consensus standards development procedures promulgated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These include open participation of volunteer technical experts in standards-writing committees; consensus among committee members in support of any proposed standard; and elements of administrative due process, such as opportunities for comment and voting by affected parties. These procedures increase the likelihood of achieving a broad-based consensus and enhancing the acceptance of the resulting standard.3
NIST personnel are frequent participants in consensus standards committees, and FIPSs generally cite or draw on consensus and de facto industry standards.4 This practice is consistent with government-wide policy; Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119 requires that all federal agencies cite existing consensus standards in regulation and procurement wherever possible, rather than develop government-unique
nications Industry Solutions (ATIS), coordinator of Committee T1 for telecommunication standards. The American Banking Association sponsors Committee X9, which is currently developing a cryptographic standard for interbank transactions based on the triple-DES algorithm. The Internet Engineering Task Force determines the protocols that are used (in varying degrees of compliance) to communicate between Internet sites.
Other private sector standards result from competition in the commercial marketplace. When one firm's product becomes so widespread that its specifications guide the decisions of other market participants, those specifications become a de facto industry standard. Firms may promote their technologies as de facto standards in pursuit of goals such as gaining economies of scale, protecting or increasing market share, and obtaining revenues from licensing intellectual property, among others. The IBM-compatible personal computer architecture is an example of a de facto industry standard. See Michael Hergert, "Technical Standards and Competition in the Microcomputer Industry," in H. Landis Gabel (ed.), Product Standardization and Competitive Strategy, Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam, 1987.
In recent years, some firms in the information technology industry have tried to establish de facto standards by promoting them through industry consortia. The Open Software Foundation's efforts to set a de facto UNIX operating system standard are an example. See Carl Cargill and Martin Weiss, "Consortia in the Standards Development Process," Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Volume 43(8), 1992, pp. 559-565.
The decentralized nature of standard setting in the United States can be confusing and inefficient in specific circumstances. A recent National Research Council study of standards and international trade in many industry sectors concluded, however, that the existence of multiple standard-setting processes generally serves the national interest well, for reasons that include flexibility in responding to changing technological and market forces and competitive pressures placed on rival standards developers. See National Research Council, Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. 60-61.
3 Ross Cheit, Setting Safety Standards: Regulation in the Public and Private Sectors, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990, p. 15.
4 Cargill, Information Technology Standardization, 1989, pp. 213-214.