Bruce Cahan's Blog | Financing Sustainability | Ideas for Rebuilding Our Cities | History of Urban Logic | About Us / Contact Us | Terms of Service

Bruce Cahan

"Speaking through maps and numbers are more robust
ways for the "social Web" to argue environmental
and other social justice causes."

- Bruce Cahan


Ethical Banking
Means Meter® Shopping Sustainable Resiliency® Ratings
Sustainable Resiliency® Ratings
The Social Capital Ecosphere
Visualizing Procurements

Something We Once Had, Lost and Need Again

What We Had

The earliest banks were built by business, civic and religious leaders to grow hometowns, in regions they knew best. Community banks and bankers exist as a minority, often still independently-owned.

What We Lost

Today, most deposits (upwards of 80%) in America’s large cities are held by banks headquartered elsewhere, accountable to no one locally, except regulators in Washington or the state capitols who are easily outmaneuvered through lobbyists, industry political donations and complex financial instrument structures that camouflage the transparency needed to see simple causes and effects.

America’s banking system has lost its roots, has lost its way. “Safety and soundness” used to mean bankers living in and knowing their home regions and the people, businesses, governments and nonprofits there. Now Wall Street financial services mega-banks and investment professionals have fractionalized underwriting, ownership and obligation to the point where hedged bets on leveraged obligations (e.g., home mortgages or corporate bonds) create a rapidly cascading morass of multiplexed risk, drying credit up for other purposes in places where the risks are less or could be underwritten more safely and simply. As rogue traders have shown, the whole house of cards can easily unravel, with the use market capitalization and Federal Reserve costs unwinding such positions entails.

What We Need: An Ethical Bank

We need more ethical banks, where decisions are made transparently, its allegiances trace back to community concern and its pricing of credit and investments is directly tied to the contribution each transaction makes to growing regional health. See Sustainable Resiliency.

Our ethical bank would build communities by asking: “When we make this loan, change the credit formula or provide new incentives to savers and investors, are we expanding the region’s sustainability and resiliency?” That question inspires us to offer a whole range of banking experiences not readily available today

  • Shop with our credit card on your cellphone and we give you the Means Meter™ to help you shift social issues to the top of your shopping list.

  • The cash-back rewards you earn by shopping socially-aware earns your social cause more good.
  • If you’re a merchant, business, nonprofit or other member of the SC-Eco, use our bank as a new form of funding, where your social bottom line goals are rewarded through better interest rates and other financial services.

    If you’re interested in partnering to form the ethical bank, have some advice or comments, please join the ethical bank’s project wiki at: www.goodbank.info/w

    Back to the Top

    A Platform for Socially-Purposeful Consumerism

    Imagine a web service that gauges if what you buy matches your social beliefs and goals.

    Imagine an automated personal shopper that applies your beliefs to:

  • Analyze each product’s origin, energy, labor and other supply chain characteristic and
  • Ranks the choices according to the data you trust most and the ideals you hold most important.

    You don’t have to imagine that anymore. That’s what we’ve called the Means Meter®.

    Shoppers using the Means Meter® would earn points, much like cash-back rewards. Many credit card programs send you a set catalogue of largely unattractive choices for how to spend the points you’ve earn. Means Meter® points are different:

  • Save or spend them,
  • Donate them to your favorite charity,
  • Invest them in microenterprises and businesses promoting social goals in regions you care about,
  • Let a proposed affiliate, an ethical bank, use them to make credit available on cheaper terms to needy families, businesses and nonprofits, or
  • Let our affiliated foundation use them in projects that grow the sustainable resiliency® of regions and social causes you care about.

    Means Meter® reward points serve as a true complementary currency for the socially-purposeful consumer, earned by spending socially well, spent and invested to make regions even more socially-equitable, sustainable and resilient. See Sustainable resiliency®.

