U.S. Army Photo
Example of layered data map created using the Geographic Information System during recovery operations in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

SAN ANTONIO – The U.S. Army Environmental Command’s (USAEC) Geospatial Information & Services team uses geographic information systems and technology to support Army installation operations worldwide and help Army units and Soldiers stay trained and ready.

The team uses GIS to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze and display data to support informed decision making and land management.

The GI&S team provides support across USAEC’s four main environmental pillars of compliance, conservation, restoration and pollution prevention.

The GI&S office is located within the Environmental Solutions Division, Acquisition & Technology Branch of the U.S. Army Environmental Command. This office supports the command and installation staff with environmental intelligence and spatial information to assist in providing educated management decisions on environmental issues.

The GI&S mission is to “enable the USAEC and stakeholders of environmental programs to more effectively meet organizational goals and objectives in promoting the use of environmental intelligence to improve installation management decisions at the headquarters, region, and installation level,” said Tony Davis, the USAEC Geospatial Information Manager. GI&S also works behind the scenes to help USAEC carry out its mission to deliver cost-effective environmental services globally.

GI&S consolidates and focuses Army efforts in using GIS technology. In other words, GI&S integrates GIS to produce analytical geospatial products, thus increasing information accessibility, improving accountability and heightening the level of credibility of GIS technology. This integration makes these already useful tools even more effective for environmental management decisions. According to Davis, this capability is also helpful to assist installations with GIS support for their quarterly data calls and data layer upkeep required by Army Deputy Chief of Staff (DCS) G-9 Installation Geospatial Information & Services (IGI&S) Office for Installations

This authoritative spatial information ensures “everybody's on the same sheet of music,” Davis said. “It provides better transparency for funding and accountability.”

GIS technology encompasses multiple data-producing technologies: sensors, mapping software, analysis tools, satellite imagery and more – all focused on physical properties. GIS aids in pinpointing the precise spatial relationship between the installation and its natural characteristics. Usage of GIS technology is widespread across the Army and heavily relied upon in environmental management. As a form of environmental intelligence, GIS sheds light on the various attributes of geographic areas and helps in solving many complex and interrelated issues faced by the Army.

One example of GI&S’s current undertakings is its involvement in working with various entities in the development of a map service tool. This tool is to enhance the tracking of wildfires and prescribed burns and aids in management decisions concerning assets integral to government agencies. Through this effort, GI&S also exemplifies its dedication to the environment by protecting ecosystems – focusing on air quality and threatened and endangered species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker.

An example of how GI&S strongly supports business systems is through the Installation Status Report (ISR). According to the GI&S support document, ISR “assesses the condition of installation support services, infrastructure and environmental programs using established Army-wide standards.” GIS aids this assessment by providing visual reviews of the land and locations of real property assets.

GI&S support of business systems helps the Army determine more accurate funding needs and navigate financial decisions. Janice Sterling, geographer, said that the Army has decreased its use of land, and therefore, management must weigh decisions carefully.

“The Army has tried to minimize its footprint, so it's trying to use less land, and because of that…every time we want to construct something, every time a new piece of equipment comes to an installation, every time a new species is identified as an endangered species, the land has to be managed much more carefully than it was when the Army had an almost unlimited supply of land,” Sterling said.

The management of GIS has also changed. Davis said they have come a long way in the world of GIS.

“Back when I started about 17 years ago with GIS supporting the Army, you could go on an installation and you could find three or four different sets of geospatial data, and not one of them matched the other,” Davis said.

The GI&S team plans to further expand and raise awareness of its efforts. Two of GI&S’s current goals are to provide direct support to the installations and create a unified GIS committee within the USAEC, which would further streamline efforts, Davis explained. IMCOM G4 offered a class for installation IGI&S managers in February of this year in part to generate awareness of geospatial efforts within the command. The IGI&S managers were surprised to find out the availability of USAEC GI&S to support their GIS needs for data layer management. Since then, GI&S has increased its focus on education to the installations and within USAEC.

To read more about GI&S’s current efforts and benefits, visit the U.S. Army Environmental Command website.