GAO weighs in on firefighting GIS

GAO weighs in on firefighting GIS

Agencies that fight wildfires on public lands suffer from many common incompatibilities among data and systems that could hamper firefighting efforts, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office.

The collaborative interagency effort required to fight fires complicates the use of geographic information systems, GAO wrote in its report, Technologies Hold Promise for Wildland Fire Management, but Challenges Remain.

The GAO recommended that Agriculture and Interior department secretaries promote the development of an enterprise architecture for wildland fire management.

In the report, GAO officials focused on the five agencies most frequently concerned with wildfire management: the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The five agencies are represented on 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,' the report said.

The GAO study called for Interior and Agriculture to direct the Wildland Fire Leadership to oversee the National Wildfire Coordinating Group's efforts in several IT-related areas, including:

  • Establish detailed plans for developing and implementing the interagency IRM strategy and enterprise architecture for wildfire management

  • Link the architecture with the investment control processes at the agencies involved

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

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