Prior to the age of electronic surveying, accuracies of 1 part in a million were achieved on numerous surveys while the most accurate baseline ever measured by the Coast and Geodetic Survey with classical techniques had a final accuracy of better than 1 part in 5.5 million. To put that in perspective, that is a measurement error of less than one inch in 90 statute miles. Such accuracies led to surveyors coining a saying that in its various forms stated: "Good enough for Government work". Loosely translated, that saying refers to a very accurate survey and has its roots in the science of geodesy as developed by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, an organization that became legendary for the accuracy and precision of its results. Such accuracies were not achieved in sterile laboratory settings.
The surveyors and engineers of the Coast and Geodetic Survey surveyed the mountains, plains, deserts, and shores of the United States and its territories -- a difficult task that required not only technical ability but also fortitude, perseverance, physical strength, and quiet courage. Their spirit served the Nation well. The geodetic surveys accomplished by the field personnel of the Coast and Geodetic Survey have: been a major factor in the world-wide effort to develop more accurate values of the size and shape of the Earth; helped determine the placement and design of many of the great civil works of the United States; served as the control surveys for the national mapping efforts of the United States Geological Survey; helped with many of the technical aspects of our Nation's defense; determined many state boundaries within our United States as well as the boundaries of many of the nations of the Americas; and helped determine property lines throughout much of our Nation.