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Providing Leadership on Standards to Address National Challenges

In our technological world, technical standards are playing an increasingly important role as federal agencies tackle a range of pressing problems.

In our technological world, technical standards are playing an increasingly important role as federal agencies tackle a range of pressing problems, such as developing a modern electrical grid and promoting the effective use of medical information to enhance patient care. It has long been government policy that federal agencies should look to voluntary consensus standards to meet these needs. With the rapid pace of technological change and the increasingly complex and interdependent nature of these technologies, the task of developing and adopting standards has become very challenging; therefore, it is more important than ever that federal agencies work effectively with the private sector to ensure that meaningful standards can be in place to meet urgent national needs. The right starting point is to ensure that federal agencies work closely and effectively together to define their standards needs, define their approach to working with industry and standards organizations, and support their meaningful adoption by markets.

To this end, I am joining my colleagues from the Office of Management and Budget—Vivek Kundra, U.S. Chief Information Officer, and Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—in establishing a Subcommittee on Standards under the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Technology. This Subcommittee will be co-chaired by Patrick Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Philip Weiser, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International, Policy and Appellate Matters, Department of Justice. This interagency group will provide high-level leadership so federal agencies are strategically focused and actively engaged on critical standards-related issues. The improved coordination will, in turn, ensure that agencies can work in a responsive and timely fashion with the private sector so that effective standards are developed and put into practice to meet the Nation’s needs.

This Subcommittee will also work closely with the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy (ICSP), which is also chaired by a representative from NIST. The Subcommittee on Standards will provide direction and guidance to the ICSP, and will rely on the ICSP to coordinate interagency implementation of standards policy, assess progress, and develop potential policy options or guidance with the goal of removing barriers to effective standards development or use.

The Obama Administration is committed to working in close partnership with industry, standards organizations, and the public to ensure that the technologies needed to address the urgent challenges facing our country are developed and made in the United States and are appropriately interoperable with related technologies. Whether it is to ensure the security of federal information technology systems, promote the development of a “Smart Grid,” or develop an effective and interoperable health IT system, it is imperative that federal agencies work effectively, openly, and strategically with our private-sector partners to ensure that the innovation being harnessed to tackle a national problem is structured in a way that maximizes technical utility, economic growth, and job creation. Technical standards play a major role in this effort, and this Subcommittee is an important step in ensuring that federal agencies collaborate effectively with the private sector to make it happen.

Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy