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Input Sought on Federal Register Notice from OMB on Circular A-119, Federal Participation in Standardization

A March 30 Federal Register notice from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) invites input on OMB's consideration of whether and how to supplement Circular A-119, "Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities."

As described in the notice, issues in the standards and conformity assessment areas may have emerged or evolved since the Circular was last updated in 1998. In particular, the notice seeks stakeholder input on the following key areas:

  • Agency implementation of Circular A-119 in rulemakings
  • Voluntary consensus standards versus voluntary non-consensus standards
  • Conformity assessment issues
  • Protection of copyright associated with standards
  • Voluntary consensus standards and cost-benefit analysis
  • Using and updating standards in regulation
  • Use of more than one standard or conformity assessment procedure in a regulation or procurement solicitation

The policies in OMB Circular A-119 are intended to reduce to a minimum the reliance by agencies on government-unique standards. In accordance with Section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (NTTAA), Circular A-119 directs Federal agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical.

The Circular also provides guidance for agencies participating in the work of bodies that develop voluntary consensus standards and describes procedures for satisfying the NTTAA's agency-reporting requirements. In addition, consistent with Section 12(b) of the NTTAA, the Circular directs the Secretary of Commerce to issue guidance to agencies in order to coordinate conformity assessment activities.

In providing their input, stakeholders are asked to consider how additional or more specific guidance on standards and conformity assessment will assist agencies engaged in rulemaking, procurement, and other activities. Any such supplemental guidance would be developed in conjunction with efforts by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to update its conformity assessment guidelines, in order to ensure consistency between the two documents. [see related news item]

The notice also announces a free public workshop on OMB Circular A-119 to be held on Tuesday, May 15, at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This workshop will include presentations from key government officials, industry, and experts on standards and conformity assessment issues, and time will be allotted for participant input and discussions. Advance registration is required for this workshop; to register, click here.

Given the importance of this issue, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will develop a consensus response on behalf of the standardization community. In order to have sufficient time to develop this consensus document, ANSI members are asked to consider the questions posed in the notice and submit any responses back to [email protected] by Monday, April 9.

ANSI also encourages individual companies and organizations to submit their own comments in direct response to the notice. Please note that final responses must be submitted to the Federal Register by April 30, 2012.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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