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June 2010 VCAT Meeting Minutes






Visiting Committee Members Attending
Baer, Tom*
Bajcsy, Ruzena 
Cerf, Vinton
Chand, Sujeet
Green, Peter
Haymet, Tony
Kheradpir, Shaygan
Khosla, Pradeep
McRobbie, Michael
Romig, Alton
Taub, Alan

Ehrlich, Gail,
VCAT Exec. Dir.

NIST Leadership Board
Boehm, Jason
Cavanagh, Richard
Collins, Belinda
Celotta, Robert
Dimeo, Robert
Fiotes, Stella
Furlani, Cita Gallagher, Patrick Gebbie, Katharine
Hertz, Harry 
Kayser, Rich
Kilmer, Roger
Kimball, Kevin
Kunze, Steve
May, Willie
Porter, Gail
Robinson, David
Stanley, Marc
Sunder, Shyam
Wisniewski, Lorel
Wixon, Henry

NIST Staff
Acierto, Linda
Arnold, George
Balicao, Francisco
Boettinger, Bill
Cherny, Paul
Coble, Michael
Curry, Emily
Datla, Raju
Espina, Pedro
Evans, Dave
Gayle, Frank
Gillerman, Gordon
Goldstein, Barbara
Graham, Adrienne
Gundlach, David
Hight Walker, Angela
Ivester, Rob
Janezic, Mike
Jillavenkatesa, Ajit
Jurrens, Kevin
Kuhn, Kevin
Locascio, Laurie
Nair, Rajesh
Nguyen, Cuong
Nguyen, Nhan
Olthoff, Jim
Ott, William
Parriott, Joel
Polk, Tim
Rivera, Eddie
Roberts, Kamie
Romine, Chuck
Salah, Lucy
Scarfone, Karen
Shaw, Stephanie
Sobolewski, Mark
Strouse, Greg
St. Pierre, Jim
Steel, Eric
Stein, Ben
Tassey, Greg
Watters, Bob

NIST Staff Cont.
Wavering, Al
Whetstone, James
White, Christopher
Whitman, Lloyd
Williams, Karen
Wollman, Dave
Wright, John

Collins, Robert
University of Toledo

Dunlop, Vicki

Heyman, Matthew
United States Pharmacopeia

Leib, Jennifer
Health Futures

Little, Roger
Spire Corporation

Mann, Karen
Association for Molecular Pathology

Porter, Derek

Semer, Richard
Air Force Metrology and Calibration Program

Tarr, Larry
U.S. Army Primary Standards Laboratory

Williams, Mary
Association for Molecular Pathology

*Attended meeting via teleconference.

Call to Order, Announcements, and Agenda Review – Dr. Vinton Cerf, VCAT Chair

Dr. Cerf called the meeting to order at 8:25 a.m. and welcomed three new VCAT members:  Sujeet Chand, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Rockwell Automation; Shaygan Kheradpir, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Verizon Communications; and Michael McRobbie, President, Indiana University.  While reviewing the agenda, Dr. Cerf remarked that the members will have an opportunity to visit several NIST laboratories involved in analytical chemistry, ionizing radiation, and manufacturing metrology.  He noted that the VCAT will form working groups in each of these areas and that this working group structure will continue at the October 2010 meeting to focus on these areas more closely as requested by the NIST Director.

NIST Director's Update – Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director, NIST  

Presentation Summary– Dr. Gallagher also welcomed the new VCAT members and highlighted their backgrounds and expected contributions to the Committee.  The Committee members and NIST leadership introduced themselves.  

Dr. Gallagher reviewed the status of the NIST realignment and described its two-phase process.  Congress recently approved the first phase of the NIST realignment which reorganizes the Director Office by replacing the previous Deputy Director position with three new Associate Directors responsible for the NIST laboratory programs, innovation and industry services, and management resources.  NIST is undergoing a full national search for these new positions and Dr. Gallagher welcomed suggestions from the VCAT for candidates. Phase two is a mission-based realignment of the NIST laboratory structure and has been approved by the Administration and pending Congressional review.  Dr. Gallagher noted that manufacturing technology is becoming an increasingly important issue and will be the focal point of the proposed Engineering Laboratory and the Information Technology Laboratory. He further described the key functions in each of the Associate Director Programs.    

Regarding the budget, Dr. Gallagher reviewed NIST's FY 2011 budget request to Congress which included increased funding of $69.5 million for investments on national priorities, $15 million to revitalize the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Technology Innovation Program, and $66.1 million to strengthen NIST facilities in Boulder and Gaithersburg.  In his update and review of NIST's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, Dr. Gallagher noted that although NIST will obligate these funds by the end of FY 2010, the reporting requirements will extend several years in the future. NIST as well as other government agencies are struggling with a 30 percent disbursement rate.  Dr. Gallagher summarized the House version of the COMPETES Reauthorization legislation 262-150 which reauthorizes NIST for five years and continues the doubling path laid out in the original bill.  The Senate is working on a leaner authorization bill that can achieve bipartisan support but still supportive of some of the elements in the House Bill.

Turning to other topics, Dr. Gallagher announced NIST's plans to establish a Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) II on Management and Safety to examine the agency's progress towards addressing the findings of the original BRC and invited VCAT members to serve on this Commission.  He also reviewed NIST's recent external staff awards and recognitions and noted that the five 2009 Arthur S. Flemming award winners was an unprecedented yearly number for NIST.  In support of the President's Innovation Agenda, Dr. Gallagher described Secretary Locke's focus on the commercialization of university research and NIST's participation in this effort.  He noted that the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services was specifically designed to be a focal point for the Administration's discussions on innovation as well as to examine NIST's technology transfer policy.  Dr. Gallagher also described NIST's participation in the Deepwater Horizon incident which involves assisting in specimen banking from the affected areas and supporting an "expert team" to assess the flow rate of leaking oil from the ocean floor. In closing, Dr. Gallagher explained his goals and themes for the VCAT which will maximize their impact and respect their valuable time.  The themes cover retrospective issues such as performance metrics and assessments, ongoing operational activities, and the future direction of NIST.

Discussion – The members also requested a breakdown of the new lab structure by priority area and a funding table showing the base program amounts in each of the initiative areas. The realignment discussions focused on its impact to the National Research Council's assessment process, the number of management layers, management responsibility for manufacturing as well as for the NIST labs in Boulder and South Carolina, the role of the Special Programs Office, and the timeframe for implementation.

Regarding the optimal use of the VCAT, the Chair emphasized the need for NIST to offer options on selected issues for the Committee's consideration and to inform the Committee on opportunities for expressing their opinion in areas that would make a difference to NIST. Lastly, the group discussed NIST's focus on safety management and the VCAT's role in this area.

For more details on the NIST Update, see Dr. Gallagher's presentation.

SESSION I:  Progress in Documentary Standards

Coordinating Federal Government Engagement in Documentary Standards:  The National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC) Subcommittee on Standards – Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director, NIST  

Presentation Summary– As a follow-up to the VCAT's focus in 2009 on the NIST role in documentary standards and the Committee's recommendation that NIST position itself to be a primary focal point in the Administration for standards coordination, Dr. Gallagher described the new interagency NSTC Subcommittee on Standards (SOS), a sub-cabinet group, co-chaired by the NIST Director and Carl Shapiro from the Department of Justice. The SOS provides a formal structure within the Executive Office of the President to improve standard coordination and information sharing among Federal agencies, departments, and commissions at the senior leadership level. Many of the Administration's priorities include a significant standards infrastructure in Smart Grid, Electronic Health Records, Cloud Computing, and Educational Technologies which require engagement and coordination among the participants. The SOS builds on the foundation established by the National Technology Transfer Advancement Act (NTTAA) and OMB Circular A-199 and addresses additional issues such as Intellectual Property (IP) and Innovation.  The SOS will work closely with existing Federal agencies and interagency efforts that have a standards focus, including the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy.  For the initial SOS sub-groups, the Patent and Trademark Office and the Department of Justice are coordinating the standards and IP issue while NIST coordinates a standards "playbook" or "toolbox" with best practices and experiences of Federal agencies along with the development of metrics to measure the effectiveness of agency engagement. 

Discussion – The group discussed the role of the Department of Justice in antitrust and trade issues, the need for the Federal government to engage strategically with the private sector to develop standards, the importance of participation by the National Institutes of Health in issues involving the privacy of medical health records, and the impact of connectivity standards on the manufacturing sector.     

For more details on the SOS, see Dr. Gallagher's presentation.

