oversight

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

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-30.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                 United States General Accounting Office

     GAO         Report to the Chairman, Committee on
                 Science, Space, and Technology, House
                 of Representatives


 , Ma.rcll1990
                 METRIC
                 CONVERSION
                 Plans, Progress, and
                 Problems in the
                 Federal Government




,GAO/RCED-90-131
.~
  ------------------
                   .. :, "
                         .. '-",
                                   I / bD~
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Resources, Community, and
      Economic Development Division

      B-238858

      March 30,1990

      The Honorable Robert A. Roe
      Chairman, Committee on Science,
        Space, and Technology
      House of Representatives

      Dear Mr. Chairman:

      In response to your letter dated July 18, 1989, this report discusses the plans, progress, and
      problems associated with metric conversion in the federal government. A total of 37 agencies
      were included in our review. The report contains recommendations to the Secretary of
      Commerce and matters for consideration by the Congress.

      As arranged with your office, unless you publicly release its contents earlier, we plan no
      further distribution of this report until 30 days after the date of this letter. At that time, we
      will send copies to the Secretary of Commerce, the members of the Interagency Committee on
      Metric Policy and the Metrication Operating Committee, and to other interested parties upon
      request.

      This work was prepared under the direction of John M. Ols, Jr., Director in the Resources,
      Community, and Economic Development Division (202) 275-5525. Other major contributors
      to this report are listed in appendix IV.

      Sincerely yours,




      J. Dexter Peach
      Assistant Comptroller General
Executive Surmnary


                   Because of growing world markets and concern about international com-
Purpose            petitiveness, conversion to the metric system is being viewed as an
                   important issue facing the United States. The United States remains the
                   only major industrialized nation with a non-metric measurement system
                   and thus may be disadvantaged in global markets. In August 1988, as
                   part of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act, the Congress
                   required federal agencies to use the metric system, to the extent eco-
                   nomically feasible, by the end of fiscal year 1992 in their procurements,
                   grants, and other business-related activities.

                   In a letter dated July 18, 1989, the Chairman, House Committee on Sci-
                   ence, Space, and Technology, requested GAO to review how the federal
                   government is progressing in its implementation of the metric system.
                   GAO surveyed the metric plans, progress, and problems at the 37 largest
                   federal agencies where metric conversion would have the greatest
                   impact.


                   Because metrication is viewed as a key trade and competitiveness issue,
Background         the Department of Commerce serves as the lead agency. Commerce
                   chairs two committees, the Interagency Committee on Metric Policy and
                   the Metrication Operating Committee (MOC), which guide and coordinate
                   the effort. In addition to Commerce, the two other major agencies
                   involved are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Depart-
                   ment of Defense (DOD). However, many agencies face metric-related deci-
                   sions; for example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
                   (NASA) has conducted several reviews of metrication in connection with
                   its proposed space station.

                   Metric conversion will require a great amount of work. Initial efforts
                   include development of agency guidelines, transition plans, and time
                   frames by which to measure progress. Transition plans are more
                   detailed than guidelines and identify specific areas for review and con-
                   version. Other activities, such as including metric language in federal
                   procurement, grants, and other business activities, are involved in the
                   conversion. Coordination between agencies and with the private sector
                   is also essential.


                   Serious difficulties may delay or prevent a timely and comprehensive
Results in Brief   conversion to the metric system. Federal agencies have not demon-
                   strated a commitment to conversion, although officials at key agencies
                   consider the conversion inevitable. In particular, Commerce as the lead


                   Page 2                       GAOjRCED·90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Executive Swmuary




                       agency has not demonstrated a commitment to guiding the conversion.
                       As with other agencies, Commerce's allocation of resources to support
                       the effort has been minimal, and officials at major agencies including
                       DOD, GSA, and NASA have said its lack of commitment has weakened their
                       own efforts.

                       Agencies have not advanced beyond the early stages of planning. Only 6
                       agencies among the 37 that GAO surveyed have completed their guide-
                       lines. Only one has developed a transition plan. None has developed time
                       frames indicating the extent of metric conversion each plans to accom-
                       plish by the end of fiscal year 1992. There is a need to improve the con-
                       tent and timeliness of agency guidelines and establish time frames for
                       measuring progress.

