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Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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2
Standards Development

Standards serve many different purposes, as noted in the previous chapter. There are also many ways of developing standards. Figure 2-1 defines the three principal types of standards by development process. The first comprises consensus-building activities among private firms, technical experts, customers, and other interested parties. These groups write standards through a formal process of discussion, drafting, and review. Group members attempt to form consensus on the best technical specifications to meet customer, industry, and public needs. The resulting standards are published for voluntary use throughout industry. Standards arising from these processes are termed voluntary consensus standards. Examples range from dimensions of valve fittings in household plumbing to performance characteristics of automotive structural materials. A variety of private organizations produce voluntary consensus standards, including industry and trade associations; professional societies; nonprofit, standards-setting membership organizations, and industry consortia.

No single organization, public or private, controls the U.S. standards development system. The efforts of many U.S. voluntary consensus standards organizations, however, are coordinated by the private, nonprofit American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This organization sets guidelines for groups to follow in managing the consensus-seeking process in a fair and open manner. ANSI reviews and accredits many U.S. standards-setting organizations for compliance with these guidelines. It also approves many of the standards these organizations produce, designating them as American National Standards. These and other central roles that ANSI plays in the U.S. standards system, including representing

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

DE FACTO STANDARD

A standard arising from uncoordinated processes in the competitive marketplace. When a particular set of product or process specifications gains market share such that it acquires authority or influence, the set of specifications is then considered a de facto standard.

Example: IBM-compatible personal computer architecture

VOLUNTARY CONSENSUS STANDARD

A standard arising from a formal, coordinated process in which key participants in a market seek consensus. Use of the resulting standard is voluntary. Key participants may include not only designers and producers, but also consumers, corporate and government purchasing officials, and regulatory authorities.

Example: photographic film speed--ISO 100, 200, 400, etc., set by International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

MANDATORY STANDARD

A standard set by government. A procurement standard specifies requirements that must be met by suppliers to government. A regulatory standard may set safety, health, environmental, or related criteria. Voluntary standards developed for private use often become mandatory when referenced within government regulation or procurement.

Example: automobile crash protection—air bag and/or passive seat restraint mandated by National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration

FIGURE 2-1 Types of standards.

U.S. positions in international standards organizations, are discussed in this chapter.

Not all private-sector standards are set through consensus. Many arise through competition in the commercial marketplace. When one firm's product becomes sufficiently widespread that its unique specifications guide the decisions and actions of other market participants, those specifications become a de facto market standard. De facto standards are sometimes called industry standards. A de facto standard is usually promoted by a firm or organization in pursuit of commercial benefits. These benefits include gaining economies of scale, protecting or increasing market share, and obtaining revenues from licensing of intellectual property, among others. The IBM personal computer architecture, established and promoted by IBM beginning in 1981, is an example of a de facto industry standard.1

De facto standards may arise without formal sponsorship, simply through widespread, common usage. Cultural norms and customs, including informal business practices, are unsponsored standards. The arrangement of keys on a typewriter or computer keyboard—the QWERTY keyboard, so named because of the placement of those letters in one row—is an example of an unsponsored, de facto technology standard. Although no firm or group of firms actively promotes the QWERTY standard, it remains the standard arrangement of most keyboards.2 Most standards of interest in the context of this report, however, are actively sponsored by one or more organizations or individuals.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

Mandatory standards are standards set by government with which compliance is required, either by regulation or in order to sell products or services to government agencies. Public-sector standardization encompasses many levels of government. Federal, state, regional, and local government agencies set regulatory standards on products and processes in order to protect health, safety, and the environment. They also produce specifications for public procurement of goods and services. Some of these standards are written by government agencies, whereas others are developed in the private sector and adopted by agencies. Even in the case of standards written by government, the process of development is not without private input or participation. For example, laws governing administrative processes—such as the Administrative Procedures Act—require public review and comment on proposed regulations. The Federal Register regularly publishes requests for comments on standards drafted by federal agencies. Technical requirements for safety devices on machinery, developed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are an example of mandatory standardization.

The boundary between voluntary and mandatory standards is not always distinct. Government standards writers frequently refer to privately developed, voluntary standards within the text of regulations and procurement specifications. Mandatory standards may cite voluntary standards in whole or in part, with or without additional criteria beyond those set in the referenced standard. For example, many of the regulations applied in state and local building codes require that electrical materials, such as wiring, meet portions of the National Electrical Code, a consensus standard developed by the private, nonprofit National Fire Prevention Association.3 In addition, procurement specifications set by major manufacturers are, from the perspective of their suppliers, mandatory for doing business in the same way that government procurement standards are mandatory.

The mechanisms by which standards are developed are extremely diverse. There is no single process in the United States or worldwide for creating and adopting standards. There is great variability among different standards in such attributes as purpose, scope, specificity of requirements, relative technological sophistication, and speed of development. Many different types of organizations, companies, government agencies, and consumers are users of standards. The variables that affect the pattern of standards development in an industry or market sector include, among others, (1) industry size and concentration; (2) dominance of specific suppliers or buyers; (3) level and speed of technological advance; and (4) public interests such as safety, health, and environmental protection.4

Despite the diversity of U.S. standards development processes, however, some generalizations can be made that are useful in assessing the performance of the U.S. standards development system and providing guidance to policymakers. This chapter examines the major components of the U.S. system, turning first to the private-sector and then the public-sector components. Implications of the decentralized, market-oriented structure of U.S. voluntary standards development

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

processes are highlighted, as well as interactions between voluntary and mandatory standards-setting mechanisms in the United States.

Scope Of The U.S. System

Standards exist for virtually all industries and product sectors. The 20 leading nongovernment standards developers in number of standards produced, for example, encompass a spectrum of industry sectors: aerospace; electronics; automotive and mechanical engineering; petroleum products; chemicals; pulp and paper; and cosmetics. This group also includes developers of safety-related standards such as those for fire protection, industrial hygiene, consumer product safety, and product testing.5 Government standards at the federal, state, and local levels, including privately developed standards adopted by government, are similarly diverse. These encompass manufacturing, transportation, and communications equipment; environmental protection and public health; food, drugs, and consumer products; construction materials, such as electrical wiring, plumbing, wood, stone, and concrete; and the broad range of products procured for government use such as office equipment, vehicles, communications systems, and military hardware.6

The number of U.S. standards at a given point in time is difficult to identify. Table 2-1 details the approximate number of formal standards maintained in a current, active status by the main categories of public and private standards developers. The public sector list begins with the Department of Defense (DoD), which develops and maintains more formal standards than any other organization in the United States. The number of DoD standards was estimated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, a branch of the Department of Commerce) at 38,000 in 1991. The number has begun to shrink, however, because DoD now decommissions more standards than it develops each year. Remaining federal procurement and regulatory standards bring the total of U.S. government standards to 52,000.7

The number of private-sector, voluntary consensus standards in the United States is 41,500.8 Table 2-2 lists the 10 leading standards-developing organizations (SDOs) in the United States, by number of standards produced. There are three types of private standards-developing organizations. First are technical and professional societies that engage in technical standards development. These consist of organizations of individuals who practice a profession or discipline, frequently a branch of engineering. Second are industry associations, whose membership consists of firms in a specific industry or trade. The third group has the more generic designation of standards-developing membership organizations, whose membership is open to individuals interested in standardization. Unlike professional societies for which standards development is one among many functions, these organizations' primary focus is standards development and standards-related activities.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

TABLE 2-1 —U.S. Standards, by Developer (active standards as of 1991)

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

NUMBER OF STANDARDS

Department of Defense

38,000

General Services Administration (nondefense procurement)

6,000

Other federal (primarily regulatory)

8,500

Examples:

Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Federal Communications Commission

 

Total

52,000

PRIVATE SECTORa

NUMBER OF STANDARDS

Scientific and Professional Societies

13,000

Examples:

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

 

Trade Associations

14,500

Examples:

National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Computer and Business Equipment Manufacturers Association (CBEMA)

 

Standards-Developing Membership Organizations

14,000

Examples:

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

 

Total

41,500

Overall Total (Federal Government and Private Sector)

93,500

a Not including de facto industry standards.

SOURCE: Toth, Robert B., ed. Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States. NIST Special Publication 806. P. 4. National Institute of Standards and Technology. U.S. Department of Commerce. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991.

Data on numbers of standards must be treated with caution, for several reasons. First, the definition of what constitutes a standard is not exact. There may be uncertainty in whether to consider a product description, specification, definition of a term, or description of a procedure to be a standard. Different agencies and organizations may vary in their interpretation of such cases. The context of the discussion is also significant. Given this report's primary focus on the links among standards, conformity assessment, and domestic and international

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

TABLE 2-2 —Top 10 Private Standards-Developing Organizations (active standards as of 1991)

TOP 10 DEVELOPING ORGANIZATIONS IN THE U.S.

NUMBER OF STANDARDS

American Society for Testing and Materials

8,500

Society of Automotive Engineers

5,100

U.S. Pharmacopeia

4,450

Aerospace Industries Association

3,000

Association of Official Analytical Chemists

1,900

Association of American Railroads

1,350

American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

1,100

American Petroleum Institute

880

Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association

800

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

745

performance of U.S. manufacturers, the discussion here is limited to product and process standards. Professional certification, for example, such as that required of accountants, lawyers, and health care providers, is a type of standard that is not considered in this report.

Second, the distinction between a single standard with many sections and a series of separate, but related, standards may be arbitrary. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) produced and regularly updates the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, a single standard running into thousands of pages. The code currently has 11 major sections covering design, fabrication, inspection, and safe operation of boilers, pressure vessels, and nuclear power plant components.9 The choice of writing a set of specifications as a single standard or a series of standards is made by each developing organization or agency, according to its own guidelines.

Third, not all published standards have equal influence in the economy. Some voluntary standards fail to achieve widespread acceptance or use in the marketplace. The most widely used 15 to 20 percent of standards developed by private organizations accounts for 80 percent of those organizations' orders for printed copies of standards.10 These standards may be presumed to have greater economic and technological significance than those that are rarely used. A standard applied at a critical point in a system, market, or industry, however, could have an impact far greater than the number of copies ordered from its publisher would indicate.

