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ACSM Explores Reorganization Following Outreach Report; NSPS Board Votes to Initiate Withdrawal

May 19, 2010
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An independent marketing and outreach report published in December 2009 has sparked debate over the future of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. After reviewing the report’s findings, the NSPS board of directors voted on April 27, 2010, to initiate withdrawal from the ACSM, noting that the mandatory two-year withdrawal time frame "keeps the importance of this issue where it belongs-at the top of the list.”

An independent marketing and outreach report published in December 2009 has sparked debate over the future of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. The report, which was compiled by strategic marketing firm Scott Oser Associates, North Potomac, Md., at the request of the ACSM Marketing and Outreach Committee, identified five key challenges facing the organization. These challenges include a lack of awareness, a lack of perceived value, the perception of ACSM and its member organizations (American Association for Geodetic Surveying, Cartography and Geographic Information Society, Geographic and Land Information Society, and National Society of Professional Surveyors) being outdated, a negative stereotype of the term “surveyor,” and high levels of internal and external competition. The report stated that “all of these challenges must be addressed for the organization to thrive in the future.”

The report noted that the current organizational structure of ACSM lacks “strategic direction.” It recommended the formation of one industry-wide membership organization that would include all of the member organizations as special interest groups as well as state and local pieces of NSPS. Under the suggested structure, members would join the national organization and select affiliate special interest groups, and all members would receive automatic membership in state and local chapters. Dues would be collected by ACSM, and ACSM would distribute the revenue based on agreements with the state and local organizations.

After reviewing the report’s findings, the NSPS board of directors voted on April 27, 2010, to initiate withdrawal from the ACSM, with 11 board members voting for the move and five voting against it. According to NSPS Past President John Matonich, the decision was made with the understanding that the action can be revoked at any time during the mandatory two-year withdrawal process. A joint statement issued by Matonich, ACSM Executive Director Curt Sumner, and NSPS President Wayne Harrison sought to explain the move. “Given the state of membership, the current financial situation and the findings of the commissioned report, NSPS and the other MOs have reached a critical juncture and there is no luxury of extra time to move this in the right direction, whatever that direction may be. The work that will be done by both the NSPS and ACSM committees will be extremely valuable in the discussions about the future. The two-year time frame keeps the importance of this issue where it belongs-at the top of the list.”

In the meantime, CaGIS is on track to complete its previously announced transition to an independent organization by Jan. 1, 2011.

A task force has been formed to evaluate ACSM’s structure in light of the report. Chaired by Dan Martin, American Association of Geodetic Surveying (AAGS) delegate and ACSM chair-elect, the task force will comprise members from all four member organizations, including CaGIS and NSPS, and will provide recommendations by September 1. NSPS has also formed a separate committee to evaluate the feasibility of operating NSPS as a separate organization; that committee will issue its report by September 15.

“National issues touch all surveyors,” Harrison said. “Public, private, topographic, boundary, layout and many others all have national tones. ALTA standards, Qualification Based Selection, academic accreditations, real estate settlement survey issues, GPS height modernization, letters of map amendments (LOMAs) and many more issues are all dealt with at the national, not the state or local level. These issues won’t go away, and some organization will deal with them nationally for the surveying community. The question is which one?”

Harrison urged all professionals to share their thoughts about the proposed changes. “Together, the result will be the best option possible for the entire surveying profession,” he said.

Log on to RPLS.com to find discussion on this important issue and share your thoughts. Additional comments can be found in POB’s April 29 Sight Lines blog, “What Will Become of ACSM?”

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