    The Means Meter® would let consumers create and use social affinity groups for meaningful causes that improve people lives. Means Meter® users’ aggregate market power could demand that industry and government become more accountable for remediating energy, public health, fair labor or 1,000s of other social goals. In turn, users could opt-in to hearing from companies about corporate efforts to address social concerns of most significance. Likewise, users could enable video, audio and other content to educate themselves about the issue’s severity, where and how it’s being dealt with best and what nonprofits and social entrepreneurs are innovating solutions.

    The Means Meter® would be agnostic. It won’t preach what social values you should shop with, it analyzes the range of choices for implementing your social goals. (Of course, illegal social goals would be rejected).

    Affinity groups and activists will have access to new forms of aggregated consumer social values data from which to advocate more effectively. Much like daily stock prices at the close of each trading day, we will publish the affinity concerns rankings and the demographics of shoppers using those concerns.

    Privacy and identity protection is a primary concern in designing the Means Meter®’s technology. We aim to put the consumer in charge of their identity. We will only share aggregated (grouped) data that keeps user identity anonymous.

    Net, Net, the Means Meter® would let consumers broadcast their social goals out into the marketplace, and through analysis of corporate environmental, governance and social impacts, to balance out the information conveyed through traditional advertising aimed at shoppers.

    The Means Meter® gives consumers the means and incentive to change their world.

    Back to the Top

    Managing a Portfolio of Concerns Regionally, Rationally

    The Bad News Industry

    Bad news sells. On an average day, media show us hundreds of instances of “bad” news: natural disasters, crime, financial scandals, personal tragedy, corruption or other regional hurt. The impact of the “bad” events described interrupts businesses, disrupts the employment, careers and retirement plans of workers, and threatens the tax bases and economic fiber of whole cities, regions and countries.

    “Bad” news must be reported. But hearing it constantly, pervasively, without “good” news to balance the psyche can lead to a cynicism of public and generational despair and hopelessness.

    “Bad” news makes bad law. Each year America’s legislators across 87,000 federal, state and local governments adopt thousands of laws, regulations and other policy statements. In some instances, the laws they pass paper over similar concerns of past generations victimized though similar threats that spawned laws of similar outrage that went unenforced, inequitably applied or mandated as unfunded intergovernmental ideals. In other instances, lobbyists buy off enforcement efforts of laws too inconvenient for special interest profitability and tradition to accept.

    The Statistics War

    Ratings of bad things happening rally media support for funding budgets. Each interest group operating at federal, state or local levels practices the art of using statistics to galvanize America’s forms of democracy.

    Want more bridges and tunnels built to employ more construction companies? Generate statistics showing how many bridges and tunnels are subject to collapse. Want to save the environment by saving a particular species of bird, animal or fish? Produce statistics showing the extinction of that species and its implications for the damage man is doing to the environment. Want to safeguard inner city children from poor health care and nutrition? Produce statistics on the alarming rate of obesity and asthma in poor neighborhoods.

    Each expert group relies on discrete funding patterns (corporate and government budgets, foundation grants and litigation settlements). Such funding emphasizes extremism and myopia, perpetuating a “just solve this risk” mindset, instead of an “all-risk” hazards approach. Risks compete for public and private funding and media attention.

    Their social concerns are real, and merit spending public and philanthropic funds to repair. The resulting cacophony of scary messages and quantified threats, no matter how valid in isolation, has led to a juggernaut of political dysfunction and a lack of cooperation amongst experts across their domains of expertise.

    A framework for tapping, localizing and pooling so much expert knowledge is needed if the improvements are to be made efficiently and without delay.

    Sustainable Resiliency® - Seeing Options Beyond the Bad News

    The experts lack (and often acknowledge they lack) a meta-model, whereby their science and experience can coalesce multi-faceted solutions, whose total costs would be more amenable of funding than the stovepipes of coupled problem-solution pairs now so common, costly and unsustainable.

    We lack the right visualization tools. There is no “level playing field” to see all social concerns indigenous to each region, weighed according to how they impact the region, or how other activities occurring in the region might reduce overall exposure to the specific risk presented. In short, we have no “market measure” of the relative health of a region’s sustainability and resiliency in light of all the risks that continually flash across newspaper, TV and web headlines.