Both voluntary and mandatory standards may become technologically obsolete, yet remain in a technically active status. For example, an organization may

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

choose to maintain an outdated standard for the benefit of persons who own or acquire a piece of old equipment and need access to technical information in order to operate or maintain it. Alternatively, a standard may remain in existence simply for lack of incentive to unlist it. As many as 25 to 30 percent of U.S. government and private standards have been estimated to be obsolete.11

Finally, two groups of product and process standards are omitted from the data in Figure 2-1. First, information on numbers of state and local government standards is extremely limited and fragmentary. These standards are concentrated in such areas as building and construction materials, workplace safety, environmental protection, agriculture, and foods.12 Second, de facto standards are also excluded from the table. The same difficulties in enumerating public and private formal standards apply in the case of de facto standards set by firms through market competition. In addition, the distinction between a product that sets a standard, influencing the design of others, and a product that is simply one among many is highly subjective. The absence of a formal, institutional process for designating de facto standards compounds the difficulty of identifying, much less quantifying, the output of de facto standards development efforts.

These factors, among others, make it clear that neither a determination of the economic impact of standards activities in the United States nor an overall assessment of the U.S. system should focus closely on the quantities of standards produced. Valid assessments depend, instead, on examination of the efficiency and effectiveness of standards development in relation to the needs of industry, government, and society; the economic and technological implications of the U.S. system's characteristics; and the efficacy of existing mechanisms for strengthening and improving the system.

Private-Sector Standards

Efforts to coordinate standards development in the United States began to develop momentum early in this century. One factor spurring these efforts was the realization that technical standards were needed to ensure the safety of many new products of the industrial age. The first version of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler Code was written in 1914, in response to serious hazards posed by poor-quality boilers, which were prone to explode. The code—today, the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code—performs several of the functions of standards outlined in the previous chapter. Most significant is its role in protecting safety by providing a standard against which unsafe boilers, components, and manufacturing methods can be identified and rejected. Large portions of the code have become mandatory through reference in government regulation in the United States and many other countries.13 The code also acts as a guide for manufacturers in the techniques of producing and maintaining safe boilers, pressure vessels, and nuclear reactors. In this way, the code fosters the diffusion of best practices throughout the industry.14

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

A large fire in downtown Baltimore in 1904 was another impetus to standardization. Fire engines from other cities that came to assist the Baltimore fire department were unable to connect their hoses to the local hydrants. The disaster, which included the loss of 1,526 buildings, could have been prevented if hose connections had been standardized, as they are today.15

Safety concerns were not the only factor that fostered industrial standardization in the United States. The economies of scale afforded by mass production are driven by standardization of parts and processes, as discussed in Chapter 1. The automotive industry was an early proponent of standardization, not only within each manufacturer's own plants, but industry wide. There were several incentives for standardization across the industry: It enabled parts suppliers to produce large quantities for multiple customers, such that suppliers could gain economies of scale and lower their costs. Suppliers passed these savings on as lower prices to automobile manufacturers. In addition, standardization meant that if one supplier went out of business (a frequent occurrence in the early years of the industry), shortfalls of parts could be made up by other suppliers without a delay for reconfiguring their machinery to new specifications. Standards also allowed manufacturers to impose minimum quality criteria on their suppliers, particularly for steel. In general, standardization benefited both suppliers and manufacturers throughout the industry.16

Coordinating standards development among different automotive firms became the responsibility of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). SAE was (and remains) a professional society whose membership spanned the industry, including both manufacturers and suppliers; was independent of any one firm or set of interests; and had the technical competence for the required work. Its success in reducing the variety of parts and in promoting interchangeability and quality was such that the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce, an industry trade association, estimated in 1916 that SAE standards yielded cost reductions of 30 percent in ball bearings and electrical equipment and 20 percent in steel.17

Economic Rationale for Consensus Standardization

These examples from the history of standardization illustrate one of the most important economic aspects of standards. Uncoordinated market mechanisms alone do not ensure that necessary standards are set. Firms acting in isolation are not as effective at setting an industry standard as producers, customers, and other interested parties acting in coordination. Even in situations in which all participants in an industry sector would benefit from standardization, cooperation and communication among them are usually necessary for a standard to emerge.18

A primary reason cooperation is necessary is that standardization requires gathering information and developing compromises among the needs, interests, and capabilities of many different interested parties. It is not impossible for a

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

single firm to accomplish this task by marketing a product that meets the needs of diverse parties. In some cases, there are economic incentives to make the attempt. If a firm is successful in promoting its own, proprietary solution to a technological need and sets an industry-wide de facto standard, it may reap large benefits from dominating the resulting market. Microsoft Corporation's MS-DOS operating system is an example of success in this area. However, the costs of coordinating and accommodating multiple interests can be high. In addition, if a rival firm simultaneously attempts to set a competing standard, the companies can become caught in a winner-take-all game of investment and price cutting. In this case the benefits of success are outweighed by the costs of competing to set the standard.19

Another important reason the uncoordinated market can sometimes produce too few standards derives from the public nature of standards. When a standard has been set, everyone may use and benefit from it. This is true whether or not they participated in its development. The potential thus exists for free riders to benefit from standards-setting work done by others. In economics terminology, standardization is a public good.20 A standard can be used any number of times without depleting its utility. The more widely a standard is used, in fact, the more valuable it becomes—not only to those who originally developed it, but to all users. Communication, compatibility, economies of scale, and other benefits of standards all increase as those standards become more widespread. Conversely, if a standard is little used, its value is limited. Although coordination among participants in an industry takes time and effort, it increases the likelihood that the standard will become widely used and thus acquire value.

These theoretical examples are not meant to show that the free market is unable to produce standards. They demonstrate that individual firms acting alone may be unable to justify the cost of developing and promoting their own proprietary standards against the risk that their efforts will fail to establish a de facto standard. A firm that bears the costs of developing a standard by itself cannot generally capture rewards equal to the overall social and economic benefit that accrues from standardization. (An exception is noted in the next paragraph.) As a result, market incentives alone are not sufficient to encourage firms, acting in isolation, to produce as great a degree of standardization as would be most economically beneficial to the industry or to society at large.21

An exception, applicable particularly in the communications and information technology industries, is the establishment of network compatibility standards. A detailed body of recent economics literature examines the incentives facing firms to establish compatibility standards, such as telecommunication system interfaces and computer operating systems.22 These standards have unique economic properties, because they exhibit unusually strong returns to scale. Specifically, the more widespread a given network standard becomes, the greater does the incentive become for additional users to adopt that standard rather than be left as ''orphans," incompatible with other systems. A firm that builds momentum

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

behind its standard can benefit from a bandwagon effect in which users rush to adopt that standard. IBM Corporation in the 1960s, with System 360, and Microsoft Corporation's MS-DOS operating system in the 1980s are familiar examples of proprietary, de facto standards that conferred enormous economic benefits on their sponsors as computer users adopted them.23 Responses of consensus standards-developing organizations to the challenges posed by compatibility standards are discussed later in this chapter.

In most cases, as noted above, uncoordinated market competition among firms promoting their own, proprietary solutions to particular market needs will not lead to as much standardization as is theoretically desirable for the economy as a whole. Voluntary consensus standards are an effective, rational response to this economic dilemma of standardization in the free market. As the example of the early automobile industry and the Society of Automotive Engineers illustrates, industry participants working together can share the effort of developing standards and gain mutual benefits from the results. Most of the formal standards used in the U.S. private sector are developed by private standards-developing organizations, such as SAE. These organizations have developed procedures to foster communication, coordination, and consensus in order to overcome the limitations of the uncoordinated marketplace and achieve industry-wide standardization.

Many foreign countries, including key U.S. trading partners in Europe and Asia, have a central, primary national standards-developing body. This is usually a government-chartered private organization or a quasi-public agency, rather than a direct agency of the government. Examples include Germany's Deutches Institute fur Normung (DIN), the British Standards Institute (BSI), and France's Association Francaise de Normalisation (AFNOR).24 It is important to note, however, that even in countries in which a government agency sets national industrial standards, private-sector input plays a vital, pervasive role. It is impossible, given the breadth of technical and commercial expertise required to write standards, for all industry sectors to reside in any one organization. The resources of a national standards organization must always be supplemented with private-sector manpower, technical knowledge, and understanding of marketplace needs in order to develop useful standards. At the level of the technical committees—the volunteers who write the standards—the differences between foreign, relatively centralized standards systems and the U.S. system are negligible.25

It is important to note that issues related to ownership of private standards can influence the role they play in particular markets. Many standards developers, for example, offset expenses and generate income through sales of standards documents, to which they hold the copyright. For many SDOs, publishing is a significant source of operating revenue.26 In addition, license fees and royalties are often paid to owners of patented innovations incorporated into standards. These fees can be a significant incentive for firms to innovate and develop new

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

technologies and to permit their incorporation into standards. As previously noted, some firms gain substantial benefits from owning the rights to a proprietary technology that becomes a de facto industry standard. Prohibitively high payments to the owner of technology in a given standard, however, will deter its spread and motivate other parties to develop an alternative standard.27 In most consensus standards organizations, owners of intellectual property incorporated into a formal standard agree to license proprietary technology at reasonable terms.28

Voluntary Consensus Standardization Processes

In comparison to most foreign systems, the institutional structure of the U.S. voluntary consensus standards system is highly decentralized. The United States has more than 400 private standards developers. Most are organized around a given industry, profession, or academic discipline. About 275 engage in ongoing standards-setting activities. The remainder have developed standards in the past—usually few in number—and occasionally update them.29 There are three main types of U.S. standards-developing organizations: professional and technical societies, industry associations, and standards-developing membership organizations, discussed later in this chapter.30

All standards-developing organizations, to varying degrees, seek to overcome economic obstacles to standardization. The typical method for achieving this goal is to coordinate participation of volunteer technical experts in standards-writing committees. Each technical committee is responsible for standards in a particular area of product, process, or technology, although overlap does sometimes exist among different committees' scope of work. Committee membership is generally selected to represent a diversity of interests and viewpoints. Committees—or, in some cases, working groups that are subsets of a committee—meet on a semiregular basis over a period ranging from weeks to years. The first step in developing a standard is to identify an area of marketplace need requiring a standardized technical solution. Once a scope of work is set, draft technical standards are proposed, discussed, revised, and voted on. Consensus is, in most organizations, a key goal. Although negative votes do not prevent a standard's adoption, they must generally be considered and responded to in writing.31

Participants in a technical committee may propose, as foundations for a standard, technologies developed by their respective firms. Success in this effort may yield a marketing advantage or a technological head start over other companies whose technologies are not chosen. Alternatively, the committee may develop a compromise standard incorporating aspects of multiple proposals.32

After review, comment, and approval by the SDO's oversight board and membership at large, the organization publishes the standard. If the organization uses ANSI-accredited procedures, it may choose to have the standard approved and distributed by ANSI as an American National Standard. ANSI does not

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

review the standard for technical merit but, rather, certifies that it was developed through open, consensus-oriented procedures and does not unduly duplicate or conflict with existing standards. The standard's usefulness to interested parties in the relevant market sector—manufacturers, purchasers, regulators, testing laboratories, certifiers, and others—largely determines whether it gains widespread acceptance. A technologically obsolete, commercially nonviable, or otherwise unsatisfactory standard will be neglected. Such a standard will eventually be discontinued by the SDO. Broad dissemination and use of the standard, however, are presumably in the interest of those who participated in writing and approving it. These individuals and the firms or associations they represent are therefore likely to use and promote the standard.

