Functions of NIST
NIST STATUTORY CHARTER
Unlike most federal laboratories that derive their missions from those of their parent agencies, NIST is chartered by Congress in broad and comprehensive legislation. First written in 1900 and signed into law in 1901, the NIST authorizing legislation is periodically updated. In 1988, in a sweeping rewrite of the authorization, the Congress placed NIST in the forefront of federal efforts to improve the use of technology in the competition for global markets.
The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 augmented NIST's functions and capabilities. Specifically, NIST received new capability to carry out its mandate to help private-sector firms capitalize on advanced technology. The act also reconfirmed the importance of NIST's existing capabilities. It asserted that NIST's measurements, calibrations, and quality assurance techniques were the underpinning of U.S. commerce, technological progress, improved product reliability, improved manufacturing processes, and public safety. NIST continues to have a unique responsibility to promote economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards.
The functions and programs enacted through this legislation complement the existing functions and programs extremely well, and have increased dramatically the leverage and economic impact of the Institute.
The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act directed NIST
to modernize and restructure to augment its unique ability to enhance the competitiveness of American industry while maintaining its traditional function as lead national laboratory for providing the measurements, calibrations, and quality assurance techniques that underpin United States commerce, technological progress, improved product reliability and manufacturing processes, and public safety; to assist private-sector initiatives to capitalize on advanced technology; to advance, through cooperative efforts among industries, universities, and government laboratories, promising research and development projects that the private sector can optimize for commercial and industrial applications; and to promote shared risks, accelerated development, and pooling of skills that will be necessary to strengthen America's manufacturing industries.
NOTE: This appendix, which includes information on NIST's statutory charter and mission, was provided by NIST in the course of the fiscal year 1999 reviews and thus was not authored by the Board on Assessment of NIST Programs.
In the enumeration of NIST's functions in the act, two are of particular note as they reinforce the existing mission:
to assist industry in the development of technology and procedures needed to improve quality, to modernize manufacturing processes, to ensure product reliability, manufacturability, functionality, and cost-effectiveness and to facilitate the more rapid commercialization, especially by small- and medium-sized companies throughout the United States, of products based on new scientific discoveries in fields such as automation, electronics, advanced materials, biotechnology, and optical technologies;
to develop, maintain, and retain custody of the national standards of measurement, and provide the means and methods for making measurements consistent with those standards, including comparing standards used in scientific investigations, engineering, manufacturing, commerce, industry, and educational institutions with standards adopted or recognized by the Federal Government.
MISSION OF NIST
NIST's primary mission is to promote U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards. It carries out this mission through a portfolio of four major programs:
The Measurements and Standards Program promotes the U.S. economy and public welfare by providing technical leadership for the Nation 's measurement and standards infrastructure, and assuring the availability of essential reference data and measurement capabilities.
The Advanced Technology Program stimulates U.S. economic growth by developing high risk and enabling technologies through industry-driven cost-shared partnerships.
The Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program strengthens the global competitiveness of smaller U.S.-based manufacturing firms by providing information and assistance in adopting new, more advanced manufacturing technologies, techniques, and business best practices.
The National Quality Program enhances the competitiveness, quality, and productivity of U.S. organizations for the benefit of all citizens, manages the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and provides global leadership in promoting quality awareness.