevention of loss of life and property, and reduction of duplication and waste but also economic benefits to the geospatial business community. Participation in and use and maintenance of this database will require financial commitments from all partners to initiate and maintain the effort. The multiplier effect of these investments could be significant and could promote continued U.S. leadership in this field.
Recommendation: The USGS should move expeditiously to develop an implementation strategy for its National Map concept in collaboration with USGS’s many partners. The strategy should be clear on the needs, roles, incentives, and projected costs for all partners, on goals, milestones, and responsibilities, and on the USGS role with respect to FGDC activities, Geospatial One-Stop, and other initiatives to build out the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The draft implementation plan should be circulated to all FGDC members and partners for comment.
2. Conclusion: The National Map as presently conceived is a large, ambitious project. Its success depends upon a number of factors that are beyond the control of the USGS. As a general approach to the project, the USGS should continue to build from a more modest, step-wise series of activities that are readily attainable, such as its pilot projects. The committee sees the development of integrated base geographic information for the nation as a cultural and institutional challenge more than a scientific or technical one. Tackling this challenge will require (1) the USGS Geography Discipline to be proactive in developing relationships at all levels of government, (2) significant engagement by USGS leadership, and (3) that the USGS critically examine its philosophy, structure, and processes. This new role is distinct from and builds upon the USGS’s existing coordination role. The coordination role remains necessary, particularly in the areas of standards development and quality assurance, but a key question the USGS must ask its partners at every government level is how can the USGS assist them, and are these partners willing to provide resources to support the resulting identified needs and demands?
Recommendation: The USGS should make a priority of building the necessary partnerships for an integrated spatial database, while continuing
to use small steps and pilot studies to gain experience in revision, integration, and updating procedures and partnerships. The pilot studies should be seen not only as technical but also as organizational and management prototypes. The USGS should place more Geography Discipline emphasis on building these partnerships to assemble Framework data through collaborative programs.
3. Conclusion: OMB Circular No. A-16 defines and assigns a leadership role to the FGDC, and assigns authority to the USGS for specific data themes. The FGDC is a focal point for coordination of federal, state, and local geospatial activities, and the National Map and enhanced National Atlas project will lead to an increasingly central role for the FGDC. OMB Circular No. A-16 assigns the chair of the FGDC Steering Committee to the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the vice-chair to the deputy director for management of the OMB, but allows delegation of this authority. The monthly FGDC Coordination Group meeting is chaired by the FGDC staff director. Because membership of the FGDC Steering Committee is at the departmental level, neither the director of the USGS nor the associate director of geography is currently involved as members of the FGDC.
Recommendation: The USGS leadership should increase its participation in FGDC processes to nurture the partnerships needed to accomplish its vision. The director of the USGS should participate in the Steering Committee meetings, and the associate director of geography should participate in the monthly Coordination Group meetings. The USGS should encourage the Coordination Group to include the executive program managers of federal mapping and geographic data-collection programs and the Steering Committee meetings to include the heads of the agencies that oversee these programs.
ENSURING PARTICIPATION IN AND WIDESPREAD USE AND MAINTENANCE OF THE NATIONAL MAP
4. Conclusion: To be in compliance with OMB Circular No. A-130 it is essential that federally produced data remain in the public domain. Copyright law states that copyright protection is not available for any work of the U.S. Government; “work” being described as that “prepared by an officer or employee of the [government] as part of that person’s official duties.” (U.S. Copyright Office, 2001). In addition to fostering broad usage of The National Map and enhanced National Atlas, data in
the public domain will stimulate the economy by offering data to the commercial sector for enhancement and value-adding opportunities. The patchwork quilt model of The National Map would contain metadata for commercially and locally produced proprietary data as well as data in the public domain. In the blanket model for the enhanced National Atlas all data would be in the public domain.
Recommendation: The USGS in coordination and partnership with map-producing agencies named in OMB Circular No. A-16 and other levels of government and the private sector should develop an enhanced National Atlas with larger-scale map coverage. This should be freely available on the Internet and in libraries in the Federal Depository Library program (FDLP). State, local, and privately produced map data that are identified through metadata files within The National Map may have access restrictions that would require protocols or a fee. The metadata for this restricted data should, however, be in the public domain and freely available.
5. Conclusion: The maps produced by the USGS over the last 125 years are a significant contribution to scientific knowledge and research. Maps produced in the future will also need to be captured and retained. In one archival approach all changes would have metadata and be archived so that a map could be re-created for any point in time. Alternatively datasets could be archived so that changes over time could be tracked. In either case migrating data will be necessary to maintain accessibility and readability as new technologies evolve.
