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OCR for page 255
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1993 Appendix A 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 support industry through the development of measurement technology. The net effect of the legislation is both simple and profound. The new functions and programs complement the existing functions and programs extremely well; they also have the potential to increase 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 NOTE: This appendix, which includes information on NIST's statutory charter and mission, was provided by NIST in the course of the fiscal year 1993 reviews and thus was not authored by the Board on Assessment of NIST Programs.
OCR for page 256
An Assessment of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS: Fiscal Year 1993 development, and pooling of skills that will be necessary to strengthen American's manufacturing industries. In the enumeration of NIST's functions in the act, two are of particular note as they highlight the new authority as well as 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 In partnership with industry and government, NIST conducts research and provides measurement-related technical services to enhance the competitive posture of the United States in global markets. The partnership covers the entire cycle from definition of needs and ranking of priorities, through execution of research programs, to assuring that the results are used by U.S. industry. A second major element of the NIST mission is to conduct research in selected areas of public health and safety and the environment, again in partnership with industry and government. Some of these activities are mandated by special statutes--earthquake hazard mitigation and elimination of chlorofluorocarbons--and one, fire research, is part of the basic NIST authorization. The final element of the mission is a broad program of scientific research to underpin the technology programs. This scientific research is motivated by NIST's charter to provide technical services to the scientific and engineering communities. These activities range from fundamental inquiries into natural phenomena to improving our knowledge of the fundamental constants on which the sciences depend for quantitative work. NIST conducts work largely in four categories: supporting technologies; generic, pre-competitive process and product technologies; fundamental studies; and technology movement to users.
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