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Report to Congress Stresses Key Role of Standards in Homeland Security


New York, Jan 21, 2003

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a Report for Congress entitled “Homeland Security: Standards for State and Local Preparedness,” outlining four policy approaches that may affect state and local governments and the establishment of standards for terrorism preparedness.

According to CRS, the 108th Congress could take at least four different approaches to preparedness standards: maintain the status quo, allowing the current system to continue to develop new standards to address identified preparedness concerns; encourage development and adoption of voluntary standards at the federal, state and local level; condition federal assistance on the adoption and use of voluntary standards for receiving federal assistance for terrorism preparedness; or promulgate federal regulations, either through the federal rulemaking process or through increased adoption of voluntary consensus standards from the private sector.

Each of the report’s four potential policy approaches includes the use of standards developed through the voluntary consensus process. Citing the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Procedures for the Development and Coordination of American National Standards, the report identifies ANSI’s model for due process that many nongovernmental organizations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), use to play a significant role in developing preparedness standards. Federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), also traditionally participate in voluntary consensus processes.

The passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) in 1995 plainly encouraged the use of voluntary standards by federal agencies and participation by agency representatives. This has resulted in an ever-increasing awareness of the utility of voluntary consensus standards on Capitol Hill. The CRS report points out that the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (HSA) re-affirms the commitment of Congress to this process as mandated by the NTTAA. HSA states “All standards activities of the Department (of Homeland Security) shall be conducted in accordance with Sec. 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995…(P.L. 107-296, Sec 102[g]).”

In a segment sub-titled “Is a Comprehensive Policy Needed?” the report notes that there currently is no single program to coordinate development of needed preparedness standards, rather “efforts to develop standards are dispersed among a number of nongovernmental organizations and federal agencies.” Some observers worry that this impairs national efforts to prepare for terrorism. ANSI is currently addressing this issue through a proposal for the establishment of a mechanism to coordinate Homeland Security initiatives under the direction of the ANSI National Policy Committee.


As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works exclusively and directly for Members of Congress to provide nonpartisan, objective analysis and research on all legislative issues.

Click here to view the report: Homeland Security: Standards for State and Local Preparedness

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