                       Some activities are underway to promote metric conversion, but prog-
                       ress is limited. The great majority of the agencies stated that more than
                       three-quarters of total work for metric conversion remains to be done.
                       Various metric committees have been established, and agencies have
                       identified a variety of other initiatives underway to a limited extent.

                       Problems relating to conversion, however, call into question the federal
                       agencies' commitment to the transition. Staff resources assigned by gov-
                       ernment agencies to support the effort are minimal. Nine of 10 impor-
                       tant interagency subcommittees have not convened. Some agencies,
                       including GSA and DOD, view the lack of metrication in some areas of the
                       private sector, such as construction, as an obstacle.



Principal Findings

Limited Planning for   Metric cO~1Version guidelines required by the legislation are important,
Metric Conversion      but only six agencies reported that they had completed them by Febru-
                       ary 1990. Although the Congress suggested that agencies model their
                       guidelines on a DOD Directive containing agency policy, responsibilities,
                       and reporting requirements for metric conversion, three of the six com-
                       pleted guidelines do not conform to this model. Sixteen more agencies
                       expect to prepare their guidelines in 1990. An additional 12 agencies did
                       not identify a date when they would complete their guidelines, and 3
                       more did not expect to finish them until 1991 or 1992.




                       Page 3                       GAOjRCED-9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                            Executive Summary




                            Only three agencies have advanced very far in transition planning. DOD
                            has issued a plan; GSA has drafted a plan; and the Nuclear Regulatory
                            Commission (NRC) has prepared a detailed draft report examining major
                            areas and options for conversion.

                            Time frames by which to measure future progress in achieving metric
                            conversion are absent. In fact, no agency provided a time frame indicat-
                            ing the extent of metric conversion by the end of fiscal year 1992, nor
                            has any agency set a specific date for conversion.


Progress Has Been Limited   In addition to specific planning activities, other activities to promote
                            metric conversion have been underway, but progress is limited. Only
                            about a third of the 37 agencies have informed their key officials, who
                            are responsible for implementing metric conversion, of the require-
                            ments. In addition, key interagency policy and operating committees and
                            subcommittees, as well as internal agency committees and task forces
                            focusing on specific issues such as procurement, have only begun to
                            explore conversion issues.

                            Although GAO identified other ongoing agency activities (such as the
                            inclusion of metric language in procurements and grants), these activi-
                            ties are not very far along. Even DOD, which has an important role,
                            acknowledged that it has performed activities essential to the conver-
                            sion to only a limited extent. Twenty-seven agencies, including key agen-
                            cies such as Commerce, DOD, and GSA, indicated that 75 percent or more
                            of total work to achieve metric conversion (including guidelines, plans,
                            and other activities) remains to be done.


Various Problems Need to    Problems relating to metric conversion call into question the federal
Be Addressed                agencies' commitment. Staff resources at Commerce and GSA have been
                            minimal. Despite its lead role, Commerce allocated about 3.5 staff years
                            and GSA about 1.25 staff years for the effort in fiscal year 1989.
                            Resources in other agencies are also very limited. Twenty-seven agen-
                            cies in fiscal year 1989 allocated less than 1 staff year each; of the
                            remaining 10 agencies, only DOD allocated more than 5 staff years.
                            Increases are shown for fiscal year 1990, but the figures remain at low
                            levels. GAO found that only NRC had estimated the total time and
                            resources needed for the effort. According to a draft report, NRC expects
                            its conversion process to last until 1997 and require 20 to 25 staff years
                            and a total of $2 million to $3 million.



                            Page 4                       GAOjRCEIJ.90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Executive Summary




                       Coordinating the conversion is a formidable task in view of the large
                       number of agencies and issues. Thus, leadership from Commerce and the
                       role of committees become paramount concerns. Efforts to appoint an
                       Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology, who is expected-
                       together with other duties-to provide high-level coordination for this
                       transition, are underway; Commerce hopes to fill the position in 1990. A
                       further difficulty involves the interagency MOC subcommittees. Nine of
                       the 10 subcommittees that cover key transition activities and are consid-
                       ered crucial to the conversion have not convened due to problems such
                       as vacancies and uncertainty about who is to appoint members.

                       Other issues, such as the long-standing problem of coordination with
                       and conversion of the private sector to the metric system, the review of
                       specifications and standards, costs associated with conversion, and met-
                       ric education, pose additional problems to various agencies.


