The National Geospatial Platform


GeoSpatial Platform Malka Pattison: Good afternoon. I'm Malka Pattison, and I'd like to invite you to the Office of Policy Analysis Monthly Seminar. Unfortunately, our speaker today, Jerry Johnston, had a family emergency, but the good news is the show will go on. Ken Shaffer, the Deputy Director of the Federal Geographic Data Committee is going to carry on. Basically, we've gotten so many questions on this, I realized that when I started my career in '76 and worked on the FGDC, we had to explain what we were, and it wasn't moving so fast, as it is now. Part of it, is how applicable it is to the questions and the interests, with no further ado, Ken. Ken Shaffer: Thank you, Malka. Good afternoon. I'm Ken Shaffer. I'm with the FGDC and I'm going to step in for Jerry today. There's a direct connection here that I'm going to explain. Jerry Johnston has the GIA for the department is the managing partner the Geospatial platform on behalf of the Federal Geographic Data Committee member agencies. That's 32 different federal agencies. Then there are a lot of partners that are also engaged in those activities. The FGDC office or the secretary, which is where I work, we provide the coordination and strategic oversight to the FGDC initiative. As well as contract and contractor management, technical development expertise for this and for a number of other FGDC initiatives. Through out the presentation day, you're going to hear me refer to the Geospatial platform, that is the initiative. It is an OMB shared service and a Geospatial line of business. And you'll hear refer to, and that is the web location for the platform itself. Topics I'm going to cover today, I'm going to give you a very brief history of the FGDC because this is a FGDC initiative funded by the FGDC member agencies. I'll touch on some challenges in the Geospatial community that the platform is intended to help address. We'll talk about the call to action that got the platform initiative. We'll touch on some planning and strategic alignment policies that relate to the platform. Then, cover the goals and the primary compound, and then we'll have a opportunity to talk about what's in it for you and answer some questions. The Geospatial platform is a technology initiative that all the member agencies are the FGDC are working together to initiate it. The FGDC operates under the guidance of the circular A16 which provides for improvements in coordination of the geospatial data across the federal government, and between the federal government and its state, local, tribal and other partners. The circular also establishes divisions for the nation spatial data infrastructure and then NSDI is defined as " the technology, policies, standards, human resources are related activities that are necessary to acquire, process, distribute, use, maintain and preserve geospatial data," it covers the whole gamut. The circular establishes the FGDC has the coordinating body for NSDI activities within federal government with a few exception related to national security and intelligence activities, but even with those communities there a number of tight ties. This is the basic structure of the FGDC. The FGDC is chaired by the Secretary of Interior, the current chair acting chair is A.N Kessel the assistant secretary for water and science and the the current Vice chair is Scott Bernard the federal chief enterprise architect of the with e government and IT and it was a very active and is a great component. The starting committee is the committee of 32 agencies that are decision making body they are supported by an Executive committee, which is a subset of the agencies with the largest geospatial investments. They also have a coordination group, which is more the program level. This is where the day to day work and efforts occur. A lot of great participation from across the federal agencies and a number of the folks involved are here in the room today. There is also a series of sub committee circus on data themes and the train data national geospatial data. Assets that are recognized as a are not only for use of to process the federal program, but also with the state partners, local tribals partners as well. The National Geospatial Advisory Committee is a committee that operates under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. This is a formal committee that is set up by DOI, sponsored by DOI, that provides advice and recommendations to the FTDC body. It has two federal members. The rest of the members are state, local, and tribal. They're representatives from the private sector from academia and from specific areas of practice within geospatial community, such as, first responders, imagery firms, and it has some participation from some very big names, such as Google. In the past, we had Microsoft, Oracle, Esri on this committee. You can see the member agencies list that are there. A few of the challenges that the geospatial professionists faced in the past...the FTDC has been very successful in historically addressing a number of these, especially pertaining to collaboration, use of standards, and advancement of the NSDI. Until recently, however, we've still been faced with a number of challenges as a community. What I'm going to touch on now are a few of these challenges that the geospatial platform, over time, will help us address. We've had great success in making data available through metadata catalogs, this is where a metadata record, which is a documented record of the content of geospatial data is made available in a standardized format. It's published to a catalog that can then be searched. It helps retain the value of the data by recording how it was collected, its fidelity, its time frame, so that a user can determine if that data actually meets the needs that they have for the use of the data. There's also a proliferation of portals in