A few people have been asking me for a debrief on the Geospatial Line of Business meeting yesterday at the JW Marriott in DC. Mixed feelings on the event. With regard to Agency people, there were a few of the regular movers and shakers, and a considerable number of Agency geospatial figures completely absent - and of the ones I spoke to, I got a mixed response. Some were unconcerned and coolly interested, some very nervous, others very skeptical. There was an odd industry turnout - several of the key players that I often work with in the rarified air were there, but others conspicuously absent. Their response was similarly mixed. Sure, lots of "what's in it for us?" But many doubts and trepidations.
My own key concern is that Geospatial business is horizontal, as opposed to vertical. I also had some not insubstantial doubt that the task at hand and its full ramifications was fully grasped by those responsible for this endeavor.
With regard to the meeting itself, I unfortunately missed part of the first section - I unfortunately got in a minor collision on I-270 on the way down. Two cars behind, a driver failed to notice the slowdown in morning rush hour traffic and rammed an Acura RSX into the backend of my workhorse Subaru. Fortunately nobody hurt, I was able to get cool heads to prevail over the definite rage potential, and everyone was able to get the information they needed to deal with this another way, on another day.
Fortunately I didn't miss much of the meeting. The initial presentation mainly was a rehash of the PowerPoint that I presented in my last post. This was followed by Q&A session. There were many questions, but only sketchy answers. There were several questions on what the resultant direction would be - a samping:
- Whether a Center of Excellence approach would be taken - the answer to this one was that they had looked at this, and it held some good low-hanging fruit, but that it was not entirely satisfactory and wouldn't strictly be emulated
- What kind of approach or form of acquisition would be taken, such as a specific contract vehicle - no decision yet
- Minority business participation, et cetera - will be a factor
- Sponsorship - sustainability would be key
Ultimately they were trying to stress goals of business process re-engineering, standardization, sharing, and culture change. Lofty goals. But little in terms of approach - which is the purpose of the RFI. Interoperability was indicated to be a key driver.
There were also some questions submitted, but unanswered -
- What exactly do you mean by "geospatial" - traditional GIS or anything with a geo-component, such as address databases, lat/long values in a database, or locational references...?
They did recognize the need for many areas of Agency geobusiness to continue in place even with consolidation. They also indicated that the results will show up in the President's Budget submission for 2008 - keep your eyes peeled next February.
They do promise to post the questions and answers online. The formal Q/A period goes until 4/21/06. Following this, read the RFI closely, read closely the Vision, Goals, and Objectives section, and provide a best response. There will be limited ability to assess a huge volume of responses, so if possible try to consolidate responses with others, such as helping the agencies, industry/nonprofit organizations or joint responses by the major private sector players. I had already intended to respond and have already been contacted by a couple of key people... I may have parts of my response feeding into others' response.
They are providing a template and some guidance - they are allowing an additional 20 pages to be submitted, to bring the total to 30 pages, not including cover and TOC. Submittal of current best practices is encouraged, with Agency approval.
The current point for dissemination of information is here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov/c-6-8-glob.html
Whether or not this comes to fruition, this is definitely still a very big deal... And it IS most definitely about consolidation and budget cuts. "No further expenditures on existing business will be made."
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