Beyond State and Local Government
Although this report focuses on the use of remote sensing data and information in state and local government, the applications discussed at the workshop and the workshop planning meeting demonstrated that nonfederal governments are engaged in valuable collaborations with the federal government and the private sector. The interests and responsibilities of the federal government, the private sector, and the nonfederal public sector are clearly different, yet the case studies of state and local government use of remote sensing data presented at the workshop showed that all three sectors can benefit when they cooperate. Such cooperation makes it possible for state and local governments to introduce remote sensing data and information applications, which can in turn improve the quality of the data and information available for management and decision making at all levels of government. In previous chapters, the steering committee discusses collaboration within state and local governments; here it examines interactions of the nonfederal public sector with the federal government and the private sector.
The federal government is the most significant source of civil satellite remote sensing data used by state and local governments.1 At present, there are
William E. Stoney, “Summary of Land Imaging Satellites (with Better than 30 Meters Resolution) Planned to Be Operational by 2006,” Mitretek Systems. Available online at <http://www.asprs.org/asprs/news>, accessed on November 22, 2002. This source lists U.S. and foreign land remote sensing satellites, both government and commercial. Information on U.S. meteorological satellites can be found at <http://www.noaa.gov/satellites.html>, accessed on November 22, 2002.
many remote sensing satellites in orbit (both land and meteorological) operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and NOAA. Meteorological satellites have long provided essential information on weather and climate to state and local governments, helping them anticipate extreme weather events, but the emphasis in this workshop was on land remote sensing. In this field, the Landsat series, which has provided a continuous flow of moderate-resolution land observation data for 30 years, is perhaps the satellite data source most commonly used in the nonfederal public sector. Data acquired from satellite sensors such as the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) are also increasingly used by state and local government. Some jurisdictions in the United States have also purchased images from France and India for use in remote sensing applications. Since the successful launch of two high-resolution land observation satellites, IKONOS and QuickBird, by private firms, state and local governments have also had the option of obtaining high-resolution data from the private sector in the United States. In some cases, instead of purchasing multiple commercial data and images for analysis over time or space, there have been attempts to use high-resolution commercial imagery to calibrate lower-resolution Landsat data for use in urban areas.2
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AS A PARTNER
Its Role as a Data Provider
Because many regional and statewide applications of remote sensing for understanding land-based phenomena depend on Landsat data, workshop participants reported that the status of the projected Landsat Continuity Mission (the eighth Landsat satellite) and a guarantee of continuing public access to Landsat data are of great importance to officials in state and local government. The steering committee was told that continuity in the Landsat data stream is invaluable for monitoring and measuring change in public sector remote sensing applications. The cost of data is always a concern to local government, and the cost of Landsat data, although far lower than that of commercial data, is often too high for many jurisdictions, according to workshop participants, who said that an effective way to increase the use of satellite remote sensing data in state and local government would be to make Landsat data available at greatly reduced prices.
In addition to providing state and local governments with satellite remote sensing data, federal agencies also support the preservation and management of
Christopher Small, “Multiresolution Analysis of Urban Reflectance,” IEEE/ISPRS Conference on Remote Sensing of Urban Areas, Rome, Italy, paper 23, 2001. Available online at <www.LDEO.columbia.edu/~small/Urban/Urbref.html>.
TABLE 4.1 Major Federal Remote Sensing Data Centers and Archives
USGS National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive
Disseminates data from a 40-year archive of satellite remote sensing data of the land surface, including Landsat 7.
NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)
Archives and provides active access to data from NASA Earth science missions and applications activities.
NOAA data centers (e.g., the National Climate Data Center, National Geophysical Data Center, National Oceanographic Data Center)
Archives long-term data, ensures quality and reliability of data, provides databases and data products for users, disseminates data.
NOAA National Coastal Data Development Center
Catalogs and makes publicly available coastal data from NOAA and non-NOAA sources, such as the data sets created by states (e.g., Texas, Maine, Mississippi).
extant and heritage remote sensing data through data archives and dissemination centers. These could be a valuable resource for state and local governments. The data centers most widely used by state and local governments are the National Satellite Land Remote Sensing Data Archive, operated by the USGS at EROS Data Center in South Dakota; NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS); and NOAA’s data centers, particularly the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) (see Table 4.1). NOAA is upgrading its data management infrastructure to accommodate a higher volume and rate of data production from the Terra, Aqua, and National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) satellite systems. (To provide data for coastal applications, NOAA recently established the National Coastal Data Development Center, a centralized service to locate, access, and manage both NOAA and non-NOAA coastal data and to conduct hazard planning, fisheries management, and coral reef management.) Many of the federal government data centers make remote sensing data available at no charge or at the cost of filling the user’s request, a policy that is attractive to local government officials, particularly when the data are to be used to meet federal government data requests. Unfortunately, because many of the data products available through these national data centers were originally intended for scientific and educational use, they often need additional processing before they can be used by state and local governments for management and decision making.