                           recommends that the Secretary of Commerce, as head of the lead
Recommendations to     GAO
                       agency in guiding the federal metric transition, take steps to respond to
the Secretary of       the problems identified above. These steps should include efforts to
Commerce               develop guidelines along with specific time frames and a realistic esti-
                       mate of resources needed to support metric conversion, as well as
                       efforts to encourage the effective use of interagency subcommittees as
                       soon as possible.


                       Given the problems that GAO identified and especially the low level of
Matters for            resources that agencies have made available to support metric conver-
Consideration by the   sion, the Congress may wish to require that agencies (1) follow guidance
Congress               provided by Commerce as the lead agency and (2) include in their
                       annual reports to the Congress a realistic estimate of the resources
                       needed and the time frame required to achieve metric conversion.


Agency Comments        At the request of the committee, GAO did not obtain comments on a draft
                       of this report.




                       Page I)                      GAO/RCEJ).9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Contents


Executive Summary                                                                                       2

Chapter 1                                                                                              8
Introduction            The Metric Conversion Act                                                      8
                        Implementation of the Metric Transition                                        8
                        Metric Transition: Inevitable but Difficult                                   10
                        Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                            11

Chapter 2                                                                                             12
Limited Planning for    Status of Agency Guidelines                                                   12
                        Content and Timeliness of Guidelines                                          13
Metric Conversion       Development of Transition Plans                                               14
                        Absence of Time Frames for Metric Conversion                                  15
                        Conclusions                                                                   16
                        Recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce                                  16

Chapter 3                                                                                             17
Progress Toward         Progress as a Function of Commitment                                          17
                        Limited Dissemination of Information on the Amendments                        18
Metric Conversion Has   Formation of Metric Committees and Their Activities                           19
Been Limited            Other Activities Indicating Metric-Related Progress                            20
                        Agency Response to the Reporting Requirement                                   22

---------------------------------------
Chapter 4
Problems Relating to
                        Much Remains to Be Done



                        Limited Resources Available for the Conversion Effort
                                                                                                       23

                                                                                                       24
                                                                                                       24
                        Difficulties in Coordinating Metric Conversion                                 26
Metric Conversion       Difficulties Relating to the Private Sector                                   28
                        Additional Areas of Difficulty                                                30
                        Conclusion                                                                    31
                        Recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce                                   32
                        Matters for Consideration by the Congress                                      32

Chapter 5                                                                                              33
Metric Education        Progress at Several Agencies                                                   33
                        Specific Concerns About the Department of Education                            34
Activities in Federal   Should an Education Program Be Developed?                                      35
Agencies



                        Page 6                       GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
             Contents




Appendixes   Appendix I: Agencies Included in the GAO Survey                              36
             Appendix II: Staff Years Allocated for Metric Conversion                     37
                by Federal Agencies
             Appendix III: Additional Information Provided by                             39
                Agencies on the GAO Questionnaire
             Appendix IV: Major Contributors to This Report                                45




             Abbreviations

             CIA        Central Intelligence Agency
             DOD        Department of Defense
             EPA        Environmental Protection Agency
             FCC        Federal Communications Commission
             GAO        General Accounting Office
             GPO        Government Printing Office
             GSA        General Services Administration
             III1S      Department of Health and Human Services
             HUll       Department of Housing and Urban Development
             ICMP       Interagency Committee on Metric Policy
             M(X        Metrication Operating Committee
             NASA       National Aeronautics and Space Administration
             NRC        Nuclear Regulatory Commission
             orM        Office of Personnel Management
             SBA        Small Business Administration
             TVA        Tennessee Valley Authority
             VA         Department of Veterans Affairs


             Page 7                      GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion In Federal Agencle8
Chapter 1

Introduction


                          Conversion to the metric system is increasingly being viewed as a crucial
                          issue facing the United States. In 1988, for the first time in the nation's
                          history, the Congress declared the metric system of measurement as the
                          preferred system. Congressional support for the transition is evident in
                          the amendments to the Metric Conversion Act in 1988. The amendments,
                          which make conversion mandatory for the federal government with cer-
                          tain exceptions, such as impracticality, have led dozens of government
                          agencies to begin planning for metric implementation. However, various
                          problems stand in the way of a successful transition.