Documentary Standards Update: Smart Grid  – Dr. George Arnold, National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, NIST

Presentation Summary– Dr. Arnold highlighted recent major accomplishments, issues and challenges, and upcoming events related to the Smart Grid effort. As background information, Dr. Arnold remarked that the Department of Energy (DOE) has already awarded most of its $4.5 billion dollar investment in Smart Grid which is a small part of the total investment required over the next 20 to 30 years.  Although there is still a tremendous urgency to quickly develop the standards and architecture before these funds become stranded, this need must be weighed against the fact that these efforts will lay the foundation for the electric grid over the next 100 years and, therefore, must be done in a way that allows the system to evolve to address new requirements and technologies.  Major accomplishments cover the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), a private/public partnership now in execution mode; international engagements; policy activities including a new NSTC Subcommittee with George Arnold serving as Vice Chair and Patricia Hoffman from DOE as Chair; and the new NIST Smart Grid Federal Advisory Committee.  Major Smart Grid issues and challenges involve standards for customer access to energy usage data, Home Area Network interactions, competing electrical vehicle (EV) standards for rapid charging, defining sound architectural principles, security aspects, stability issues, and the architectural extension of "Smart Grid" to "Smart Infrastructure."  While reviewing upcoming events which are all open to the public, Dr. Arnold indicated that the SGIP events coincide with major Smart Grid conferences to make it more efficient for people to participate.

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics:

  • Benefits of a strawman positioning posture for a Smart Grid architecture with agreement from the standards bodies;
  • Need for a national standard for interfacing electric vehicles with the Smart Grid and the issues associated with having a single global EV standard;
  • Importance of an aggressive timetable for Smart Grid standards;
  • Security issues and the role of the SGIP Smart Grid Cybersecurity Working Group;
  • Type of research needed to address stability issues;
  • NIST's role in conformity assessment and testing of smart meters and other devices; and
  • Differences between the new Smart Grid Federal Advisory Committee and the SGIP.

For more details, see Dr. Arnold's presentation.

Documentary Standards Update: Health Information Technology (IT) – Ms. Cita Furlani, Director, Information Technology Laboratory, NIST 

Presentation Summary– Ms. Furlani described the context for NIST's involvement in health IT which began in the mid-1990's and highlighted NIST's recent accomplishments, challenges, and noteworthy events. Major accomplishments include developing test suites for all standards required for certified electronic health records (HER) products for 2011, providing key technical leadership in critical standards development efforts, advising the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on the use of the National Laboratory Voluntary Accreditation Program for certification and conformance testing, and participating in health IT coordination groups.  To address the challenges faced by the health IT community with regards to the rapid proliferation of standards and the wide variability of environments, NIST focuses on developing the standards as well as generating the accompanying test tools for vendors and users to assure their systems will actually meet the standards. The list of  recent and upcoming events include a Health IT Panel discussion at the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board meeting, a heavily attended NIST-hosted conference on safeguarding health information; and a NIST- hosted conference on usability in health IT focusing on strategy, research, and implementation. 

Discussion – The group discussed NIST's  involvement in the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative, the intersection between NIST efforts in health care data and the National Broadband Plan, and the role of HHS as a regulatory agency in setting the requirements for the tools needed to assure meaningful use of certified EHR products.   

For more details, see Ms. Furlani's presentation.

Documentary Standards Update: Cybersecurity –Mr. Tim Polk, Security Directorate of the Internet Engineering Task Force, NIST

Presentation Summary- Ms. Furlani introduced the speaker, Mr. Polk, a computer scientist at NIST since 1982 whose work focuses on cryptographic security mechanisms.  Mr. Polk is providing this update on cybersecurity for Donna Dodson, the Chief of the Computer Security Division, who briefed the VCAT on this topic at their October 2009 meeting. He highlighted recent major cybersecurity accomplishments related to cryptography, biometrics, Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) specifications, identity management systems, security automation and vulnerability management, and Internet stability and security.  For example, NIST has been working very closely with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and industry to deploy the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) at the Internet authoritative root zone to enhance security and stability.  Challenges and opportunities cover FISMA; Clouds; securing the "Internet of Things" i.e., deploying security for devices on the network such as smart grid sensors; the Security Content Automation Protocol; internet infrastructure protection standards; and usability of standards.  Mr. Polk also summarized upcoming and recent events of interest and noted that the second Secure Hash Algorithm-3 Candidate Conference will be held in August where academics will provide valuable feedback on 14 of the original 50 candidate algorithms. 

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics:

  • Definition and use of dual factor authentication in identity management systems;  
  • Mechanisms for protecting sensitive information on NIST systems;
  • Use of the Security Content Automation Protocol for moving and protecting metadata;
  • NIST's efforts in digital rights management; and 
  • NIST's current activities in embedding security on handheld devices.

