Geospatial Data Act Passes With Industry Support

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When the Geospatial Data Act was first reintroduced to Congress in May of 2017, it received enormous pushback from the geospatial industry.  Many working in GIS and other related fields were vocal about the perceived detriment to the GIS industry if the Act passed as it was originally worded (see: Be Aware of the Proposed Geospatial Data Act (GDA) of 2017).  On GIS Day (November 15, 2017), an updated version of the Geospatial Data Act of 2017 was released to both the House (H.R.4395) and Senate (S.2128).  The revised Act addressed many of the concerns which Anthony Calamito, Chief Geospatial Officer of Boundless, outlined in his article, “Is the Newly Revised Geospatial Data Act Worth Supporting?”  The Act was passed by both chambers on October 3 and on October 5, 2018, the Geospatial Data Act of 2018 (GDA) was signed into law by the President as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act (H.R. 302) Subtitle F of Title VII.


Reaction from the GIS Industry

The reaction to the Act’s passage by various leading GIS companies and organizations has been positive.  Here are some of the statements produced in response to the passage.

After considering input from a variety of stakeholders, including the AAG, House and Senate committees finally settled on a streamlined bill stripped of the damaging provisions that would have limited federal procurement of geospatial data and services to a small segment of the geospatial community. AAG is proud to have taken the lead on helping to forge a balanced approach for the GDA, resulting in a bill which is inclusive of the broader geography and geospatial communities. We commend the bipartisan efforts of the bill’s cosponsors, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Congressmen Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), and look forward to following progress of its implementation.

This legislation will save U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars as it allows government agencies to better coordinate with one another, to prevent duplication, and to procure geospatial expertise, technology, services, and data from across the full range of the dynamic and rapidly growing U.S. geographic and geospatial community. The GDA also establishes procedures and guidance for two critical federal organizations, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC), of which AAG Executive Director Doug Richardson is a member.

AAG Announces Passage of the Geospatial Data Act

With the recent passing of the Geospatial Data Act, the government finally recognizes and acknowledges the importance of geospatial technology and data by codifying the existence of the Federal Geographic Data Committee. Their work over the years has been extremely important across all levels of government – federal, state and local. While it remains to be seen how effective the current FDGC will be in practice, I hope, as the Act stipulates, that it will leverage shared resources among federal agencies and foster cost-effectiveness. Equally as important, should become a model for data marketplaces everywhere and expose more of the vast data library within the federal government.

~ Joe Francica, Pitney Bowes

There are often many bills and acts that are pending that have a bearing on our profession:

So we are taking a wait and see attitude on the Geospatial Data Act. Specifically, we hope that the Act will deliver on the promise to support the NSDI in particular. We would be excited if progress were made on a national parcel database for example:

The Act appears to empower NGAC ( and we would want to ensure that the voice of the industry as a whole is being heard in that regard.

~  Stewart Berry, Caliper Corporation Mapping Software

Agreeing to a common vision will make it easier for federal, state, and local agencies to integrate location data into widespread practice, no matter their size. The passage of this bill presents new and exciting opportunities for the public and private sectors, universities, organizational stakeholders, and the public to strengthen the geoplatform and ensure geospatial data is made more widely available to support government programs.

“We are grateful for the efforts of the GDA’s sponsors, as well as the geospatial organizations that have taken a leading role in shaping this bill,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri founder and president. “This legislation will significantly address how location intelligence is organized and disseminated and will foster continued strength in our industry’s partnership with government users.”

Esri statement: Esri Applauds Enactment of Geospatial Data Act 

NSGIC celebrates the passage of the Geospatial Data Act to address an issue the GIS community has been working on for decades – coordinating at the national level the acquisition and access of geospatial data for the public good. A true shared national spatial data infrastructure must be built and maintained by multiple levels of government, academia, nonprofits, and the private sector. The Geospatial Data Act authorizes the collaborative governance structure to provide decision-making and development direction together.

~ Molly Schar, National States Geographic Information Council

The wide support for the GDA reflects growing recognition of the essential role of geospatial data and technology and highlights the need to support their continuing development as critical infrastructure. Collaborative relationships and partnerships are fundamental components of the GDA and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, and we look forward to continued engagement with our partner organizations as we address the requirements of the Act.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be working with FGDC agencies and with partners to develop thoughtful implementation strategies for the GDA. The GDA includes new responsibilities and processes, and will change the way that we manage geospatial programs across government. We are committed to working collaboratively to implement the GDA in an effective manner. We will continue to keep you informed as we work through the implementation process. We have set up a new page on the FGDC website,, where we will post updates and information about the implementation of the Act.

~ Timothy Petty, Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)


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