having worked with the State back in the '90s. We had our own portal that was part of the NSDI, as well. You have these individual catalogs and individual collections that need to work together, but a user has, typically, had to discover a record and then go to the source agency and the source agency site, and try to filter down to find the information. It has not been very efficient. This is one of the things the platform will help address. There's been great success in the adoption of standards for publishing, for open data, and open data services. There's fairly widespread use of these across the US Government. The reality is that there are still some agencies that have difficulty in getting past the technical, or financial hurdles to make their data available, or to make their data available on an infrastructure that has enough bandwidth to support increased use. There's also a lot of opportunity to move data and services to the cloud. This is something that has had limited adoption. At this point, there has been a successful cloud, geospatial cloud test bed for testing the implementation within a cloud environment of serving geospatial applications and data. The National Wetlands Inventory, which is represented here today, was one of the first ones. The administration has demonstrated that they recognize the value and importance of geospatial information and technology to support better decision making in the government. In order to help advance geospatial information in government, considering the challenges that the community is currently faced with, the Office of Management and Budget directed the FTDC partner agencies to develop a geospatial platform. While less than 100 words were actually used in this guidance, they were very powerful, and they had the effect of really catalyzing the FTDC community into action. Some of the highlighted bullets from that language included leveraging existing initiatives, improving a governance framework to include state, local, and tribal agencies, reusing data in tools and architecture as much as possible across the federal agencies to ultimately increase access to geospatial data. It also directed a new paradigm, which was that the federal geospatial data asset should be managed as a federal wide portfolio, as opposed to individual mission or agency portfolios. The efforts and the practices on doing that are currently being implemented. Since that initial call to action, the FGDC agencies have been working very hard to take advantage of the opportunity. Many people from across the community of our network and partners have put a lot of thought and energy into the planning and developing the initial tools for the platform. Shortly, after the budget guidance was released, we had a chance to exercise the ideas in support of a real crisis, the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico. In support of Deepwater Horizon, Noah took the lead on behalf of the FGDC members, and stood up the first version of the geospatial platform in support of that event. From that we learned an awful lot from the initial activity, and definitely came away from the event with an understanding of where we needed to go next, in terms of providing a robust infrastructure for data sharing, among agencies and with the public. This experience has helped shape the vision of the platform, and it's helped to guide our planning activities. Available on the website,, those planning documents are available, including the initial roadmap that outlines the high level path forward, the value proposition for the work and a comprehensive business plan for operating the platform over the next couple of fiscal years. Perhaps, most importantly, though, we try to do more than just plan. We have continued to release operational versions of the website frequently, since the initial call to action. Now, have a fairly mature and robust infrastructure in place. As I had mentioned, the platform is an OMB shared service and plan of business. Not going to go through these in detail. This is a list of a number of the national and federal priorities, initiatives, and policies to which the geospatial platform aligns, or helps support. As these have come out, there has been a lot of effort to make sure that the implementation not only aligns with these, but in a number of cases actually help agencies comply with these. One example to that is on the open data policy, if you register data with the geospatial platform, you are also registering it with They have one combined catalog that was developed over the last few years, and so you will see a number of interfaces into the catalog. They all rely on the same underlying technology and information. Also, want to point out that there are a number of DOI initiatives in here, and policies. We have the recent secretarial order, strategy for improving the mitigation policies and practices. There are a number of geospatial next steps in there. I like to see this, and think of this, as a reflection of, we're no longer making the case that there's value in geospatial. It's now focused on how do we get it, how do we get it to the decision makers, how do we use it? That has been a big step. Also, the DOI strategic plan, which is a 14 16, has the secretary's priorities in there. One of them is the development of the landscape level understanding. The geospatial platform is part of those priorities, as well as the DOI Geospatial Services Strategic Plan, which was an effort that Jerry headed up with representatives from across the bureaus. I want to pull out one thing from the NSDI, this is the National Spatial Data Infrastructure Strategic Plan. This was recently approved by the FTDC in December. This includes a lot of input from the nonfederal communities and focuses on what the federal government can do to help advance the NSDI. While there are a number of touchpoints in there with