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An Assessment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory: Fiscal Year 2008 Overall Conclusions The technical merit of the programs reviewed within the BFRL overall is very high and in several instances at a state-of-the-art level; these programs have clear ties to the overall BFRL Strategic Priority Areas and are well aligned with the mission of NIST. With few exceptions the BFRL staff whose work was reviewed are fully aware of work being done elsewhere and have exceptional links with the external community. There is good balance in the BFRL work between anticipatory longer-term research and activities that respond to the immediate needs of customers. Equipment and facilities supporting current BFRL work are excellent and, except in noted cases, do not appear to be a limiting factor with respect to research efforts. The updating and modernizing of related BFRL test equipment and procedures must continuously be considered, as such equipment is central to the mission of NIST. The BFRL staff has a critical mass of scientific and technical competencies and is well qualified to conduct the programs now underway. The panel has serious concerns relative to the attracting, recruiting, training, and retaining of staff for future needs. The BRFL needs to develop a plan to address present and future staffing needs, mentoring and staff development, retention strategies, technical and project management training, and the provision of the human resources support necessary to implement the plan without unduly taxing the time of scientific personnel. Available funding, at least prospectively, appears adequate for success in most current areas of work if the funding materializes. National economic opportunities and global environmental threats justify considerably more funding on energy-related work. The BFRL has a strong foundation and record of excellent results in achieving program objectives and disseminating results and products into practice. The panel was presented with a clear articulation of the mission and of the strategic directions for the BFRL. However, this strategic vision is not always complemented by detailed roadmaps and associated metrics that could be used to evaluate progress. The current process may be effective on a project-by-project basis but may be insufficient as an effective methodology for assessing a group of projects with related objectives. The BFRL sees Disaster Resilient Structures and Communities (Hurricanes and Earthquakes) as a key focus area for addressing the goals of the America COMPETES Act and the American Competitiveness Initiative. In FY 2008, the BFRL’s funding levels under the America COMPETES Act were not increased as had been anticipated. As a result, the programs under this area have suffered from lack of adequate support. These programs are just now taking shape. The panel’s recommendations relative to the wildland-urban interface fire research in support of the America COMPETES Act and the ACI are twofold: (1) the BFRL should fully embrace technical portfolio management tools and processes, and (2) the BFRL should utilize new technologies from systems engineering, dynamical systems, and information technology to take advantage of new technologies that complement its existing strengths in physics-based modeling and testing.