The President's FY 09 Budget Brings Bad News to Surveying and Mapping Programs

The President's 2009 budget was recently released, and it brought more cuts to the already trim funding for surveying and mapping programs in the federal government. Almost every surveying-, mapping-, or geospatial-related program in the federal government saw cuts. Some programs saw their budgets cut completely to zero. Here is a summary of some of the important budget items.

NOAA and the National Ocean Service

The National Ocean Service (NOS) is an office under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Its programs work to promote safe navigation; assess the health of coastal ocean environment; and survey our nation's coasts, shoreline, and seafloor. The President's FY 09 budget cuts the NOS program by $45 million. Most of the cuts are directly related to the surveying and mapping programs. Increased funding was given to programs like the weather service and marine fisheries.

FEMA Flood Map Modernization

The Flood Map Modernization Fund is used to update, modernize, and maintain the inventory of over 100,000 flood maps. The flood maps are used to determine risk-based premium rates for the National Flood Insurance Program, to complete flood hazard determinations required of the nation's lending institutions, and to develop appropriate disaster response plans for federal, state and local emergency management personnel. In 2007, the actual amount spent on the Map Modernization program was $201 million. In 2008, it is estimated that the amount will be $223 million. The FY 09 budget calls for $150 million for map modernization, a decrease of $50 million from the 2007 level and $73 million from the 2008 estimate.

ACSM and other Map Modernization stakeholders have long complained about the quality and accuracy of flood maps being produced under the program. A significant cut, like what is in the FY 09 budget, will not help matters. The good news is that legislation is already being considered in the House and Senate that will increase funding for the Map Modernization program to $400 million per year. Hopefully, a compromise can be reached to bring FY 09 funding to at least the 2007 level.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The Bureau of Land Management is charged with the multiple-use management of natural resources on 258 million acres of public land, about one-eighth of the land in the United States. Under its Management of Land Resources program, the BLM manages cadastral surveying, classification, acquisition of easements, and other interests in land. The year, the FY 09 budget allocates $195 million for these activities. This amount is an increase over the 2007 figures and an increase over the FY 08 estimates for the activities. Administration of cadastral surveys on public land is specifically budgeted under the Realty and Ownership Management program. The FY 09 budget allocates $84 million for the entire program, which is the same as the 2007 and 2008 levels.

United States Geological Survey

The USGS is charged with performing surveys, investigations, and research covering topography, among other tasks. The Geography Program of the USGS seeks to observe the earth at various scales using remote sensing to understand the dynamics of land change. The Geography Program also provides scientific information to describe and interpret America's landscape by mapping the terrain, monitoring changes over time, and analyzing how and why these changes occurred. The FY 09 budget allocates $76 million for geographic research, investigations, and remote sensing. This is $4 million less than the 2007 amount and $1 million more than the 2008 estimate.

In 2007, the USGS moved its Geographic Research, Investigations and Remote Sensing Cooperative Topographic Mapping program to the National Geospatial Program. That, in turn, was placed under the Enterprise Information program of the USGS. The Enterprise Information program supports bureau-level activities and investments in the areas of information technology, information security, information management, information policy and standards, and information science.

As part of the Enterprise Information program, the National Geospatial Program is focused on improving geospatial data access, integration, and applications through implementation of the National Map and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The FY 09 budget allocates $118 million for the Enterprise Information program. This is an increase of $6 million over the 2007 amount and an increase of $14 million over the 2008 estimate. It is expected that the National Geospatial Program will see some of that increased funding.

Federal Railroad Administration Nationwide Differential GPS

The Railroad Research and Development Program provides science and technology support for the FRA's rail safety rulemaking and enforcement efforts. It also stimulates technological advances in conventional and high-speed railroads. The program focuses on a number of areas of research, including Nationwide Differential GPS (NDGPS). NDGPS provides precise positioning information and integrity monitoring of the GPS constellation for all transportation modes. The President made no funding request for this program in the FY 09 budget. It should be noted, however, that in the 2008 budget the President did not make a funding request for NDGPS either, but Congress later appropriated $2 million for NDGPS.

Although surveyors use NDGPS, it is not as useful as it could be. Advocates of the NDGPS say that many state departments of transportation use NDGPS to map their transportation infrastructure, and surveying even small sections of road using traditional techniques used to require a number of days; a complete road inventory could take years. But with NDGPS, the same road segment can be surveyed and all pertinent data recorded in a matter of hours. Most surveyors, however, would use other methods for surveying before NDGPS because NDGPS does not give the degree of accuracy that other methods do.

These are the main federal agencies that received funding cuts in the FY09 budget, but there are plenty of other smaller surveyor-related programs that received cuts. In the past, ACSM has met with members of Congress and federal agency staff and voiced concern about proposed cuts and will continue to do so with this budget. Surveyors can voice their concerns about this federal agency program cuts to their own Senators and Representatives.

About the Author

  • Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci is the chief executive manager and senior lobbyist of The CLA Group, LLC, a government consulting, lobbying, and advocacy firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in representing businesses and associations. He is also the government affairs consultant for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM).

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