Millions are wasted in duplicate geospatial data, finds GAO


Despite federal efforts and administration goals, the lack of coordination between departments has led to duplicated geospatial data and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, says the Government Accountability Office.

In a Nov. 26 report (.pdf), GAO says that the Commerce, Interior and Transportation departments have not implemented a strategy for advancing geospatial sharing activities within their respective departments or adopted any procedures for accessing a new clearinghouse of activity data that could reduce duplication.

GAO says the Federal Geographic Data Committee was established under the Office of Management and Budget to promote coordination among the three agencies and that it has developed standards and practices, including establishing that clearinghouse of metadata.

However, notes GAO, the FGDC "has not yet planned or implemented an approach to manage geospatial data" in terms of investments to agencies could plan collectively and minimize duplication in investments. GAO also says the committee's strategic plan is missing key elements, such as performance measures for many of its objectives.

Among these three departments, the only goal set forth by the FGDC that they all achieved is making data available on the clearinghouse. Only Interior has designated a senior official to oversee the sharing of information and only Commerce has partially established a general metadata policy.

OMB, says the report, does not have a complete and reliable set of information to use to identify what investments truly are duplicated by the agencies.

One area of overlap that the report calls out is a nationwide map of road data where the DoT says multiple initiatives are independently acquiring the information, "resulting in millions of wasted taxpayer dollars."

These include the Census Bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system; the U.S. Geological Survey's National Map website; and the Department of Defense's Homeland Security Infrastructure Program for emergency management.

GAO says to remedy the situation the FGCD must develop a national strategy to coordinate the geospatial information, OMB must develop a proper mechanism to identify and report investments, and agencies must follow the federal guidelines to manage such investments.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-94 (.pdf)

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