the platform, the one I wanted to call out because I'm not going to talk about it anywhere else, is this federal enhanced Reference Architecture to assure interoperability utilizing published open service standards to share data among the unclassified, the controlled unclassified, and the classified domains and missions. The platform is being identified as the Unclassified Delivery Tier. If you work within, or with those communities, that's a very big deal. Now that we're about halfway through our first full year of operational support for the platform initiative, we focused on building our capabilities in a number of key areas. In general, we were working towards supporting these following goals. Facilitate the understanding via expanded usages, spatial data, and tools. That is one of the underlying pieces. Let's use the data to help us make decisions with more information. Search the catalog, search, and catalog shared with, which is complete. Focus on the National Spatial Data Assets. There's a very invigorated effort out there based on the National Geospatial Data Asset Management Plan, which was approved last month by the Steering Committee, for the active management and the portfolio framework of key National Geospatial Data Assets within the federal government. This actually is an error. This is so that the data that we manage on these framework datasets will help mature them, and will help make them more broadly available. This has been an area that not only within the federal government, but outside the federal government, has been a key issue for a number of years. There's a major focus here on non experts and decision makers. To get the maps and apps into the hands of the folks that are impacting policy and not requiring them to rely on having technical staff at hand to help them see the information and utilize it, but to help us deliver it more efficiently, and in formats and in products that are instantly usable. Also, to provide shared Cloud infrastructure. I've touched on the testbed that has been occurring over the last couple years. This is one that there are actually two things that need to fall into place before this really takes off, and it looks like they should happen in the next few months. The real power of the platform is this concept of communities. This is a community that's focused on some topical area, and I'll cover some examples of those where information experts, where decision makers, where practitioners, actually, have a shared workspace, accessible through the web from their desktop, where they can register data that's pertinent to their issue. They can share that data with the others in the community, and they can utilize tools both, social tools and geospatial tools to do analysis, to combine informations, to get a common understanding between the different sources, and to create products that can be utilized for a common understanding and decision making. This is cross agency and I'll give you an example of how that can be used in a few moments. There are three typical types of communities currently on the platform. One is this A 16. It's referring to that OMB circular that are focused on the development on this key data assessed within the federal government. These were the data set managers which often are not within the same organization can collaborate on issues having to do with data that affects other agencies but apply across, things like boundaries, things like transportation. Then, also, with the ability for those team leads to collaborate in best practices, and reporting in metrics and tools that can help advance their efforts. Cross collaboration communities are topical communities that are focused on a priority. They are focused on issue such as climate change where the different experts can bring their information together, and collaborate on developing solutions, and understanding conditions, and developing scenarios. The agency storefronts that I'm going to show you an example of what an agency storefront community looks like in just a minute. Now, I'm going to go into the major components of the platform itself. This is the starting page for the platform. It's got the big board up there and the front that shows a number of the key current initiatives that are moving forward. The user approach to this as we've taken a user approach to this as far as design goes. On the left hand side, there you see explore. If somebody wants to come in and determine and discover what resources are available, data, applications, services are available for your topic whether you're someone who's interested in developing either to utilize the resources, the data and apps that are on here to develop your own solutions or whether you want to share code bids and other. There is a developer's corner here. Or, if you have information, or applications you want to publish into a community, or share with a brother user group. You'll notice in the upper right hand corner there's a sign in. The platform will support both private and public communities. If there are topics that need to have information hashed out and develop prior to being promoted to public viewing and use then that is supported. Additionally, within the private environment, there are tools such as forums and blogs that are more controlled that can also be utilized in addressing the community needs and requirements. Featured applications, trending data, data within the platform and the catalogue that are getting high level of use, as well as featured maps and applications and then in the right upper, you also have news information. As I've said a few times, there's a catalogue that underlies this which is joint with You can search this spatially. You can search it through keywords. This is an example using one of the NGDA themes transportation, and it's showing you how many results you get if you're searching geospatial data