Seventh Annual Report on Federal Agency Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and Conformity Assessment



This summary report is provided to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in compliance with OMB Circular A-119 and Public Law 104-113, the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA). It describes activities related to the use of voluntary consensus standards and conformity assessment practices by agencies of the Federal government during FY 2003 as required by Paragraph 9 of the Circular.

This report presents the standards and conformity assessment activities of 25 Federal agencies. Reported data show that overall Federal agencies continue to look to the private sector to fulfill government needs rather than creating new government-unique standards. Since FY 1997, Federal agencies have adopted nearly 2,500 private sector standards in support of their regulatory, procurement and policy activities.

For FY 2003, Federal agencies reported 400 new uses of private sector standards. In addition, during the same period agencies substituted 185 private sector standards for government-unique standards. This is a clear demonstration of the progress made by agencies in complying with the NTTAA and Circular A-119. It indicates that, overall, agencies are increasingly looking to the private sector to fulfill government’s needs rather than create new government-unique standards.Agency reporting on the number of government-unique standards used in lieu of private sector standards shows an incremental increase in FY 2003; with only nine new uses reported. New uses by agencies of government-unique standards in lieu of private sector standards have declined steadily each year since FY 1999.

Federal agencies reported participation in 433 private sector standards developing organizations during FY 2003. This is the largest number recorded since 2001 when NIST began collecting this data. The number of agency staff participating in standards activities was 3,568, an increase of 11% over the previous reporting period. Even so, private sector standards developers assert that there continue to be areas where greater Federal agency participation is necessary to ensure government input on important standards-related issues.

For their part, Federal agencies report that maintaining their current levels of participation in standards developing organizations is becoming increasingly difficult. Competing organizational priorities, dwindling budget resources and anticipation in coming years of accelerated staff losses due to retirement and downsizing are just some of the reasons for concern in this area among agency Standards Executives.

(Executive Summary)