    There is a Climate Crisis. There are also crises in America’s food supply, economic equity, incarceration rate, susceptibility to pandemics, American fatherhood in a post-feminist era, flood mitigation along coastal communities, coal and oil-dependent energy appetite and many other areas of our complexly urbanized society.

    But what if we used the rhythm of “bad” news to build a composite regional livability measure? What if all the doomsayers, each expert in specific risks were to project their knowledge into a spatial and semantic context, so we could see and use it on a common map framework (like through Google Earth®)? What if risks gauged across environmental, health, infrastructure, social services and other concerns could be seen simultaneously as a layer cake of risks, like Fandango® shows the movie listings and ratings for theatres in a given zip code? What if the same expert groups (and nonprofit and university stakeholders posing new gauges and solutions) were to suggest the steps needed to guard against or respond more effectively to the risk, and to map and model the impact of such preparedness and resiliency based on a range of assumptions on outside variables, like diet, menu and carbon footprint calculators readily available on the Web?

    The result would be an emerging social network of more useful existing knowledge, much like Wikipedia®, spatially capable of showing significant risks and strategies for mitigating them in their geography and weighted by their indigenous significance and feasibility.

    Aggregated spatially and semantically, expert knowledge would show sustainable resiliency® as a public asset to be stewarded in each region by all stakeholders – not just the stakeholders with funds or fad to fund their pet concerns in isolation.

    Overcoming the Tragedy of the Commons

    With sustainable resiliency®, the tragedy of the commons (such as climate change) would become measurable and reversible. Collective intelligence (Internet pioneer Doug Engelbart’s term) would provide contextual knowledge in finer grained and more meaningful form. And consumer and financial markets would embrace as more meaningful and trustworthy their new knowledge of transparency. See Means Meter and Ethical Banking.

    For more on how sustainable resiliency® would help quantify the impact of nonprofits and others in the social sector, please download this summary.

    Back to the Top

    Growing the Social Capital Ecosphere

    New options are emerging every day for people to put their money to social purpose.

    Headlines raise shrill cries to reconsider nearly every aspect of how people act. Climate change, catastrophic floods, green energy, terrorist bombings, regional wars, decaying city infrastructure and neighborhoods, social inequity, impure food, unethical manufacturing of clothing, pandemic risks and other causes challenge our beliefs in traditional institutions as the sole ways of using money and transacting across global markets.

    In interpersonal lending, Kiva®, Prosper®, Virgin Money® and similar Web services bypass traditional banks and foundations to enable microfinance at direct peer-to-peer levels, where people of means lend or donate to people and enterprises without.

    The Internet is changing how consumers shop, how borrowers borrow, how investors invest, how donors give.

    We see social capital in the rapid rise of social networking and affinity services. We have begun seeing its impact on how individuals invest, lend and gift for socially.

    Socially-impactful consumption is on the horizon.

    Socially-purposeful commerce is increasingly the way that consumers expect manufacturers and retailers to market their products and services. While the expectation for transparently gauging product ethical, environmental and social purity may be in consumers’ minds, the way that each product, industry and seller are going about providing such transparency is chaotic, and lacks standardization essential to efficient markets.

    That’s where the SC-Eco: Social Capital Ecosphere comes in. As a holistic approach to transparency, SC-Eco transactions have origins and impacts verifiable as “sustainable.”

    The SC-Eco would self-organize as a set of interdependent neighborhoods, virtually connected via the Web.

    Each neighborhood lets neighborhoods and visitors alike trace back the environmental, energy and social impacts of choices made.

  • The Mall Services Neighborhood is where via the Web socially-responsible go to find companies, knowing that companies there have agreed to provide standardized access to a broad range of transparency information.