For more details, see Mr. Polk's presentation.

SESSION II:  External Needs Assessment Workshops

VCAT Role in External Needs Assessment Workshops – Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director, NIST  

Presentation Summary– Dr. Gallagher described a scenario for the VCAT's role in the External Needs Assessment (ENA) workshops which involve their review of the workshop reports and release of the Opportunities Documents addressing external drivers, barriers, and recommended research directions in specifically selected areas. This engagement would enable the VCAT to validate the need for a given program at NIST based on input from a particular industry sector.  Furthermore, the VCAT members are invited to attend the workshops and provide input on future topics.  The first two ENA workshops were recently held in the areas of Advances in Photovoltaic Technologies and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  More information about the workshops will be provided in the subsequent presentations. 

Discussion – The ENA workshops which focus on future needs are not intended to replace the independent peer review by the National Research Council on the quality of NIST programs.

Following the next three presentations on the ENA process and the two workshops, the group revisited the topic of the VCAT role in the ENA workshops.  Dr. Gallagher described in more detail how the Workshop Steering Committees could become a subcommittee of the VCAT and raise specific recommendations for the VCAT's consideration in releasing the Opportunities Document as a VCAT product.  He also indicated that the VCAT has the option to not be involved with the workshops or to have a more indirect role. The VCAT agreed not to have a subcommittee in this area and instead use the Opportunities Document as input to the VCAT's discussions and deliberations.

For more details, see Dr. Gallagher's presentation.

External Needs Assessment Process – Ms. Clare Allocca, Director, External Needs Assessment, NIST 

Presentation Summary– Ms. Allocca reviewed the NIST Director's motivation, challenge, and objective for the ENA workshops; the approach used for the first two workshops; key questions for workshop participants; example considerations used when selecting workshop topics; potential future topics; key questions for the VCAT; external and internal use of the workshop results; and next steps in the selection of topics for fiscal year 2011.  She emphasized that the NIST Director's original challenge for these workshops was to provide for the "credible identification of stakeholder needs." With regards to the approach, Ms. Allocca elaborated on how the workshops are completely externally driven and described the activities involved in the pre-workshop situation analysis, the workshop itself, and the post-workshop high-level Opportunities Document.  She also explained the benefits of other government agencies' participation in these workshops. Since the ENA process is in a state of continual development, Ms. Allocca invited input from the VCAT on future directions, including topics and key questions for the participants.

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics:

  • The nature of the key questions for the workshop participants will vary by workshop topic and are selected ultimately by the external steering committee;
  • Travel reimbursement for the participants;
  • The need to classify future topics by Administration's priorities;
  • The importance of using the workshop results to help fund joint programs between NIST and other agencies; and
  • The feasibility of having the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) assist with technology transfer activities.   

For more details, see Ms. Allocca's presentation.

Grand Challenges for Advances in Photovoltaic (PV) Technologies ­– Workshop Chairs:  Mr. Roger G. Little, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Spire Corporation, and Dr. Robert W. Collins, Distinguished University Professor and NEG Endowed Chair of Silicate and Materials Science, University of Toledo

Presentation Summary–Ms. Allocca introduced the co-chairs of the ENA Workshop on the Grand Challenges for Advances in Photovoltaic (PV) Technologies held on May 11-12, 2010, in Denver, CO.  As an expert in crystalline silicon, Dr. Little is Chairman of Spire Corporation, a 200-person company in the Boston area that makes equipment and turnkey processing lines to manufacture PVs. As co-Director of the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization at the University of Toledo, Dr. Collins is very experienced in working with academia and industry to solve numerous problems in PV involving measurement technology. 

Mr. Little began this joint presentation by noting that the PV Workshop is very timely and of great interest to industry, academia, and government labs since the PV industry is a very dynamic field growing rapidly at about 40 percent per year with tremendous competition worldwide.  He also described the Steering Committee's membership and tasks; the Workshop's participants; and the different scopes of the four breakout working sessions on wafer-based crystalline silicon PV, amorphous silicon and polycrystalline thin film PV, III-V multi-junction PV, and excitonic and quantum-structured PV.  Although the scope of each of these technologies differed, all of the breakout groups addressed the vision, drivers, critical technology challenges, and the measurement grand challenges leading to better performance, cost, reliability and acceptance, and lifecycle sustainability.  Among the four breakout areas, 22 measurement grand challenges were identified.  Selected examples of a grand challenge in each of the four areas were provided by the co-chairs.  In his opening remarks, Dr. Collins described a success story between the University of Toledo and industry involving First Solar, now the largest manufacturer of PV in the world with R&D labs in the outskirts of Toledo.  While summarizing the recurring themes across each of the breakout areas, Dr. Collins indicated that NIST with its nanoscale tools could play a significant role in understanding performance from atomic level to device level.  Lastly, Dr. Collins described the next steps for involving the participants and leveraging their expertise across technology areas in developing the Workshop Summary and the Opportunities Document as a useful resource for the PV community. 

