ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Standards Representatives Speak to House Science Subcommittee on Key Issues

Washington, DC, May 11, 2005

A U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science hearing today approached the issue of technical standards as trade barriers in Europe and China. The dialogue expanded beyond activities in these regions, however, and offered a thorough discussion of the U.S. standardization system in general through witness testimonies and a question and answer period from key members of the U.S standardization community. Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI), chair of the subcommittee, opened the hearing with the hope that the discourse would bring a better understanding of the complexities of the standardization system and prevent future conflicts.

Presenting testimony to the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards were Dr. Hratch Semerjian, acting director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Robert W. Noth, manager of engineering standards for Deere & Company; Dr. Don Deutsch, vice president for standards strategy and architecture at Oracle; Joe Bhatia, executive vice president for international operations at Underwriters Laboratories; and David Karmol, vice president of public policy and government affairs at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Dr. Semerjian of NIST highlighted the global challenges posed to U.S. competitiveness in both the documentary and measurement standards arenas, and emphasized the need to create and implement mechanisms that will enable the public and private sectors to make informed choices about how best to invest resources to achieve the greatest impact. “NIST is committed to the success of this effort,” said Semerjian. He also announced a new initiative to “roadmap” the nation’s future measurement needs, spearheaded by NIST.

Mr. Noth stressed the importance of educating policy makers on the intricacies of the U.S. standards system and the impact of standards on trade, suggesting that an update to the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act might be one approach to put more emphasis on government support and advocacy of the voluntary standards system. He noted that the European Union and its member states have begun expending millions of Euros annually to provide technical assistance to developing and emerging nations, including China and the U.S. standardization community has not had the resources to offset this aggressive effort.

“Many of the most pressing policy issues before the Congress today have significant interoperability standardization components, such as ensuring our national security, improving access to quality medical care, and protecting the environment,” asserted Mr. Deutsch during his testimony. He said the recent WAPI dispute on wireless technology reflects the kinds of challenges U.S. industry is facing in China and around the globe. “We believe that the best role for the federal government in standardization is in partnership with industry.” Mr. Deutsch recommended strengthening current standards liaison programs at the Department of Commerce and across relevant government agencies. He also suggested the development of metrics to analyze the global economic impact of standards and the benefits of the U.S. system.

According to Mr. Bhatia of Underwriters Laboratories, testing and certification are as critical for product market access as the standards themselves, “so the two issues must be addressed simultaneously,” he said. He encouraged the committee to support congressional endorsement of the U.S. Standards Strategy the document now being developed by representatives of the standardization community under the auspices of ANSI, and Mr. Noth and Mr. Karmol concurred.

“Congressional recognition and endorsement of the Strategy would provide valuable support to the private sector as it engages with Europe and China,” said Karmol. “[This] would demonstrate to other nations that the U.S. speaks with one voice on standards issues, even though our approach to the development of standards is decentralized and sector-based.” Mr. Karmol also emphasized that the U.S. standards system is healthy and functions well, effectively serving U.S industry. Yet there exists a need for “strengthened U.S. Federal government support of, and cooperation with, the private sector for standards education and outreach activities, technical support and assistance, and resources to assure adequate U.S. representation at international standards meetings.”

Each member of the witness panel submitted an extended written testimony for the record, and welcomed further discussion of the issues raised, a sentiment enthusiastically supported by the subcommittee members. [Full written testimonies can be viewed here.]

An archived webcast of the hearing is available for a limited time via

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative