September 27, 2022
Followup on the Department of Energy’s Implementation of the Geospatial Data Act of 2018
The Geospatial Data Act of 2018 (Act) was signed into law in October 2018 to help develop, drive, and manage the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, which includes the technology, policies, criteria, standards, and employees necessary to promote geospatial data sharing throughout Federal, state, tribal, and local governments, and the private sector. The Act outlines requirements for Federal geospatial data governance structures, encourages organized use and collaboration within agencies, and promotes broader sharing of geospatial data—information linked to specific geographic locations—across agencies.
The Act requires the Office of Inspector General to report on the Department of Energy’s collection, production, acquisition, maintenance, distribution, use, and preservation of geospatial data. In particular, the Office of Inspector General shall evaluate compliance with: (1) standards for geospatial data, including metadata for geospatial data established under the Act; (2) the agency responsibilities and requirements under the Act; and (3) limitations on the use of Federal funds under the Act. In September 2020, we released the results of our inaugural review that evaluated the Department’s initial efforts to implement the Act. At that time, we found that although the Department had initiated or completed actions related to each of the covered agency responsibilities, we identified that it had not fully implemented 12 of the 13 requirements outlined in the Act.
We conducted our current audit to determine whether the Department met the requirements of the Act. This report documents the results of our test work.
Due to limitations with agencies’ abilities to implement the Act, our test work was limited to identifying the Department’s efforts to implement the 13 covered agency responsibilities contained in Section 759 of the Act. In particular, the Federal Geographic Data Committee had not yet adopted or endorsed any Geospatial Data Theme Standards at the time of our review. As such, and consistent with current guidance issued by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, we did not evaluate the effectiveness of the Department’s efforts to implement these standards or to limit the use of Federal funds for geospatial data at this time. Our audit found that while the Department had taken some additional steps to implement the Act since our initial report in September 2020, significant work remained to fully implement the Act’s requirements. Specifically, the Department had completed additional actions related to the 13 covered agency responsibilities; however, we identified that it still had not fully implemented 12 of the requirements. For instance, we found:
- Although the Department prepared and published a geospatial data strategy in support of the strategic plan for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, as required by the Act, it had not implemented the strategy to advance geographic information, related geospatial data, and activities appropriate to its mission.
The Department also had not completed its geospatial data inventory and, therefore, could not optimize data integration between its geospatial users. Further, the Department had not ensured that all geospatial data included metadata and that the metadata was available through the GeoPlatform, as required by the Act.
These concerns occurred, in part, because progress on the development and issuance of an implementation plan for the Department of Energy Geospatial Data Management Strategy 2021–2025 had been delayed. Additionally, there was confusion among program and site officials about the amount and types of geospatial data that existed within the Department. We also noted a general lack of awareness of the Department’s centralized geospatial data information sites dedicated to the sharing of geospatial data best practices and tools.
Although we determined that the Department had made progress since our last review, significant work remains for it to meet the Act’s requirements. We made three recommendations that, if fully implemented, will improve understanding and implementation of the Act. In particular, we recommend that the Department’s Chief Information Officer: (1) determine the actions, milestones, and resources needed to fully implement the Department of Energy Geospatial Data Management Strategy 2021–2025 and issue a corresponding implementation plan to the Department’s geospatial data users; (2) develop and implement a process to increase engagement with the Department’s program offices and field sites to ensure that the requirements of the Act are better understood; and (3) develop a mechanism to ensure all Department program offices and field sites can access the Department’s centralized geospatial data information.