ANSI - American National Standards Institute

United States Standards Strategy - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to have a U.S. Standards Strategy?

Standards are more essential today than at any time in our nation's history. Voluntary consensus standards are at the foundation of the U.S. economy. The U.S.-based standardization system promotes the public good, enhances the competitiveness of U.S. industry, and contributes to a liberalized global trading system. This "essential infrastructure" is therefore important to everyone. It is imperative that everyone understands that and works towards maintaining and improving the system.

Because the U.S. standards system is so diverse, stakeholders from industry, government, consumers, and standards developers saw the need to gather around a central framework to ensure our national well-being, improve our global competitiveness, and respond to critical domestic and international priorities. The United States Standards Strategy (USSS) was developed to serve as this framework.

The Strategy is written in a way that permits different groups to select and derive value from those elements of the document that resonate most clearly with their individual or sector's needs. It identifies where there are standardization needs to be met, opportunities to do better, and good work to reaffirm. Each element of the Strategy clearly supports the U.S. view that standardization should be driven by the marketplace and adhere to the set of globally accepted principles for standards development expressed during the Second Triennial Review of the World Trade Organization's Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement.

The U.S. is not alone in its pursuit of a national, strategic approach to standardization and we believe that the ideas, viewpoints and directions identified in the USSS are also suitable for advancement in the international standardization arena. However, we recognize that the views some of our counterparts assert in their own national strategies may contrast sharply with those we recommend. Modern circumstances require that all segments of our global society work together more closely for mutual benefit. Our view of the future focuses on forging new and solidifying existing partnerships with counterparts around the world, and working in active collaboration with them to carefully examine marketplace and societal issues and to develop standards-based solutions to address those needs.

How was the Strategy developed?

The United States Standards Strategy – Third Edition is a second revision of the National Standards Strategy for the United States (NSS) that was approved in August 2000 and revised in 2005. The first NSS reaffirmed that the U.S. is committed to a sector-based approach to voluntary standardization activities, both domestically and globally. It established a standardization framework that was built upon the traditional strengths of the U.S. system — such as consensus, openness, and transparency — while giving additional emphasis to speed, relevance, and meeting the needs of public-interest constituencies. Strategic and tactical initiatives contained within this framework were developed so that they could then be used by diverse interests to meet their own national and individual organizational objectives.

The revision of the NSS is now known as the United States Standards Strategy (USSS). The name change recognizes globalization and the need for standards designed to meet stakeholder needs irrespective of national borders. The name also reflects a standardization environment that incorporates new types of standards development activities, more flexible approaches, and new structures.

This USSS was developed through the coordinated efforts of a large and diverse group of constituents representing stakeholders in government, industry, standards developing organizations, consortia, consumer groups, and academia. Throughout the process, all the participants expressed a commitment to developing the USSS in a way that was open, balanced, and transparent. The result is a document that represents the vision of a broad cross-section of standards stakeholders and that reflects the diversity of the U.S. standards system.

Does the Strategy address conformity assessment?

It is quite clear that conformity assessment issues such as testing, certification, and accreditation are closely associated with standards. It is equally clear that these issues have become a critically important aspect of conducting business in the global marketplace. However, the subject is complex, different interests are involved, and significant issues remain. Therefore, addressing conformity assessment in anything other than a superficial manner would have greatly increased both the size and complexity of the U.S. Standards Strategy and significantly extended the time required for completion.

The United States Conformity Assessment Principles (USCAP) document articulates the principles for U.S. conformity assessment activities. First published in September 2002, the second edition was released in May 2007, and the most recent edition in September 2011.

What is ANSI's relationship to the Strategy?

ANSI's role during the development of this Strategy was that of facilitator and administrator. The announced goal from the outset was to develop a standards strategy for the U.S. that was inclusive of activities both inside and outside the ANSI federation. Many of those who were involved in the Strategy's development, or who commented during the subsequent review period, had no previous affiliation with the Institute.

As coordinator of the U.S. standardization system, ANSI played a lead role in managing the preparation and publication of the USSS. It is appropriate that the ANSI Board of Directors was the first entity to approve the Strategy. Support or endorsement of the Strategy by members of Congress, top-level government agency officials, and industry leaders will serve as an additional catalyst to foster this system and promote U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.

What steps are being taken to implement the Strategy?

Every standards stakeholder in the U.S. has responsibility for implementing the Strategy. Business and commercial interests; government at the federal, state and local level; standards developing organizations; consumers and academia - everyone has a role to play.

The Strategy must meet a wide range of needs within such diverse technology and service areas as aerospace, automotive, chemical, construction, electrical and related technologies, information technology, medical, and tourism. To achieve the greatest impact, stakeholders must develop and enact sector-specific implementation plans. The Strategy provides the overall framework for the "standards house we want to build" in the U.S., but each market sector must "complete construction" by implementing those aspects of the document that it finds most relevant. This customized approach not only facilitates the involvement of all affected parties, but also focuses attention on unique interests and needs within each industry.

Certain tactical items have been assigned to specific parties, including ANSI, industry, standards developers, and the U.S. government:

  • ANSI, in its role as the U.S. national member of many international and regional standards organizations, will work with its policy and program oversight committees to develop implementation plans for the appropriate constituencies.
  • Industry is focusing on actions that add value to the standardization process and mitigate technical barriers to trade.
  • Standards developers are including some of the Strategy's approaches in their business plans and investigating ways to increase efficiencies and broaden participation.
  • Government initiatives are being discussed and coordinated.

ANSI has developed a tracking system that permits each stakeholder group to record for public notice the implementation actions that have been taken. Progress will be reported periodically.

How is the vision of "one globally applied standard and one globally applied test" reflected in the Strategy?

The U.S. Standards Strategy is based upon an underlying concept of market-driven and market-relevant standards. For these reasons, the Strategy neither encourages nor discourages the concept of one globally accepted standard or test.

This stance was taken because there is a great variance between the needs and circumstances of various market sectors. For many products, processes, and services, the marketplace will demand one globally accepted standard. In other areas, long-standing national infrastructures (such as electrical) may make it economically or technically infeasible for one globally accepted standard. While in other sectors, the best approach may be to develop competing standards and let the marketplace decide on implementation.

The Strategy embraces the World Trade Organization's principles of transparency, openness, due process, and consensus. What impact, if any, will this have on U.S.-based standards developers?

The United States is committed to the avoidance of standards as barriers to trade and all U.S.-based standards organizations have been - and continue to be - encouraged to consider and adhere to the WTO principles. To assist in these efforts, the United States Standards Strategy suggests opportunities for training and adjustments that will facilitate compliance.

The Strategy also acknowledges the reality that all standards developers, including groups such as consortia and forums, play an important and integral part of the global economy, technology base, and standards system. In fact, certain of these developers are also making great strides to introduce innovative approaches into the standardization process in order to meet the requirements of the marketplace and the needs of their particular stakeholders. These innovations - such as collaborative development, speeding the approval process, and even aspects of protecting intellectual property rights - are frequently suitable for incorporation into the procedures of other standards developers. This is seen as a benefit for the entire standardization community.

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