Federal Support for Remote Sensing Research and Development
The federal government makes a significant indirect contribution to state and local governments through its support for research and development. By strengthening the remote sensing teaching and research infrastructure in state universities through research grants and contracts, the federal government contributes to the improvement not only of the national science and technology base but also of the regional technical resources available to state and local governments. Many workshop participants said they work closely with their local universities, which are a source of consulting expertise and a locus for the training and education of new professionals in the field. For example, the workshop speaker from Missouri reported that the state issues remote sensing contracts to the University of Missouri at Columbia, Rolla, and Kansas City. In discussing the organization of remote sensing activities in Boulder County, the steering committee learned that the county has data sharing agreements with the University of Colorado Planning Department. Similarly, the state of Washington has established a test bed at the University of Washington that is being used to assess the effectiveness of P-band for penetrating vegetation.
Such federal agencies as NASA and NOAA have established partnerships with universities and other institutions in the study of remote sensing data applications. NASA’s Regional Earth Science Applications Centers (RESACs) develop applications using remote sensing data to address regional problems. For example, the Mid-Atlantic RESAC at the University of Maryland works on regional land cover mapping, ecosystem modeling, and urban growth and planning. The Upper Midwest RESAC, a partnership of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Minnesota, Michigan State University, and others, works on remote sensing applications related to the use of agriculture, forestry, land use, and water data. NOAA’s Coastal Services Center, in Charleston, S.C., works directly with state and local coastal resource managers and representatives from federal and nonprofit organizations to provide information, technology, and services that aid in managing coastal resources.
Although federal research support is based on scientific priorities, it also is concerned with linking basic research to applications. Emphasizing the link between basic research and applied data priorities could make federal scientific research more directly relevant to state and local government needs. As the steering committee recommended in its first report, “Resources, separate from funding for basic research, should be made available to federal agencies . . . for support of research on remote sensing applications and remote sensing applications derived from basic research. In addition, . . . agencies should establish joint research announcements aimed at fostering the development of applications for remote sensing data through basic research.”3 NASA’s Office of Earth Science supports
scientific research on remote sensing applications in a number of sectors, including community development and natural disasters and hazards, and fosters local government collaboration with university researchers.
Federal Grants to State and Local Government
The federal government plays a continuing role in fostering the use of remote sensing in state and local government. In a number of the case studies presented at the workshop, state and local officials said they had obtained federal grants that enabled them to acquire remote sensing data for applications. Baltimore, for example, used a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to obtain IKONOS imagery to develop the “greenprint” of Baltimore. FEMA helped local government groups in the Red River Valley and the state of North Carolina obtain data for emergency management, and the Environmental Protection Agency helped Missouri obtain remote sensing data.
The Division of Applications in NASA’s Office of Earth Science held four regional workshops in 2000-2001 to facilitate communication and collaboration on remote sensing among state, local, regional, and tribal users and commercial data providers and to provide guidance on data and technical support for remote sensing applications. These workshops also provided input for a Broad Agency [Research] Announcement (BAA) for funding projects that use NASA Earth science data and commercial remote sensing data in decision and policy making and other operational services.
NASA has also awarded grants to or arranged memoranda of understanding with professional societies that work with state and local government managers, such as the Western Governors Association, the Aerospace States Association, the National States Geographic Information Council, the Geologists Association, and the International City Managers Association, to expand the use of remote sensing data by the nonfederal public sector. NOAA representatives at the workshop planning meeting reported that the agency’s NESDIS Ocean Remote Sensing Program initiated a competitive grants program in FY2000 that encourages state and regional organizations to seek support to improve the application of remote sensing data.
Federally sponsored workshops and reports are another vehicle for introducing remote sensing to state and local users. The regional workshops organized by NASA helped the agency understand who was using remote sensing data in state and local governments and for what purposes. NASA also supported preparation of a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, An Introduction to Geographic Information Technologies and Their Applications.4 Other studies
have also addressed how state and local governments can use geospatial data and technologies.5
Other federal agencies provide support to state and local governments through the provision of data, research and development funds, the establishment of applications and technology transfer programs, and other services. NOAA officials at the workshop planning meeting described the agency’s CoastWatch program, which links several states via regional offices into a national network for delivering environmental satellite data to end users. Similarly, the NOAA Coastal Services Center conducts studies on the use of and requirements for geospatial data for coastal resource managers, provides training for using the data, and offers a number of data products and services to its users.