Libraries across the country are repositories for USGS paper maps. Map libraries, among them many of the 53 regional depositories of the FDLP, have maintained complete runs of all USGS maps from the first issues. Libraries and the data centers that have become commonplace therein could assist in preserving and providing access to digital map data. There is precedent for partnerships for archival preservation of digital data among the libraries in the FDLP, and each of these partnerships has been negotiated through the U.S. Government Printing Office.
Recommendation: Partnerships with FDLP institutions should be explored for digital archiving and archival maintenance of The National Map and enhanced National Atlas through cooperation with the U.S. Government Printing Office. The archival methodology should be the most efficient that technology allows, and a plan should be devised and implemented for continuity of the archive.
6. Conclusion: Digital spatial data are becoming a major focus of broader information management roles and technologies. Failure to recognize this trend could unnecessarily isolate mapping efforts from more general information management. The National Map and enhanced National Atlas will become critical components in the management, use, and dissemination of almost all federal government data. Better links should be developed between geographic information management specific to National Map and enhanced National Atlas databases and information technology in the broader sense.
Recommendation: Federal and state chief information officer councils and associations should be invited to participate in FGDC meetings and other strategic planning meetings for building out The National Map and enhanced National Atlas. The USGS and partners should work toward integrating geographic information into information technology enterprise architecture being developed and advanced by federal and state information technology architecture committees.
DATA CHARACTERISTICS AND METHODS
7. Conclusion: The committee endorses the USGS’s plan for a nationally consistent set of base map data that includes pointers to multiple-scale map and image data, and that is sufficiently flexible to be subdivided into geographical units of direct interest to the users, such as congressional districts, counties, and watersheds. To build an effective database, partnerships are essential, with agencies responsible for such Framework themes as geodetic control, cadastre (not including private land ownership), and national coastline data. One of the functions of federal, state, local, and private partnerships in the USGS’s plan will be to drive updates of an enhanced National Atlas through The National Map. Although ambitious, a seven-day turnaround may be achievable for certain data theme updates to be included in the enhanced National Atlas. Volunteer input could be acceptable if the users receive formal training or certification (perhaps by professional associations). A model of direct user participation is the Delaware National Map prototype, where such map errors as incorrect geographic names can be reported at a website or by e-mail. A seven-day turnaround is already possible using this system. Procedures set up in Delaware and experience from that pilot project could guide the USGS in its exploration of data update options.
Recommendation: Two synergistic organizational structures are needed for the USGS’s contribution to building the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The first is an enhancement of the existing National Atlas and includes Framework data (some of which already exists and will require partnerships with NOAA and BLM in particular). The data in the atlas should be public domain, at such a consistent scale as 1:12,000 or 1:24,000, and could be served through many existing and new gateway public and private Internet sites. The second structure, called The National Map, would serve users needing integrated larger-scale data, drive updates to the enhanced National Atlas, and implement many of the ideas that the USGS has proposed: seamlessness, voluntary contribution, a mix of public domain and private data, shared metadata, and nonuniform scale.
8. Conclusion: Successful implementation of an enhanced National Atlas and The National Map requires directed research aimed at problems that will be specific to the new approach. Much research can be accomplished by federal agencies, such as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and the national laboratories (e.g., those of the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency). Others will need to be addressed through broad participation of such agencies as the National Science Foundation, and by nongovernment organizations. The USGS will need to rebuild its research capacity to conduct directed research on cartography and geographical science around the needs of The National Map and enhanced National Atlas.
Recommendation: The technical issues needing future research (in addition to those identified in USGS ) include feature extraction, validation, quality control and accuracy assessment, watermarking and steganography, impact of new technologies, storage media, and database security and reliability. The USGS should investigate how this research can be carried out, by whom, and at what cost.
9. Conclusion: The methods and technologies for digital mapping, maintenance, and data access described in the USGS vision document show how the USGS will move to exclusively digital production of its paper map series and to partnerships as the primary production approach. Paper maps and in-house map production are no longer central to the mapping mission of the USGS. A plan is needed to address these shifting priorities and the costs and benefits of new technologies for delivering the same geospatial user services currently provided in paper form. Such a plan must address the conversion of staff, leadership, and culture so that the USGS moves from a federal agency that creates and maintains
paper maps to one that (1) coordinates with other federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and with the private sector to create integrated, nationally consistent geographic data themes; (2) maintains custodianship of national spatial data; and (3) supplies geographic science and technical resources and assistance to partners at all government levels.
Recommendation: A component of the USGS’s implementation plan should address the phasing out of updates and printing of paper 1:24,000 topographic maps. The digital integrated base map themes that will replace the paper maps should be available and accessible on the Internet for downloading and printing on demand through such portals as Geospatial One-Stop using Web mapping services technology. USGS should increase the use of the private sector in this endeavor and in providing technical support to partners.