OMB: improve geospatial data collection, sharing

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Management and Budget has updated eight-year-old guidance to improve how agencies manage geospatial data.

Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra sent a memo to agency secretaries Tuesday detailing what he called a more coordinated approach to collecting and using geospatial data.

“Data-management, and particularly geospatial data-management, is one of the essential components for addressing the management of the business of government and for supporting the effective and economical use of tax dollars,” Kundra wrote. “It is, however, susceptible to constant renewal, information quality, and information management challenges. A portfolio-centric model cures the single agency, stovepipe model by applying consistent policy, improved organization, better governance, and understanding of the public to deliver outstanding results.”


OMB’s memo includes an update to Circular A-16 that details the portfolio management approach, roles and responsibilities of agencies and a geospatial data portfolio strategy.

“This supplemental guidance document further defines and clarifies selected elements of OMB Circular A-16 to facilitate the adoption and implementation of a coordinated and effective federal geospatial asset management capability that will improve support of mission-critical business requirements of the federal government and its stakeholders,” the guidance states. “Its primary focus is on geospatial data as a capital asset.”

Along with the new guidance, the General Services Administration is working with the U.S. Geological Survey among others to create a geospatial information platform in the cloud. GSA said there could be significant cost savings if they put geospatial data in the cloud to make it more accessible.

OMB states this guidance is necessary for several reasons including the need to better link interagency portfolios and to enhance reuse of geospatial data for agencies and non-government organizations.

“Historically these investments were largely uncoordinated and often lacked transparency, and sometimes resulted in data deficiencies, lack of standardization, inefficient use of resources, lack of interoperability, or inability to share data,” the guidance states. “The enterprisewide adoption and execution of these practices not only foster improved operating efficiencies in Federal and partner programs but also include reporting that supports government transparency.”

OMB recognizes these changes detailed in A-16 will take several years to fully implement. Agencies therefore are recommended to develop annual plans and report progress to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).

Agencies are to divide their geospatial data into themes based on related datasets. The guidance states the overall assets involved include geospatial data, funding, infrastructure, hardware, software, personnel, applications, services and products.

OMB states each geospatial theme must have an agency lead and a senior official responsible for the coordination, awareness and implementation of the specific theme.

Each theme should also have a dataset manager and data steward to help manage and coordinate the information.

“The FGDC will coordinate with OMB and the agency CFO/CIO community to ensure a consistent approach to providing the required level of resolution of financial information for NGDA Datasets, recognizing that some agencies may require more time in order to satisfy the reporting requirements,” the guidance states. “This process will enable the FGDC Steering Committee to make informed decisions on setting both short- and long-term priorities on NGDA themes and NGDA datasets as well as cross-agency collaboration targets for NGDA dataset development and funding.”

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