Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued its long-anticipated revised version of OMB Circular A-119, “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities.”
On behalf of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), coordinator of the U.S. voluntary standardization system, I am pleased to report that the revision maintains a strong preference for using voluntary consensus standards over government-unique standards in federal regulation and procurement.
The changes primarily reflect the need to facilitate government understanding and use of standards and conformity assessment solutions in the context of an increasingly robust global trade economy and accelerating technologies.
This is excellent news for the U.S. standardization community, and for industry as a whole. To say that OMB A-119 is important to our community is an understatement. Truly, it is the defining document of our nation’s public-private partnership for standardization. And that is why ANSI has been closely monitoring the OMB’s revision process since it was first announced in 2012.
ANSI has been tremendously active and effective in informing the public about these and other important developments with respect to government reliance upon private-sector standards.
We’ve solicited input from our constituents and developed strong, effective outreach that is aimed at highlighting the value, integrity, and accessibility of the U.S. standardization system in order to ensure its long-term viability. And our efforts have paid off: many points raised by ANSI during the review process have been taken into account in the revised Circular.
By way of background, the OMB Circular A 119, in conjunction with the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) of 1995, instructs U.S. federal agencies to consider using voluntary consensus standards developed privately instead of government-unique standards whenever possible.
It was last updated in 1998 and has been revised again to reflect notable changes that have occurred in the ensuing years in connection with voluntary consensus standards, conformity assessment activities, international issues, and the federal government’s participation in and use of standards.
The full text of the revised circular is available online. But to provide some assistance in understanding the key changes in the document, ANSI held a free webinar on February 16 on the topic. Speakers included myself and the following government representatives who were instrumental in the drafting of the document:
- Jasmeet Seehra, Policy Analyst, OMB
- Gordon Gillerman, Director, Standards Coordination Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- Jeff Weiss, Senior Advisor for Standards and Global Regulatory Policy, U.S. Department of Commerce
Ms. Seehra, Mr. Gillerman, and Mr. Weiss presented a brief overview of some of the documents revisions and the intent of those changes, including reducing regulatory complexity; reflecting current technological solutions; expanding guidance on conformity assessment; and facilitating government participate in and use of standards while reducing the burden to industry and considering international trade issues. Webinar participants were given the opportunity to submit questions via chat, and a robust Q&A period followed the presentations.
The bottom line is, this is a very positive development for the standardization community and for the public-private partnership upon which it depends. As one of the biggest users of standards, the U.S. government’s participation in and support of standards development activities are of the utmost importance. And it offers tremendous benefit to industry, as government reliance on private-sector standard solutions is critical to continued U.S. competitiveness and innovation.
ANSI will continue to work to inform government, industry, and the public about the importance of protecting our open and collaborative system. Now more than ever we are seeing how critical this work continues to be. I invite you to visit www.ansi.org/ibr, which we have set up as a free resource for everyone on the issues of incorporation by reference and government reliance on standardization.
Filed Under: Industry regulations