  • The Ratings Neighborhood would be made up of the experts and ratings agencies that today offer a cacophony of 160,000 ratings of “green,” “organic,” “energy efficiency,” “fair trade/labor” or other lifecycle characteristic. Ratings services within this Neighborhood would enable access to their knowledge via a more standardized Wikipedia®-type of interoperable interface, such that the ratings can be more readily compared, combined and tagged to see the impact of a particular product, service or company on the region.

  • The Manufacturing Neighborhood would be a place that product manufacturers and their suppliers can use to coordinate and publicize details of the steps being taken to make their manufacturing processes more Earth-, community- and labor-friendly. Today, companies often are frustrated investing in energy efficient plants and environmental clean up only in response to negative headlines and litigation. Participation in the Manufacturing Neighborhood would broaden the options manufacturers and component suppliers have reach consumers and assemblers with the message that their products are socially-responsible, their corporate governance is open and accountable and their impacts on the Earth are friendly.

  • In the Finance Neighborhood, banks, insurers and other financial services providers would offer specialized programs tailored to the SC-Eco consumer and business. Evidence suggest that enterprises managed to generate social and monetary returns, are more reliable as borrowers (i.e., entail lower loan default risks) and as insureds (i.e., have less severe business interruption, property damage and health insurance claims). By aggregating demand, this Neighborhood will help match such companies and financial organizations offering better terms for doing good.

  • The Agriculture Neighborhood is tailored to the unique challenge of wholesome food. Organic farming, sustainable farming, organic kosher, fair trade indigenous food production, locally-grown, freshwater clean fish and many other designations describe food grown, harvested, processed, packed, shipped, and disposed of consistent with two aims: to be more nutritious when eaten for body and soul. Today, food labeling requires supplementing “Nutrition Facts” with “Production Facts.” Sorting out the food supply chain across growers, handlers, markets and restaurants will be enabled when they perceive a set of consumers opting to eat more heathfully and ethically.

  • The Public Health Neighborhood would align hospital, physician, natural medicine, preventive care, nutrition and lifestyle counseling, insurance and other features into a set of services that amplify choices consumers make to improve not just their own health but that of their region.

  • The Land, Buildings and Infrastructure Neighborhood would serve the needs of developers, architects, engineers, homeowners and others seeking to encourage use and repurposing of land in ways that augment the SC-Eco’s other functions.

  • The Philanthropy and Social Venture Neighborhood includes social venture philanthropists, traditional foundations, program-related investment initiatives of pension fund and foundations, corporate social responsibility outreach efforts and other capital sources that would like to invest in socially-purposeful enterprises and nonprofits but have lacked proof of their “business model.”

    The SC-Eco inherently writes whole chapters of the business plans for social ventures, by showing demand for services, customers and strategic alliances.

    Back to the Top


    Plugging the Hole E-Government:  Visualizing Procurement Alignments

    Author:  Bruce B. Cahan
    Copyright 2004 – 2008 Bruce B. Cahan
    Contact Information:  bcahan@urbanlogic.org

    Often childhood teaches the best lessons.  The Emperor’s New Clothes tops my list for knowing when e-government programs have reached their true potential.

    An Innocent Start
    I was asked to write a report on the value of GeoSpatial One-Stop (GOS) , the President’s geospatial e-government initiative.  Like many before it and a few since, GOS aims at a very large target: implementing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) , and elements required to forge the NSDI through daily data exchanges made interoperable. 

    Valuing data in any context is difficult, let alone spatial data, because of the high cost of creation in web-ready, trustworthy form, and the infinitely nil cost of use (willingness to pay) once the data is web-enabled and discoverable.

    Instead of trying to value a particular use setting made spatially interoperable (emergency response, environmental stewardship, housing), I asked a different question:  If the federal government needs spatial intelligence for many of its business functions and invests in spatial readiness to make itself spatially intelligent, how much would be saved of those investments if GOS (or any other similar initiative for forging interoperability) succeeds?  Where the use case analysis would focus on microeconomics, I looked at the macroeconomic impacts of calling the enterprisewide question.  How much of agency information technology (IT) budgets (5% of their total budgets) spent on spatial readiness would be saved through GOS?  How much of agency non-IT budgets (the remaining 95%) would be saved because the agency’s business functions were more likely spatially intelligent and thereby more efficient and effective?