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics:

·        Importance of reliability and sustainability as drivers;

·        Use of road maps or specific recommendations to help the community reach the targets/goals;

·       Value of the DOE document on basic needs for solar energy utilization which was included in the pre-workshop situation analysis;

·        Plans to identify activities that can be undertaken by NIST as well as other agencies and organizations, including those not present at the Workshop; and

·        Need for assessing PV activities in Europe and Asia. 

For more details, see Mr. Little and Dr. Collin's presentation.

Overview of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Quantification and Verification Strategies Workshop ­– Dr. James Whetstone, Special Assistance to the Director for Greenhouse Gas Measurements, NIST

Presentation Summary– Dr. Whetstone provided an overview of the GHG Emissions Quantification and Verification Strategies Workshop held on June 2-3, 2010, in La Jolla, CA, and distributed the Steering Committee's roster, and the Workshop's brochure, agenda, and registrants.  Dr. Whetstone provided a breakdown of the 74 attendees with a large number from industry and industry associations, and  remarked how the three co-chairs of the Steering Committee were very instrumental in guiding the direction of the Workshop, providing support, and identifying the participants.  The Workshop included plenary sessions and working group breakouts focusing on five topic areas ranging from industrial generation down to verification and carbon market emissions issues. Dr. Whetstone summarized the crosscutting themes and common needs from the five working groups which included those directed toward NIST measurements activities and other more general topics geared toward a broader community.  He noted that the common theme of "funding" refers to both research activities as well as funding of a verification and validation system to monitor and report issues.  Lastly, Dr. Whetstone provided an example of a working group report on Distributed/Localized Sources and Sinks which identified five technical/measurement challenges.  A Workshop Summary will be available in six to seven weeks followed by the Opportunities Document.

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics:

  • Use of models for estimating GHG emissions;
  • Balanced participation between industry, academia, and government;
  • Areas which require a strong research activity;
  • Current activities in "adaptation"  or adapting to the results of climate change being addressed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program; and
  • Effect of algae on carbon dioxide.

A VCAT member who attended the plenary sessions of the Workshop complimented the NIST organizers and remarked that the Workshop was brilliantly run, captivating, and timely.  This member also described the value of participation by the different branches of the federal government.

For more details, see Dr. Whetstone's presentation.

SESSION III:  Strengthening NIST Mission:  Optimizing NIST's Measurement Services

Charge to the VCAT– Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director, NIST

Presentation Summary– Dr. Gallagher set the stage for the second day of the meeting and explained its purpose of initiating an exploration of NIST's measurement services carried out in the laboratories which are a critical part of NIST's mission as a metrology institute.  To illustrate this critical mission, Dr. Gallagher described two newsworthy items involving the renewal of the NIST Handbook of Mathematical Functions and NIST's role in support of the upcoming redefinition of the kilogram and the mole.  The motivation for the session on Optimizing NIST's Measurement Services is the timely 2010 VCAT report which will accompany NIST's first budget request to Congress under the new management structure.  Increased support for these activities in future constrained budget environments will be a top priority.  Dr. Gallagher remarked that the NIST mission role in measurement services uniquely positions the Institute to address industry needs and the NIST realignment places an emphasis on management's accountability for the delivery of these services.  Specifically, Dr. Gallagher is looking for the VCAT to provide strong support for emphasis on traditional measurement mission as a basis for NIST programs and budget request; guidance on improving accountability for the measurement mission in the new structure including the right measures, drivers, and ways to balance immediate needs with long-term research; and input on the proposed performance assessment framework for the measurement laboratories which will be discussed at the October meeting.  This input will ensure that NIST has an adequate set of management and evaluation tools that capture and address the role of measurement services. 

As a basis for responding to NIST's proposed assessment framework, Dr. Gallagher announced that the VCAT members will break into small groups at the end of today's meeting to conduct separate deep dive explorations of three selected measurement services across NIST in ionizing radiation, analytical chemistry, and manufacturing metrology.  He provided a list of the initial set of assessment questions for these groups and noted that each group is likely to have different views which will be a challenge for the October meeting as the Committee considers the NIST proposed assessment framework. 

