January 31, 2005
Ms. April Schweighart
Chair, Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology
National Institute of Standards and Technology
3205 Barker Hollow Pass
Austin, TX 78739
Thank you for your feedback on the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) meeting held on December 7-8, 2004. The ideas and contributions from the VCAT are very important to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and we sincerely appreciate the time and effort that VCAT members devote to this process.
A significant portion of the FY 2005 increase in appropriations was specifically designated by Congress to be used in activities outside our strategic focus areas. However, some of the increased appropriations will be used to conduct research in strategic focus areas and to support the activities of the strategic working groups. In our March meeting we will have the opportunity to review the FY 2005 budget allocation as well as the President's proposed budget for FY 2006. We will send you details about the President's proposal as soon as it is released. That is now expected to happen on February 7.
Communications are ongoing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) regarding support for NIST's leadership role in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). We are seeking funding to support this work and we will continue to work diligently to obtain the funds necessary to carry out our new NEHRP responsibilities.
You encouraged us to begin planning as soon as possible for internal organizational transformations that will be needed to align our program portfolio with external drivers and you offered to present a special panel discussion at a future VCAT meeting to share your knowledge and experience with organizational transformations. I believe that NIST can benefit from your collective experience in this area and we accept your offer. We will work with you to make this happen as soon as practical.
I agree with your comments about the need to develop a system for setting priorities across the strategic focus areas and to develop performance metrics for each strategic working group. We are in the early stages of doing this and will keep the VCAT informed of our progress. We have also begun the process of establishing a strategic working group for Information and Knowledge Management, and will provide a report on our progress at a future VCAT meeting.
Thank you for the constructive and helpful comments on our new NIST Overview presentation. We recognize that this is an important component of our outreach activities and will make refinements based on your suggestions and other comments received, and adapt it for specific audiences.
I agree that there is a need to establish a final set of selection criteria based on the nation's priorities and NIST's competencies that can guide us in establishing and committing to external relationships. We are developing these criteria and will present them to the VCAT at a future meeting. We will also work to ensure that each new agreement includes clear and specific mutual programmatic goals and the requirements on each organization to achieve the objectives.
We already have initiated several very important new outreach efforts since the beginning of the year and will update you in March.
NIST's Role in the U.S. Measurement System
You cautioned that NIST should be prudent in selecting customers and stakeholders that represent a broad interest to assist our efforts to reaffirm our leadership role in the U.S. Measurement System (USMS). You also suggested that we should divide the plan into smaller steps for assessing progress and developing a knowledge management infrastructure. These are good ideas and we already have incorporated them into the design of our project plan. This is a major effort for NIST and we look forward to regularly updating the Committee and benefiting from your continued advice.
Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Thank you for your support and your confidence in Kevin's leadership through this demanding time. To raise the awareness of its programs, NIST MEP has increased its outreach over the past year to ensure that the program's stakeholders understand its contribution to the competitiveness of small manufacturers across the country. As part of its outreach, NIST MEP provides quantitative data on program impacts and other examples of the MEP's many contributions to its customers. As with all of NIST's programs, I encourage the VCAT to share its own views on the MEP program in upcoming meetings with the Secretary of Commerce and other stakeholders.
We are pleased with our progress in reducing safety incidents over the past three years. We also recognize that the task is never finished. The dialog between Safety Council Chair Bill Koch and VCAT Vice-Chair Deborah Grubbe will continue as one component of our activities to improve the effectiveness of our safety program. The safety of our staff is a top priority, and we appreciate the helpful advice we have received from the Committee and from Deb Grubbe in particular.
I am pleased that you found the laboratory tours to be interesting and informative. As you requested, we will arrange a laboratory tour of a cyber security project for a future VCAT visit.
Carlos Gutierrez has now been confirmed as the new Secretary of Commerce and we have requested that the VCAT meet with him on Wednesday March 16, 2005, to share your views on NIST and to deliver your final 2004 report.
We appreciate all of your suggestions and the hard work that you and the other VCAT members contribute in helping us to improve our programs and reach out to key stakeholders. These efforts are important to our future success. As always, I look forward to our future interactions as we strive to make NIST an even better organization.
Hratch G. Semerjian