Intelligent Transportation Systems Strategic Planning Group
Strategic Planning Group Charter & Annexes

Section I - Purpose and Participating Organizations


This document constitutes the charter for the Intelligent Transportation Systems Strategic Planning Group (ITS SPG).

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)

Intelligent transportation technologies and systems are the application of integrated information, telecommunications and computer-based technologies to infrastructure and vehicles in order to improve safety and mobility on the Nation’s surface transportation networks.  This requires working with interests inside the United States as well as international interests.

The ITS Joint Program Office

The ITS Joint Program Office (ITS JPO), an element of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (US DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), is charged with conducting research in technical and institutional/policy areas, and fostering the development and evolution of ITS with a primary emphasis on multi-modal ITS research, involving coordination among two or more DOT modal administrations. The JPO exercises a complementary role in coordinating the efforts of the modal administrations in their independent ITS research activities and in executing the results of research. Additionally, the ITS JPO plays a major role in facilitating deployment and use of these technologies across the Nation.  The ITS JPO exercises a leadership role, both within the US DOT and throughout the stakeholder community, that is national and international in nature, in the advocacy of advanced technologies to address issues related to congestion, safety, mobility, energy, environment, and productivity.  The ITS JPO retains accountability for the federal ITS Program, exercises overall responsibility for setting strategic direction, and establishing funding priorities. 

The ITS JPO exercises these roles in coordination with the ITS SPG.  The ITS SPG is the coordinating body that serves as a steering committee for ITS research activities.  It is comprised of the senior career professionals - at the associate administrator level- in US DOT’s modal administrations, and is chaired by the Director, ITS JPO.  The ITS Management Council, comprised of the administrators of US DOT’s modal administrations, and chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Transportation exercises the Departmental-level coordination role for ITS research.

Roles of the Modal Administrations in ITS

The US DOT Modal Administrations also have an important role in advancing ITS and implementing research results. The modal administrations fund and execute some ITS-related research for projects that are specific to an individual mode. For example the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has funded research related to traffic simulation and modeling and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration funds research into electronic processing of commercial vehicle enforcement transactions. Since there is no commonly accepted definition of ITS, these projects could be considered ITS related. A critical role of the modal agencies in the SPG is ensuring that research performed under the federal ITS program and within the modal agencies is not duplicative or conflicting.

In addition, modal administration staff lead or participate in much of the research funded with federal ITS funds and coordinated through the JPO. For each major multi-modal project executed under the JPO, a team is formed with personnel from across the department to lead and coordinate the research. In some cases individual project managers are selected from other modes. A charter is developed for each major multi-modal ITS research program specifying staffing requirements and leadership roles. These charters are approved by the SPG members from the modal agencies involved as a means of formally committing staff resources to the projects. FHWA staff can manage ITS research projects without executing an interagency agreement (IAA), since federal ITS research funding is administered through FHWA. When other modes are the logical project leads, IAA’s are executed to enable those modes to assume the leadership and project management roles. The ITS JPO Policies and Procedures Manual, requires that research project plans be in place, before an IAA is executed. Alternatively, staff from other modal agencies can serve as informal co-leads to help oversee a project with an official project manager from the ITS JPO. In this case, the ITS JPO retains official project management responsibilities but relies on modal staff for expert review and coordination of project activities. This system ensures that appropriate expertise is provided in managing ITS projects, aids in technology transfer of the research results and provides appropriate management and controls of projects. Because the ITS JPO staff is so small (17 individuals), the ability to appoint project managers from other modes is essential for appropriate project controls.

Finally modal agencies play a critical role in technology transfer and championing implementation of ITS research results. The modal agencies work most closely with external stakeholder groups associated with their areas of responsibility. Therefore, the ITS JPO relies on modal agencies to represent unique stakeholder interests in the research and provide liaison to those stakeholders. As research is completed the modal agencies play an increasing role in planning and executing technology transfer activities. Ultimately the modal agencies assume the long-term responsibility for supporting ongoing technology transfer and championing implementation of mature ITS technologies.

