When the U.S. Department of Defense embarked on a project in 2007 to standardize and update the department’s land records using GIS across each of the nation’s most significant military installations, few of those involved in the project understood just how valuable the resulting geodatabase would be. “We immediately began realizing increased efficiencies through easier access to real property information, and we quickly saw how that could lead to substantial cost savings over time,” says Frances Railey, information officer for the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Installations and Logistics department.

The initial project, which was managed by Photo Science, involved recreating, georeferencing and standardizing property records for 17 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts and more than 100 individual Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps installations. The vast amount of information gathered during the process filled a substantial need within the DoD. But it also highlighted additional areas for improvement. “There was a determination in the pilot project to only go down so deep, maybe not within individual parcels in all cases,” Railey says. “The Marine Corps recognized that the information created from that project was very valuable, but drilling down into the data also led to a lot of questions. We saw that there was more data out there to be created, and on a more granular level. We wanted to go down into the individual parcel level wherever we could find records that would support that effort. In some cases, we needed to further subdivide the information that was gathered in the pilot.”

In 2011, the USMC contracted Photo Science to dig deeper and pull even more data into the geodatabase, with the ultimate goal of having 100 percent confidence in all of its land records. Although Railey admits this goal isn’t achievable with the current level of funding, she’s optimistic about how far they’ll be able to go. “We’re already reaping some of the benefits of having easier access to the information,” she says. “With the records we’re gathering through this project, and the GIS data that’s coming out of it, we have a better shot at having our real property records correct to support a real property audit in 2014. We’ll also be able to make the information readily available in a digital format and online through existing business systems.”