                          In August 1988, as part of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act
The Metric Conversion     (P.L. 100-418), the Congress amended the Metric Conversion Act of
Act                       1975. The act, a..<; amended, stated that world trade is increasingly
                          geared towards the metric system of measurement and that industry in
                          the United States is often at a competitive disadvantage when dealing in
                          international markets because of its nonstandard measurement system.
                          The act declared it to be national policy

                        • to designate the metric system of measurement as the preferred system;
                        • to require that each federal agency, by a date certain and to the extent
                          economically feasible by the end of the fiscal year 1992, use the metric
                          system of measurement in its procurements, grants, and other business-
                          related activities, except to the extent that such use is impractical or is
                          likely to cause significant inefficiencies or loss of markets to United
                          States firms; and
                        • to seek out ways to increase understanding of the metric system of mea-
                          surement through educational information and guidance.

                          The amendments also required federal agencies to establish guidelines
                          as soon as possible after their enactment for carrying out these policies.
                          In addition, they required each agency, as part of its annual budget sub-
                          mission, to report to the Congress on its actions to implement the metric
                          system.


                           Because metrication is largely viewed as a trade and competitiveness
Implementation of the      issue, the Department of Commerce serves as the lead agency for metric
Metric Transition          conversion. The United States Metric Board, which had been established
                           by the Metric Conversion Act of 1975, guided and coordinated metric
                           conversion until 1982. A March 9, 1982, letter from then President Ron-
                           ald Reagan to the Chairman, United States Metric Board, stated that the
                           Secretary of Commerc(' "would be responsible for my Administration's


                           PageS                        GAO/RCED·90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Chapter 1
Introduction




support of voluntary metrication." The letter also referred to the Secre-
tary of Commerce's "enhanced responsibilities" but did not define them
in further detail.

Commerce's Under Secretary for Technology! chairs the Interagency
Committee on Metric Policy (ICMP), which coordinates and provides pol-
icy guidance on metrication to the heads of all federal agencies. The ICMP
is composed of representatives at the assistant secretary level from
major federal departments and agencies. In addition, a Metrication Oper-
ating Committee (MOC) composed of representatives from the same fed-
eral departments and agencies coordinates interagency activities and
reports to the parent committee, the ICMP. Within Commerce, the Office
of Metric Programs with its two professional staff conducts policy anal-
yses and furnishes support for carrying out the Department's activities
through the ICMP /MOC.

At the time of our review, 37 federal agencies were members of the ICMP
and MOC; they are listed in appendix 1. Along with Commerce, the two
other most important agencies in the transition are the GSA and ooD.
Because GSA has many responsibilities as the government's "business
manager," it is incumbent on GSA to take a leadership role in metric tran-
sition. Similarly, DOLl's efforts to implement the conversion are signifi-
cant due to the scope of its procurement activities. As one example of its
important role, oon'8 conversion guidelines were cited by the conference
committee report on the amendments as the model to be followed by
other federal agencies.

Although Commerce, (;SA, and ooD are the principal agencies in the tran-
sition effort, other agencies are faced with important metric-related
issues. To take only two examples, NASA has repeatedly studied its pro-
curement of the multi-billion dollar space station, and NRC is reviewing
many of its activities for purposes of metrication.

Metric conversion will require a great amount of work Initial efforts,
for example, involve the preparation of agency guidelines and transition
plans as well as the development of schedules used to measure progress.
(See chapter 2.) Further activities include the formation of metric com-
mittees and specific actions such as the identification of measurement-
sensitive concerns. (Measurement-sensitive concerns can include federal
laws, regulations, specifications and standards, or other concerns that

IThis position ha.·" not be('fl filh'o sllwe its creation in .January 1988. See chapter 3 for further
discussion.




Page 9                                     GAO/RCEI).90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                           Chapter 1
                           Introduction




                           may involve problems in changing to metric units of measurement.)
                           Additional activities-to cite only two examples-can include the dis-
                           semination of materials on the metric system or the inclusion of metric
                           language in procurement, grants, and other business-related activities.
                           (See chapter 3.) Efforts to achieve metric conversion are affected by the
                           availability of resources, problems of coordination, and other factors.
                           (See chapter 4.) Because metric education is specifically mentioned in
                           the Metric Conversion Act, as amended, and is an important element in
                           any program changes, we reviewed this area of activity in a separate
                           chapter. (See chapter 5.)