There is ample opportunity for U.S. industry to participate in voluntary consensus standards development and ensure that it meets U.S. economic needs. Both manufacturers and their customers take part in standards setting through industry associations such as the Computer and Business Equipment Manufacturers Association (CBEMA); the Gas Appliances Manufacturers Association; and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, consisting of telecommunications service and equipment companies. Firms also pay salary and travel expenses for employees who serve as individuals in the work of professional societies and standards-developing membership organizations such as SAE, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Small firms may not have sufficient resources to devote personnel to technical committees. They can, however, monitor and submit technical inputs to the process through industry and trade associations. Firms are often active in developing standards within all three types of organizations and through de facto marketplace competition at the same time.

Standards-developing organizations vary widely in size, number of standards produced, breadth of industries and technologies covered, profile of membership, and geographic scope, among other factors. Nearly all, nevertheless, share two important features.33 First, they operate on the basis of consensus. Simple majority vote among participants in a standards-writing project is almost never sufficient to establish a standard. The consensus principle makes good sense in the context of the standards developer's mission. To produce standards that will achieve economies of scale, consumer safety, advancement of technology, compatibility, and other benefits of standardization, the standards must be accepted and used by as many firms and individuals as possible. Unless the standard is subsequently mandated as part of a government regulation or procurement specification, its acceptance by potential users is voluntary. Standards adopted as mandatory by government, moreover, are usually more effective if they reflect consensus among affected parties. A consensus among interested parties during the design of a standard clearly increases its prospects for broad acceptability.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

The second feature common to most standards-developing organizations is administrative due process. These groups have formal policies governing such facets of standards development as technical committee membership; setting the scope of proposed standards; drafting and revising standards; voting within committees; review of draft standards by higher authority within the SDO; and balloting and approval by the membership at large.34 Due process in SDOs bears many resemblances to public administrative procedures law. Laws governing public agency decisionmaking processes have such aims as representation of multiple interests; objectivity and fairness of procedures; public access to information about agency actions; and accountability of the agency through formal appeals. Analogous features—public notice and comment, appeals, multiple interest group representation, and democratic procedures—are all to be found in the policies of most formal standards-developing organizations as well.35 These procedures increase the likelihood that a technical committee will reach a broad-based consensus, enhancing the value of the resulting standard.

Formal procedures, such as open participation and review, also serve as protection against allegations of collusive behavior for participants from competing firms. Consensus standards development is, in fact, well tolerated by U.S. antitrust law and precedent.36 There have been few successful antitrust lawsuits related to U.S. voluntary product standards. In each case where the suit was successful, it was the subsequent interpretation of the standard by some other party, such as a certifier, that was deemed anticompetitive. One example is American Society of Mechanical Engineers v. Hydrolevel Corporation, a 1982 case in which a standards developer, ASME, was defeated in an antitrust suit. It was the actions of a committee interpreting product compliance with the ASME Boiler Code that was found to be anticompetitive—not the code itself or the process by which it was written.37

The principles underlying consensus standards development evolved over a period of many years, within many different SDOs. Each organization applies the principles in different ways, with procedures and objectives specific to the needs of its industry sector or professional competence. Authority in the U.S. standards-developing system, consequently, is highly decentralized and linked to specific industry sectors. Adherence to the basic principles, however, is actively promoted through the central, coordinating function of the American National Standards Institute. ANSI is not a standards developer but, rather, a nonprofit organization that coordinates and supports the U.S. consensus standards development system. U.S. standards developers desiring ANSI accreditation of their procedures and standards must follow ANSI guidelines for consensus, open participation, and due process. Through accreditation, ANSI seeks to promote and perpetuate core principles of the U.S. voluntary standards system.38 Other ANSI functions in the U.S. system are discussed later in this chapter.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

Standards-Developing Organizations

As previously noted, there are more than 400 standards developers in the U.S. private sector. Most of these belong to one of three main categories: industry associations, professional societies, and standards-developing membership organizations. In addition, consortia are playing an increasingly important standards development role, particularly in industries characterized by rapid advance of technology. Testing and certification organizations, such as Underwriters Laboratories, NSF International, and the American Gas Association, are discussed in Chapter 3. They represent a specialized category of organization responsible both for developing standards in certain sectors—typically related to health and safety—and for providing associated testing and certification services.39

Professional Societies Professional societies are individual membership organizations that support the practice and advancement of a particular profession. Several such societies, particularly in the engineering disciplines, develop technical standards. The goal of these SDOs is generally to find the best technical solution to meet an identified need. Participants in standards committees serve as individual professionals, not as representatives of the firm they work for. If more than one employee of a single firm serves in a committee, each still has a full vote in committee deliberations. Marketing considerations, however—such as securing commercial advantage for participants' firms—are in many cases secondary to technical factors in committee deliberations.40 Funding for these SDOs is principally from publication and sales of standards, as well as direct services to industry.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards. IEEE Standards is a division of IEEE, Inc., an engineering professional society, founding member of ANSI, and ANSI-accredited standards-developing organization. The IEEE has a membership of more than 300,000 engineering professionals worldwide. IEEE Standards publishes more than 600 standards. Its area of expertise is electrotechnology, which ranges from electrical circuitry to artificial intelligence to aerospace. A Standards Board composed of voluntary industry and government representatives and 10 committees review requests from technical groups to initiate standards projects. After a consensus process, standards are approved by the Board and published as IEEE standards. IEEE participates in the United States National Committee (USNC) of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the ISO and IEC Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology (JTC1).41

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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American Society of Mechanical Engineers. A founding member of ANSI, ASME is a professional society with an international membership of more than 100,000. It publishes 745 standards. In addition to standards development, ASME is involved in publishing, technical conferences and exhibits, engineering education, government relations, and public education. The ASME Council on Codes and Standards oversees 10 boards that supervise more than 700 committees. Drafts of standards are approved by committees and opened up to public comment after which, if necessary, they are redrafted and published as ASME standards. ASME is well known for its Boiler Code first published in 1914, and most recently revised and published as the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code in 1992.42

Industry Associations Industry associations, also known as trade associations, are organizations of manufacturers, suppliers, customers, service providers, and other firms active in a given industry sector. Their mission is to further the interests of their industry sector, including the development of technical standards. Many industry associations develop standards or sponsor their development through a subsidiary or associated SDO. Funding is primarily through members' dues. Members of technical committees typically serve as representatives of their firm. Each firm carries equal weight in committee voting, regardless of the number of experts it sends to participate in the committee's standards development work. Industry association SDOs are likely to be more openly responsive to commercial market concerns in their technical decisionmaking than other types of SDOs.

Computer and Business Equipment Manufacturers Association. Accredited Standards Committee X3, Information Processing Systems (ASC X3). Created in 1916, the CBEMA is a professional trade association involved in the information processing, communications, and business products industry sectors. It maintains an ANSI-approved voluntary consensus program and sponsors the ASC X3 Secretariat, which oversees the legal, financial, and procedural work of the committee. The ASC X3 has 41 members including producers and consumers in the information technology industry, and it manages more than 500 projects. ASC X3's Operational Management Committee (formerly, the Standards Planning and Requirements Committee, SPARC) reviews submitted standards proposals and reports on its activities to the ASC X3. A proposal, after receiving X3 approval, is assigned to a technical committee for development into a standard. To complete the consensus process, the draft standard is redrafted, voted on again, and then sent to ANSI for final approval. The Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) manages the standards process and

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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helps to define the role of information technology standards in the industry.43

Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). AAMI is a voluntary membership organization of about 5,000 health care professionals from industry, health care facilities, academia, research centers, and government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).44 AAMI works to advance patient care and medical technology through certification of biomedical engineers, education, technical publications, and development of medical device standards. AAMI is active in the development of international standards through sponsorship and representation on ISO and IEC committees and U.S. and ISO technical advisory groups (TAGs). It also maintains relationships with European counterpart organizations involved in standards development.45 In 1994, AAMI became the international secretariat for a new ISO committee developing standards for quality management systems in the health care equipment industry.

Membership Organizations Unlike industry associations and professional societies, standards-developing membership organizations have standards development as their central activity and mission. They do not limit their membership to an industry or profession, and they tend to have the most diverse membership among all SDOs. Their procedures tend to have the strictest due process requirements. Publishing and selling standards documentation accounts for the majority of their revenues. Membership fees are generally relatively low, facilitating participation by individuals not sponsored by an employer.