Technology Transfer of ITS Research to Modal Administrations

The ITS JPO is not funded or authorized to play an ongoing role in ITS implementation. Implementation takes place by external state and local agencies and within the private sector. The majority of implementation is funded from general federal aid sources or other non-federal sources. Therefore technology transfer is an important function for both the JPO and modal agencies. The ITS JPO is responsible for ITS research execution and initial technology transfer activities, such as field testing, though modal staff is involved throughout the research process. Once a technology is considered mature, the modal agencies assume responsibility for its ongoing support in most cases. Generally the handoff from JPO to modal responsibilities happens after a new ITS research product has been tested in the field and technology transfer materials (such as documentation of benefits, costs, and lessons learned and training materials) have been developed and delivered to an initial audience of potential deployers.  Ongoing ITS JPO funding support for technology transfer activities may continue for some time. The SPG determines how long based on the criticality of the product, demand from the stakeholder community, and competing needs for federal ITS research funds. There is no hard rule in making this determination.

Professional Capacity Building (PCB) is one area where the ITS JPO maintains joint responsibility with the modes beyond the research implementation phase. The DOT is required under the current transportation authorization legislation “to develop a workforce capable of developing, operating, and maintaining intelligent transportation systems.” The PCB program provides training and learning resources across a spectrum of ITS subject-matter from fundamental ITS building blocks, such as ITS architecture and standards application and systems engineering processes, to currently available and emerging ITS systems, particularly those that have been the subject of federal ITS research. The ITS PCB program maintains a strategic plan that guides its investment priorities, developed with stakeholder input, including from the US DOT modal administrations. Potential for duplication of efforts among the ITS PCB program and other PCB programs in the modal administrations is minimized by regular coordination among the PBC program managers.

Product Branding and Acknowledgement of Partners in Joint Activities

Branding of products developed under the federal ITS program is challenging because there is no one size fits all solution. Publication of products that are most closely aligned with a specific modal audience or for which a modal administration provided the primary leadership role, may make most sense through the modal administration. Other products may be published through RITA as a US DOT product. Each modal administration has its own branding rules, which are not always compatible with acknowledging participation by other entities. This mix of processes for publishing products is practical and serves customers well (products are directed toward the primary customer under this approach), but makes it difficult to track all products developed under the federal ITS program and differentiate those from other modal administration products. Such lack of clarity was acknowledged in General Accountability Office Report: Intelligent Transportation Systems: Improved DOT Collaboration and Communication Could Enhance the Use of Technology to Manage Congestion, GAO-12-308.

To address this challenge, there is an expectation that all projects and products that receive funding through the federal ITS program, acknowledge the role of the ITS funding, ITS JPO and all other participating federal partners. This may be done on the cover page of a document or subsequent acknowledgements page. Similar acknowledgement should also be made in presentations and speeches. Likewise the ITS JPO has a similar duty to acknowledge the role of all modal partners in its products, presentations, and speeches. Additional information about branding ITS products and publication and presentation templates are available on the ITS JPO website and via the ITS JPO Communications Manager.


This charter addresses the purpose, functions and principles guiding the operations of the ITS SPG.

Purposes of the SPG

The ITS JPO and the modal administrations collaborate in fostering the development and evolution of ITS, and execution of ITS research.  This partnership between the ITS JPO and the modal administrations extends to facilitating the deployment and use of these technologies.  While the ITS JPO maintains a perspective on multimodal and intermodal opportunities and activities, the modal administrations are the primary advocates for the diverse activities taking place within their spheres of interest. It is therefore, imperative that the ITS JPO and the modal administrations collaborate in the development of the major decisions impacting ITS.

As the members of the ITS SPG carry out the coordinating functions required to generate meaningful research options for the ITS Program, they ensure that modal administrators are informed on key issues, trends, and ITS Program-related issues that surface.  ITS SPG members are responsible for representing the interests of their administrations, and preparing their leadership for Management Council meetings.  During the routine exchange of information that takes place within the modes, the administrators should be periodically briefed on evolving ITS Program strategic direction, program development issues, and budget considerations.