                           A sense of the inevitability of metric transition is becoming more evi-
Metric Transition:         dent. Statements or documents obtained from all three of the principal
Inevitable but Difficult   agencies reflect this viewpoint. The Director, Office of Metric Programs,
                           Commerce, told us that the inevitability of metrication for most U.S.
                           industry can no longer be denied. GSA'S draft of its Metric Transition
                           Plan (September 1989) states: "The conversion to metric by the automo-
                           tive industry, farm equipment manufacturers, and to some extent, other
                           industries plus the move to the metric system by virtually all other
                           countries make it inevitable that the U.S. become a metric-based
                           nation." Similarly, DOD'S Metric Transition Plan (January 1989) states:
                           "[R]ecognizing that transition is inevitable, it is imperative that actions
                           be planned and executed to ensure the transition is as efficient and eco-
                           nomical as possible." In its report on metrication, NRC concluded that
                           "the subject of metrication is complex, with many technical, safety, eco-
                           nomic, and political ramifications. However, the inevitability of such a
                           conversion seems to be generally accepted."

                           In spite of this growing sense of inevitability, the transition to the metric
                           system is beset by various difficulties. According to the Director of Com-
                           merce's Office of Metric Programs, there is still a feeling that the gov-
                           ernment is embarking on another doomed effort reminiscent of the
                           voluntary and unsuccessful attempt to encourage a transition in the
                           1970s. Several members of the MOC indicated that budget constraints are
                           limiting the resources available for the transition. One MOC member
                           noted that the issue of metric conversion is not central to agency mis-
                           sions and therefore faces added difficulties in competing for resources.
                           The problem of coordinating the transition among the federal agencies
                           poses a particularly difficult challenge.




                           Page 10                       GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                         Chapter 1
                         Introduction




                         The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, in a letter
Objectives, Scope, and   dated July 18, 1989, asked us to conduct a review of federal metric con-
Methodology              version activities. Based on a briefing to the Committee on December 11,
                         1989, we agreed to focus our report on three general issues: plans, prog-
                         ress, and problems in the federal metric conversion.

                         Our report focuses pri~arily on the status of federal efforts and only
                         secondarily on the technical problems associated with the transition.
                         Since most federal activities are still at a very early planning stage, we
                         did not attempt to discuss or resolve the much more technical problems
                         involved in the transition. Consequently, our recommendations empha-
                         size procedural matters to lay the groundwork for dealing with the tech-
                         nical issues.

                         We based our work primarily on a survey of 37 federal agencies. (See
                         appendix I for a list of the agencies included in the survey.) We concen-
                         trated on these agencies because they comprised the membership of the
                         ICMP/MOC at the time of our review. Thirty-six of the 37 agencies
                         responded to the survey.' We tabulated the data in the 36 question-
                         naires. Some agencies also provided additional insight into their con-
                         cerns about the metric conversion. This information is contained in
                         appendix III.

                         We also talked with officials at the Department of Education, the
                         National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration (SBA),
                         the Department of Labor, GSA, and DOD regarding their agencies' metric
                         education activities.

                         We performed our audit work in Washington, D.C., between August and
                         December 1989. Our work was conducted in accordance with generally
                         accepted government auditing standards. As requested by the Commit-
                         tee, we did not obtain agency comments on this report.




                         'The Export·Import Bank did not respond. Their ICMP representative told us in December 1989 that
                         the Agency had not yet begun to address the metric conversion issue.



                         Page 11                               GAOjRCED·90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Chapter 2

Limited Planning for Metric Conversion


                     The agencies surveyed are at a very early point in their planning for
                     conversion to the metric system. The role of guidelines and transition
                     plans in achieving this conversion is important. Metric conversion guide-
                     lines may include such basic information as agency policy, responsibili-
                     ties, and reporting requirements; transition plans may include additional
                     details and specific areas for agency review and conversion. However,
                     only limited steps have been taken by most agencies to prepare guide-
                     lines and to develop plans for specific areas, such as procurement, train-
                     ing, and numerous other areas.

                     As a first step, the agencies were required to establish guidelines for
                     metric conversion as soon as possible after the passage of the amend-
                     ments in August 1988. At the time of our survey in October 1989, only
                     five agencies indicated that they had completed their guidelines. The
                     majority of guidelines are expected to be completed in 1990, when 16
                     agencies plan to complete them. In addition to determining the status of
                     agency guidelines, we identified problems with their content and
                     timeliness.