American Society for Testing and Materials. Established in 1898, ASTM is one of the world's largest voluntary consensus SDOs. It has an international membership of more than 35,000 and maintains 132 technical standards-writing committees. ASTM publishes standard test methods, specifications, practices, guides, classifications, and terminology for materials, products, systems, and services. Approximately 33 percent of ASTM's sales of standards are to international users, and many of its standards become de facto international standards. It produces an annual 70-volume set of more than 9,000 ASTM standards that are used worldwide.46

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NFPA was established in 1896 in response to the need for uniform installation of sprinkler systems. NFPA publishes 280 specific fire safety standards.47 NFPA is an independent, nonprofit, voluntary membership organization with an international membership of more than 60,000 individuals and 115 national trade and professional societies. It maintains some 235 consensus

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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standards committees. After public comments are reviewed and committees reach consensus, the NFPA membership votes as a whole on adoption of standards as voluntary national standards. NFPA is also actively involved in public fire protection, fire analysis and research, government relations, and public education. Its standards are used in the fields of aviation, chemicals, engineering, hazardous materials, health care, marine fire protection, and signaling systems, among others. It also publishes the National Fire Codes and National Electrical Code, which are referenced in many state and local building regulations.48

Consortia Standards consortia are a response to the rate of technological advance outpacing consensus standards development in some industry sectors.49 They focus particularly on compatibility standards. Examples include the Corporation for Open Systems (COS) and the Manufacturing Automation Protocol (MAP) user group. COS, a vendor consortium, was established to promote the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) suite of computer interconnection protocols. Currently, COS is active in testing OSI products for conformance to the standards. By contrast, MAP is a user consortium, created to pressure vendors of manufacturing automation systems to develop compatible products.

Participation in standards-setting is generally limited to consortium members. Requirements for openness, consensus, and due process are less strict than in other standards-developing organizations, primarily to speed the development process. In fact, standards produced by consortia represent a hybrid stage between de facto industry standards and full consensus standards. To gain acceptance of their standards in the marketplace, consortia may seek after-the-fact accreditation of the standards through ANSI procedures. This is particularly the case, for example, for consortia wishing to promote international acceptance of their standards through ISO and IEC.

American National Standards Institute

The American Engineering Standards Committee was formed in 1918 as a federation of several prominent SDOs. In the 1960s, after several name changes, it became the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Its principal missions are to coordinate and strengthen the U.S. voluntary consensus standards development system; to promote awareness and use of voluntary standards; and to represent U.S. interests in international standardization bodies.50 ANSI is a nonprofit organization with annual revenues in 1993 of $16.7 million.51 ANSI membership includes approximately 1,300 companies; 35 government agencies; and more than 260 technical, trade, labor and consumer groups.52

ANSI's organizational structure is decentralized (see Figure 2-2). ANSI's intent is for standards developers and users in different industry and technology sectors to be able to manage the development of standards at the level and

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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direction appropriate for each sector. For example, ANSI members in the information technology industry emphasize international standardization, whereas consumer and workplace safety and health standards are developed with a focus on U.S. national standards. Four member councils discuss issues from their constituents' perspectives, bringing them before the ANSI Board of Directors as needed. These are the Company, Consumer Interest, Government, and Organization Member Councils.53

As noted earlier, one of ANSI's key means of carrying out its mission is to accredit U.S. standards developers. ANSI accredits both the organizations that develop standards and the standards themselves. (See Figure 2-3 for an overview of ANSI-accredited standards processes.) Accreditation is based not on the technical merits of standards but, rather, on the procedures used to develop them. Adherence to open participation, due process, and consensus procedures is necessary for an SDO to become an ANSI-accredited standards developer. ANSI accepts three different types of standards developers. Accredited organizations include most of the largest U.S. SDOs. Accredited standards committees (ASCs) write standards for a specific industry or technology sector, with administrative support provided by an interested host organization. An example is ASC X3 for Information Processing, whose secretariat is provided by CBEMA. Accredited sponsors are smaller groups that seek comment on and approval of their standards through a ballot of interested parties. These groups are usually formed to write one or a select few standards for a narrowly focused application.54

ANSI-accredited organizations may submit standards they have developed for ANSI approval as American National Standards. ANSI publishes American National Standards developed by some, mainly smaller, standards developers. Larger SDOs, such as ASTM, ASME, IEEE, and NFPA, publish standards under their own organizational name, even if they have been accredited as American National Standards. For example, more than half of the standards listed in the IEEE Standards Catalog are indicated, by footnote, as "recognized by the American National Standards Institute."55 The National Electrical Code, published by NFPA, is approved and identified by ANSI with the designation ANSI/NFPA 70; NFPA's own publications, however, refer to it simply as NFPA 70.56

Although ANSI is not a standards developer, as noted above, it publishes American National Standards developed by some of the groups it accredits. This activity has been a source of conflict between ANSI and some of the larger SDOs. Approximately 65 percent of ANSI's $16.7 million gross income (based on 1993 data) is generated from sales of standards and other publications. Net income from publication sales provides for 34 percent of ANSI's core (nonpublishing) expenses, which are not fully funded by membership dues.57 The SDOs' main objection is to ANSI's accrediting and providing publication services to smaller trade and professional associations to produce standards by the canvass method, rather than through a committee process.58 (Some standards developers rely on both canvass and committee methods at different times.) These groups can

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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FIGURE 2-2 American National Standards Institute: Organization.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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FIGURE 2-3 ANSI-accredited standards development process.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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obtain ANSI recognition for a standard by submitting it to an open ballot—a canvass—to verify agreement among parties who would be directly affected by the proposed standard. ANSI accreditation and publication of these standards as American National Standards enables them to achieve similar status and distribution—and thus compete for influence and sales—with those of SDOs that use a more thorough, committee-based consensus process. ANSI currently accredits 112 canvass sponsors, 42 organizations, and 199 standards committees.59

It is difficult to quantify either the extent of competition or the relative merits of canvass and committee standards. Such a determination is beyond the direct scope of this report. The circumstances of each case vary widely by industry, product, and type of standard. In the committee's judgment, nevertheless, this conflict is not a threat to the viability of the U.S. private standards development system. Whereas the leading SDOs develop and maintain hundreds of standards, most canvass developers are responsible for fewer than five standards.60 In addition, recent progress in resolving this and other conflicts between ANSI and leading SDOs appears to provide a basis for optimism that the private-sector, voluntary standardization system is capable of settling internal disagreements and continuing to meet the nation's need for standards.

A second challenge to ANSI, and to the U.S. consensus standardization system as a whole, has been the rapid advance of technology in some industry sectors. Slowness of consensus standards processes is a widely cited problem.61 Agreement among competing firms on the best technical standard for a given purpose can be difficult to achieve. Basic communication about technical questions may be costly and time-consuming, requiring numerous technical committee meetings and frequent correspondence. Due process requirements may add delay. Legitimate differences of technical opinion may be compounded, moreover, by participants' competition for marketing advantage. For example, a firm may have an overall interest in standardization, but seek delay in an effort to ensure that no standard is adopted, rather than allowing a competitor's technology to become the standard.62

Technological uncertainty compounds the difficulty of writing standards. To keep up with technological change, technical committees increasingly must set anticipatory standards. These are standards that describe technologies and products not yet completely developed. Recent economics research, moreover, suggests that setting compatibility standards for rapidly evolving information and telecommunications technologies presents a unique challenge to consensus standards developers. The challenge of compatibility standards arises from two phenomena. The first is the potential for significant economic rewards to firms that succeed in setting a proprietary, de facto compatibility standard, such as a computer operating system. The second is the possibility of a technology bandwagon, in which users rush to adopt a standard once it appears that most other users will adopt that standard. The corollary of the bandwagon is technology lock-in. Once most users have committed to a compatibility standard, there are

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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significant costs to switching to a new standard—even if it represents a more advanced or useful technology.63

Bandwagon and lock-in effects can reward some technologies with large market shares and hinder the success of others, irrespective of their technical merits. Lock-in of inferior technologies through standards can, in some instances, retard innovation and technological advance. These phenomena can occur faster than the typical development cycle of consensus standardization. The rise of standards consortia in the information technology and telecommunications industries is one response to this challenge. The limited due process, consensus, and open participation requirements of these organizations enable them to develop standards rapidly in many instances. Their procedures and restricted membership, however, may limit the acceptability of these standards outside the consortia that develop them.64 Consensus standards developers are responding to this challenge with such measures as streamlined due process and a tighter focus on customer needs in setting the scope for standards writing. In the past five years, for example, the international consensus standards developer for information technology, ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1), has reduced the time needed to produce an international standard from more than 50 months to less than 36 months.65

The best means to achieve standardization, in the committee's judgment, is a flexible, sector-specific approach. Issues such as appropriate speed, technological sophistication, openness of participation, and degree of consensus for standards should be determined by participants in each industry sector. Standards development cycles that are too slow for the telecommunications industry, for example, might be too fast for building materials or consumer appliances. No single set of SDO procedures or performance criteria is likely to meet the needs of manufacturers and users across technologically and economically diverse industry sectors.

Common to all industry sectors, however, is the need for greater accessibility of information about standards and standardization processes. As noted previously, coordination costs are a significant hurdle for achieving standardization. Numerous SDOs with formal procedures for convening technical experts have come into existence in order to overcome this hurdle. Modern communications technologies, however, present additional opportunities to reduce the barriers to participation in standards development, particularly for small firms with limited resources. The National Standards Systems Network (NSSN), a pilot program administered by ANSI under a $2 million cooperative agreement with NIST, is intended to foster links among existing sources of standards information. Electronic dissemination is a key element of NSSN.66 Additional efforts of this type hold significant potential for facilitating participation, particularly for small enterprises and consumer interests. Other benefits will include lowering costs and increasing the speed and efficiency of the U.S. standards development system.

A third area in which ANSI's role has evolved through periods of both

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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tension and cooperation is its relationship with standards developers and users in the U.S. government.67 As a matter of policy, federal agencies are committed to adopt voluntary consensus standards to the greatest possible extent, rather than developing new, government-unique standards. In the final section of the chapter, cooperation and sources of tension between ANSI and the U.S. government related to federal participation in the voluntary standards system are discussed. In the next section, however, U.S. participation in international standards development through ANSI and other avenues is examined.

International Standards Development

The two predominant international standards-setting bodies in the world are the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission. ISO and IEC are private organizations that develop standards in nearly all sectors of industry and technology. The largest exception to their coverage is international telecommunication standardization, which is the domain of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). ITU is a treaty organization with membership comprised of government representatives from 160 countries. U.S. representation at ITU is coordinated by the Department of State.68 As private agencies, ISO and IEC accept as members the national standards organizations, whether public or private, of their member countries. ANSI is the U.S. national member of ISO and IEC, the latter through the ANSI-coordinated U.S. National Committee. (See Box 2-1 for additional background information and comparisons of ISO, IEC, and ITU).

