GAO: Agencies could fight fires better with shared architecture

The interagency effort required to fight wildfires on public land complicates the use of geographic information systems, the General Accounting Office has found.

In 'Technologies Hold Promise for Wildland Fire Management, but Challenges Remain,' GAO recommended that the Agriculture and Interior department secretaries promote an interagency enterprise architecture for wildfire management.

The five federal agencies most frequently involved in wildfire management are Agriculture's Forest Service; and Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service. They are represented in the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which includes other federal, state and tribal organizations.

'Local land managers and incident teams often acquire, collect and develop geospatial information and technologies to meet their specific needs, resulting in a hodgepodge of incompatible and duplicative data and tools,' GAO said late last year.

Agency GIS specialists lack the facilities to produce geospatial maps at remote fire sites, the report said, and vendors have said that officials responsible for firefighting are often unaware of helpful products or cannot make full use of them because of cost or licensing restrictions.

The architecture team does not yet have the necessary endorsements from senior managers to proceed with an architecture, the report said. It called on Interior and Agriculture to oversee the National Wildfire Coordinating Group's efforts to:
  • Establish detailed plans for the interagency enterprise architecture for wildfire management

  • Link the architecture with the agencies' processes for investment control

  • Ensure that the architecture meets the requirements of the E-Government Act and national GIS data standards.

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