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Blog: Understanding U.S. Army GIS Data Validation: What You Need to Know about the Process

August 4, 2016

Validating GIS data in accordance with U.S. Army standards can be a daunting task, especially if the staff evaluating the data have little GIS expertise or are inexperienced with the spatial data requirements. Typically, GIS data sets must meet the Army's latest approved SDSFIE release as well as Federal Geographic Data Committee requirements and Quality Assurance Plans. To make this process easier and more understandable, Vernadero's GIS specialists have prepared the following checklist and recommendations:

  • Assign an evaluator with the right experience. At a minimum, the person performing quality control should have sufficient expertise to download, process, view, map, and assess proprietary GIS data formats.

  • Verify that the data comply with SDSFIE. Army GIS data must conform to SDSFIE, the Spatial Data Standards for Facilities Infrastructure and Environment. SDSFIE provides a consistent framework for data storage and is optimized for interoperability among installation, environmental, and civil works missions. The most recent version is SDSFIE Army Adaptation v. 3.1; however, Army organizations may create subordinate adaptations, and Installations may also make approved changes. The evaluator should be familiar with SDSFIE adaptations and legacy versions.

  • Confirm the metadata meet Federal Geographic Data Committee standards. The FGDC sets the federal government's standards for digital spatial metadata (the descriptors used in data storage). The usual current standard is the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata v. 2. For a quick overview, take a look at the FGDC's Metadata Quick Guide. For further resources, refer to the FGDC's CSDGM webpage.

  • Make sure each data layer conforms to its Quality Assurance Plan. More than 130 QAPs have been published, each outlining content specifications, handling procedures, validation methodology, and metadata requirements. Each expands on SDSFIE and FGDC requirements with unique criteria that pertain exclusively to a single geospatial data layer. (The characterization section for a buildings layer, for example, will differ drastically from one for a sidewalk layer.) Be aware that data can meet SDSFIE and FGDC requirements without complying with QAP standards.

  • Consider automating QAP data evaluation. QAP data evaluation can be mostly automated so even non-GIS staff can assess compliance. For example, Vernadero's automated system has helped the U.S. Army Reserve 88th Regional Support Command assess compliance for thousands of data layers at nearly 200 facilities in the past two years. We built a database of QAP requirements that users can query. Users can also automatically generate data review maps with attribute tables, customized data questionnaires, and final QAP compliance reports for each facility/data layer. Each report contains a compliance statement, client expert/reviewer comments, and recommended corrective actions (if required).

If you have questions about GIS data evaluation or U.S. Army data standards, Vernadero's GIS specialists have answers. Please contact us for additional information.