International standards development processes resemble those of U.S. private SDOs in many respects.69 ISO and IEC prepare standards within a decentralized technical committee structure, drawing on volunteer technical experts from various member countries. Administrative support for technical committees is provided by a secretariat, from one of the participating countries. Standards are drafted through consensus. Voting within committees and in the organization at large, unlike many national SDOs, is by national delegation. As a result, a large country such as the United States has the same vote as a small country.

U.S. positions for international standardization activities are developed by volunteer experts within technical advisory groups (TAGs). ANSI coordinates the formation of U.S. TAGs corresponding to technical committees at the international level. In addition, on issues that the U.S. standards community considers of particular importance—such as standards affecting large shares of U.S. exports—ANSI and the U.S. standards community make efforts to obtain ISO and IEC designation of the United States as the secretariat for particular international technical committees.

The United States is a participant or observer in 95 percent of ISO, and nearly all IEC, technical committees and subcommittees.70 The United States

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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held 13.7 percent of ISO and IEC technical committee and subcommittee secretariats in 1992, an increase from 10.9 percent in 1988.71 These committees and subcommittees are concentrated in especially active areas of standards activity, producing in 1991 more than 38 percent of all ISO and IEC standards and 31 percent (measured in pages of text) of Draft International Standards. (The latter represents a significant increase over a 6.8 percent share in 1988.72)

In addition, the United States has had significant success in obtaining secretariats of ISO and IEC technical committees and subcommittees in industry sectors with high volumes of exports. For example, the United States holds the secretariats of ISO/IEC JTC1 for Information Technology; ISO Technical Committee (TC) 20, covering aircraft and space vehicles; ISO TC 61, plastics; and ISO TC 67, petroleum industry materials and equipment, among others. All of these committees set international standards in industry sectors that are among the top 10 U.S. export industry sectors.73

Cooperation between the U.S. public and private sectors—which is discussed in depth in the next section of this chapter—was instrumental in gaining a strong U.S. role in the recent establishment of an ISO technical committee on sterilization of health care products, an area of interest to U.S. exporters in the medical devices industry. Coordination among the AAMI, the FDA, and the Health Industry Manufacturers Association (HIMA) was instrumental in ANSI's developing a successful proposal and gaining ISO approval for a new committee, ISO TC 198. The international secretariat was assigned to the United States, where it is sponsored and staffed by the AAMI. A key goal of AAMI in pursuing this outcome, according to its staff, was to be able to cooperate with European standards developers to ensure harmonization of U.S., European, and international regulations.74

The scope of international standardization is broader than ISO and IEC alone. U.S. participation in ITU is significant to international standards development in the telecommunications equipment and services industries. In addition, standards produced by some U.S. standards developers take on the authority of international standards without going through a process of consensus building at ISO and IEC. For example, ASTM standards are used throughout the world, and 33 percent of ASTM's sales of publications are outside the United States.75 About 20 percent of ASME's sales of codes and standards are non-U.S. sales.76

The significance of both international standards and conformity assessment is growing in conjunction with the increasing importance of international trade to U.S. economic performance. Expansion and strengthening of international trading system rules concerning standards and conformity assessment provide additional incentives to U.S. industry, government, technical, and other participants in the standards system to focus increased attention on international activities. These and related factors are examined in detail in Chapter 4.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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Government Role In Standardization

The public sector plays a major part in the U.S. standards system. Federal, state, and local government agencies are all active in developing and using standards. Standards written by federal agencies for regulatory and procurement purposes comprise more than half of the total number of U.S. national standards, as shown in Table 2-1. These are categorized as mandatory standards, reflecting their imposition through legislation and regulation or through contractual requirements for sale to government purchasers. Although these standards are developed outside the ANSI-coordinated voluntary consensus system, the mandatory and voluntary standards categories overlap. Many government standards

BOX 2-1 INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS DEVELOPERS

International Organization for Standardization

The ISO is a private international agency, established in 1946 with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. It is dedicated to voluntary standardization. Its membership consists of recognized national standards organizations of 89 countries. ISO covers work in all areas of standards development except those in the fields of electrical and electrotechnical standards, the domain of the IEC, and telecommunications, the expertise of the ITU. ISO has more than 160 technical committees, some 600 subcommittees, and a host of working groups that are supported by secretariats in 32 countries. The development process is lengthy and ultimately requires the majority consensus of technical committee members and 75 percent of the ISO voting membership. Only after consensus has been reached is it published by the ISO Council as an International Standard. The American National Standards Institute is the U.S. representative to ISO. ISO has published more than 6,700 international standards since its inception.

International Electrotechnical Commission

The IEC, an international voluntary organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, specializes in standards development for electrical and electronic engineering. IEC is concerned mostly with creating specification standards for products and devices. It has a membership of presidents from the national committees of 42 countries. The development process is a lengthy one. The technical work is done by about 200 technical committees, which are managed by the Committee for Action. This committee has three advisory committees; an Advisory Committee on Electronics and Telecommunications, an Advisory Committee on Safety, and the Information Technology Coordinating Group. IEC issues publications and recommendations for international standards, as well as promoting safety, compatibility, interchangeability, and acceptability. To keep nonmember countries informed of the process and development of its standards, IEC created the Registered Subscriber Service. ANSI is the U.S. representative to the IEC. A major difference between ISO and IEC is that in the IEC each member nation has membership on every technical committee not just on those it chooses to join.

International Telecommunication Union

The ITU is the only international standards development organization that is nonvoluntary. It is a treaty organization run under the auspices of the United Nations. Governments, not industry, administer and enforce the regulatory telecommunications standards that come out of the ITU. It has a membership of 160 nations. The U.S. representative to the ITU is the State Department. A Plenipotentiary Conference acts as the authority and sets policy, while the council, composed of 43 members elected by the conference, deals with administrative matters. ITU maintains five permanent activities. They are the General Secretariat, the organization of World Conferences on International Telecommunications, the Radiocommunication Sector, the Telecommunications Standardization Sector, and the Telecommunications Development Sector. The ITU typically develops recommendations that are implemented as national standards by national telecommunications authorities.

ISO, IEC, and the ITU are alike in two important ways. They all have similar administrative structures with committees, subcommittees, and working groups directing the standards-setting process, with varying levels of complexity. Also, they all rely on some from of consensus as the ultimate decisionmaking mechanism. None of the three organizations demands or expects participation from all nations; participation is voluntary at all levels. However, once a nation becomes a member it is expected to be actively involved. The focus on consensus is aimed at preventing a decentralization at the international level of standards development and encouraging broad-based compliance and harmonization.

SOURCES:

''International Standards: It's a Small World After All." In Quality , Wheaton, IL: Hitchcock Publishing Co., August 1986.

Cargill, Carl F. Information Technology Standardization: Theory, Process, and Organizations. Pps. 126-145. Bedford, MA: Digital Press, 1989.

International Telecommunications Union informational brochure. Geneva: ITU Public Relations, 1993.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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Complete box on previous page.

make reference to consensus standards in whole or in part. This process has the effect of making many voluntary consensus standards, in effect, mandatory.

The Department of Defense and the General Services Administration (GSA), with 38,000 and 6,000 procurement standards, respectively, represent the bulk of federal standards development. The remaining 8,500 standards, mainly technical regulations, are produced by a wide range of departments and agencies (see Table 2-3). Regulatory standards center on the protection of public health and safety. Examples include regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and Federal Aviation Administration, among other agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates products and processes

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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TABLE 2-3 —U.S. Government Standards Developers

Agriculture, Department of

Agricultural Marketing Service

Federal Grain Inspection Service

Field Management Division

Standards and Procedures Branch

Food Safety and Inspection Service

Foreign Agricultural Service

Forest Service

Engineering Staff

Information Resources Management Planning, Review, and Standards Division

Packers and Stockyards Administration

Livestock Marketing Division

Rural Electrification Administration

Commerce, Department of

Bureau of the Census

Federal Coordinator for Meteorology

National Institute of Standards and Technology

National Computer Systems Laboratory

National Engineering Laboratory and Law

Enforcement Standards Laboratory

Technology Services - Voluntary Product Standards

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Marine Fisheries Service

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

National Weather Service

National Telecommunications and Information Administration

Institute for Telecommunications Sciences

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Assistant Commissioner for Information Systems

Assistant Commissioner for Patents

International Patent Documentation

Trademark Examining Operation

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Directorate for Engineering Sciences

Directorate for Health Sciences

Defense, Department of

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Acquisition

Defense Industrial Supply Center

Energy, Department of

Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs

Building Technologies

Building Systems and Materials Division

Building Equipment Division

Energy Information Administration Statistical Standards

Environment, Safety, and Health Safety and Quality Assurance

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal Communications Commission

Office of Engineering and Technology

General Services Administration

Information Resources Management

Federal Supply Service Commodity Management

Public Building Service

Health and Human Services, Department of

Centers for Disease Control

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Food and Drug Administration

Regulatory Affairs

Health Care Financing Administration

Housing and Urban Development, Department of

Assistant Secretary for Housing - Federal Housing Commissioner

Manufactured Housing and Construction Standards Division

Interior, Department of the

Minerals Management Service Rules, Orders, and Standards

U.S. Geological Survey

Information Systems Division

National Mapping Division

Water Resources Division

Labor, Department of

Mine Safety and Health Administration Standards, Regulations and Variances

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Directorate of Safety Standards Programs

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Occupational Health

Safety, Reliability, Maintainability, and Quality

Assurance Division

National Archives and Records Administration

Archival Research and Evaluation Staff

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Nuclear Regulatory Research

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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State, Department of

U.S. National Committee for the International Telecommunications Union-Telecommunication Standardization Sector

Transportation, Department of

Federal Aviation Administration

Federal Highway Administration

Maritime Administration

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration

Research and Special Programs Administration

Standards Division

United States Coast Guard

Marine Safety, Security, and Environmental Protection

Auxiliary, Boating, and Consumer Affairs Division

Treasury, Department of

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

National Laboratory Center

Internal Revenue Service

Standards and Data Administration

U.S. Customs Service

Commercial Operations

Research Division - Laboratories and Scientific Services

Veterans Affairs, Department of

Acquisition and Material Management

 

