Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology
NIST and Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Industry Day
March 2, 2010
Thank you, Robert. Good morning everybody. Welcome to NIST. Let's see who drank their coffee already and who didn't; it's an early start.
I'm delighted to open this event. I believe this is really exciting to get everybody together, and this is a win-win. We need you, and, hopefully you need us, and this is about getting better acquainted and looking for mutual opportunities. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to come visit us here at NIST to learn a little bit more about us, what we do, why we do it, and, perhaps, how you can contribute and participate.
Many of you are from this area and so you probably know us certainly by looking at us from I270 and have seen the grass and the geese and the deer and all the other things here, but it's delightful to welcome you onto our site and let you get to meet some of our staff and see some of our facilities and learn a bit more about us.
I want to thank two people who are really responsible for making this happen. First is the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and its CEO, Gigi. Thank you very much. She initiated and organized this Industry Day here at NIST, and her partner in crime was Cecelia Royster, who is up here on the podium. She is the NIST small business broker, and she also wears the hat of the Deputy Director of our Acquisitions and Management Division. You are going to see other staff from our Acquisition and Management Division both in the audience and up here on stage and I want to thank them for all of their work in putting this event together. They will be, of course, one of your primary touch points with NIST as you work with us.
Through its government contracting network, or govConNet, and other initiatives, the Chamber is playing a very constructive role in bringing us together and building mutually beneficial relationships between government agencies and area businesses. The better we become at working together the more our local community will benefit.
That matters to NIST. We live and work in Montgomery County and in Maryland. Purchases and products that we obtain from Maryland businesses totaled over $64 million last year alone. We awarded over 59 contracts totaling more than $21 million to Maryland organizations.
Over 90 percent of our employees live and work in Maryland, and so we take it personally. If Maryland benefits, so do we. We're a proud resident of this county and the broader Washington D.C. Metropolitan area.
Our goal today is to improve our supplier network and to build a partnership with you so that we can better meet our mission.
I thought what I would do as part of the welcome is give you a hundred-thousand-foot view of our agency and what we do, with the hope that maybe it will help you today as you learn about us a little bit better.
So, NIST is one of the oldest science and technology agencies in the federal government. We were founded in 1901. At that time, we were known as the National Bureau of Standards. That name changed in the late 1980s. We have been part of the Commerce Department since the Department of Commerce was founded, so we actually predate the founding of the Department of Commerce, and our mission really stems from that time. So 1901 was the peak of the Industrial Revolution. In the United States, we were learning what technology meant and how important it was for technology to work with each other, in both supply chains—quantities of materials that were sold or traded--we needed to know that there was reliability in those measurements. We needed to know how to interconnect systems of technology so that they would work together and, therefore, open new markets so that people could build products and services.
One example of that that is local is a simple interoperability problem of fire plugs. Born out of the lesson of the great Baltimore fire in simply having interoperability of how fire departments could connect to fire hydrants.
Another area was really the dawn of the age of electricity. Played out much over the last century with NIST playing key supporting roles, the electrification of businesses and homes resulted in one of the world's largest, most complex interconnected machines—considered one of the great engineering marvels of our time—which is the U.S. power grid. Today, the nation's vast and aging electrical system is undergoing a major modernization. You have heard about it, it's called the Smart Grid effort, and it is basically marrying our ability to deliver electricity with our ability to move and process information. It is a cornerstone of the President's plans to build a clean energy economy. Why would that be the case? Because to have the capability of adding renewable energy with the goal of enabling consumers to modify their use of power to make it more efficient and more productive and to minimize our need for peak power, we can address many of our nation's most urgent energy challenges. NIST is working as it always has to work in partnership with industry to develop the standards so that this new Smart Grid can work together.
This is one example among very many where NIST works at the transaction—at the seams of industry, where we work on standards and measurement science and technology to fundamentally enable the opportunities for U.S. businesses to build products and sell services.
Examples include cybersecurity. We hosted an event here with the Governor last month looking at the role that Maryland plays in cybersecurity. Electronic health records, green buildings, and advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology. It is a very long list of things at NIST. I don't think you will find a broader national laboratory in the United States than the one here in Gaithersburg, Md.
NIST is the nation's innovation agency. We work behind the scenes conducting research, developing the state of the art in measurements. Working with state and local governments and industry to disseminate measurement know how, and working to sustain manufacturers as they build new products for tomorrow.
NIST carries out this mission to promote industrial competitiveness and innovation through four major programs. They are the NIST laboratory program, which is most of what you see on this campus. But we also have three other key programs. One is the Technology Innovation Program, which issues grants to fund high-risk, high-payoff research in areas of critical national need. We also operate the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program where NIST works in all 50 states at partnership extension centers where we work with small and mid-sized manufacturers to give them services to promote growth and productivity in their own manufacturing. We also operate the Baldrige National Quality Award Program, which is a quality program that disseminates best practices for organizational excellence and culminates in a national award, hosted by the President.
NIST sits on two sites. The largest, by far, is here in Gaithersburg, Md. We also have a smaller facility in Boulder, Colo. We employ almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, technicians, administrative staff, and support staff. Our culture is that of getting it right—of excellence—and we're very proud of the accomplishments of all of our staff. On the research side, we're unique. We're the only federal agency that has had staff win not one, not two, but three Nobel Prizes, multiple National Medals of Science, and MacArthur Genius Awards. This is one of the best national labs in the world.
Resources, I think you will care about this. NIST is basically a $1 billion agency. Last year, we had nearly $900 million appropriated by Congress. We also collect some service fees for some of our services, in the order of $50 million, and work extensively with other agencies, and in fact, receive nearly $100 million from other agencies for work carried out at NIST.
In additional to those appropriation levels, NIST was appropriated over $600 million in Recovery Act funding, which was one-time funding, which is available through the end of this fiscal year. Two-thirds of that funding was to strengthen our NIST laboratory programs. Remember, Recovery Act funding had this interesting feature where it had two roles. One was to make investments and to stimulate economic activity. At NIST, our Recovery Act program is in grants and fellowships and purchasing equipment and in constructing facilities, but it is also with the idea that these same investments carry a very long-term dividend in strengthening our laboratory programs and our ability as a nation to provide the kinds of services that can promote innovation and strengthen American businesses.
President Obama has been a strong supporter of NIST. In a request to Congress he made this year, at a time when he froze domestic discretionary spending, the President's request included over a 7 percent increase for NIST, reflecting his strong commitment to make the kinds of investments that can ensure long-term economic prosperity for the country.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has made NIST a keystone in his efforts to focus the Department of Commerce on innovation and job creation in the United States in creating opportunities for all Americans.
This is an exciting and challenging time at NIST. We are working as hard as we have ever worked. They don't look like it, but they're working really hard right now. Actually, it really has been a very challenging year. It's an exciting time at NIST. Those of us here at NIST who have spent our entire careers at NIST—I've been here 16 years—feel that we are being asked to do something very big for this country. We play a critical role and we feel it very deeply. What I am here to tell you today is that you play a very key role in this mission.
You are our partners. You provide services and goods that we need to carry out our mission and we would love to work in partnership with you. I think today's event is a way for us each to get to know each other better and to serve that mission even more effectively.
Once again, let me thank you all for coming, and I hope you enjoy your visit and your day here at NIST.
Thank you very much.