Costs of geospatial data still eludes OMB, agencies

The Office of Management and Budget still does not know how much agencies are spending on geospatial information more than a year after lawmakers first requested the information.

But Karen Evans, OMB administrator for e-government and IT, today told legislators that her office should have the information for the fiscal 2006 budget submission. Evans said agencies must report all planned geospatial data purchases of more than $500,000 to the Geospatial One-Stop e-government project as a part of the administration's fiscal 2005 budget guidance.

Evans, testifying before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census, said agencies also must post metadata for all planned geospatial data purchases on the Quicksilver initiative's portal.

'Integrating geospatial requirements into the budget process is another key step in promoting effective use of geospatial resources,' Evans said. 'Most agencies are not reporting their geospatial data separately. We need that to occur to figure out how much we are spending.'

At last year's hearing, OMB officials estimated agencies spent nearly $4 billion a year on geospatial data and half was duplicative. While Evans would not reaffirm that number, she said the new budgetary requirements should clarify how much agencies are spending and what is duplicative.

Linda Koontz, the Government Accounting Office's director of information management issues, said poor OMB oversight and the failure of agencies to comply with administration guidance are the main reasons no one knows how much is being spent on geospatial information.

GAO recommended that OMB:

  • Update the national strategy to coordinate federal geospatial assets

  • Encourage agencies to comply with guidance by delaying or denying funding requests

  • Require agencies to specifically identify geospatial data in all business cases and submit annual reports to the Federal Geographic Data Committee on their geospatial investments, including systems and data sets

Subcommittee chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) said the administration may need to consider establishing a central geospatial information office in OMB.

Evans said she was not in favor of such an office, but is considering asking agencies to name a point of contact in the CIO office to coordinate all geospatial information.

'We need to get to the issue of accountability and managing information strategically,' Evans said. 'This very well could be similar to what we did under the Federal Information Security Management Act.'
(See the GAO site for full report and testimony.)

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