for transportation. You'll also see in the corner here, the tags that show where the sources are. This was an effort that was worked closely when the platform, folks were developing the joint catalogue to address issues that OIRA had with making just federal data available. The geospatial community has a lot of information that is not federal and that we need to make sure our part of these resources. This tagging methodology was utilized to help identify what is federal and what is nonfederal. The number of map galleries for finished maps and information products that can be utilized by the general public, or within a given community, and this again, can be promoted and changed. Here, we have examples from America's great outdoors and the energy communities. The geospatial marketplace is an effort that is tied to one of the new DOI policy. It's also a FTDC policy on making information on planned investments available so that agencies can collaborate on those investments and potentially pull resources in order to align database. The way this is done, this used the same underlying catalogue and you'll see in the terms here there's a planned tag. Agencies just put a record in there and tag it as planned. Then agencies can go in and search that and see if there are other agencies that are interested in purchasing data of the same type and the same area, same technical requirements and they can collaborate on that. This has gotten some very positive feedback from the vendor community who has set a number of times. If they have a better understanding of how the different agencies want to purchase like data then they can offer better prices to the federal government, because they don't have to continue to move their assets around. If they know there's a group of collection to be done in an area, they can do it all at the same time as long as it needs technical requirements and then move to another. This is the first time this has been done. USGS has put a number of records in here as the first starting point. Resources and dashboards, a lot of information out there in the documentation, the business plan of course, the road map information on metadata on how to register data and services, how to tag on the FTDC and on the GeoCloud Sandbox initiatives. Another piece of the platform is it is the metrics in reporting dashboard for the operations within the platform. This includes the reporting on the maturity assessments for the National Geospatial Data Assets. As they are evaluated for their maturity, those metrics will be rolled up from dataset to date theme and will feed into the priority setting process for the portfolio. Because one thing of the portfolio is knowing what you have, the other is knowing how to adopt what you have in order to align it with your mission needs. Course featured maps and apps, this point back to the source agencies who are hosting them. This provides the user of mechanism for finding this information and then plugging it in for their use within the community or for whatever their agency purposes. This is an example of one of the A 16 communities focused on development of the data theme. This particular one is governmental units and administrative and statistical boundaries. Within these communities, they will register the data. You can see on the right hand side, there are 35 datasets were found on a search for this particular NGDA theme and they are tagged as the official federal records. Then, the dataset managers and team managers across the agencies, this is a place for them to coordinate the best practices, where the communities that support these initiatives can communicate and post their information and documents, and where their standards that are utilized are recorded and where they can participate in their development. This is an example of an interdisciplinary or a topically focused community. This one has been developed with National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. This is a worldwide human geography. As you can see down in the lower right, they have registered not only some of their own data but also data from universities that are pertinent to this particular topic. An interesting piece as the communities are starting to be built, we start seeing that their taxonomies are starting to become part of the geospatial platform as we move forward. This is an example of an agency storefront. NOAA supports a lot of different data groups, only three of them listed here. They have a number of more than that. NOAA's intent on putting together the storefront and I'm just going to read what you have on the slide there because it describes it, the best of anything that I could put together. The NOAA community on the platform provides NOAA customers, partners, and staff where the centralized platform for discovering and accessing much of NOAA's distributed geospatial data services and applications. NOAA has a number of parts of their organizations. They have geodetic survey. They have the National Ocean Service. They have a National Weather Service. They all are very heavy into geospatial. This provides not only their users but also their staff with a conduit to those different resources. What's in it for you? Within the department here with the secretary's six priorities, developing the landscape level understanding is one of the sets and the key. This has been very refreshing to see, because this again is another validation that geospatial has real value in what we do here. Within the strategic plan, the USGS and office of surface mining have...are in the process of developing two metrics that will be recorded in an annual basis that will show the direct link of activities that they're doing, and show the value into the strategic plan, into the secretary's priorities. This is one way to actually show how program activities and bureau activities are supporting the key priorities