Figure 1 - Sampling of DoD Installations included in IVT.

Military Base Installation Management:

A Vision of the Future

Steve Miller
Space Imaging
Thornton, Colo.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is developing a new and distinctly different approach to how it creates and manages its geospatial information resources, to include geographic information system (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies, as well as the many spatial database holdings used to manage defense facilities. This approach is named the Defense Installation Spatial Data Infrastructure (DISDI).

The creators of DISDI envision an institutionalized process where installation geospatial data (in GIS, CADD, and imagery formats) are assembled, disseminated, and maintained in a fashion that supports validated DoD installation management and strategic basing decision missions worldwide. DISDI focuses on the business processes, people, and policies necessary to provide installation visualization and mapping capabilities, not on IT acquisition and IT development. DISDI is not a system, but rather a mechanism by which geospatial data stewarded at and by DoD installations can be shared with validated stakeholders to meet their critical installation visualization requirements. This article explores the history of DoD’s efforts leading up to DISDI and how DISDI will better organize DoD’s installation visualization capabilities.

The DoD operates one of the largest and most far-flung property portfolios of any organization on earth. From humble origins over two centuries ago, its inventory of properties has grown to hundreds of thousands of properties (buildings, structures, and utilities) and sites all over the globe. The use of this land is as diverse as its size and distribution. Much of this property is used for activities with which any citizen can identify. DoD installations are “military cities” with housing areas, shopping centers, schools, medical clinics, and all the electrical, water, sewer, and surface transportation infrastructure to support them. Then there are industrial areas where heavy equipment is built and maintained. Much of the land is allocated to large training areas in rugged and undeveloped regions. Finally, there are vast airspace and seaspace zones where the DoD performs essential readiness training. See Figure 1 for holdings in the continental U.S. A summary of DoD property holdings illustrates the breadth of the installation management challenge:

  • 586,962 structures worldwide (according to the Fiscal Year 2003 DoD Facilities Assessment Database)
  • 522,724 of these are owned structures worldwide
  • Over 5,500 locations worldwide
  • Over 29 million acres of land worldwide
  • Sites where over three million people live, work, and train every day
  • $646 billion total value of buildings, structures, and utilities, using 2004 construction cost metrics

From early in the last century the DoD and successor organizations have maintained a sizable workforce of experts to manage these facilities in a way that maximizes use of taxpayer dollars and supports the DoD mission of maintaining fully trained and equipped units capable of defending the country. The four principal services--the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps--have been the largest landholders and have traditionally carried most of the responsibility for the stewardship of defense properties. From the early 1900s the tools of the trade have included survey instruments used to gather data that was recorded on paper maps. Information on buildings was represented by architectural plans and site plans, again all on paper. All this data was stored locally at the base; very little of this information was available to other stakeholders when required.

This basic kit of technology and processes served DoD engineers well for most of the 20 th century. Then, in the 1980s and into the 1990s, a number of enabling technologies emerged that rapidly redefined how facilities management information was generated, stored and viewed. The paper-driven processes gave way to geospatial information resources to include geospatial databases and technologies, such as Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

GIS rapidly became a common technology employed at DoD installations for managing these “military cities.” GIS capabilities were often built around a loose set of requirements set forth at the installation itself and always reflected the local procurement practices and customizations needed by specific bases for dealing with the unique units they hosted and the geography in which they resided. This evolved by the late 1990s into a patchwork of systems and data. Much of the data for similar functions was stored in different proprietary standards, depending on which type of commercial GIS system was used. Getting data from one system to another was a costly and time-consuming process. Since data resided locally in stove-pipe system, other critical stakeholders at the component and departmental echelon never had access the “big picture” when required, to support strategic decision-making activities. This was a situation ripe for rationalization to better serve business needs and reduce costs.

One of the first attempts to better organize the management of installations using GIS and related technologies was the USAF’s GeoBase program. The GeoBase program was established in 2001 to exploit best practices for managing geospatial data across large organizations, and to establish policy, business processes, and architectures that better exploit installation geospatial information resources for installation management. Colonel Brian Cullis (USAF) was the principal architect for the GeoBase effort which began as a post-doctoral concept at the USAF Academy’s Institute for Information Technology Applications. He had studied many early implementations of GIS programs that had been abandoned due to inflated and unrealistic goals, excessive cost-to-benefit ratios, and user reluctance to adopt based, in part, on an overemphasis on the technology versus the enterprise mission processes. The GeoBase program was implemented in a way to avoid these earlier mistakes. The idea was to characterize geospatial information resources as part of the larger enterprise information environment, rather than as an asset relevant only to the engineering and public works mission. The program set modest and achievable initial goals and built incrementally on that foundation. The fundamental output of this new process was a common installation map which could be used to satisfy multiple business needs. The idea was to make it once and use it many times, building on what was already there. This plan reduced duplicative costs and improved the situational awareness of the two primary customers, facilities managers and warfighter planners. To accommodate this new strategy, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations and Logistics created the Headquarters Air Force Geo Integration Office (HAF GIO), led by Colonel Cullis, within the Pentagon’s Air Force Civil Engineer staff. Because of its success, this program has become a model within DoD for other efforts to organize and rationalize facilities management of GIS data.

Figure 2 - The eight layers rendering a common installation picture in the DoD Installation Visualization Tool, supporting DoD BRAC 2005 installation visualization requirements.

