October 25, 2007, Washington, D.C.- "While much progress has been made, NOAA still duplicates, competes with, and under-utilizes the private sector capacity and capability in the geospatial field," MAPPS President Marvin E. Miller, CP, PPS, PLS, (AERO-METRIC Inc., Maple Grove, MN) told a Congressional committee October 24, 2007.
In testimony on H.R. 3352, the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act Amendments of 2007, before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife & Oceans of the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives, Miller applauded the bipartisan leadership of the Committee over several years, stating that without their effort to mandate increased use of the private sector in hydrographic surveying, shoreline mapping and other geospatial services, the "NOAA program would be beyond life support."
Since the passage of the original Hydrographic Services Improvement Act (HSIA) in 1998, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has "transitioned from a source of competition for the private geospatial community to a source of business," Miller said. "For the geospatial services that NOAA does contract, we believe the agency is highly satisfied. Private firms have been innovative in staffing, scheduling, applying technology and deployment to ensure that the government receives value for its money."
The MAPPS President told the Congressional panel that a number of independent reports conducted on NOAA’s programs, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Commerce Department Inspector General, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Public Administration, former Vice President Gore’s "Reinventing Government" study and studies conducted for NOAA itself, have all concluded that NOAA should do less surveying and mapping work in-house and increase contracting to the private sector.
Miller recommended to the committee enhancements for opportunities available to the private sector and to utilize NOAA’s strengths. These recommendations, based on the work of a MAPPS hydrographic services legislative task force included:
• Require NOAA to utilize the private sector for all commercially available geospatial activities;
• Authorize NOAA to maintain an "intellectual" core, in-house geospatial capability, rather than capital equipment, with funds directed toward data collection requirements;
• Require NOAA to embrace the marketplace by disseminating electronic and hydrographic products produced by the private sector in its chart certification program;
• Integrate the various ocean, coastal and shoreline mapping activities into a comprehensive "Digital Coast" program, managed by the Coastal Services Center;
• Establish a line item authorization for the Shoreline Mapping Program; and
• Require NOAA to develop a strategy for an enhanced acquisition workforce, with particular expertise in qualifications based selection.
Miller commended the geospatial services contract program out by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in Charleston, South Carolina. "In this program, (private sector and government) roles and responsibilities have been clearly defined," said Miller.
Miller also applauded NOAA’s application of the "Brooks Act" providing qualifications based selection for its geospatial contracts. "This time-tested and proven process assures that contractors are selected based on demonstrated competence and qualifications, not the lowest bid. This is a highly competitive process that permits NOAA to evaluate firms based on their track record, past performance, capabilities, and qualifications first, and then negotiate a price that is fair and reasonable to the government with the most qualified firm," said Miller.
Formed in 1982 and currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the association, MAPPS is the only national association exclusively comprised of private firms in the remote sensing, spatial data and geographic information systems field in the United States. Current MAPPS memberships span the entire spectrum of the geospatial community, including Active Member Firms engaged in satellite and airborne remote sensing, surveying, photogrammetry, aerial photography, hydrography, charting, aerial and satellite image processing, GPS, and GIS data collection and conversion services. MAPPS also includes Associate Member Firms, which are companies that provide hardware, software, products and services to the geospatial profession in the United States and other firms from around the world. MAPPS provides its members opportunities for networking and developing business-to-business relationships, information sharing, education, public policy advocacy, market growth, and professional development and image enhancement. For more information on MAPPS, please visit www.MAPPS.org.