    Wrestling with the Macroeconomics of Federal Procurement
    Great, I called the macro question, but two CIOs for country, Mark Forman and Karen Evans of OMB, had been unable to answer Congressional questions for how much the federal government spends on spatial readiness.  How could I hope to tackle such a question single-handedly?

    Finding the Federal Procurement Data Set
    The answer – or partial answer – was obvious yet quirky:  Federal Procurement Data Sets (FPDS).   Warts acknowledged, the FPDS represents the digital detritus of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) process for reporting agency contracting and outsourcing activities over $25,000 (excluding certain military and intelligence activities).  It results in about half a million records of contracts, agency departments buying the product or service, contractors, the amount and product service code (PSC) for what the government bought and a relative scale showing how many vendors competed for the contract.  Inside the FPDS were the records for:

    • all contracts issued to vendors of spatial readiness products and services
    • all agencies and programs issuing those contracts
    • a sense of how many competing bidders vied for awarded contracts
    • the states where the vendor is located and the contract is to be performed

    This FPDS data was useful to determine for the 1,500+ geospatial vendors whose corporate names or DUNS numbers I assembled much of the federal marketplace’s dynamics.  Interoperability was now explainable as more than just fair play, year-on-year growth in the portion of vendor sole source/negotiated contract activity showed the federal government concentrating its purchasing with fewer and fewer large vendors, begging the question:  “What if one vendor abandons GIS or faces corporate succession and governance issues, would the federal agencies lose product support without interoperability as protection against proprietary technical standards?”

    Go the Distance
    I’d accidentally found the FPDS.  Now a new world of procurement visualization options hit me.  The balance of this article describes how I would like to see federal requirements and procurement data better organized, disseminated and used.

    What if you could go to a portal – public or private – and see patterns for the federal government’s technology purchasing.  Assume you found billions spent on spatial readiness in a fiscal year.  Would aligning agency investments according to NSDI and international interoperability standards become easier once you knew which agencies spent its part of those billions?  Would the options to partner with state and local governments to build common spatial data layers for whole regions at finer grained scales become easier to afford than letting each agency or program try to partner alone?  Could investments in the FEA BRM now be quantified as whether agencies spent their IT dollars so as to evolve essential platforms for shared business functions?  Would the government accounting standards that 87,000 non-federal governments use to inventory and report their infrastructure holdings (many federally-funded) now have a place in helping the federal government keep track of federal property and other infrastructure?

    Aligning Requirements before Procurements
    What if, before the money were spent (through the bidding processes summarized in FPDS data, you could see patterns), patterns of historic procurements could be seen extending into newly stated requirements that ultimately turn into future procurements?   Would the partnering, interoperability standards adoption and other goals for federal enterprise architecture become easier for OMB to oversee and the agencies to implement?  Would the waste in multiple procurements turn without mandate or penalty into transactional matchings of multiple users for similar technologies pooling their requirements now made visible to all?  Would the Beltway mindset of limited procurement options among known vendors change into a more open marketplace across the country, web-enabled to propose solutions like Ebay® matches auction buyers and sellers?  Would how much the government spends on geospatial or any other technology become far easier to compute and see as investments across the federal enterprise and the country?  Yes, in all cases, it would.

    E-Government’s Procurement Myopia
    So large a hole in e-government needs to be plugged.  E-government “has no clothes” when basic patterns of requirements and procurements remain largely invisible to agencies, intergovernmental partners, businesses, NGOs and citizens.  It has no clothes when following taxpayer money from agency budget request, to President’s budget submission to appropriation hearings to budget passage to requirements specification to procurement solicitation and contract award is a disconnected and unaccounted for maze.  For transparency, we need a digital democracy where money can be followed through the system.

