Information on Mission and Functions of the National Bureau of Standards

CED-81-39: Published: Apr 22, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 1981.

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The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) supports the U.S. scientific and technical community by setting standards for the Nation's physical measurement system and carrying out a number of scientific and technical services for industry and government. The broad and multifaceted statutory mission of NBS has prompted concern about the ability of NBS to carry out its functions in relation to enabling legislation and the many subsequent legislative mandates.

GAO identified several actions that may help NBS carry out its current and future responsibilities. These include: (1) encouraging government agencies to have others perform work which can be done outside NBS; (2) limiting the services NBS provides to industry that are available elsewhere; and (3) expanding the limited NBS-funded research grant program. In addition, congressional concern with productivity and innovation in the economy has stimulated interest in adding new roles or functions to NBS that could help these factors. Also, GAO believes that the possibility of expanding the NBS Joint Institiute for Laboratory Astrophysics should be explored. However, new NBS roles or functions should be adopted only after careful consideration is given to how these added responsibilities will impact on the effectiveness of NBS.

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