Enter IVT

The Installation Visualization Tool (IVT) program was initiated by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics in 2003 to visualize DoD installations via a common geographic information system (GIS) capability. IVT was designed to support the DoD Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 process by supplementing internal DoD analysis with the capability to visualize mission realignment potential. The USAF was designated the lead service, given its success in implementing GeoBase principles. IVT included the assembly of eight “layers” of geospatial data chosen to help visualize base realignment constraints and opportunities. The layers were

  1. 1-Meter orthorectified imagery of the installation and area within one mile of the installation.
  2. 5-Meter orthorectified imagery of the areas beyond the base, and areas beneath military training routes and special use airspace.
  3. Installation boundaries
  4. 100-year floodplain boundaries
  5. Accident Potential Zones (APZs) on and around runways and other landing zones
  6. Noise Zones at various decibel levels
  7. Wetlands boundaries
  8. Explosive Safety Quantity Distance (ESQD) areas

The images were supplied by Space Imaging, LLC. The other six layers were prepared and provided by “data stewards” who are usually the local installation owners of that data. See Figure 2. Managed by the HAF GIO, the IVT program sought to take advantage, as much as possible, of existing service GIS data investments. As with GeoBase, the standards were set by a central authority, but the responsibility for collecting and maintaining the data was implemented at the service and installation level. Metadata was a critical component of the IVT capability; each geospatial data set was accompanied by an associated metadata file documenting the sources used to create the geospatial features, data currency, accuracy, and contact information for the local data steward at the installation or service regional echelon. The IVT metadata conforms to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Content Standards for Digital and Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM). IVT data conform to the CADD-GIS Technology Center Spatial Data Standards for Facilities, Infrastructure, and Environment (SDSFIE). A rigorous quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) process was established to ensure the highest possible accuracy and fidelity of the installation-provided data, thereby ensuring the most accurate maps possible. Each data set was provided with signature from the base commander, stating that the data was the best available, and a rigorous chain of custody process was established to ensure modifications were made to the data upon delivery by the installation.

The 1-meter and 5-meter resolution imagery utilized in IVT was acquired from Space Imaging, LLC by the IVT Office via the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Commercial Imagery Program. FGDC metadata was authored for each image scene by DoD IVT staff, thereby ensuring that all imagery met Federal metadata requirements.

Defense Installation Spatial Data Infrastructure (DISDI)

It was only a matter of time before the practical value of the Installation Visualization Tool would lead to new efforts to expand the visualization scope to include the balance of geospatial features across the installations and environment sectors. The DISDI office was created and staffed in July of 2004 and is located within the Business Transformation directorate, which reports to the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Installation & Environment (DUSD/I&E). Colonel Cullis was assigned as DISDI Executive Manager in July 2004. Some of this office’s initial challenges include:

  1. Begin the process of building a coherent strategy for defining requirements for I&E geospatial data from across the many DoD missions that would benefit from such visualization capabilities;
  2. Appreciate the breadth of geospatial data holdings already acquired by the Services by employing portfolio management techniques mandated by federal legislation;
  3. Draft policies to help shape the protocols and standards for I&E geospatial information resources so they are acquired in the most cost-effective manner and also comply with the emerging I&E and DoD business enterprise architectures, respectively;
  4. Identify and nurture partnerships with contributing defense, federal, national, and civilian commercial service and data providers.

Figure 3 - The Defense Installation Spatial Data Infrastructure (DISDI) enables access to relevant installation geospatial data in support of various DoD missions and visualization requirements.
The DISDI program is gaining wide support since it now offers a new focal point for building business processes between data providers such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the US Geological Survey with the respective Services’ I&E geospatial infrastructures. It enables the congressionally-mandated requirement to share GIS data across services and agencies. It facilitates the acquisition of data one time, and then distributing and reusing the data as needed by a multitude of internal customers. Also, DISDI will build on the considerable GIS data investment already made by the services.

Col. Cullis stated, “The DISDI initiative presents a great opportunity to demonstrate how a large federal agency can successfully integrate diverse geospatial information resource investments across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and National Guard Bureau cultures to yield a much more efficient and effective standards-based infrastructure sustained by local stewardship. It’s surprising what you can accomplish when you focus on what geospatial information requirements the many Services have in common rather than the differences.”

In building on the success of IVT, the DISDI program will be expanded to include a focus on providing high quality, relevant DoD installation geospatial data to validated DoD, federal, and other users and stakeholders, for all DoD installations worldwide in support of various missions including homeland security/homeland defense, real property management, and environmental compliance and planning. In response to these critical visualization requirements, the scope will certainly be increased beyond the limited visualization capabilities included in IVT for the BRAC 2005 community. The enabling IT distribution architecture will also be expanded, with close coordination between the respective enterprise architecture efforts now underway both at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the DoD’s Installations and Environment business domain.

Just as DoD is in the throes of transforming itself to more effectively address modern threats, the installation management community within DoD needs to do the same to support more cost-effective facilities management. The DoD has begun a sweeping review of its overseas basing structure, which is still largely configured to deal with the Cold War. Many are predicting momentous changes out of this review. DoD is now realizing the importance of having accurate, timely, and relevant installation maps and geospatial data to support the full breadth of installation management and strategic basing decision-making activities. DISDI can contribute substantially to this review by helping facilitate access to installation geospatial data in an organized, governed, and consistent fashion, while ensuring compliance with all relevant DoD and Federal information sharing and information security policies and protocols. 

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