NSTC Issues Report on Government Involvement in Standards Development

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Agencies should aim to support, not lead the development of technological standards, except in specific instances.

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report released by the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) concludes that federal agencies should play a supporting role in the development of technical standards but acknowledges that there are “limited circumstances” where agencies should take a leadership role.

The report, which was based partly on public comments solicited by the NSTC, suggests that in the technology market, private-sector “innovators” and “market needs” should drive standardization. The government should play an “active” but supporting role in this process. The report acknowledges the need for government involvement but notes that poor inter-agency communication can hinder the standard development process.

The report also acknowledges specific instances where the federal government should take a leading role in standardization efforts.  When the government identifies specific standards necessary to support national priorities like the smart grid and health IT areas mentioned in the report, federal agencies may need to take a leading role and coordinate an expedited development process by bringing together experts and stakeholders.  The report cited as an example the leadership role by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) in the development of electronic healthcare records.

The report also notes that when agencies plan to take a leadership role in standard development, they should encourage public participation at all stages and develop a plan for transitioning leadership to the private sector once important objectives are met.