One of the primary purposes of the ITS SPG is to serve as the forum in which the ITS JPO and the representatives of US DOT’s modal administrations collaborate on ITS-related issues that will have major programmatic impacts on the ITS Program.  Through the performance of the critical processes described below in this section, the roles of the ITS SPG can be summarized in four major areas of activity.  It is the senior decision-making body that:

  • Documents the deliberations of the Department’s career professional managers on ITS-related issues.
  • Presents coordinated positions on ITS-related research to the ITS Management Council.
  • Recommends ITS work programs and priorities to be undertaken in partnership between the ITS JPO and the modal administration staffs.
  • Ensures ITS activities are aligned with Departmental goals.

The members of the ITS Management Council can expect the ITS SPG to have discussed and validated issues, and to the extent possible, developed consensus on aspects of the ITS Program prior to presentation to, and discussion with, the ITS Management Council.

While the number of critical issues may vary with factors influencing the ITS Program, five recurring programmatic processes are of fundamental importance:

  • Assessing the Considerations Leading to a Strategic Direction.
  • Developing the Framework for Multiyear Program Development.
  • Conducting Strategic Analysis.
  • Developing an Annual Spend Plan.
  • Effectively Managing and Executing the Program across the US DOT Enterprise.

Assessing the Considerations Leading to a Strategic Direction

The ITS SPG provides the Director, ITS JPO, and the senior staff in the modal administrations with a forum for conducting deliberations on the directions the ITS Program should pursue in the mid-term and long-term time horizons.  The ITS SPG members will reflect modal-specific strategic visions in their proposals, and the Director, ITS JPO will strive to integrate all submissions into a presentation format for deliberation that affords opportunities for consideration of all proposals.  The results are stated goal areas that form the basis for future research.

Both the modal-specific and multimodal visions are subjected to a thorough analysis conducted by subject matter experts and thought leaders in the modal offices and the JPO.  The output of these analytic efforts, the ITS SPG deliberations and policy guidance from the ITS Management Council are combined into a multiyear strategic direction for the ITS Program.

Developing the Framework for Multiyear Program Development

The ITS SPG establishes the broad outlines and critical components of proposed programs of work in the context of the overall ITS Program.  The ITS JPO and the modal administration members develop presentations consistent with strategic direction and goal areas.  These presentations are assessed, and through a collaborative process, transformed into consensus-based draft program proposals that are assigned to appropriate ITS JPO and modal staff elements for further development, refinement, and validation.

Conducting the Strategic Analysis

Once the JPO and modal staffs have developed and refined the program proposals, they are subjected to rigorous analysis.  The results of these analyses are presented to the ITS SPG to support the deliberations on the priorities that will shape the ITS Program.

The analytically-based rationale for ITS SPG recommendations is integrated into ITS Management Council presentations that clearly outline the alternatives for research approaches that were considered, and the reasoning leading up to their disposition.  These presentations lead the ITS Management Council through the various analyses culminating in the recommendations presented for concurrence.

Developing an Annual Spend Plan

The ITS JPO leads an annual ITS spend plan development process in collaboration with the ITS SPG and modal staff for multimodal, intermodal and modal-specific research endeavors, based on program proposals in the strategic plan.  Draft spend plans for multimodal, intermodal and modal-specific research are merged in the ITS SPG to structure the resource allocations for ITS programs of work that collectively define the ITS Program.

Effectively Managing and Executing the Program across the US DOT Enterprise

The ITS SPG is the senior professional (i.e., comprised of career civil servants at the associate administrator level) Departmental coordinating body for the ITS Program.  The ITS SPG develops the roles and responsibilities that govern the operations of the ITS JPO-modal administration partnership that executes programs.  The ITS SPG establishes a management review process and the associated administrative resources to support a series of periodic program reviews designed to assess all aspects of program performance.  The ITS SPG designs the presentations to keep the ITS Management Council apprised of ITS Program activities.

