Market-driven and private sector-led, the U.S. standardization system is dynamic and responsive because it thrives on the active participation and engagement of all affected stakeholders – including industry, government, standards developing organizations, academia, consumers, and others.
As one of the biggest users of standards, the U.S. government’s active participation in standardization is of great importance. Reliance on private-sector leadership, supplemented by Federal government contributions to standardization processes as outlined in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, Federal Participation in the Development and use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities, remains the primary strategy for government engagement in standards development. The circular has guided Federal agency implementation of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (NTTAA) for more than two decades. And through this public-private partnership, the United States is able to respond most effectively to the strategic needs of the nation on both domestic and international fronts.
The policies of Circular A-119 are intended to encourage Federal agencies to benefit from the expertise of the private sector, promote Federal agency participation in standards bodies to support the creation of standards that are useable by agencies, and minimize reliance on government-unique standards where an existing standard would meet the Federal government’s objective.
The vibrancy and effectiveness of the U.S. standards system depend on continued private-sector leadership and engagement. Most standards developed and used in U.S. markets are created with little or no government involvement. One of ANSI’s key roles is to bridge the gap between the standards community and the government agencies that issue regulations or establish voluntary programs affecting them. The U.S. Standards Strategy provides a high-level framework for ANSI activities.
Over 70 government agencies or departments, at both the federal and state level, are members of the ANSI federation. Their representatives serve at all levels of the U.S. voluntary standards system, including ANSI policy advisory groups, national and international standards development committees—frequently in leadership positions—and as members of ANSI delegations to international meetings.
Since the passage of the NTTAA and the issuance of OMB Circular A-119, ANSI has worked to facilitate the growing trend of government agencies using voluntary consensus standards created by the private sector as an alternative to agency-developed standards. This trend continues to accelerate, as the law makes clear that this is not just a good idea, but also a requirement where use of such standards is consistent with agency policy, and appropriate for agency purposes.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), most recently updated in 2019, outlines the important responsibilities of ANSI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in standardization, and recognizes the value of the public-private partnership between ANSI and the federal government. Its overarching purpose is to facilitate domestic communication and coordination among both private- and public-sector parties in the United States on voluntary standards and conformity assessment issues and promote effective federal agency participation in the voluntary standards–setting process.
As part of its work coordinating and safeguarding the U.S. standardization system, ANSI accredits standards developing organizations (SDOs) and approves standards from these organizations as American National Standards (ANS). This voluntary consensus standards process is time-tested, and has been relied on by many government agencies to the benefit of the public, government, industry and many other stakeholders.
ANSI-Accredited Standards Developers (ASDs) meet the definition in OMB Circular A-119 of “voluntary consensus body.” ANSI’s many checks and balances, including impartial audits, accreditation requirements, and an appeals process, underpin the integrity of the ANS process, regularly assuring adherence to the Institute’s procedures and safeguarding the value of the ASD and ANS designations.
Federal, state, and local authorities rely on ANAB accreditation to demonstrate value and assure competency for important public priorities. Many conformity assessment scheme owners, notably in the food safety sector, rely on ANAB accreditation to foster consumer confidence. ANAB participates in international and regional arrangements for multilateral recognition aimed at facilitating global market opportunities by building worldwide reliability of conformity assessment activities.
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