not only of the department but also of the nation itself. This is one place where this can be a value to you, as well. Also, the access to the multi agency data tools not only federal, but those from the state, local, regional, tribal, nongovernmental organizations and universities. Then hosting of data and applications which is currently limited until the standup of the cloud infrastructure gets formalized. Then there will be a pick list of services that agencies can buy into, as well as a certain amount of common good where we have a data set that is valuable that doesn't...or, the host agency doesn't have the ability to put it out there. There will be some common good hosting for that information. Larger datasets, larger data holdings will be funded and sources will be funded by the host agencies. If there's interest in setting up a community to support specific collaboration or publication need, it requires a federal sponsor. Once a federal sponsor identified the geospatial platform, of course, working through Jerry as the managing partner, will utilize its centralized contract resources to set up the framework for a community and then turn those keys over to the agency who's managing it. This is a little different model than the tie in with the communities where you can't really manage your own data directly. Once the federal sponsors are identified, the tools are out there and the assistance will be out there to help stand up that infrastructure and get you going. One of the recent examples of standing up topical community is with the climate data initiative, and this was done in partnership with, the side is focussed on the information delivery the platform provides, the geospatial data and tools to help create those products, and scenarios that can help feed into the education of the community and help identify issues, relationships, and solutions. One thing I want to call out about that effort is, as part of that effort, there was the release of the first 12 public layers from the Homeland Security infrastructure protection critical data. This is one of those touch points with the ICE community and Department of Homeland Security. This is a collection of many hundreds of datasets focussed on infrastructure and a few hundred of those are actually publically accessible, but because they have been packaged with licensed data and for official use only data it has all been protected. They are now starting to release these as data services through the platform for public consumption, and their plan is to continue doing that until they have them out there. This is the interface with climate resources page. It is tied to the community on and you can search climate data, where a number of the participating agencies have registered information that they feel is pertinent to the climate issues. They have tools at the bottom here, such as the coastal change analysis program, land cover atlas, and the coastal change hazards portal that provides tools to support this climate maps, and then, there is down in the lower right, you can see a number of the, as we rest and the web maps service, data services that are available. With that, I will go into questions and if I cannot answer the question, then, I will defer it to Jerry and we can follow up with him, but I will start with this one here, which is where do we start if we want to establish a community, or have further discussions and that is you start contact and Jerry is the managing partner. With that, I open it up. Malka: OK. We will start with the question in the room. Audience Member: As I was looking at the subcommittees on, I think the second or third slide, there is not one that is specifically tied to economics and economic data. Was that intentional or was there simply no one in place to fulfil that role with USDA, commerce and census, labor and bureau of labor statistics, and then, with the evaluations work done by any number of federal agencies it seems to me that there could be a distinct tool if we were to have those values, that information is available. Ken: There certainly could be, yes. In the original appendix E of circular A 16, there were 34. They called them themes. They actually were combination of themes and datasets that were normalized and that they did include a few statistical datasets, when the FGDC went through the process of realigning the list of the data themes and updating it, the statistical datasets that were not inherently geospatial at that time were not included. There has been some discussion on the USDA side that that is a need and if there are federal agencies that can step up and champion that, that certainly can be something that is folded in. Malka: If I am a federal employee, who does not want to start a community, but just want to see what is around, is it just you go there and click sign up, or something like that? Ken: Yeah. You can go there. There is a difference in what a public user can see and what a user within a community can see and a number of the communities right now are either in development, or still in the protected environment. They have not been made public yet, but certainly, there are a huge number of data holdings and information that you can go in there and see, anybody, any public person can see. You do not have to be federal person, and in the future, there would be login where federal employees can go in and have a space where there can do some mash ups on the maps themselves, the management rules, they are still being developed. Malka: All right. You stole my first question . Audience Member: Not to dominate, but you focused on federal agencies, our state and regional local jurisdictions also to be included in this, either now or in the future. Part of the reason that I ask that is approximately two thirds of the counties in the United States have incredibly detailed GIS information on assessed