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DHS Publishes Guide on the Development and Use of Non-Government Standards

New York, May 02, 2008

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently published the first version of a new document entitled Guidance on Participation in the Development and Use of Non-Government Standards.

Reiterating the U.S. government’s strong support of voluntary consensus standards, this booklet provides DHS stakeholders with background information on standards and guides the Department’s participation in non-government standards bodies (NGSBs) and adoption of non-government standards (NGSs).

According to the booklet’s summary, “NGSs and NGSBs fulfill a vital role in promoting trade and developing confidence in technology and accountability in management systems,” a statement in line with the policies outlined in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (NTTAA) (Public Law 104-113).

The NTTAA requires all federal agencies and departments to use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standard bodies, unless such use is impractical or inconsistent with law. To implement the Act, the Office of Management and Budget issued Circular A-119, which provides guidance to promote consistent application of the Act across federal agencies and departments.

The new DHS booklet outlines the benefits of compliance with the NTTAA and Circular A-119 and encourages its employees to participate in NGS developing committees. DHS also affirms that it will “seek the adoption of NGSs over government unique standards whenever possible and appropriate,” making them formally approved DHS National Standards. Additionally, DHS states that “[i]f a satisfactory NGS exists, DHS should cancel or deactivate the government document for new design products.”

Background information included in the booklet details different kinds of standards, their history and purpose, and federal policies regarding standards. Information and guidance on NGSBs is provided in detail, including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), trade associations, professional societies, standards developing organizations (SDOs), testing and laboratory organizations, industry consortia, and international standards organizations.

“When DHS was formed in 2003 from 22 different federal agencies, it presented an opportunity for this new Department to develop common strategies on standards that help make the nation safer,” stated Dr. Bert M. Coursey, DHS standard executive. “This guidance on use of non-governmental standards will encourage the Department’s adherence to the principles of the NTTAA, and leverage the enormous resources of the private sector standards development organizations in developing standards for homeland security.”

“ANSI is dedicated to working with government leaders to highlight and promote the major role standards play in the international and domestic marketplace,” said Matt Deane, ANSI director of homeland security standards. “We commend DHS for their commitment to the effective and strategic use of voluntary consensus standards in Departmental programs and nationwide homeland security initiatives.”

The booklet also identifies ANSI’s Homeland Security Standards Panel (ANSI-HSSP) as a strong example of the public and private sectors working in close collaboration to accelerate the development and adoption of consensus standards that are critical to homeland security.

For more information about this new DHS guidance document, please contact Peter Shebell, DHS standards policy manager (

The American National Standards Institute launched the ANSI-HSSP in 2003 to assist DHS and those sectors requesting assistance to accelerate the development and adoption of consensus standards critical to homeland security. The panel has been active in addressing critical homeland security issues such as private sector emergency preparedness and business continuity, training programs for first responders, and such specific areas as perimeter security, emergency communications and biological and chemical threat agents. Ongoing efforts are examining standardization in transit security, financial risk for cyber security, and credentialing/access control for disaster management. Further information is available at