GeoWorld November 2012

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Elections Have Consequences (for Geotechnology) POSITION S BY TODD DANIELSON Todd Danielson is editor of GeoWorld magazine, PO Box 773498, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477; e-mail: 4 G E O W O R L D / N O V E M B E R 2 O 1 2 hortly before Barack Obama was elected for the first time in 2008, I attended the major GEOINT conference on geospatial intelligence. A few of the high-ranking military speakers were concerned that if Obama won, defense spending would be cut, and those cuts would be suffered by the entire GEOINT industry. Four years later, little to none of the expected budget cuts have happened. Every time defense spending is proposed or "floated," it seems to "dodge the bullet" (pun intended). Even when the threat seems real, as was the case in spring 2012 when it was announced that the U.S. government would drastically cut back or cancel its EnhancedView contract, which provides a large portion of the revenue for commercial satellite imaging companies, the cuts didn't happen. It was widely speculated that these cuts would decimate the commercial imaging industry, to the point where competing companies GeoEye and DigitalGlobe began a war of sorts to try and take over the other company. The harsh words eventually settled down, but the two companies have since announced an actual merger, and I believe a major motivation was expected cuts in their government contracts … at some point. But these cuts aren't happening soon. Shortly after the initial announcement about the proposed cuts, both GeoEye and DigitalGlobe announced deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars through at least 2013 for government work. And in DigitalGlobe's latest financial results, it reported $81.1 million in Defense and Intelligence contracts (about 76 percent of total revenue) for third-quarter 2012, up 24 percent from this time a year ago. FEMA Saved? One of the possible turning points of the presidential election may have been Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. Some analysts say it made Obama seem "presidential" when he needed it, but it also pointed out a difference in philosophy. Mitt Romney and some other Republicans were on the record saying they believed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding should be cut back, and more responsibility should be put on the states to take care of disasters. Unfortunately, most states don't have the budgets for major disasters, and they certainly aren't prepared for anything as massive as Sandy. Theories sometimes run into reality, and people who lost their homes likely were glad to see the strong emergencymanagement response that the federal government can provide. And one of the major elements of a strong emergency response is mapping, so any boon to FEMA and local response centers has to be a boon to the geotechnology industry. Free Market vs. Government Another interesting battle was pitched between those favoring "free market" principles under (almost) any circumstances and those who believe government has a larger role in making decisions. A major lobbyist in our industry, the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), has long backed free-market politicians. It suggested members seek voting guidance from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which largely supports conservative and Republican candidates, and it advocated for the Freedom from Government Competition Act. It's my guess that MAPPS was disappointed in the recent election and believes that more government (or the same government) isn't what's best for its members. However, I also believe that those who make a living working for GIS departments in federal or municipal government organizations think the opposite and will feel more secure in their jobs. I'll leave it up to history to decide who was right or wrong, but I do know that elections have consequences. Government Special Issue

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