OMB Circular A-16

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OMB Circular A-16, revised August 19, 2002, is a Government circular that was created by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide guidance for federal agencies that create, maintain or use spatial data directly or indirectly through the establishment of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).


The circular establishes guidelines for the management of digital spatial data and the use of those assets. It also appoints the FGDC to the interagency coordinating body for NSDI-related activities. The Secretary of the Interior is established as chair, with the Deputy Director for Management, OMB as Vice-Chair.


The NSDI ensures that spatial information is accurate and available to state, local, and tribal governments as well as to academia and the private sector. The NSDI obeys four primary values:

  • Privacy and Security of raw and processed citizens' personal data and accuracy of statistical data
  • Access to these data per guidelines subject to OMB Circular A-130
  • Protection of proprietary interests to these data
  • Interoperability between various federal agencies' information systems within these data

The NSDI supports the advancement for a Global Spatial Data Infrastructure that coincides with National Security interests. Any Federal system that develops international data in accordance with these systems must follow international voluntary standards as outlined by Circular A-119.

The NSDI has five parts:

Spatial Data

Spatial Data is considered a national capital asset. The NSDI manages the distribution of these assets across all interconnected systems, federal and private sector, and analyzes it to determine the impact of the world economically, physically and socially upon the United States.

Part of NSDI's mission is to help avoid duplication or erroneous modification of this spatial data. Accurate and dependable spatial data allows NSDI to analyze current situational trends such as weather patterns, traffic congestions, and other various infrastructures to create a national snapshot in order to make predictions or projections based on these data.


The FGDC is an interagency committee delegated to manage OMB Circular A-16 related activities and implementation of NSDI policy and procedures in accordance with existing federal law and policy. The Department of the Interior provides administrative support to the FGDC when necessary in the event of enforcement of the structure and bylaws mentioned in this circular.

Circular policy

Any agency that collects, produces, acquires, maintains, distributes, uses, or preserves any form of spatial data either directly or indirectly with any other agency or organization must follow the policies set forth by the circular.

The following exemplary list is representative of the kinds of systems to which the circular applies:

There are few exemptions to adherence to the policy described in the circular:

  • spatial data related to tribal governments not paid for with federal funds
  • classified national-security related activities of the Department of Defense (DOD), unless declassified by Executive Order 12951 (under direction of the Secretary of Defense)
  • those activities of the Department of Energy under determination of the Secretary of Energy
  • intelligence spatial data activities, under determination of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Agency responsibility

Every agency that uses NSDI information must adhere to a set of responsibilities as outlined by the circular.

Additional references

External links