Yet, despite the range of federal programs that offer state and local governments remote sensing data, services, or technical resources, many communities do not have the benefit of federal assistance in developing remote sensing data and encounter difficulties in working with the federal government.6 There is a need for a continuing focus on technology transfer. Remote sensing technologies are changing rapidly, and their applications and user communities are expanding. Although there is an ongoing tradition of research on the efficacy of technology transfer practices and policies, this research has often focused on international development issues and is not always relevant to intergovernmental technology transfer or to such issues as the application of remote sensing and geospatial technologies in the nonfederal public sector. Moreover, research on technology transfer is rarely supported by the agencies that foster geospatial research or require data from state and local governments. Research on issues related to public sector user requirements and the implementation of remote sensing and related geospatial technologies in state and local government could foster the adoption of remote sensing.
Participants in the workshop emphasized that technology transfer to state and local governments would be facilitated by the development of common standards for digital data and that federal agencies could play a role in supporting community-wide efforts to develop such standards. (Concerns about the need to transition from mapping standards derived from aerial photography to digital standards were addressed in Chapter 3).
The Federal Government as a Consumer of Data
Because of its constitutional and legislative responsibilities for broad national and regional policy, the federal government imposes many types of data requirements on state and local government to help it meet these responsibilities. The 1990s saw an increasing number of data mandates issued by the federal government. Federal agencies required data from state and local governments for a wide array of projects, including mapping wetlands and floodplains and conducting inventories of vacant lands and natural resources. These data requirements can often be met most effectively through the use of remote sensing and other geospatial data and information technologies. However since federal data mandates are not often accompanied by appropriate funding, local governments tend to view them as an added staffing and budgetary burden.
Workshop participants gave examples of how federal data mandates can drive local governments to develop new data and information capabilities such as the mapping of urban forests in Baltimore. These new capabilities can in principle contribute to the overall development and advancement of technical skills in the public sector. According to workshop participants, however, competing demands on local government are so great and the budget limitations so severe that the next step, using newly acquired remote sensing technical skills for other public sector management and decision making purposes, is often not taken. Instead, the local government response to federal data mandates may be isolated in a single local agency, and neither the technical capabilities required to meet the federal requirements nor the data obtained for this purpose are transferred to other agencies of the local government.
Participants in the workshop said that federal data requirements are often passed down to lower levels of government without much consultation or even understanding of state and local capabilities. As a result, local government officials are forced to respond to requirements that are set without their input. Although they recognize that these requirements are the result of legitimate federal policy priorities and needs, local officials said that small alterations in federal information needs could, in many instances, make it easier for them to meet these needs with less budgetary stress. Local officials also told the steering committee at the workshop that it would be helpful if federal government agencies would provide technical training to meet data mandates. Economies of scale in training might permit federal agencies to do this at less cost than if each local government unit on its own were to devise or identify the training necessary to meet federal requirements.
The Federal Role in Emergency Response and Recovery
The experience of New York City in responding to the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, illustrates another important function of the
federal government—the provision of geospatial information for emergency response and recovery efforts. Remote sensing data are an increasingly important tool for managing both natural and manmade disasters and emergencies. They have been used extensively in hurricanes and floods, but they can be used in other types of emergencies as well. Emergency management is an ongoing process that encompasses response, recovery, mitigation, and readiness. Predisaster imagery, if available, can be used to assess damage following a disaster. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA use several types of satellite data in emergency situations. They have found that the data are generally most useful at or below 10-meter resolution, although radar can be used to distinguish flooded from nonflooded land over areas that are broad and often difficult to reach. AVHRR and Landsat data, coupled with appropriate analytical techniques, can estimate the amount of moisture in snow and predict the amount of water that will be released when it melts.
In the World Trade Center tragedy, the effective use of geospatial data in the initial response and recovery effort was due to collaboration across the public, private, and university sectors. The availability of a city base map, prepared by a local city university in advance of the terrorist attack, was critical in providing New York City officials with the GIS framework in which to use remote sensing data obtained throughout the recovery effort. In assessing what made this data effort so successful, city officials report that it was the combination of existing geospatial data resources and new remote sensing resources that the federal government and others were able to provide after the event. It has been suggested that only the federal government can provide continuing service in high technology data and information resources for emergency response. Local governments will always be responsible for their own data for routine management, but emergency access to new forms of expensive high-technology data such as remote sensing data must be provided by the federal government or the private sector.7
Working More Effectively with the Federal Government
Despite the many types of interaction between federal agencies and state and local governments in obtaining and using remote sensing data and information, workshop participants said they frequently encountered roadblocks in working with federal agencies. At times these were caused by regulatory requirements; for example, federal agencies cannot become involved in disaster recovery or emergency management unless an area is formally declared a disaster by the President. At other times the problem is a lack of information and insufficient contact between the federal and the nonfederal public sector. Federal agencies
maintain remote sensing resources that could be of considerable benefit to state or local government agencies for both management and emergency purposes, but information about these resources can be difficult for state and local officials with little federal or remote sensing experience to obtain. From the workshop discussions, it appeared that state and local government officials lacked information on how to take advantage of federal resources. There is also a lack of communication. As mentioned earlier, state and local government officials said that they were rarely consulted about federal data requirements, so the requirements were more difficult to comply with than might have been the case had there been a consultative process when determining requirements. It appeared from the workshop discussions among both federal and state and local officials that greater communication and interaction could be helpful to both groups.
