When the means of production for national base mapping were capital intensive, required large production facilities, and had ill-defined markets, Federal Government mapping agencies were the primary providers of the spatial data needed for economic development, environmental management, and national defense. With desktop geographic information systems now ubiquitous, source data available as a commodity from private industry, and the realization that many complex problems faced by society need far more and different kinds of spatial data for their solutions, national mapping organizations must realign their business strategies to meet growing demand and anticipate the needs of a rapidly changing geographic information environment. The National Map of the United States builds on a sound historic foundation of describing and monitoring the land surface and adds a focused effort to produce improved understanding, modeling, and prediction of land-surface change. These added dimensions bring to bear a broader spectrum of geographic science to address extant and emerging issues. Within the overarching construct of The National Map, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is making a transition from data collector to guarantor of national data completeness; from producing paper maps to supporting an online, seamless, integrated database; and from simply describing the Nation’s landscape to linking these descriptions with increased scientific understanding. Implementing the full spectrum of geographic science addresses a myriad of public policy issues, including land and natural resource management, recreation, urban growth, human health, and emergency planning, response, and recovery. Neither these issues nor the science and technologies needed to deal with them are static. A robust research agenda is needed to understand these changes and realize The National Map vision. Initial successes have been achieved. These accomplishments demonstrate the utility of The National Map to the Nation and give confidence in evolving its future applications.