Discussion – The group discussed the value of peer review by the National Academy of Sciences and the meaning of the term "traditional" measurements which refers to the metrology functions in the original 1901 legislation that established the National Bureau of Standards (NBS).

For more details, see Dr. Gallagher's presentation.

Overview of NIST Measurement Services – Dr. Robert Watters, Jr., Chief, Measurement Services Division, NIST

Presentation Summary– Dr. Watters provided a broad overview of products and services across NIST that support the Institute's measurements and standards mission.  These include the products and services performed by NIST which cover publications on measurement science research as well as fee-supported services for Standard Reference Data (SRD); calibrations; Standard Reference Materials (SRMs), i.e., physical artifacts with certified physical or chemical properties; and laboratory accreditation.  The other category of products and services that require some help from NIST cover legal metrology support, metrology training, measurement practice guides, and two NIST user facilities – the NIST Center for Neutron Research and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology.  The data included annual outputs, customer profiles, and other background information about each of these products and services.  Dr. Watters emphasized that traceability is the primary driver for the fee-supported services followed by measurement quality. 

Discussion – The group inquired about the length of the typical NIST publication; the process for determining the overhead charges and costs of the fee-supported services; the costs of a typical measurement service invoice; the benefit-to-cost-ratio associated with the NIST Reference Fluid Thermodynamic and Transport Properties Database (REFPROP); and the feasibility of providing free on-line SRD information.

For more details, see Dr. Watter's presentation.

Importance of NIST Calibration Services to the U.S. Army – Mr. Larry Tarr, Director, U.S. Army Primary Standards Laboratory 

Presentation Summary– In his introductory remarks, Mr. Tarr noted that the U.S. Army Primary Standards Laboratory in Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL, represents one of the largest users of NIST measurement services and that his counterparts in the Air Force and Navy would probably echo his comments.  He suggested that NIST may want to convene a roundtable discussion with the Army, Air Force, and Navy to get a better perspective on any issues and concerns from the Department of Defense (DoD) metrology community. 

Mr. Tarr's presentation included an overview of the Army's Metrology and Calibration (METCAL) program; the Army's use of NIST metrology and calibration services; the Army's leveraging of NIST calibration services; the impact of NIST calibration services on the prime customer, the soldier; and issues, comments, and suggestions from the DoD metrology community.  He emphasized that the Army's MetCal Program is legally bound to ensure that all measurements made with calibrated test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment (TMDE) are traceable to NIST, to fundamental natural constraints, or to other approved sources. To reiterate the importance of calibrations to military systems, Dr. Tarr stressed that the lack of or faulty calibration can cause mission failure, injury, or death. NIST calibration services serve as the critical first link in the traceability chain that is leveraged to support significant numbers of TMDE.   The scope of the U.S. Army METCAL world includes about 750,000 items of TMDE as well as an additional 200,000 radiation dosimeter devices processed annually.  For FY 2010, the Army expects the NIST calibration fees to total over $900,000 which covers a mix of physical, dimensional, electrical microwave, and radiation parameters.  Other NIST services critical to the Army and DoD include metrology R&D projects which are coordinated through the tri-service Calibration Coordination Group and has resulted in the completion of 400 very helpful projects since 1970.  Mr. Tarr remarked that NIST calibration services are critical for the Army to perform its mission and provided several examples of how a few NIST calibrations support a very large number of end items. For example, one NIST calibrated high voltage standard results in the calibration traceability for more than 22,000 Air Force equipment items.  Among the kudos to NIST, Mr. Tarr noted that the quality of NIST metrology services is very good.  He also described issues and concerns regarding long turnaround times, the high cost of NIST calibrations, and discontinuation or cutback of NIST services.  In closing, Mr. Tarr shared his personal belief that NIST measurement services are not adequately funded to support DoD systems and TMDE.

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics related to calibration services for the Army:

  • Software development is involved in a number of the metrology R&D projects;
  • NIST's role in the calibration traceability chain;
  • The lack of benchmarks for turnaround times;
  • Cost comparisons between NIST calibration services and other National Metrology Institutes (NMIs);
  • Use of the Mutual Recognition Agreement in acquiring calibration services from other NMIs;
  • Need for the VCAT to explore NIST's pricing policy so that it can support DoD in establishing the required traceability in its military systems to meet its mission;
  • Need for an-online tracking system for NIST calibrations and the possibility of  batch processing to help assure timely delivery; and
  • Factors used by the Army for selecting an accredited laboratory for a particular calibration service includes the level of needed accuracy or uncertainty. 

