with other divisions in MEL as well as with other laboratories and entities within NIST. This is possible because of the high levels of cooperation and teamwork that characterize the division's staff; this is both highly commendable and essential to the division's success.

Of concern to the panel is the decrease in the division's operational budget, compounded by the frequent awarding of ATP funds late in the fiscal year—a factor that clearly has some negative impact on program stability. Multiyear ATP funding would level out some of the budget variability and increase project stability. In addition, the division has not hired any new full-time professional staff in several years. Although this has not had much of an impact in the short term, it is clear that the growing importance of the division's activities demand growth in staff positions. The competition from industry for quality IT professionals is intense and complicates the situation; however, failure to hire quality individuals in this area will have detrimental consequences for the technical diversity and capacity of the division.

MAJOR OBSERVATIONS

The panel presents the following major observations.

  • The panel was very impressed with the overall progress toward program goals and in program prioritization that has been made in the Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory (MEL) over the past year.

  • The efforts to establish a set of criteria for selecting or redirecting projects are admirable. The MEL should push to implement in all its divisions a consistent methodology for the selection of new programs and projects and for reprogramming of existing activities. The panel strongly encourages broad use of the prioritization criteria for all laboratory projects.

  • Because of the limited resources available to the MEL, the use of cost-benefit analyses should be incorporated in the program/program prioritization process.

  • The MEL should increase its use of roadmaps for forecasting future industry measurement needs.

  • Although it would be difficult to quantify or measure industry's needs in intelligent systems, the potential impact for productivity improvement necessitates pursuit of this knowledge.

  • The MEL can play a role in NIST efforts to be recognized as a leader for traceability and standards in information technology.

  • The MEL should proactively recruit U.S. industry to participate in international standards-making activities.

  • The laboratory's effective use of internal and external Web sites for the dissemination and publication of results enables MEL's customers to have easy access to the division's products and services.

  • The MEL should develop a more formal career development program.



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