Citation Edit

Office of Management and Budget, Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities (OMB Circular No. A-119) (rev. Feb. 10, 1998) (full-text); (rev. Jan. 27, 2016) (full-text).

Overview Edit

This Circular establishes policies on Federal use and development of voluntary consensus standards and on conformity assessment activities. The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 codified existing policies in Circular A-119, established reporting requirements, and authorized the National Institute of Standards and Technology to coordinate conformity assessment activities of the agencies.

1998 Revision Edit

The Circular was revised in 1998, in part to provide guidance on how agencies could meet the intent and implement the standards and conformity-assessment-related provisions of the NTTAA. It directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in lieu of government-unique standards except where inconsistent with law or otherwise impractical. It also provides guidance to agencies on participation in the development of voluntary consensus standards, and articulates policies relating to the use of standards by Federal agencies.

2016 Revision Edit

The current revision, published on January 27, 2016, reflects developments in regulation, standards, and conformity assessment since the Circular was last revised in 1998. These revisions reflect the experience gained by U.S. agencies in implementing the Circular since 1998, and concluding and implementing U.S. trade agreements, as well as developments in domestic and international regulatory, standards, and conformity assessment policies.

The revised Circular reflects and supports the regulatory policies and principles set out in relevant executive orders:

  • Executive Order 12866 ("Regulatory Planning and Review") states that regulations must be consistent with law; regulations must identify the nature and significance of the problem; agencies must identify and assess alternatives to address the problem along with the costs and benefits of each alternative; and the approach selected should maximize net benefits to society;
  • Executive Order 13563 ("Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review") emphasizes that the U.S. regulatory system "must protect public health, welfare, safety, and [the] environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation," and stresses the importance of public participation and careful consideration of both benefits and costs;
  • Executive Order 13609 ("Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation") directs Federal agencies to better coordinate U.S. priorities and positions with respect to international regulatory cooperation efforts across U.S. Federal agencies. This includes promoting good regulatory practices both in the United States and internationally, as appropriate, and considering reforms that address unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements between the United States and its major trading partners; and
  • Executive Order 13610 ("Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens") institutionalizes the retrospective review mechanism set out in Executive Order 13563 and calls on agencies to reduce the cumulative effects, including the cumulative burdens, of regulation.

In addition to the above Executive Orders, on January 17, 2012, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a Memorandum to Federal agencies on "Principles for Federal Engagement in Standards Activities to Address National Priorities.

The revisions to Circular A-119 inform agencies of their statutory obligations in standards-setting activities.

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