Section II - Guiding Principles of ITS SPG Operations

The procedures and processes used by the ITS SPG to accomplish the broad spectrum of missions that are described in this charter are derived from a set of basic guiding principles that govern this deliberative body’s approach to conducting operations and the manner in which representatives from the member organizations interact.
These principles and a statement of their intent are listed here:

Collaboration and Consensus

ITS SPG members participate in a collaborative and constructive environment based on mutual respect and consensus.  To this end, adequate time will be allotted for the modes to review materials developed by the ITS JPO and for the ITS SPG members to brief their political leadership as necessary.

Transparency and Openness

The ITS SPG will operate with transparency and open sharing of information between the ITS JPO and the modal management and staff.

Partnership in Program Execution

Modal administration and ITS JPO staffs will operate in partnership to execute programs and projects in accordance with agreed upon roles and responsibilities.

Responsibility and Accountability

The ITS JPO retains overall responsibility for strategic direction, funding and accountability of the ITS Program.

Disciplined Decision Making

The ITS SPG accepts and supports adjudication of the Director, ITS JPO, but retains the right to elevate critical issues to the ITS Management Council. The Director, ITS JPO shall establish a process for inputs and discussion of conflicting points of view, but will have the authority to make final decisions resulting from discussions within the ITS SPG as they relate to the coordination and oversight of programs and projects funded by the JPO.

 Integrity of Membership

ITS SPG membership carries responsibilities, and is not transferable without appropriate approvals and notifications.  Alternates are appointed by the same authorities approving the appointment of members.

Section III - Membership

The key guidelines governing ITS SPG membership are presented as follows:

1. Terms of Reference

  • The US DOT modal administrations that are routinely involved in ITS SPG activities are:
    • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
    • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
    • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
    • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
    • The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).
  • The Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) is represented by a representative from the Office of Transportation Policy.
  • The Director, ITS JPO retains the prerogative of expanding the membership of US DOT modal administrations as the needs of the ITS Program evolve, and as recommended by the ITS SPG.

2. Appointing Authorities

  • The appointing authorities for ITS SPG membership are the modal administrators, or the acting administrators.
  • The appointing authority for the OST member is the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.

3. Scope of Representation

  • Each modal administration represented on the ITS SPG may appoint up to two members.  This provision accommodates representation from two operating communities: research and program implementation.  At the discretion of the contributing modal administrators, one representative from each operating area may be appointed.
  • Modal administrators appointing two ITS SPG members are not authorized to appoint alternate members.
  • Modal administrators appointing one ITS SPG member should appoint one alternate member to ensure continuous representation.

4. Requirements and Prerogatives of ITS SPG Membership

  • ITS SPG members are vested with decision-making authority on behalf of their modes and OST.
  • ITS SPG members may invite subject matter experts, either on the ITS Coordination List, or specifically identified for their unique expertise on topics being addressed in a given meeting. These attendees contribute in meetings held in open session, but are not involved in the decision-making process

5. Protocol

  • ITS SPG meeting support staff will ensure that the meeting room configuration clearly identifies ITS SPG members with organizational tent cards and reserved places at conference room tables.

Section IV - ITS SPG Operating Procedures

As with any organization that conducts business on a recurring basis, the ITS SPG has adopted procedures to facilitate operations, and has established business rules that are understood and followed by all members.

Basic Governing Procedures

While there will be many staff procedures employed in the ITS SPG-ITS JPO interaction, there is one governing rule that will be observed:

Throughout the conduct of staff procedures, senior ITS JPO management will ensure the maintenance of an evenly regulated flow of information to modal administrations.  Staff action suspense dates will be assigned that ensure modal administration partners are provided with adequate time to brief their leadership, submit their positions, and if deemed necessary, interact with the Director, ITS JPO prior to ITS Management Council meetings.

In order to facilitate smooth and timely ITS JPO-to-modal administration staff interaction, it is incumbent on the modal representatives of the ITS SPG to ensure that their respective senior managers are informed of current issues, and impending actions.

These procedures have their origins in the principles described in Section II, and are included as annexes to this Charter as follows:


Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; P.L.112-141; July 6, 2012); sec. 53002


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