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OWM Responsibilities and Authorities

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The NIST Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) operates under the authority given to Congress to “fix the standard of weights and measures” in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 5). As part of NIST and the U.S. Department of Commerce, OWM has numerous responsibilities and authorities under Treaties, Laws, and Presidential Executive Orders that clearly define What We Provide as Products and Services and Who Are Our Customers and Stakeholders.

Since 1836, OWM has been an integral part of the development of a national uniform system of weights and measures laws, regulations, and standards in the U.S. As part of NIST and as specifically directed under the NIST Organic Act (15 U.S.C. §272(c)(4)), OWM is authorized to cooperate with the states in securing uniformity in weights and measures laws and methods of inspection. These uniform standards are subsequently adopted, implemented, and regulated by the U.S. states and other local jurisdictions to ultimately achieve equity in the marketplace for consumers and businesses alike. OWM also works with the other regulatory federal agencies (Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration) under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) in the areas of package labeling and net quantity of contents. Under 15 U.S.C. §1458, OWM has a legal duty to provide these regulations and other information and technical and other assistance or support to the states to promote national uniformity.

NIST OWM also represents the U.S. legal metrology system in the international metrology community since the U.S. Senate ratified the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) Treaty in 1972. OWM is also required to work with state and local governments and the general public to increase a better understanding and use of the metric system through the 1975 Metric Conversion Act (as provided in 15 U.S.C. §205a to §205l) and 1991 Presidential Executive Order 12770. Furthermore, 15 U.S.C. §205 defines the metric system and authorizes NIST to interpret or modify the International System of Units (as adopted by the General Conference on Weights and Measures under the Treaty of the Meter) for the U.S.


Created March 12, 2023, Updated April 12, 2024