    Visualizing such buying needs and patterns, “following the money”, will let:

    • Agencies partner (and defend partnering investments) in shared technology and information networks (like NSDI)
    • OMB review Exhibit 300 submissions and agency information technology strategic plans will an eye towards the normal patterns detectable in buying related technologies, and to suggest multiple agencies share with intergovernmental and private partners the development and deployment risks and annual maintenance costs
    • Congress review the effectiveness of Clinger-Cohen, E-Gov Act and other legislation aimed at improving the price/performance of government technology adoption by using the portal to sum actual contract numbers awarded by specific programs to specific vendors
    • States, counties, cities, citizens, businesses, NGOs and academia inject new solutions into the federal technology requirements specification and procurement processes in a more timely and opportune way to leverage ongoing activity in other sectors of the economy
    • The media and government fiscal monitors ask appropriate questions as to
        • how and why the federal agencies decided (and think they are expert enough to know) to pursue proprietary or shared technology options,
        • where the money is coming from to pay for their choices and what alternatives existed,
        • are agencies being outgunned by vendors who dictate the requirements agencies don’t know enough to reject or modify, and
        • whether federal agencies feel coerced (by campaign finance, career planning or other considerations inherent in political life) to choose technology vendors and offerings too narrowly.

    In essence, the perspective of agency procurement officers will be expanded and the options they can consider timely and cost-effectively would be broadened.  Contract oversight would be accountable to more stakeholders for performance and therefore more likely to achieve each stakeholder’s goals.

    Concluding Thoughts and Next Steps
    As with interoperability itself, spatial readiness research has led to thinking about how to improve areas outside of the geospatial community.  Pattern recognition and spatial web  development tools make it feasible for federal, state and local governments to start visualizing their shared technology and other needs, to align their funding of common solutions and to commit to long-term maintenance and enhancement budgets that represent a fraction of the current costs of each going it alone.  Opportunities to improve the federal requirements and procurement data systems exist.  Intergovernmental interest to partner in shared solutions is keen nowadays as fiscal deficits and program cuts limit the freedom to fund solo ventures. 

    E-gov applications that webify old habits are shallow visions for the future. 

    The second term of the Bush Administration offers the promise of bold e-government implementations.  I’ve proposed one in the procurement area that might just clean up the campaign finance mess as a by-product.

    If there is interest, perhaps OMB and GSA could convene a set of “listening sessions” on these topics and put forth a new policy vision for so ripe an area of e-government.

    I welcome hearing ideas for how best to move these approaches forward.  Feel free to contact me at bcahan@urbanlogic.org.

      As the story concludes:
    The emperor marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid. Never emperor’s clothes were more admired.

    “But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.
    H.C. Anderson, The Emperor’s New Suit, http://hca.gilead.org.il/emperor.html.

      Generally, GOS Portal, http://www.geo-one-stop.gov/.  My comments relating to e-government or allusions to The Emperor’s New Clothes should NOT be taken as commentary on GOS.  Just the opposite.  GOS  has a placeholder in its portal for “The geodata.gov marketplace,” wherein upcoming spatial data buys could be posted and aligned.  Efforts like GOS suggest what would be achieved by filling  the hole in e-procurement visualization.

      Executive Order 12906 establishes the NSDI, and sets its stewardship in the hands of the Federal Geographic Data Committee.  For more, see http://fgdc.gov/nsdi/nsdi.html.

      Spatial intelligence and spatial readiness are defined in my report The Value Proposition for GOS and accompanying PowerPoint Briefing, as follows:

    Spatial Intelligence exists when a decision maker

    • Knows they have a problem or opportunity that can be evaluated using spatial data and geo-processing tools
    • Has immediate access to the requisite spatial and non-spatial data, decision support tools and the networks, personnel and partners required to take full advantage of the data and tools for the intended purpose
    • Can visualize, publish and add other stakeholders’ data to the results

    Spatial Readiness recognizes that Spatial Intelligence

    • Is not free, spontaneous or self-starting
    • Arises from annual investments in people, data, software, hardware & partnerships

    There are two ways to define Spatial Readiness:

    • Qualitative Definition:  Making the investments required to deliver Spatial Intelligence to the enterprise
    • Quantitative Definition: The net amount of investments (past & planned) that deliver Spatial Intelligence to the investor entity’s enterprise.  Agency budgets spent on geospatial activity are examples of Spatial Readiness investments.  Indeed, Spatial Readiness investments are measurable.