SOURCE: Toth, Robert B. Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States. NIST Special Publication 806. U.S. Department of Commerce. Gaithersburg, Md.: NIST, 1991.

that affect the environment. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets telecommunications equipment standards to ensure compatibility and to protect the security and integrity of the public communications network. The Department of Agriculture produces standards both to promote food safety and to ensure accurate grading and marketing of agricultural products. The Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, among other standards-related activities, develops and maintains standards for physical measurement, known as reference standards.77

Standards-writing activities of state and local governments are less easily identified than those of the federal government. These levels of government are very active in the areas of product certification and laboratory accreditation. Such programs, however, largely make assessments against standards originally written by other authorities—for example, private building codes organizations for construction standards and the NFPA's ANSI-approved National Electrical Code.78 (The automobile emissions standards written by the State of California are a well-known exception.) The impact of state and local standards-related activities, as discussed in Chapter 3, is reflected primarily in conformity assessment rather than in standards development. In a recent pilot project performed by NIST's National Center for Standards and Certification Information, for example, the official gazettes of California, Texas, and New Mexico were monitored for announcements of new standards development activity that might affect trade

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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within the North American Free Trade Agreement region. Only one standard was identified during several months of 1994.79

National Institute of Standards and Technology

The U.S. government agency with leading expertise in the area of technology standards and industry standardization issues is the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Although NIST is not a regulatory or a procurement agency, it is active in many aspects of both public and private standards setting. NIST was established in 1901 as the National Bureau of Standards, with responsibility for developing and coordinating reference standards—standards of weights and measures. In 1988, the bureau was reconstituted as NIST and given the explicit mission of assisting U.S. industry to advance its performance in the development and application of technology. Scientists at NIST's internal laboratories conduct basic and applied research in a wide range of physical sciences. One central goal of this research is to advance the science of measurement and testing and to apply these advances to standardization.80

For fiscal year (FY) 1994, NIST's overall budget was $520.2 million.81 Its FY 1995 appropriation request increased to $935.0 million (see Table 2-4). Most of the increase was in NIST's extramural industry assistance programs, including the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Quality Program. Appropriations for intramural programs, consisting primarily of the eight NIST laboratories, grew from $226.2 million to $316.0 million. The Office of Standards Services—which leads NIST's interactions with the voluntary consensus standards community and other federal agencies with standards activities—is part of NIST's Technology Assistance activity. The appropriation for Technology Assistance, of which the Office of Standards Services accounts for about half,82 grew from $11.0 million in FY 1994 to $14.9 million in FY 1995. The Office of Standards Services therefore represents approximately one-half of 1 percent of NIST's overall budget.

NIST is not a regulatory or a procurement agency, and it does not set mandatory standards. (An exception is the Federal Information Processing System [FIPS] standards series, procurement specifications for federal data systems developed under NIST leadership.83) NIST staff are, however, highly involved in both U.S. and international voluntary consensus standards development. In 1993, 380 members of NIST's research laboratory staff participated in consensus standards committees. The committees were associated with 59 domestic and 20 international SDOs. Almost half of these committees were associated with ASTM, reflecting NIST's particular expertise in testing and measurement. Participating staff members held an average of three committee memberships.84 The number of full-time equivalent staff represented by these activities was not reported. In 1991, however, NIST staff reported 31,787 labor hours for travel and

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

TABLE 2-4 —NIST Appropriation Budget Summary by Subactivity—FY 1993 - 1995 (millions of dollars)

 

FY 1993 Approp.

FY 1994 Approp.

FY 1995 Approp.

FY 1995 (%)

Industrial Technology Services (Extramural Programs)

 

 

 

 

Advanced Technology Program

67.9

199.5

430.7

50.4

Manufacturing Extension Partnership

18.2

30.2

90.6

10.6

Quality Program

---

2.8

3.4

0.4

Scientific and Technical Research and Services (Intramural Programs)

 

 

 

 

Technology Assistance (including Standards Services)

8.5

11.0

14.9

1.7

Electronics and Electrical Engineering

26.5

29.5

35.4

4.1

Manufacturing Engineering

10.1

13.6

19.2

2.2

Chemical Science and Technology

19.3

22.2

32.5

3.8

Physics

26.4

26.7

27.5

3.2

Materials Science and Engineering

35.6

43.3

49.8

5.8

Building and Fire Research

12.0

12.8

13.2

1.5

Computer Systems

12.1

28.9

37.1

4.3

Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computing

6.8

7.0

7.2

0.8

Research Support Activities

35.6a

31.2a

27.5

3.2

Construction of Research Facilities

 

 

 

 

Construction and Major Renovations

105.0

61.7

64.6

7.6

Total NIST Appropriations

384.0

520.2

853.8

100.00

a Includes portions of facilities funding that are included in the Construction of Research Facilities appropriation in FY 1995.

SOURCE: Budget Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce, 1994.

participation in domestic and international standards committees, at a total cost of more than $1 million.85

Compilation of data on NIST staff's participation in consensus standards setting is one among several functions of the Office of Standards Services. The Director of Standards Services chairs the federal Interagency Committee on Standards Policy, discussed below. The office also serves as the U.S. inquiry point

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

for standards within the international trading system, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Through a network of national inquiry points, GATT members are required to notify each other when considering new regulations and conformity assessment requirements that affect imports from other nations. (GATT obligations concerning standards and conformity assessment are discussed in detail in Chapter 4.) The office is also the U.S. contact point for ISONET, an information exchange network for members of the International Organization for Standardization, despite the fact that ANSI is the U.S. member body of ISO. Other Office of Standards Services activities discussed in the next two chapters include laboratory accreditation and conformity assessment system recognition; coordination of the National Conference on Weights and Measures, which promotes uniformity and effectiveness in state and local measurement programs; technical assistance programs in several developing overseas markets; and assistance to the U.S. Trade Representative and other trade agencies with technical standards and conformity issues that affect international trade policy.86

In conjunction with its role as the U.S. GATT and ISONET inquiry points, the Office of Standards Services maintains an extensive library of information about both U.S. and international standards, including mandatory and voluntary standards. This library, the National Center for Standards and Certification Information (NCSCI), is open to the public, responds to telephone and written inquiries, and disseminates standards information through announcements in the ANSI Reporter. Through its Standards Code and Information (SCI) Program, Standards Services compiles directories of public and private organizations with standards and conformity assessment activities and publishes basic informational reports on various topics. With a staff of 10 and a combined annual budget of approximately $1 million, however, SCI and NCSCI have been unable to pursue as proactive an outreach effort as would be possible with greater resources. For example, NCSCI receives approximately 10,000 requests for information per year. These divide about evenly between questions about domestic and foreign standards and conformity assessment matters. Increased efforts at publicizing the service—for example, through advertisements in industry and trade publications—would likely swamp the center's capacity to respond to inquiries.87 A 1993 special publication from SCI, a report on ISO 9000 quality system standards, became its most requested document; however, lack of resources for printing and mailing has limited dissemination of the report.88

Federal Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards

Many federal agencies besides NIST are active in developing and using standards. Procurement standards set by the DoD and the GSA together represent the majority of federal standards. Regulatory agencies such as EPA, OSHA, CPSC, and FDA account for approximately 8,500 active federal standards. Federal regulations and procurement standards are distinct from voluntary consensus

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

standards in two respects. First, they are mandatory—by law, by regulation, or by contractual obligation in government purchasing. Second, federal standards are not generally written by committees of volunteer experts through a consensus-seeking procedure. Administrative procedures law requires public notice of proposed rules in the Federal Register and response to received comments, but agencies' statutory obligations require government employees to make any final decisions in setting government standards.

Increasingly, however, government agencies are meeting their statutory obligations not by developing government-unique standards but, rather, by participating in and adopting the end products of voluntary consensus standards development. In 1982, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Circular A-119, "Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Standards."89 Revised in October, 1993, Circular A-119 notes,

Government functions often involve products or services that must meet reliable standards. Many such standards, appropriate or adaptable for the Government's purposes, are available from private voluntary standards bodies. Government participation in the standards-related activities of these voluntary bodies provides incentives and opportunities to establish standards that serve national needs, and the adoption of voluntary standards, whenever practicable and appropriate, eliminates the costs to the Government of developing its standards. Adoption of voluntary standards also furthers the policy of reliance upon the private sector to supply Government needs for goods and services, as enunciated in OMB Circular No. A-76, entitled Performance of Commercial Activities.90

The policy expressed in Circular A-119 has strong potential to produce savings to government in developing standards. Participation of government experts such as NIST research staff in consensus standards committees raises the level of technical competence applied to the standardization effort. Committees serve as a working forum for public-private cooperation in the development of standards to meet public needs, while imposing the lowest possible costs and restrictions on technological innovation in industry. The circular encourages government use of performance standards over design standards for this reason.91

In public procurement, use of consensus standards in place of government-unique specifications has proven effective at both reducing government costs and improving the competitive strength of U.S. industry. Pilot efforts at DoD in replacing military with commercial item specifications have saved procurement funds and reduced burdens on suppliers of maintaining separate commercial and military production capabilities.92 One example is the procurement of thermal insulation for buildings. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) reviewed government and consensus standards in this area and found many redundant standards.93 In 1982, at NAVFAC's request, ASTM formed a technical committee to help convert military and civilian federal standards for thermal insulation to ASTM standards. Of an identified 59 candidate government specifications,

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

33 had been canceled by June 1991. Among these, 20 were replaced by ASTM standards, 12 were canceled without replacement, and one military specification was canceled as duplicative of a civilian federal specification.