For more details, see Mr. Tarr's presentation.

SRMs are Critical to Continued Innovation in Healthcare  –  Dr. Karen P. Mann, President, Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP)

Presentation Summary– Dr. Mann provided a brief overview of the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) comprised of about 2,000 diverse members mostly from the United States. She then described the gaps and priorities in critically needed SRMs for molecular diagnostics which have been identified by AMP's Clinical Practice Committee (CPC).   The CPC addresses the challenges that are facing clinical molecular diagnostics laboratories with the goal of improving patient care. Dr. Mann emphasized that molecular diagnostics is a standard of care used in many aspects of health care – oncology, virology, genetics, and human leukocyte antigen (HLA).  However, the vast majority of these tests are being performed without access to SRMs which are needed to ensure sensitivity, specificity, and reproducibility.  She further described how the lack of SRMs hinder effective medical care resulting in a barrier to the introduction and adoption of advanced diagnostic tests for current and future areas such as whole genome sequencing and personalized medicine.  Dr. Mann also detailed the need for SRMs in targeted therapeutics and tumor markers for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, companion diagnostics in oncology, transplant follow-up care, and medical genetics as well as the need for a reliable and trustworthy reference gene sequence database. The SRMs have been prioritized in three groups to reflect immediate needs, medium needs (within one year) and longer term needs (one to three years).  Dr. Mann noted that AMP members would be willing to be involved in a scientific advisory committee to help identify and continue to prioritize the areas of needed reference materials. Lastly, Dr. Mann again remarked that the current, available standards do not meet the needs and that the gap is widening rapidly.  

Discussion –The group discussed the following topics related to healthcare:

  • Most tests results may differ due to instruments rather than human error.
  • There are a very limited number of organizations that can provide the needed standards.
  • There is not a huge controversy in the health care field for the needed reference materials and services. 
  • NIST will be establishing a session at the AMP's annual meeting to interact with the participants and discuss their needs for expanded NIST measurement services. 
  • In the area of reagents, NIST provides the standards used to calibrate the measurement instrumentation and validate measurement methods and processes.  

For more details, see Dr. Mann's presentation.

Boeing Perspective on NIST Measurement Service – Ms. Vicki Dunlop, Metrology and Test Equipment Services Operational Leader, Boeing Engineering, Operations and Technology

Presentation Summary– Ms. Dunlop participated via a videoconference from Seattle, WA.  Her presentation addressed Boeing's products, the NIST measurement services which Boeing relies upon, the impact of these services to Boeing, the capabilities sought from NIST, and some issues and improvements related to these services.  As the world's largest, most diversified aerospace company, Boeing performs abut 500,000 calibrations a year in support of both test and product environments in all parameters and relies heavily upon NIST traceability and support.  Ms. Dunlop described the measurement services that Boeing relies upon in the areas of vacuum, pressure, mass, photometry, radiometry, fiber optics, RF frequency measurement and analysis service, and time and frequency and highlighted the impacts of some of these services. For example, in the area of mass, NIST provided software training which has allowed Boeing to become independent in supporting mass calibration needs. While speaking about Boeing's issues related to NIST measurement services in the areas of long turn time, high costs, slow billing, and fair communications, Ms. Dunlop noted that there is a perception that research takes priority over calibrations and turn time.  She also highlighted improvements made to NIST measurement services in regard to the turn time of the optical power meter and the new customer service focal program that facilitates communications. In closing, Ms. Dunlop reiterated that Boeing relies on its technology development and research activities with NIST.

Discussion – The group discussed the following topics related to Boeing's use of NIST measurement services:

  • The types of measurements or calibrations which must be performed by NIST;   
  • The need for a better tracking system and decreased turn times for calibrations; and
  • Boeing's willingness to partner with NIST to help support its measurement services.

For more details, see Ms. Dunlop's presentation.

General Discussion on External Perspective of NIST Measurement Services

In addition to specific discussion topics with the external speakers noted above, the VCAT and NIST leadership talked about the following general areas regarding NIST measurement services.