      By functions, I refer initially to the Federal Enterprise Architecture’s Business Reference Model’s functions and sub-functions. Generally, OMB Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office, http://feapmo.gov/, and Federal Enterprise Architecture Business Reference Model (Version 2.0 – June 2003), http://feapmo.gov/resources/fea_brm_release_document_rev_2.pdf

       FPDS data does not include money spent on internal agency personnel, overhead and other expenses.  It is contractor data.  Likewise, it does not include intergovernmental transfers (such as highway or homeland security grants).  Aggregate spending by federal agencies on spatial readiness would include summing four mechanisms: 

    • internal agency costs,
    • net federal inter-agency cost sharing,
    • intergovernmental grants to state, county, tribal and local government and
    • contracts and grants with the private sector (business and nonprofit groups)

    FPDS tracks mainly the last category of expenses

      GSA runs the FPDS and is in the process of upgrading it.  See,   http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?P=VXX&contentId=10060&contentType=GSA_BASIC  or https://www.fpds.gov/

       The FPDS data (such as competitiveness and Product Service Class) are entered to comply with OMB and FAR requirements, but the data is not of uniform quality.

      State, county and local governmental units must report their fiscal operations using a rulebook issued by the independent Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB).  GASB serves the needs of bond traders, credit rating agencies (like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch) and the governments themselves for clear rules to summarize and report their operations each year.  Several years ago after a decade of debate, GASB changed the infrastructure accounting rules in its Statement 34 (GASB-34).  Governments must now annually assemble higher quality information on all infrastructure systems, be it street lamps or schools, parks or wetlands, computer networks or libraries. 

    I have suggested that the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (the GASB equivalent setting federal accounting standards) review how GASB-34 could replace individual federal highway, environmental and other infrastructure programmatic accounting regimes to simplify tracing federal dollars as they migrate through state hands into local spending.  JFMIP’s most recent requirements don’t even mention GASB, something quite anathema to the government-to-government (G-2-G) role sharing implicit in the FEA BRM .  See, JFMIP, Property Management System Requirements Exposure Draft (JFMIP-SR-04-03 September 04 (est), http://www.jfmip.gov/jfmip/download/Exposuredrafts/040914-property_requirements_exposure_draft.doc.

      This option resulted from conversations with certain folks at OMB interested in the GOS/FPDS research.  Their names are available on request.

       Timing is a challenge for agencies seeking partners (or to be partners) in spatial data or other technologies.  The President’s FY 2005/6 Budget calendar looks like this:

    • Fall 2004 Agencies submit budget requests to OMB
    • January 2005 President/OMB submits budget request to Congress
    • October 2005 Agencies get monies to spend for FY 2005/6, and know they can commit those monies to contracts or partnerships

    The uncertainty of 8 -10 months when agencies (and their would-be partners and their contractors) are waiting spending authority may be a legal or even budgeting certainty.  It need not be a planning obstacle.  By hook or by crook, agency procurements with the major geospatial vendors are increasing year-on-year.  The FPDS shows such increases, and if history is a guide, predicts the impulse engines routing procurements – once there is spending authority – in the same vendor directions as past years.  Knowing how the Greek tragedy ends up because the story is obvious from many prior budget years of FPDS data, just means we can change the outcome in earlier acts.  Federal partnership commitments would be easier to negotiate and fulfill, however, if multi-year spending authority for technology infrastructures existed to replace the friction and distraction of annual technology budget cyclings.

    Back to the Top

  • Copyright © 2008 Urban Logic