September 30, 2020

Department of Energy’s Implementation of the Geospatial Data Act of 2018

The Geospatial Data Act of 2018 (Geospatial Data Act) was signed into law on October 5, 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 Geospatial Data Act reflects growing recognition of the essential role of geospatial data and technology in understanding and managing our world, and highlights the need to support the data’s continued development as critical investments for the Nation.  To help meet the requirements of the Geospatial Data Act, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, as the Department of Energy’s lead office for implementing the Geospatial Data Act, established the Geospatial Science - Program Management Office (GS-PMO).  The GS-PMO is expected to provide the governance structure, strategic direction, mission alignment, and communication for the geospatial science and technology implementations within the Department.

The Geospatial Data Act requires each applicable Office of Inspector General to report on the agency’s collection, production, acquisition, maintenance, distribution, use, and preservation of geospatial data.  In particular, the review shall include an evaluation of compliance with: (1) standards for geospatial data, including metadata for geospatial data established under the Geospatial Data Act; (2) the agency responsibilities and requirements under the Geospatial Data Act; and (3) limitations on the use of federal funds under the Geospatial Data Act.  Consistent with the requirements of the Geospatial Data Act, we completed our review 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 Geospatial Data Act, our test work was limited to identifying the Department’s initial efforts to implement the Act.  As such, and consistent with guidance issued by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, we did not evaluate the effectiveness of the Department’s efforts at this time.  However, as the Department continues to implement the Act’s requirements, we plan to evaluate the effectiveness in future reviews.  Our inaugural review found that while the Department had taken steps to implement the Geospatial Data Act, significant work remains.  In particular, although the Department had initiated and/or completed actions related to each of the 13 agency responsibilities outlined in the Geospatial Data Act, we identified that it had not fully implemented 12 of the requirements.

Without adequate progress towards the development and implementation of a geospatial strategy, there is a high risk that the Department will not be able to implement the requirements of the Geospatial Data Act.  For instance, the lack of a complete inventory, adequate resources and communication, specific geospatial standards, and effective guidance increases the risk that the Department will be unable to ensure it is acquiring and producing quality geospatial data and services that can be used by internal and external stakeholders.  Therefore, the Department may not be able to carry out its varying geospatial-related missions, as well as ensuring that research and development is accurate while promoting greater access and use of government information and data, as required by the Geospatial Data Act.

Topic: Management & Administration