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Metric Conversion: Future Progress Depends Upon Private Sector and Public Support

RCED-94-23 Published: Jan 13, 1994. Publicly Released: Feb 02, 1994.
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Pursuant to a legislative mandate, GAO reviewed federal agencies' conversion to the metric system, focusing on the agencies': (1) establishment of metric guidelines and preparation of transition reports; (2) use of the metric system in their procurements; (3) use of the metric system in grants and other business activities; and (4) dealings with the private sector and public attitudes toward conversion.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Other As an alternative to exempting entire systems from metric requirements, agencies should adopt a subsystem approach to metric conversion where a total conversion is unfeasible. The Interagency Committee on Metric Policy should establish this policy and make it known to its member agencies.
Closed – Implemented
The Interagency Committee on Metric Policy approved a motion to incorporate the subsystem approach as an acceptable option in its metric procurement guidelines.
Department of Commerce Now that most agencies have made significant progress in preparing for metric conversion, the Secretary of Commerce should explore ways for bringing together the government, the private sector, and the public to discuss the next steps in decisionmaking about metric conversion. To assist in this effort, the Secretary should prepare and implement a detailed plan for encouraging this broader national dialogue.
Closed – Implemented
Commerce concurs with the recommendation. Working with ICMP, Commerce is implementing a plan that encourages a broad national dialogue on metric conversion. The plan includes meetings and workshops, information and awareness campaigns, consultation with industry and the public, and other outreach programs. The first achievement of this effort was the Metric Town Meeting held in March 1995 at NIST. Speakers from a variety of groups explained their concerns and ideas for accelerating national metrication to a panel of government executives representing most major federal agencies. Commerce and ICMP continue to be committed to increasing the support and involvement of the general public, industry, and state and local governments. By encouraging a broad national dialogue, the government will improve the ability to formulate and exchange metrication strategies and initiatives. This will facilitate cooperation in setting priorities and removing impediments.

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Federal agenciesMetric conversionNational policiesPublic relationsResearch grantsWaiversProcurementPrivate sectorMilitary forcesFederal grants