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National Geospatial Advisory Committee holds Fall 2018 meeting

September 21, 2018
Julie Sweetkind-Singer

The National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) held its fall meeting September 5-6, 2018 at the National Conservation Training Center, Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  The NGAC is a Federal Advisory Committee 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, began the meeting with a discussion of the administration's and the FGDC's priorities including releasing Federal data for use by the taxpayers creating increased data accountability and transparency.  He encouraged the NGAC to provide feedback on the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Strategic Plan that is under revision with a planned final release in January 2019.  He noted that they are looking forward to the release of the new COGO (Coalition of Geospatial Organizations) Report Card, this fall.  The last Report Card was released in February 2015.

Dr. Petty and FGDC Executive Director, Ivan DeLoatch, presented thanks and certificates to the members who will have completed their terms of service at the end of this year.  As the Chair, I join in thanking the members for their hard work and dedication as it is due to their efforts that the committee successfully carries out its duties in strengthening our nation's geospatial infrastructure.  Those completing a first term include: David Alexander, Frank Avila, Sarah Battersby, Xavier Irias, Rebecca Moore, Carl Reed, Amber Reynolds, Laxmi Ramasubramanian, and May Yuan.  Members completing their second and final term are: Talbot Brooks, Matt Gentile, Frank Harjo, Roger Mitchell, and Doug Richardson.  The FGDC is currently reviewing applications for the next round of appointments that will commence in January 2019.

The committee turned their attention to groups engaged in collaborative partnerships.  Mark Reichert from the Open Geospatial Consortium talked to the group about the OGC's Disasters Interoperability Initiative.  He discussed the history and evolution of the Web Services Testbed for rapid response to disasters including the 9/11 attacks (2001) and Deepwater Horizon (2010). The group recently sponsored a workshop to help develop the Disasters Interoperability Concept Development Study in order to advance the emerging Disaster Spatial Data Infrastructure.  Vicki Lucas provided an update on the 3DEP program and noted that 98% of Alaska has now surveyed by IfSAR with only the islands remaining.  The 3DEP program has worked with over 200 partners since FY2015 bringing in nearly $300 million in supporting acquisitions.  She also noted that the Critical Minerals Mapping Initiative is progressing with 35 minerals deemed critical under Executive Order 13817.  Tony LaVoi of NOAA provided an overview of the Digital Coast  project noting that they have over 70 terabytes of coastal data available combined with over 50 tools to analyze it on their website.  The most used tool is one evaluating local sea level rise projections using high level Digital Elevation Models.

Ivan DeLoatch updated the group on the activities of the FGDC.  The Steering Committee met in July 2018 and new members were brought up to speed on the activities of members.  At this time they awarded the 2017 Doug D. Nebert NSDI Champion of the Year Award to, "A joint BOEM and NOAA initiative providing authoritative data to meet the needs of the offshore energy and marine planning community." Steve Lewis, Department of Transportation, and Lynda Liptrap, Census Bureau, talked about progress being made on the Address Theme and the National Address Database (NAD).  People continue to download data from the NAD, which contains approximately 36 million records and is expected to grow by 20% with the ingest of 9 million records from Texas.  Tony LaVoi presented information about the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), which met in early August.

The group worked on a visioning exercise designed to elicit feedback on the future state of the NSDI.  They reviewed the first description created in 2009 by the initial NGAC cohort and the 2013 revision.  This was combined with discussion as to how collaborative partnerships with groups outside the Federal government could and should strengthen the model noting that the NSDI is an aspirational goal rather than an end state.

All four subcommittees presented updates on their work.

  • The Infrastructure Subcommittee presented four case studies explaining how infrastructure development and renewal could benefit from the use of geospatial data and technology.  All four case studies were approved for release by the NGAC.  They include: permit streamlining, underground renewal, pavement management, and a review of NYCRIS.  They are now working on a best practices policy and strategy guide.  
  • The Cultural and Historical Resources Subcommittee has completed their 12 interviews with Federal contacts in order to understand the documented policies and procedures that are in place regarding the protection of geospatial data assets that have cultural and historical significance with US Federal government departments and agencies.  Preliminary results show that there is a clear need to develop a definition of cultural and historical geospatial data.  They confirmed a lack of consistency in procedures across agencies.  They will now delve more deeply into the interview data with a draft report due to the NGAC by the December meeting.
  • The Data as a Service Subcommittee submitted their paper and it was approved with minor edits, "Geospatial Data-as-a-Service: A Vital Investment in American Enterprise and Innovation." The group is now editing four uses cases that will be submitted at the December meeting.
  • The Landsat Advisory Group continues to work on a report on the possibilities for fee recovery or cost sharing for Landsat data.  The report will focus on three areas: charging for "traditional data," charging for value-added products and services, and private-public partnership structures.  The USGS has established an email account to receive comments from the user community at  All comments will be passed along to the LAG and incorporated into the final report.  The group intends to provide an update on their report at the December meeting and will present their final report at the Spring 2019 meeting.

As usual, the committee members presented lightning talks, the most memorable delivered by Talbot Brooks.  Talbot has served two full terms on the NGAC.  During that time he has traveled the world sharing his expertise on the use of geospatial technologies in disaster mitigation.  He spoke with authority and passion as to how the efficient and effective use of geospatial technologies lessens suffering and saves lives.  The pictures accompanying this blog post are his.  His presentation is available here.  

The NGAC will hold its final meeting of the year via webinar on December 6, 2018.


Vietnamese Woman