evidence that the levels of cooperation and teamwork are high; this is both highly commendable and essential to the success of the division.
Division operations are slightly over $13 million, a decrease from the previous year. Although there is promise for a budget increase for fiscal year 1998, the panel was concerned that important division programs may not advance as rapidly as they should without adequate resources. The divisional and laboratory management are appropriately focusing on activities that encourage cooperation among the groups.
The panel presents the following observations.
The MEL staff is highly focused, technically competent, and highly motivated.
The quality of the laboratory's work is generally well above industry norms and could be considered world-class in many areas.
The laboratory achieves excellent leverage of internal and external resources to accomplish many standards and R&D efforts. Many examples of good partnerships between industrial, academic, and NIST personnel were evident.
Management planning and control systems for MEL have been significantly improved. A strategic planning process has been instituted, and attempts at measuring laboratory effectiveness within industry through a series of industrial economic studies have been established.
The laboratory must continue in its efforts to develop meaningful metrics for its programs. It is not apparent that industry impact reports or other metrics are used as a feedback mechanism to adjust programs.
Since MEL is not likely to receive substantial additional funding but significant new technology opportunities arise continually, the laboratory must review existing programs annually and may need to be able to close down some existing projects in order to have the resources to begin new, higher-priority work.
Programs in mass, force, acceleration, density, sound, and ultrasonics are excellent, but the laboratory's ability to stay ahead of industry 's needs and technology advances is threatened by budget and personnel limitations. Of particular concern are small mass and force measurement and ultrasonics calibration efforts.
The high vibration, noise, and contamination levels in the building that houses the MEL seriously hamper the ability of the staff to meet the exacting demands of the new digital and communication technologies. This is a chronic problem that has been nagging the MEL for some time and is a growing and serious threat to the MEL's ability to carry out its mission.