WORKING WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR
Commercial firms, whether providers of satellite or airborne data or of value-added services, work closely with the public sector, providing data, information, or services for use in management and decision making. Yet workshop participants emphasized that the interactions between private sector firms and their public sector customers could be cumbersome and difficult. This is a situation in which the experience of small, locally oriented firms and large satellite data providers diverges. For example, as discussed in Chapter 3, small remote sensing firms have worked with local governments for years, but newly established national and international satellite data providers encounter problems when forced to negotiate small contracts with a multiplicity of local government units. Despite the potential size of the overall public sector market for data, the need to obtain many small contracts can be uneconomical for firms that must provide a return on investment.
The problems faced by private sector satellite image providers are related in part to the difficulties they experience in learning about opportunities to bid for work at the local government level. State and local government remote sensing is geographically and institutionally decentralized. There is no central information source that satellite firms can consult to find out which state and local governments are planning to use remote sensing data or are issuing RFPs. Decisions to work with local firms or universities are generally based on ease of access and the fact that it is good politics for the public sector to spend public monies locally. In addition, the local firm is likely to have better geographic and institutional knowledge of the region, which may be an asset in competing for a contract.
From the perspective of the public sector customer, the licensing requirements of satellite remote sensing firms can make it difficult for a public entity to use the data. Under some licensing requirements, data cannot be shared across agencies. In others, a government entity may be prohibited from using the data for multiple purposes (see, for example, Box 4.1).
Space Imaging, Inc.
Licenses to use Space Imaging, Inc., remote sensing imagery can be obtained by
Space Imaging, Inc., allows a licensee to
Space Imaging, Inc., offers 20 different license types allowing different combinations of sharing between federal civil agencies, DOD/Title 50 organizations, state and local governments, and international partners.
Licenses to use DigitalGlobe, Inc., remote sensing imagery can be obtained by
DigitalGlobe, Inc., allows a licensee to
Another problem is related to public sector compliance with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, which appears to be prohibited under commercial licensing restrictions. This puts state and local governments in an awkward and (possibly) legally vulnerable position. One response to these issues that was discussed at the workshop was for the public entity to provide the public or even other agencies with degraded data—that is, not to release the original licensed data but to supply a new data product that has been created from the licensed data.
A second approach is to seek a change in the formal licensing policy of the satellite image firms. At several points in the workshop discussions, it was suggested that the private sector is willing and able to make new licensing deals with potential public sector customers and that they have in fact already done so. Knowledge that this is possible could be extremely valuable for public sector geographic information and procurement managers. But it was clear at the workshop that knowledge of this possibility was not widespread, and the prevailing assumption that licensing provisions were immutable was a potential disincentive for some public entities to purchase commercial remote sensing data.
From the perspective of private data providers, the budgetary processes of state and local governments constitute a disincentive to doing business with those governments. Not only are public sector procurement processes arduous and time-consuming relative to the likely value of the contract but they are also dependent on public sector budget processes that are uncertain and subject to unexpected changes for political or economic reasons. One representative of a commercial remote sensing firm said his firm had learned that public sector budgets can suddenly be altered and that funding that appeared to be available can disappear.
Another problem is that the requirements for public sector remote sensing are often set in terms of photogrammetric mapping standards rather than digital standards. This reflects the fact that many public sector officials have long experience with photogrammetric images and do not know enough about digital data to state their data needs in terms of digital formats. It also reflects the fact that there are no widely accepted standards or sets of expectations for digital products. The algorithms are not standardized, and there are no standards for the acquisition of digital data (see “Transitioning to Digital Data,” in Chapter 3).
The difficulties encountered by private firms seeking to work with state and local governments cannot be attributed solely to the lack of public sector experience or the complexity of working with public entities. Workshop participants raised the issue of whether the private sector had done enough to create a commercial market for high-resolution satellite remote sensing data in state and local governments. Some participants cited the role that GIS software manufacturers
had long played in training individuals to use GIS and encouraging the growth of a market for GIS in state and local government as an example of how the private sector can contribute to the growth of an active user community. Even the representatives of private sector firms at the workshop recognized that they needed to do more to stimulate demand from the public sector applications community for remote sensing.