The Vision

(Open the Advocacy Version Here)

The Nation will have a sustainable and flexible digital imagery program that meets the needs of local, state, regional, tribal and federal agencies.

Existing Situation

Aerial and satellite imagery, in the form of digital orthoimagery, is the foundation for most public and private Geographic Information Systems (GIS). These essential products are being developed by as many as 1,300 government entities across the Nation according to a NSGIC survey. These individual contracting efforts lead to higher costs, varying quality, duplication of effort and a patchwork of products. Large area contracting methods will keep the cost to taxpayers as low as possible and improve the availability of standardized, high-quality products.

Background on the Initiative

Implementing any initiative like Imagery for the Nation is a long process that requires collaboration with many entities. NSGIC first proposed Imagery for the Nation (IFTN)in 2004. We began working with the National Digital Orthophoto Program Committee (NDOP) and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) in 2005 to try and create a new nationwide aerial imagery program that would collect and disseminate standardized multi-resolution products on “set” schedules. Local, state, regional, tribal, and federal partners would have been able to exercise “buyup” options for enhancements that are required by their organizations. The imagery acquired through such a program would have remained in the public domain and have been archived to secure its availability for posterity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) funded the development of a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) in 2006. The CBA document was released in July 2007, and is

available here

. As originally envisioned, the USDA National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) would acquire 1-meter leaf-on imagery for the Nation on an annual basis and USGS would acquire 1-foot and higher resolution imagery of the nation every three years. The NAIP program made many improvements to their program and embraced some of the features of IFTN. USGS felt that the NAIP imagery met the majority of their business needs and did not want to pursue the high resolution program any farther than their existing 133 Cities program.

The FGDC created an Executive Committee to Study IFTN. They established several work groups (e.g. Technical, Communications, Contracting) to develop plans for the component pieces of the program. By the time the work groups were done with their plans, the Nation's economy had worsened and it became highly unlikely that a program like IFTN would be funded by Congress. The work group plans were never publicly available. In addition, there was never a consensus reached by the Executive Committee to pursue funding for IFTN. A record of their decisions is

available here


A Request for Information (RFI) to industry was also issued in August 2010, to gain additional information on the potential costs and benefits of different approaches to meet the goals of the Imagery for the Nation (IFTN) initiative. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) led the development of the RFI, acting on behalf of the FGDC Executive Committee. The results of this RFI were never made publicly available.

The Future of IFTN

NSGIC conducted a survey in 2011 to determine if its member states wanted to proceed with their own contract vehicle. Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated that the NAIP program met their needs for leaf-on imagery. Many respondents indicated that they needed higher resolution imagery. Recently, the NAIP Program indicated that they will begin to fly leaf-on imgery at 1/2 meter resolution which will satisfy many more states. The survey also indicated that 82% of the 280 respondents were somewhat likely, likely, or highly likely to use such a contract. The results of this survey are available here. NSGIC state members agreed that we should proceed with a national contract that all states can use. The most appropriate contract vehicle would be through the Western States Contracting Alliance. NSGIC will examine all options in 2013 and work with the states to pursue improved contracting mechanisms that will save them money.