parcels, which is a tremendous place to start for that economic data. Ken: Absolutely. Part of the language that actually started this in the President's budget was that part of the governing structure needs to ensure that the requirements of state, local, and tribal governments are included, as well, and the current approach is to stand up the geospatial platform oversight body, which will have representations from those government agencies. Now, in order to not fall under FACA rules, which greatly inhibits how they can participate, they have to be either an elected official, or an designee of an elected official, and that is something that Jerry has actually been working on champion that effort, but absolutely, and there is a lot of discussions on National Geospatial Advisory Committee that has representatives from state, local, tribal and private sector and the rest, yes, very big issues, addresses is one of their current focus items and I know that census has been doing a lot of work on address point database and trying to move those efforts forward as well. The reality is a lot of the data that historically has come to the geospatial community is from the nonfederal sector and that they are very rich in geospatial information, yes, absolutely key. Audience Member: This is a question that came in from the Internet viewers. Will OGC standards for web services be the default? Ken: It will be one of the sets of standards that will be utilized. They will all be exclusively OGC standards, but yes. Malka: Do you have another question from the Internet? Audience Member: Here is another question from one of the viewers over the Internet. What is the process for federal employees to add data sets to the platform? Ken: There are a few ways where that can be effected. One is if for example, like NOAA, your agency itself is planning on putting together a presence on the platform then you would certainly want to coordinate with whomever is doing that within your agency. The other is if it is information that is related to the community you become a member of that community by requesting membership from the managing agency, and then, once you become a member, then you will have the capability to register and post data. Right now, you cannot register, individuals cannot register and post data outside of those two methods. Malka: Any other questions in the room? I am going to...oh, do you have one from the Internet? All right. I am going to have my other question in. Lot of interest about indian lands. They play a key role in climate change, mitigation, and habitat. How able are you to input indian land information? Ken: There is a lot of interest in how the geospatial platform can be utilized to support tribal issues. I say that, because we have two tribal members on the National Geospatial Advisory Committee and they have a number of times spoken to us about opportunities. What we do not have right now between the platform, and for example, the land ownership actions that are being taken within the department is we do not have a direct connection there on how that coordination would work and what can be presented through that interface. The platform certainly can support collaboration and joint work between federal and tribal entities within a community. From a technology standpoint, it should not be an issue at all. It is really more of the political and the sensitivities involved with how the different entities work together, and I believe Jerry has had some discussions in that arena, but that would be a question that would best be taken up with Jerry. Audience Member: As far as National Wellness Inventory is concerned, the tribes have produced wetland data they provide it for quality control and quality assurance and use a standard and they are in. It is easy as that. Malka: But it sounds like you may have a bifurcated system if you will. One that is for tribal use only, their input and use, and potentially broader. Ken: You could do that way certainly so that the platform supports both the private community, or a public community, or any part of the private community that you want to make public. You have that flexibility, but currently, there is a tribal community on the platform, and so that would require a federal sponsor and then they would have to work with the tribal entities to determine how they would work together, what information could be made available and put out there. There certainly a lot of potential there. Audience Member: There is a question from someone viewing over the Internet about whether we can see a full list of communities that are available. In particular, some are private and some are public. Can we see lists of those? Ken: I do not think there is a full list of all the public and private communities in one place on the interface currently. That would potentially be something that Jerry could provide. Malka: Any other questions in the room? Thank you very much, Ken. You have kept us all raring to go, and thank you for showing up. Ken: You are welcome. Transcription by CastingWords

Speaker:Jerry Johnston, DOI Geospatial Information Officer

How will energy development affect endangered species habitat? How will landscape fragmentation change if one or more conservation actions were taken? These questions and many more depend on geospatial information. Practitioners now have access to a wide variety of geospatial datasets and tools for this sort of analysis. Please join Interior's Office of Policy Analysis on Monday, April 14 for the monthly speaker series, which will feature Jerry Johnston, DOI's Geospatial Information Officer. Jerry will discuss how the Geospatial Platform can enable more effective landscape-level decision making in support of many different policy and program needs, including climate change adaptation, ecosystem services and resilience, energy assessments, and hazard response.