National Geospatial Advisory Group holds first meeting of 2018

April 27, 2018
Julie Sweetkind-Singer
Cherry blossoms in April

The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) held their spring meeting April 3-4, 2018 at the Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.  The NGAC is a Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).  The role of the NGAC is to provide advice and recommendations related to the national geospatial program and the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.  Full minutes of the meeting, PowerPoints, and lightning talks are available on the NGAC website.

Tim Petty, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, kicked off the meeting with a leadership discussion.  Dr. Petty was involved in the founding of the NGAC and so it was with delight that the group welcomed him in his new role as the Assistant Secretary.  He noted that "good data leads to good government" and asked that the NGAC think about how the Federal government could do a better job in this task.  The group carried out a wide-ranging discussion about broader access to data through improved data dissemination, the importance of the NAIP program, and potential partnerships between different levels of government.  

Keith Masback, Vice-Chair of the NGAC, moderated a panel discussion amongst members of the FGDC Executive Committee.  Members of the panel included Carolyn Austin-Diggs from the General Services Administration (GSA), Diedre Bishop from the Census Bureau, Tony LaVoi from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Steve Lewis from the Department of Transportation (DOT), Mike Donnelly from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Ivan DeLoatch from the FGDC.  The group commented on the newly released President's Management Agenda, which noted the importance of the accessibility and usability of data.  The Agenda specifically called out the excellent work of the FGDC's successful implementation of the portfolio management process for Federal geospatial data assets and investments.  Both Mr. Lewis and Ms. Bishop voiced their support for the continued development of the National Address Database (NAD) and noted that it has been a struggle to secure funding to move the program forward. 

Ivan DeLoatch updated the committee on the Geospatial Platform noting that the FGDC is now in the process of planning for the next generation GeoPlatform.  They have been conducting workshops to assess the current state and value of the Platform and ascertain what its future capabilities should be.  The discussion that followed focused on how the GeoPlatform could be more useful to non-Federal organizations and how to deal with increasing dynamic data sources.  The FGDC will hold webinars to demonstrate the capabilities of the GeoPlatform and capture feedback from the NGAC members.  He also briefed the group on the NSDI Strategic Plan, the COGO Report card due out this summer, and the GeoPathways Initiative.

The four subcommittees gave reports as to their current progress on their goals.

  • The Landsat Advisory Group released two papers, which were adopted by the NGAC.  The first is entitled, "Recommendations for possible future U.S. global land data collection missions beyond Landsat 9."  This paper reviewed the capabilities of current commercial remote sensing industry satellites including the smallsat and cubesat technologies, the technical feasibility and application value of enhanced collection capabilities while still maintaining continuing with the historic Landsat output, and the opportunities for private-public partnerships.  The second paper is entitled, "The feasibility and utility of implementing temporal data cubes to support projection or 'forecast' models and land change trends."  This was written in response to a request from the U.S. Geological Survey to study the feasibility and utility of implementing temporal data cubes to support projection or 'forecast' models of land change trends.   The group will now turn its attention to the their third directive addressing possible fee recovery options for Landsat data.  A final report is expected to be released in the fall.
  • The Data as a Service Committee is developing a paper, including use cases, describing current and future needs for data as services.  A draft version of the paper is expected to be presented at the June meeting.
  • The Infrastructure Committee is developing a set of brief use cases demonstrating the uses of geospatial technology to support infrastructure initiatives.  Final versions of the use cases will be presented at the June meeting.  The sub-committee is developing an infographic and a white paper demonstrating the uses of geospatial technology to support infrastructure initiatives.
  • The Cultural and Historical Resources Subcommittee is preparing to conduct a number of interviews that will inform a report making recommendations on policies and procedures to protect geospatial data assets that have cultural and historical significance.  The goal is to produce a final report in the fall.

Sarah Battersby hosted a panel of experts to explore data as a service approaches, issues, concerns, and directions in the public and private sectors in providing access and delivery to geospatial data.  Members of the panel included Tony Frazier of Radiant Solutions, Tony LaVoi from NOAA, Kevin Murphy from NASA, and Chris Tucker from Yale House Ventures.  A number of themes emerged from the discussion.  The group focused on the idea of authoritative data and what this actually means in a world where there are so many different data creation entities from satellites to crowd-sourced information.  Next data as a service presupposes data exists, but how willing are users to pay for the data creation?  What are the business models underpinning this assumption?  The group discussed issues around the provenance and quality of crowd-sourced data.  Finally, they talked about how the government procurement process is slow creating bottlenecks and difficulties in accessing data.  

Throughout the meeting the NGAC voiced its support for the National Address Database and approved the following resolution:

"The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) is encouraged by the progress the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) community is making in developing the National Address Database (NAD).  The NGAC commends the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Transportation for their leadership of this important initiative.  The NGAC has expressed its support for the development of the NAD for many years, through an initial paper, "The need for a National Address Database" (2012), through a previous NGAC resolution (2013), and through development of a set of use cases (2014).  The NGAC believes that the NAD is consistent with the Data, Accountability, and Transparency component of the President's Management Agenda; that it reflects a productive partnership of Tribal, Federal, State, and local governments; and that it will be a model use of the FGDC's Geospatial Platform.  The NGAC strongly encourages FGDC agencies to devote appropriate support and resources to create a National Address Database program that will ensure the long-term institutionalization of the NAD as a National Geospatial Data Asset."

The next NGAC meeting will be held June 26-27, 2018 at the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, DC.

Thanks to John Mahoney for his help with the information contained in this report.