Total administrative savings to the Navy of these canceled government-unique specifications were estimated at more than $1.8 million. NAVFAC also expects to save about 2 percent on material cost of insulation. Now that appropriate consensus standards have been identified, these savings should be replicable across all federal military and civilian purchases of insulation. This will yield estimated total savings to the U.S. government of $89.5 million over the lifecycle of a typical facility. In addition, the defense supplier base for insulation has been strengthened by the conversion to commercial items, because administrative duplication and special knowledge related to military purchasing procedures are no longer required of suppliers.94

Controlling costs is clearly not the only issue faced by federal agencies in setting standards. Regulators, in particular, face an obligation to protect the public interest that sometimes outweights the need to promote either government or industry efficiency. Circular A-119, moreover, requires use of voluntary standards only "whenever practicable and appropriate." These circumstances are not, however, rare. For several reasons, adoption of voluntary consensus standards by federal agencies—particularly, but not exclusively, when government personnel have participated in their development—is an effective means of securing public interests. First, although voluntary standards-setting is sometimes criticized for slowness, regulatory standards-setting is even slower.95 Agencies face stringent due process requirements and opportunities for private interests to delay regulatory action through the legal system, as well as limitations on time and resources for drafting regulations. With the exception of especially hazardous product sectors such as drugs, moreover, agencies have generally been far more effective at influencing corporate design and production of safe products through public information campaigns, including product advisories, and product recalls than through the writing of mandatory standards.96

Second, voluntary consensus standards are often equally as stringent in the level of protection they require as mandatory standards would be.97 It might seem reasonable to expect that private standards developers—industry associations, especially—would seek to set standards at the lowest common denominator of safety. Such standards might allow manufacturers to cut costs, for example. In fact, however, private standards writers have several incentives to set high standards. Forestalling government regulation by developing a private solution to a perceived problem requires a standard stringent enough to satisfy public needs. (Government participation in standards committees enhances this process from both public and private perspectives.) Voluntary design of safe products also reduces risks of large liability claims and high liability insurance premiums. Avoidance of liability has been found, in fact, to be a stronger motivator for safe product design than regulation or any other factor.98 The private standards system

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

plays an important part in guiding corporate decisionmaking and disseminating safe and in effective design throughout industry.

The potential benefits of effective public–private cooperation in the development and use of consensus standards are significant. Implementation of OMB Circular A-119 has not, unfortunately, been successful at securing these benefits. The NIST-chaired Interagency Committee on Standards Policy (ICSP) has a mandate to coordinate policy throughout the federal government on using voluntary consensus standards. In 1987, because of a lack of commitment on the part of regulatory agencies, ICSP was virtually disbanded.99 The OMB's 1993 revision of the circular required each agency to appoint an senior Standard Executive to serve on the ICSP, and it raised the frequency of required reports on agency activities in voluntary standardization from triennial to annual.100 The ICSP was rechartered in June 1991 and has begun meeting approximately annually. Table 2-5 lists the 1994 membership of the ICSP, including title and department. Working groups under ICSP have been active in the following areas: compiling directories of agency staff participation in standards committees; federal use of ISO 9000 quality standards; conformity assessment (from February to December 1992); and international standards (from March to September 1992).101

The 1992 triennial report of the ICSP, however—prepared after revision of Circular A-119 had been initiated—noted the following:

Despite the low level of committee activity, significant standards-related activities are underway in a number of agencies, albeit in an uncoordinated fashion. … Having only one ICSP representative from a department with multiple agencies and the diversity of programs in certain agencies make oversight and accountability difficult.102

The report illustrates a high degree of variability among agencies in implementing OMB policy. While DoD reported an increase in the number of voluntary standards used from 3,486 in 1985 to 5,200 in 1991, CPSC use of such standards rose from 6 to 9. In the same period, FCC reported a decline from 6 to 5 voluntary standards used.103 For a number of agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture (1991), no data were reported.

Public-Private Cooperation

Effective public–private cooperation in developing and using consensus standards will require increased commitment within agencies and improved sharing of information among agencies and between the public and private sectors. The revised reporting and membership requirements in Circular A-119 are unlikely to achieve the needed improvements. The circular makes NIST the chair of the interagency coordination process, but it does not give NIST or any agency a clear mandate to oversee and evaluate federal implementation of the policy across all agencies. The OMB retains final authority for overseeing its policies, but lacks

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

TABLE 2-5 —Interagency Committee on Standards Policy as of June 29, 1994

AGENCY MEMBER

REPRESENTATIVE

Chair - Commerce, Department of - National Institute of Standards and Technology

Director, Office of Standards Services, NIST

Agency for International Development, U.S.

Director, Office of Administrative Services

Agriculture, Department of

Director, Office of Food Safety and Technical Services

Consumer Affairs, Office of

Director for Policy and Education Development

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Assistant Executive Director for Hazard Identification and Reduction

Defense, Department of

Deputy Assistant Secretary (Production Resources)

Education, Department of

Chief Financial Officer

Energy, Department of

Director, Office of Nuclear Safety Policy and Standards

Environmental Protection Agency

Deputy Director, Office of Modeling, Monitoring Systems and Quality Assurance

Federal Communications Commission

Chief Engineer

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Deputy Associate Director, Operations Support Directorate

Federal Trade Commission

Associate Director for the Bureau of Consumer Protection

General Services Administration

Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Office of Commodity Management, Federal Supply Service

Government Printing Office, U.S.

Manager, Quality Control and Technical Department

Health and Human Services, Department of - Food and Drug Administration

Director, Office of Standards and Regulations, Center for Devices and Radiological Health

Housing and Urban Development, Department of

Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Urban Policy

Interior, Department of the

Director, Office of Acquisition and Property Management

International Trade Commission

Director, Office of Administration

Justice, Department of

Director, Office of Policy Development

Labor, Department of

Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Associate Administrator for Safety and Mission Assurance

National Archives and Records Administration

Preservation Officer

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

AGENCY MEMBER

REPRESENTATIVE

National Communications System

Assistant Manager for Technology and Standards

National Science Foundation

Senior Engineering Advisor

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Deputy Director, Division of Engineering, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research

Postal Service, U.S.

Manager, Configuration Management

Small Business Administration

Deputy to the Associate Deputy Administrator for Economic Development

State, Department of

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade and Commercial Affairs

Trade Representative, U.S.

Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for GATT Affairs

Transportation, Department of

Director, Office of International Transportation and Trade

Treasury, Department of

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Systems

Veterans Affairs, Department of

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Material Management

Liaison - Office of Management and Budget

Chief, Information Policy Branch, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Executive Secretary - National Institute of Standards and Technology

Standards Code and Information Program, Office of Standards Services

the depth of expertise in standardization issues available to NIST. An oversight mandate for NIST would lead to improved federal use of voluntary standards and enhancement of the government's regulatory and procurement activities at reduced cost.

A NIST mandate would also create a central locus for coordinating communications on standards issues between the federal government and the private standards community. Despite many discussions over past decades, there has never been a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ANSI and the U.S. government.104 An MOU would lay out the respective roles and responsibilities of government and the private sector in the U.S. standards system. It would not make ANSI the officially designated developer of standards for the U.S. government; final authority for protecting public interests must, by law, remain with federal agencies. An MOU would, however, facilitate understanding throughout the government of the potential uses of voluntary standardization in meeting public objectives. It would recognize the system of voluntary consensus standardization, conducted by SDOs with coordination and accreditation by ANSI, as a valuable source of standards for public use.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

An MOU would affirm ANSI's responsibility and improve its ability to represent U.S. interests in international, nontreaty standards-setting bodies. Although the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 recognizes that U.S. representation in international standardization should be by the private U.S. member of the relevant organization, it does not specify mechanisms for government cooperation with ANSI and U.S. industry in preparing U.S. positions for international standards activities.105

An MOU would also be an appropriate vehicle for addressing a frequent source of tension in public–private standards cooperation. This source is the low level of government financial support for voluntary standards organizations, including ANSI. Government agencies make significant contributions to voluntary standardization, as shown by the previously discussed data on NIST staff participation in outside standards committees. ANSI incurs significant expenses, however, in providing the administrative overhead for coordinating the U.S. voluntary standards system. ANSI dues to ISO and IEC are a particularly large expense.

Government participation and use of the system implies a responsibility to pay a share of the overhead expenses associated with the system. Among federal agencies, however, only the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs, along with NIST, the U.S. Geological Survey, FCC, FDA, GSA, the NASA, and the National Archives are dues-paying members of ANSI. EPA, CPSC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Transportation are among prominent government standards developers that are not ANSI members.106 Although membership dues represent 23 percent of ANSI gross revenues (including publications sales), U.S. government dues are less than half of 1 percent of ANSI revenues.107

Cooperation and understanding between the private standards system and the federal government appear to be improving. A formal MOU clearly would not create understanding where none exists. It would, however, create a formal framework for continuation of cooperation in the future. This framework would prove valuable as circumstances change, new issues emerge, and informal working relationships among individuals in each sector are replaced through changeover of key personnel.

Summary And Conclusions

The U.S. system for developing formal product and process standards is complex and diverse. It incorporates, for example, cooperative efforts by technical experts to write voluntary standards on a consensus basis. These activities generally take place in the context of consensus-based standards-developing organizations, according to guidelines for due process and open participation of interested parties. Many standards developers are accredited by the American National Standards Institute, a private, nonprofit federation of business, government,

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

and other individuals. Other U.S. standards arise through competition in the marketplace. When a particular set of product specifications is widely used, it may become a de facto market standard. Government agencies set mandatory standards, both to meet regulatory needs in areas such as health and safety and to support public-sector procurement of products and services. Voluntary standards developed in the private sector may become mandatory through adoption as government standards.

This chapter has presented analysis and evidence to demonstrate that the U.S. standards development system is largely successful in meeting public and private needs for standards. The U.S. standards system has a highly decentralized structure. It offers multiple avenues for developing standards and disseminating them to potential users in industry and government, including informal (de facto), consensus-oriented, and mandatory processes. These characteristics provide for responsiveness to a wide range of demands for particular standards. These demands vary according to such factors as industry structure; level of development and speed of technological change; and specific, relevant public interests, such as protection of health and safety.

As this chapter has noted, however, there is the need for significant improvement in the use of standards developed in the private sector for government regulation and procurement. Government use of private standards has the strong potential to reduce costs for government agencies and private industry. Existing federal policies, however, are ineffective at ensuring that these benefits are realized. New mechanisms are needed to provide for (1) improved standards policy coordination with the federal government and (2) improved communication and cooperation between government and private sector standards organizations, particularly ANSI. Chapter 5 presents specific recommendations for achieving these needed improvements.

Processes for developing standards represent only a portion of the complete impact of standards in the U.S. economy. The next chapter examines public and private mechanisms in the United States for assessing the conformity of products and industrial processes to standards.

Notes

1.  

Michael Hergert, Technical Standards and Competition in the Microcomputer Industry.

2.  

