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Prison Industry Reform Favors Private SectorThe Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) claimed a victory in its fight to reform FPI (Federal Prison Industries) in order to protect the public and prevent unfair government competition with private mapping and geospatial firms. On Dec. 12, 2002, President Bush signed into law the fiscal year 2003 Defense Authorization bill, which included a number of the reforms supported by MAPPS, and it became Public Law 107-314.
The bill, H.R. 4546, changes the Defense Authorization bill as it applies to FPI provision of services to Department of Defense (DOD) agencies. It prohibits FPI from being engaged in any activity that would provide prisoners access to classified data, geographic data regarding the location of surface or subsurface infrastructure for water, electrical or communications or gas, bulk petroleum or other products, commodities or utilities, or personal information about individual private citizens’ real property.
President Roosevelt established Federal Prison Industries in 1934 as a government-owned corporation to serve as a means for managing, training and rehabilitating inmates. FPI was intended to provide prisoners with workplace experience to use in society upon release from prison. FPI was given special “mandatory source” status in the government procurement process, forcing government agencies in need of a product to purchase that product from FPI.
MAPPS’ concern is that geographic information is an inappropriate area for UNICOR (the name of the FPI government corporation) activity. Public health, welfare and safety are dependent on the quality of work performed by professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping, and adding to these highly technical and professional services, drawings, maps and images being processed by prison inmates is not only an affront to the professionals in the field, but questionable to the public safety. MAPPS also holds that it is unwise to train convicted felons in imaging techniques and technologies. The potential for utilizing the prison-developed skills in counterfeiting operations upon release from incarceration could potentially increase. “In addition to the counterfeiting issue,” said MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello, “inmates working in prison industries in geographic information services often have access to homeowner data, property appraisal and tax assessment records, and other information that most citizens would be horrified and outraged to know were in the hands of convicts.”
According to Palatiello, FPI is currently engaged in scanning, digitizing and other geospatial data conversion services. He said that FPI’s documents state that it is “broadening its prime contractor role… in the areas of… digitization of maps for GIS applications, digitization of engineering and facilities management drawings (AM/FM), scanning and digitizing, and CALS conversions.”
Palatiello said that first UNICOR retained a GIS consulting firm in Kentucky to provide assistance on defining the potential GIS market and advising the prison industry on entry into GIS services. Then, a design and mapping firm in Massachusetts, to provide GIS system acquisition management. The firm managed UNICOR’s acquisition and installation of GIS/CAD systems, including a needs analysis with hardware and software specification recommendations, integration and installation of such systems, and training of inmates in GIS/CAD digitizing and imaging skills. “UNICOR has indicated it is now productive in this area, having begun providing AM/FM services for agencies of the Department of Defense. The Massachusetts firm installed an 18-seat software system for digitizing and imaging at a prison facility in Fort Dix, N.J., and provided further training and support for the system’s full implementation. Our last information was that a similar facility was under development in Lexington, Ky.,” Palatiello said.
In a recent poll of the MAPPS membership, 94 percent said prison competition is an issue for their firms and should be addressed by MAPPS. Of those who were concerned about prison competition, 29 percent called it a significant issue, 47 percent called it a growing issue and 18 percent deemed it a potential issue.
In support of his membership, Palatiello testified before the House Small Business Committee on Nov. 21, 2002, against competition with FPI. He was a witness on behalf of MAPPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as Chairman of its Privatization and Procurement Council. The hearing was broadcast live on national cable television by C-SPAN and later rebroadcast several times during the following week.
Palatiello called FPI “a non-competitive monopoly” that expands into new markets under a process where FPI gets to be “judge, jury and prosecutor.” He said, “this expansion is alarming not only because it adversely impacts the private sector, but also because it is wholly inappropriate to allow inmates access to the classified and infrastructure information used in mapping projects or the personal or financial information of private citizens.”
Section 811 of the new Defense Authorization Act requires DOD to conduct market research before purchasing products that are listed in the catalog for the Federal Prison Industries (FPI), to determine whether the FPI product is comparable in price, quality and time of delivery to products available from the private sector. If the FPI product is not comparable, DOD must use competitive procedures to acquire the product without securing a waiver from FPI itself. The FY2003 DOD bill requires competition for DOD purchases of products, repealing FPI’s mandatory source provision and allowing private firms to compete for all DOD contracts for products. With specific regard to geospatial services, the law now states: “PROTECTION OF CLASSIFIED AND SENSITIVE INFORMATION – The Secretary of Defense may not enter into any contract with Federal Prison Industries under which an inmate worker would have access to—(1) any data that is classified; (2) any geographic data regarding the location of (a) surface and subsurface infrastructure providing communications or water or electrical power distribution; (b) pipelines for the distribution of natural gas, bulk petroleum products or other commodities; or (c) other utilities; or (3) any personal or financial information about any individual private citizen, including information relating to such person’s real property however described, without the prior consent of the individual.”
During the 107th Congress, MAPPS was part of a business and labor coalition that supported H.R. 1577, a comprehensive prison industry reform bill. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee after a strong grass roots lobbying effort by MAPPS member firms. While H.R. 1577 did not reach the House or Senate floor, portions of the bill were included in the Defense bill. MAPPS and the coalition have already met with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and Barney Frank (D-MA) to begin work on a successor to H.R. 1577 that will be introduced early in the 108th Congress. Palatiello said, “The legislation to be considered in the 108th Congress will build on the success we had with the defense bill. Among its key provisions are those which make the requirement for competition government-wide (not just DOD purchases), make the prohibition on inmate access to critical information government-wide and clarify that federal and state prison industries cannot provide services in the commercial market.”
Legislation to reform FPI, S. 346, has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Craig Thomas (R-WY). A companion bill will soon be reintroduced in the House by Reps. Hoekstra, Frank, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Mac Collins (R-GA) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
NIMA Commemorates Lewis and Clark BicentennialIt seems most people involved in surveying and mapping feel some sort of connection to, or at least appreciation for, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, leaders of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1803 to explore what is now known as the Louisiana Purchase. And the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), a national intelligence and combat support agency, is no different. On Feb. 28, 2003, NIMA kicked off its four-year bicentennial commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This expedition is considered by many to be the nation’s first true geospatial intelligence support mission.
Geospatial intelligence, as NIMA defines, is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. Lewis and Clark secretly reported to President Jefferson on the activities of foreign powers in the new American territory, especially their relations with various American Indian tribes. Lewis and Clark left behind the legacy of establishing the first true geospatial intelligence effort within the fledgling United States, and set a standard for excellence that endures today.
“Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set the standards NIMA follows today,” said guest speaker Congressman Doug Bereuter (R-Neb), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and co-chair of the bicameral and bipartisan Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Congressional Caucus. “The efforts begun by Lewis and Clark to study trade flow, boundaries between nations and the geography of the region continue today. In Bosnia, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the intelligence community continues to collect information on potential adversaries, doing with amazing tools essentially the same kind of work conducted by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago,” Bereuter said. “And NIMA remains in the forefront of such efforts.”
NIMA director, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., presented Rep. Bereuter with a reproduction of the map drawn by William Clark circa 1803 illustrating North America from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean.
With NIMA’s motto, ‘Know the Earth, Show the Way,’ its roots are deeply embedded in this expedition. NIMA is proud to inherit this legacy, and continues the journey begun two centuries ago.