ArcNews Online

Spring 2006
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Imagery for the Nation Proposal Gains Momentum

By Ted Koch, Wisconsin State Cartographer and NSGIC Member

Interest in the Imagery for the Nation (IFTN) proposal from the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) has grown dramatically. Many people and organizations now solidly support this initiative.

On October 3, 2005, the Steering Committee for the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Steering Committee voted to endorse the proposal. As part of that endorsement, FGDC asked the National Digital Orthophoto Program (NDOP) to form a task force of interested stakeholders to review the proposal and develop a business plan and budget strategy.

  click to enlarge
Sample imagery at three levels of resolution as proposed for Imagery for the Nation.

The first gathering of the NDOP Task Force occurred on November 22, 2005, in Washington, D.C. A number of changes were incorporated into the IFTN proposal at the meeting, including a requirement that one-meter resolution National Agriculture Imagery Program imagery be acquired annually over the continental United States. One-meter imagery was also specified over Hawaii and the insular areas on a three-year cycle and over Alaska every five years.

Leaf-off, natural color, one-foot resolution imagery was specified for all areas east of the Mississippi River on a three-year cycle and on the same cycle for all counties west of the Mississippi River with population densities greater than 25 people per square mile. In addition to the one-meter and one-foot products, urbanized areas will be offered an optional six-inch program on a three-year cycle with a requirement for a 50 percent cost share. All of these programs include various buy-up options to meet special needs. As each program evolves, there will be a process in place to incorporate more cost-effective technologies that provide quicker turnaround times and superior products.

A detailed program budget has been created that now takes into account the costs for data production, QA/QC, data distribution, and archival storage. The annual program cost is estimated at $111 million.

On January 30, 2006, Bill Burgess (NSGIC) and Shirley Hall (United States Department of Agriculture and NDOP committee chair) briefed the FGDC Steering Committee on the program's estimated budget, the draft business plan, and the timeline for future actions. Following the briefing, the FGDC Steering Committee established an Executive Committee with members from the departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Interior, and Agriculture. The Office of Management and Budget is also expected to serve on this committee. The group will look at budgetary issues so that the program can move forward.

IFTN was a big topic at the NSGIC midyear meeting held in Annapolis, Maryland, March 1922, 2006. NSGIC members joined forces with other organizations to speak with congressional staff members and advocates for IFTN. Plans are being formed for an increasingly wider distribution of information on this proposal to members of Congress. A link to the latest IFTN brochure and a quick survey to show support can be found on NSGIC's home page at ArcNews readers can take a look at some of IFTN's details [PDF-13.8 MB, 1 page], then register their support.

Tony Spicci, NSGIC president, spoke clearly of the need for the IFTN Program: "We all want a program that works effectively for all stakeholders but particularly all levels of government. Imagery for the Nation is the first of several initiatives that NSGIC will propose as part of its strategy to help build a robust National Spatial Data Infrastructure. If interested GIS professionals have comments or concerns about this program, we want to hear them now. As we move forward, NSGIC and other stakeholders need to present a unified and consistent message for IFTN to be successful."

For further information, contact Ted Koch, NSGIC (e-mail:, or Pat Cummens, Esri (e-mail:

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