Paul A. David, Clio and the Economics of QWERTY, 332-337.

3.  

Breitenberg, The ABC's of Certification Activities in the United States; and National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), National Electrical Code 1993. For a detailed analysis of regulatory use of private standards, with several case studies, see Cheit, Setting Safety Standards.

4.  

See William Lehr, Standardization: Understanding the Process, 550-555.

5.  

Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 5.

6.  

Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 547-548.

7.  

Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 3.

8.  

Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 3.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

9.  

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), 1992 ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code.

10.  

Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 3.

11.  

Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 3.

12.  

Breitenberg, ed., Index of Products Regulated by Each State.

13.  

Breitenberg, The ABC's of Standards-Related Activities, 5.

14.  

ASME, 1992 Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code; and OTA, Global Standards, 43.

15.  

Breitenberg, The ABC's of Standards-Related Activities, 3.

16.  

For a review of the role of the Society of Automotive Engineers in producing standards for the early automotive industry, see Hemenway, Industrywide Voluntary Product Standards, 13-18.

17.  

Hemenway, Industrywide Voluntary Product Standards, 14-15.

18.  

Greenstein, Invisible Hands and Visible Advisors, 539.

19.  

Greenstein, Invisible Hands and Visible Advisors, 539.

20.  

Kindleberger, Standards as Public, Collective and Private Goods, 384-385.

21.  

Kindleberger, Standards as Public, Collective and Private Goods, 377.

22.  

For a review of the relevant literature, see David and Greenstein, The Economics of Compatibility Standards: An Introduction to Recent Research, 3-41.

23.  

See, for example, Farrell, The Economics of Standardization: A Guide for Non-Economists, 189-198.

24.  

OTA, Global Standards, 61-69.

25.  

Lehr, Standardization: Understanding the Process, 550.

26.  

OTA, Global Standards, 50-51.

27.  

Joseph Farrell, Standardization and Intellectual Property, 42-43.

28.  

See, for example, the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) guidelines for treatment of patent rights in consensus standardization: ANSI, Guidelines for Implementation of The ANSI Patent Policy.

29.  

Breitenberg, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 2.

30.  

Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 23-25.

31.  

Lehr, Standardization: Understanding the Process, 551.

32.  

For further discussion of the dynamics of standards committees, see Cargill, Information Technology Standardization, 103-112.

33.  

Common characteristics of standards processes among SDOs are considered in detail in Lehr, Standardization: Understanding the Process.

34.  

Lehr, Standardization: Understanding the Process.

35.  

Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 15.

36.  

Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 187-189.

37.  

Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 188. An additional example in which the consensus standard developer is deemed competitive is Eliason Corporation v. NSF. See Pamela Klien, NSF Wins Court Fight.

38.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System: Meeting the Global Challenge, 17-22.

39.  

Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 23-25; and OTA, Global Standards, 49-51.

40.  

Defense Systems Management College, Standards and Trade in the 1990s: A Source Book for Department of Defense Acquisition and Standardization Management and their Industrial Counterparts, 2.2-2.3; Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 23-25; and OTA, Global Standards, 49-51.

41.  

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. IEEE Standards: Annual Activities Report 1993.

42.  

American Society of Mechanical Engineers. 1992 ASME Bioler and Pressure Vessel Code.

43.  

Cargill, Information Technology Standardization: Theory, Process, and Organizations, 170-178.

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
×

44.  

Miller, Michael, J. Hearing on International Standardization: The Federal Role.

45.  

Quality. International Standards: It's a Small World After All.

46.  

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), ASTM 1992 Annual Report; and ASTM, ASTM 1993 Annual Report.

47.  

NFPA. The NFPA Standards-Making System, n.d.

48.  

NFPA. National Fire Protection Association: Fact Sheet.

49.  

For a discussion of the rise of standard-setting consorita, see Carl Cargill and Martin Weiss, ''Consortia in the Standards Development Process," Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 559-565.

50.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System: Meeting the Global Challenge, 10-11.

51.  

ANSI Annual Report, 1993, 13.

52.  

ANSI Annual Report, 1993, 1.

53.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 4-5.

54.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System: Meeting the Global Challenge, 18-22.

55.  

EEE, Standards Catalog.

56.  

NFPA, National Electrical Code 1993.

57.  

ANSI Annual Report, 1993, 13.

58.  

James Thomas, President, ASTM, personal communication, March 24, 1994; and Sergio Mazza, President, ANSI, personal communication, March 1, 1994.

59.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 18.

60.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 18.

61.  

Lehr, "Standardization: Understanding the Process," 551-552.

62.  

Stanley M. Besen and Joseph Farrell, Choosing How to Compete: Strategies and Tactics in Standardization, 117-131.

63.  

For further discussion of the interactions between standardization and technology development, see Farrell and Saloner, Competition, Compatibility and Standards; and Richard Jensen and Marie Thursby, Patent Races, Product Standards, and International Competition.

64.  

Cargill and Weiss, "Consortia in the Standards Development Process", 563-564.

65.  

Mary Anne Lawler, memorandum, U.S. Technical Advisory Group to JTC-1.

66.  

ANSI Annual Report, 1993, 8-9.

67.  

OTA, Global Standards, 48-49; 54-55.

68.  

Cargill, Information Technology Standardization, 142-147.

69.  

For descriptions of international standard-setting organizations and processes, see especially ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System; Cargill, Information Technology Standardization, 125-148; and Stanley M. Besen and Joseph Farrell, The Role of the ITU in Standardization, 311-321. See also Maureen Breitenberg, ed., Directory of International and Regional Organizations Conducting Standards-Related Activities, NIST Special Publication 767.

70.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 27.

71.  

Data provided by ANSI, November 1883; and OTA, Global Standards, 87.

72.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 27-29; data on ISO/IEC committee participation provided by ANSI, July, 1994; and OTA, Global Standards, 87.

73.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 105-106.

74.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System, 30; and Michael Miller, President, Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, presentation to the Conference on New Developments in International Standards and Global Trade.

75.  

ASTM, internal memorandum, May 11, 1994.

76.  

ASME, "Annual Report for 1992/1993", AR-11.

77.  

For a directory of federal agencies with standards activities, see Toth, Standards Activities of Organizations in the United States, 547-656.

78.  

ANSI, The U.S. Voluntary Standardization System: Meeting Global Challenges, 14.

79.  

The regulation in question was a beer labeling requirement proposed by the State of

Suggested Citation:"2 Standards Development." National Research Council. 1995. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade: Into the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4921.
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California. JoAnne Overman, Director, National Center for Standards and Certification Information, National Institute for Standards and Technology, personal communication, June 7, 1994.

80.  

Breitenberg, The ABC's of Standards-Related Activities in the United States.

81.  

NIST, NIST Budget Summary, August 30, 1994.

82.  

Based on estimates provided by John Donaldson, Director, Standards Code and Information Program, Office of Standards Services, NIST.

83.  

U.S. Department of Commerce, Memorandum, Third Triennial Report to the Office of Management and Budget on the Implementation of OMB Circular A-119, p. 15.

84.  

James E. Rountree, Directory of DoC Staff Memberships on Outside Standards Committees, 3-6.

85.  

Unpublished data provided by JoAnne Overman, Director, National Center for Standards and Certification Information, NIST, 1994.

86.  

The Office of Standards Services, brochure published by NIST, n.d.

87.  

JoAnne Overman, GATT Standards Code Activities of the National Institute of Standards and Technology 1992, 3-4; and JoAnne Overman, personal communication, June 7, 1994.

88.  

Information provided by NIST, Office of Standards Services staff, May and June, 1994.

89.  

Office of Management and Budget, Circular No. A-119, 1982.

90.  

OMB, Circular No. A-119, Revised, in Federal Register, October 26, 1993, p. 57644.

91.  

OMB, Circular A-119, Revised, paragraph 7.a.(4).

92.  

Increased government use of commercial product specifications in place of government-unique standards and specifications is one goal of federal acquisition reform legislation signed into law in 1994. See Title VIII, Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1993, 103rd Cong., 2nd session, S. 1587.

93.  

Cassell and Crosslin, Benefits of the Defense Standardization Program, A3-A5.

94.  

Cassell and Crosslin, Benefits of the Defense Standardization Program, A6-A10.

95.  

George Eads and Peter Reuter, Designing Safer Products: Corporate Responses to Product Liability Law and Regulation, 34-39.

96.  

Eads and Reuter, Designing Safer Products, 112-115.

97.  

For a discussion, see Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 8-14 and 211-221.

98.  

Eads and Reuter, Designing Safer Products, 106-115.

99.  

Cheit, Setting Safety Standards, 224.

100.  

OMB, Circular No. A-119, Revised.

101.  

Interagency Committee on Standards Policy.

102.  

U.S. Department of Commerce, Third Triennial Report to OMB, p. 3.

103.  

U.S. Department of Commerce, Third Triennial Report to OMB, p. 4.

104.  

OTA, Global Standards, 46-58.

105.  

Trade Agreements Act of 1979, 96th Cong., 1st sess., H.R. 4537.

106.  

ANSI, 1993 Annual Report, 24.

107.  

Membership dues provide for meeting 43 percent of ANSI's core (non-publishing) expenses, primarily administration of U.S. consensus standards development. Net income from publications sales provides for 34 percent of these expenses; program support, 14 percent; conformity assessment services, 4 percent; and other, 5 percent. ANSI, 1993 Annual Report, 13; and Manuel Peralta, President, ANSI, personal communication, October 25, 1993.

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Mandated standards used for vehicle airbags, International Organization for Standards (ISO) standards adopted for photographic film, de facto standards for computer software--however they arise, standards play a fundamental role in the global marketplace.

Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade provides a comprehensive, up-to-date analysis of the link between standards, product testing and certification, and U.S. economic performance. The book includes recommendations for streamlining standards development, increasing the efficiency of product testing and certification, and promoting the success of U.S. exports in world markets.

The volume offers a critical examination of organizations involved in standards and identifies the urgent improvements needed in the U.S. system for conformity assessment, in which adherence to standards is assessed and certified. Among other key issues, the book explores the role of government regulation, laboratory accreditation, and the overlapping of multiple quality standards in product development and manufacturing.

In one of the first treatments of this subject, Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Trade offers a unique and highly valuable analysis of the impact of standards and conformity assessment on global trade.

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