The White House Office of Management and Budget released a revision of OMB Circular A-119 in January 2016. Entitled “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities,” the document encourages Federal agencies to benefit from the expertise of the private sector, promotes Federal agency participation in standards bodies to support the creation of standards that are useable by Federal agencies, and seeks to minimize reliance on government-unique standards where an existing standard would meet the Federal government’s objective.
In 1996, Congress passed the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA - Public Law 104-113); making it clear that federal agencies should rely upon private voluntary standards whenever feasible. This landmark legislation contains the following key provisions pertaining to standards and conformity assessment:
“All Federal agencies and departments shall use technical standards that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, using such technical standards as a means to carry out policy objectives or activities determined by the agencies and departments;
Federal agencies and departments shall consult with voluntary, private sector, consensus standards bodies and shall, when such participation is in the public interest and is compatible with agency and departmental missions, authorities, priorities, and budget resources, participate with such bodies in the development of technical standards”
Exception - If compliance is inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical, a Federal agency or department may elect to use technical standards that are not developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies if the head of each such agency or department transmits to the Office of Management and Budget an explanation of the reasons for using such standards. Each year, beginning with fiscal year 1997, the Office of Management and Budget shall transmit to Congress and its committees a report summarizing all explanations received in the preceding year under this paragraph.