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Memorandum Issued to U.S. Government Leadership on Federal Engagement in Standards Activities

A memorandum clarifying principles for federal engagement in standards activities to address national priorities has been released by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

Issued to the leadership of U.S. federal executive departments and agencies, the memorandum describes the approach decided upon by the federal government to implement the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC) recommendations outlined in the October 2011 report, Federal Engagement in Standards Activities to Address National Priorities.

"The vibrancy and effectiveness of the U.S. standards system in enabling innovation depend on continued private-sector leadership and engagement," the memorandum asserts. "This approach - reliance on private-sector leadership - remains the primary strategy for government engagement in standards development."

The memorandum makes a number of important points regarding government reliance on the private sector:

  • Most standards developed and used in U.S. markets are created with little or no government involvement.
  • Consistent with the administration's commitment to openness, transparency, and multi-stakeholder engagement, all standards activities should involve the private sector.
  • Once a national priority has been identified, it is important for the federal government to engage private-sector stakeholders early in the process of identifying technology, regulatory, and/or procurement objectives.
  • To the extent feasible and appropriate, agencies should also provide continuous support for their technical experts' participation and leadership activities in mission-critical standards-setting activities and standards organizations, including standards organization-specific training and mentoring.

"The strength of the U.S. standardization system is built upon public-private partnerships for shared public policy goals," said ANSI president and CEO S. Joe Bhatia. "Working together, we have built a base of solid support and substance that provides good rationale for some of these conclusions. I am pleased to have this ratification, and a new foundation for next steps in developing strong public-private partnerships to serve the needs of our country."

The NSTC's October 2011 Federal Engagement in Standards Activities report was informed by responses submitted to a Request for Information (RFI). In total, the RFI received responses from more than 90 companies, trade associations, standards development organizations, and others, with the overwhelming majority stating strong support for the U.S. standardization system. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), in its role as the coordinator of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, submitted a response on behalf of the standardization community. [see related news item]

See related articles:

Report Released on Federal Engagement in Standards Activities
October 14, 2011

Mary Saunders Discusses Standards and Policy Issues at September ANSI Caucus
September 19, 2011

NIST Releases Summary of Responses on Federal Involvement in Standardization Notice
May 13, 2011

ANSI Submits Input on Federal Involvement in Standardization to NSTC Subcommittee
March 7, 2011

February ANSI Caucus Welcomes White House National Economic Council Advisor on Technology and Innovation Phil Weiser
January 24, 2011

Secretary Locke Announces Public Roundtable on Standards
January 14, 2011

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act Puts Focus on Standards
January 12, 2011


Jana Zabinski

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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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