  • In the new NIST organization structure, the Director of the NIST Physical Measurements Laboratory will be responsible for delivering more efficient and effective calibration services for all of NIST while the Director of the Material Measurement Laboratory will be responsible for addressing customer needs for reference materials. 
  • Management issues such as speed of services and funding will be addressed in the new laboratory realignment which is designed to focus on the NIST mission with a clear point of accountability for management decisions.  
  • NIST is contemplating a set of metrics which may include improvements in service delivery. 
  • With regards to cost, a VCAT member noted that labs in other countries may provide less expensive services due to the subsidy from their high taxes. 
  • NIST makes decisions all the time regarding the balance of research versus services and considers various approaches.
  • NIST provides on-line calibration status reports that are updated nightly and maintains an on-line system for ordering SRMs. 
  • NIST also leverages the state weights and measures community with its need for a chain of traceability to support everyday commercial transactions, such as those at gas stations and grocery stores.

A Vision for the New NIST: Integration of Research and Measurement Service Delivery – Dr. Willie May, Director, Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, NIST   

Presentation Summary– Dr. May provided a vision on how NIST would integrate research and measurement services in the new realignment from his perspective as a laboratory director.  He began his talk with a review of the establishment and history of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS)/NIST as a measurement science and standards organization noting that NIST was established more than 100 years ago to develop science-based measurement standards services to support manufacturing, commerce, the makers of scientific apparatus, and the scientific work of other government agencies and academia.  He emphasized that NBS/NIST has always focused on measurements and standards in support of contemporary societal needs beginning with those of the industrial revolution to current areas such as healthcare and Smart Grid.  In order to support this broad, diverse, and dynamic customer base, it was essential that NIST establish a world-class, broad, diverse, and dynamic research program which has resulted in several Nobel Prizes and other prestigious recognitions to NIST researchers. According to Dr. May, the balance between the research programs and measurement service delivery has been a constant issue for NIST. He also stressed that while NIST maintains the world's most mature and comprehensive portfolio of measurement services, the demand for these services is escalating which has resulted in NIST not meeting some critical measurement service needs. To meet these increasing needs, NIST must better integrate its research and measurement service programs and leverage its resources and capabilities through strategic partnerships. 

The vision for NIST measurement services is for NIST to be seen by its staff and stakeholders as providing value to its customers with the right measurement services at the right time.  Dr. May described the specific ways in which NIST will succeed in carrying out this vision by identifying customers and their needs in an open and consistent process; maintaining a world-class research program in measurement science to enable the timely response to stakeholders' needs; leveraging resources through strategic partnerships such as the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) Mutual Recognition Arrangement; consistently assessing the direction, value, and impact of its work; and rewarding staff for their contributions to measurement science delivery as well as research.  He also summarized the roles of the new Physical Measurement Laboratory and the Materials Measurement Laboratory and the new expectations for the Directors of these laboratories in achieving this vision.   

Discussion –The group discussed the following topics:

  • An example of long-term research at NIST that led to standards is in DNA forensics;
  • Percentage of costs dedicated to research versus measurement service delivery;
  • Clarification of the VCAT charge to examine the NIST measurement services through a narrow lens which includes the customers of these services and the supporting research;
  • Importance of the Information Technology Laboratory in standards and measurements;
  • The relationship of  NIST research to its customers' needs;
  • Percentage of staff involved with research functions versus measurement service delivery; and
  • Feasibility of a working group to examine the roles of NIST and the other NMIs in developing specific measurements and standards to avoid duplication.       

For more details, see Dr. May's presentation.


The VCAT Chair noted the need to capture any priority issues at this time for consideration in the Committee's Annual Report and requested the members send their input by email.  Dr.  Gallagher reminded the Committee that the issue of measurement services is a high priority for NIST and the VCAT's feedback on positioning NIST to be more responsive in measurement services is critical.  He again noted the importance of balancing the relationship between research and measurement services and the need for a new approach to managing these areas.

Other discussion topics included the following:

  • Nanomanufacturing is an example of an area which is important to develop measurement methods even though there is no measurement service envisioned in this area;
  • With regards to healthcare, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducts and fund research that addresses the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and has deeded the measurement science and standards issues to NIST. 
  • NIST has been successful in attracting young biochemists.   
  • Some of NIST research is intended to support documentary standards which may or may not be measurement focused.

The VCAT Chair and the NIST Director expressed their appreciation to the members for participating in this meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:26 pm on Wednesday, June 9, 2010.

I hereby certify that, to the best of my knowledge, the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete.

Gail Ehrlich, Executive Director, NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology

Dr. Vinton Cerf, Chair, NIST Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology

Created October 4, 2010, Updated August 14, 2018