Commerce Department

While the Obama administration and the federal government have worked to set up ways to share geospatial data between agencies, a new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that lack of coordination between departments is resulting in costly duplication and millions of wasted tax dollars.

While the GAO report said the extent of duplication in geospatial investments is unknown, it said billions of dollars are being spent across the federal government on duplicative geospatial investments.

Further, “many mission-critical applications, such as those used to respond to natural disasters-floods, hurricanes, and fires-depend on geospatial information to protect lives and property. Thus, it is important that the data acquired to support these critical functions be done in a timely and coordinated manner, with minimal duplication,” the report concluded.

The government has tried to coordinate the use of geographically-related data by setting up the Federal Geographic Data Committee, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget. One of the FGCD’s tasks was to create a metadata standard to mark geospatial information and a clearinghouse to store and disseminate it.

But the GAO found that agencies that collect and use such data are not using the clearinghouse to identify geospatial investments, coordinate activities and avoid duplication. According to the GAO, the FGCD has not planned or launched an approach that allows agencies to manage and more effectively share geospatial data to avoid costly redundancies.

Additionally, the report said the FGCD’s master plan is missing key elements, such as performance measurements for many of its defined goals.

The three departments responsible for implementing and managing geospatial information government-wide – Commerce, Transportation and Interior – have only put some of the steps needed for national geospatial data sharing into effect.

Among the three departments, the only major goal that they all achieved was to make metadata available on the clearinghouse. Only the Interior Department has designated a senior official to oversee sharing geospatial information with other departments and agencies. None of the three departments has launched a strategy to share data and only the Commerce Department has partially established a metadata policy.

OMB, meanwhile, does not have complete and reliable information to identify duplication in agency investments, the report said.

One example of the lack of coordination cited by the report is that the Census Bureau, the USGS and the Department of Homeland Security are independently acquiring road data, which is reported to have wasted millions of tax dollars.

“Unless OMB, the FGCD and federal departments and agencies decide that coordinating geospatial investments is a priority, the situation is likely to continue,” the report said.

To improve coordination and reduce duplication, the GAO report recommended that the FGCD develop a national strategy to coordinate geospatial information, federal agencies follow federal guidelines to manage geospatial investments and that the OMB develop a mechanism to identify and report on geospatial investments.

The OMB and two of the departments have agreed with the GAO’s recommendations while one department has neither agreed or disagreed with the findings, the report said.

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The new computing generation has burst on the federal scene in a big way. The latest manifestation is solicitations coming from two cabinet agencies.

But they remind me of a scene many years ago. I spoke at the retirement party of a federal executive who had briefly worked on a program called seat management. I joked that more people were attending the party than had signed up for seat management, and got a roar of laughter.

“Seat”, as people called it, meant a contractor would supply to federal agencies a PC and all of the required software and services, charging a per-user, per-month fee.

This article originally appeared on For more news and insights on innovations at work in government, please sign up for the AOL Gov newsletter. For the quickest updates, like us on Facebook.

Seat management, touted as the biggest thing since computers, went over like a lead balloon. But it turns out, the concept might have simply been ahead of its time.

Today, agencies one by one are putting their productivity applications in the cloud. Separately, they are providing mobile devices or letting employees bring their own under BYOD plans.

Marry cloud and BYOD and you have the 21st century version of seat management. The difference today is the seat can be in someone’s car or kitchen, at the beach or in an airplane.

About those two new request proposals demonstrating what is going on: Keep reading →

This headline above – from a Commerce Department apps challenge hosted on – attracted my attention. So I decided to take the challenge to develop apps using the 2010 Census Summary File 1 and the American Community Survey (five-year data). Keep reading →

The proposed realignment of federal agencies announced by the Obama administration would be more extensive than first announced last Friday, affecting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology among other agencies, according to a report today by Federal Computer Week.

Office of Management and Budget’s Jeffrey Zients, who earlier today was named OMB acting director, told reporters during a briefing Jan. 13, that there would be a second phase of the proposed reorganization. In the initial announcement, the White House proposed a realignment that called for merging six trade agencies into a new, cabinet-level agency to promote export and business development. Keep reading →

President Obama plans to ask Congress for the authority to merge six trade and commerce agencies in a move to pare redundant costs, according to a report in The Hill today.

The proposed merger is part of broader considerations to streamline government that have been under discussion by the Office of Management and Budget for a number of months, a senior administration told The Hill. Keep reading →

Since the end of the Cold War more than 20 years ago, senior civilian and military leaders, our allies and the business community have criticized the nation’s export control system as being unnecessarily cumbersome and counterproductive. Instead of benefiting American interests, they said, it has done a poor job protecting sensitive technology while blocking U.S. manufacturers from legitimately selling less vital products to buyers overseas.

Brian Nilsson, a Commerce Department employee on detail to the White House, accomplished what many had tried and failed to do in the past-he brought together stakeholders with entrenched interests to design and begin implementing a new system that will more effectively protect our national security and help American businesses compete in the global marketplace. Keep reading →

The federal government’s record for acquiring major information technology projects has rarely earned high marks.

However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office identified seven occasions were agency IT acquisition investments were deemed successful. Keep reading →