Skip to main content

Metric Conversion: Plans, Progress, and Problems in the Federal Government

T-RCED-90-61 Published: Apr 24, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1990.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


GAO discussed 37 federal agencies' metric conversion activities. GAO noted that: (1) the United States' status as the only major industrialized nation with a non-metric measurement system could result in severe competitive disadvantages in global markets; (2) only six agencies had completed metric guidelines, and only two agencies prepared detailed transition plans; (3) 27 agencies had performed less than 25 percent of the required transition work; (4) no agency developed time frames or specific dates for accomplishing conversion, although legislation indicated that Congress intended implementation by the end of 1992; (5) the Department of Commerce, the lead agency for federal government metric conversion activities, did not demonstrate a real commitment to guiding and facilitating metric conversion, and other agencies did not demonstrate a serious commitment to making the transition; (6) agencies' metric conversion guidelines generally did not conform to a model directive that included all of the essential elements; (7) 13 agencies established or planned to establish internal metric committees to explore conversion issues; (8) 14 agencies identified sensitive concerns affecting their conversion to the metric system; (9) about 75 percent of the agencies allocated less than 1 staff year for fiscal year 1989 metric conversion activities; (10) cost considerations limited agencies' conversion activities; and (11) the Department of Education did not respond to a legislative requirement that agencies increase understanding of the metric system through education and guidance.

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


Agency proceedingsFederal agenciesInteragency relationsMathematicsMetric conversionPlanningPolicy evaluationStaff utilizationStandards evaluationAir quality