                     With regard to transition planning, we found that only a few agencies
                     have advanced very far in this direction. In particular, OOD has com-
                     pleted and GSA has drafted a formal plan identifying numerous areas for
                     review and establishing task forces to address these areas; NRC has
                     developed a detailed draft report identifying five major areas for review
                     and examining its options for conversion. Agencies have not developed
                     timetables by which to measure progress in achieving metric conversion.
                     We believe that corrective actions need to be taken to improve the plan-
                     ning for the conversion.


                     The legislative mandate requiring guidelines as soon as possible from
Status of Agency     each federal agency emphasizes their obvious importance in the metric
Guidelines           conversion effort. These guidelines constitute the first basic step in the
                     direction of metrication. Given the priority placed on them by the legis-
                     lation, we obtained information on this subject in our survey of the 37
                     agencies. We asked the agencies to report the date when they completed
                     or expected to complete their metric conversion guidelines. Their
                     responses can be divided into the following three categories:

                   • Five agencies reporting guidelines completed: OOD, Department of Veter-
                     ans Affairs (VA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Govern-
                     ment Printing Office (GPO), SBA;
                   • Twenty agencies providing an expected year for completion:


                     Page 12                      GAOjRCEI).9Q.131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                  Chapter 2
                  Limited Planning for Metric Conversion




                  • Late 1989: GSA,'
                  • 1990: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Depart-
                    ment of the Interior, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),
                    Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of
                    Justice, Department of the Treasury, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
                    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, National Science Foun-
                    dation, NRC, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Smithsonian Insti-
                    tution, United States Postal Service,
                    1991: Department of State, Consumer Product Safety Commission,
                  • 1992: Department of Energy," Federal Emergency Management
                    Agency;
                • Twelve agencies not stating when guidelines will be completed: Depart-
                  ment of Education, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation,
                  Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Export-Import Bank, Federal
                  Maritime Commission, Federal Reserve Board, Federal Trade Commis-
                  sion, Interstate Commerce Commission, Office of the United States
                  Trade Representative, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), United States
                  International Trade Commission.


                  The Conference Committee Report on the Omnibus Trade and Competi-
Content and       tiveness Act that amended the original Metric Conversion Act suggests a
Timeliness of     model for agencies developing metric conversion guidelines: "Each
Guidelines        agency is expected to establish guidelines similar to DOD Directive
                  Number 4120.18, dated September 16, 1987, as soon as possible follow-
                  ing the date of enactment." To emphasize the importance of DOD'S guide-
                  lines as a model, the report discussed the Department's guidelines in
                  detail. In particular, the Directive provides a clear outline of agency pol-
                  icy, responsibilities, and reporting requirements. However, in reviewing
                  the guidelines completed by the agencies, we found that only GPO'S and
                  GSA'S guidelines conform with this model.

                   The other three finished guidelines did not follow the model. Although
                   VA'S guidelines contain some degree of detail and include agency policy
                   and responsibilities, their guidelines are merely a collection of three
                   memos issued in 1976, 1977, and 1980. The 1977 memo indicates that it
                   was to be rescinded in May 1979. FCC'S. and SBA'S guidelines are about a
                   page in length, provide no detailed guidance, and in our opinion will not
                   be sufficient to direct agency actions in subsequent metric conversion

                   'GSA's guidelines were actually completed in February 1890.

                   ~In December 1989, subsequent to our receipt of our questiOImaire, Energy revised its expected date
                   for completing its guidelines. It now plans to finish them in early 1990.



                   Page 13                                GAOjRCED·90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                   Chapter 2
                   limited Planning for Metric Conversion




                   activities. They also raise the question of whether agencies will conform
                   with the model provided by the Congress.

                   In addition, many of the agencies surveyed did not provide a date by the
                   end of 1990 for completing the guidelines. Three agencies do not expect
                   to finish their guidelines until 1991 or 1992. Twelve agencies did not
                   provide a date when they would be completed. Thus, many agencies
                   either did not indicate when they will finish their guidelines or said it
                   would take another year or longer to complete them.


                   Only I-DOD-of the 37 agencies reported to us that it has developed a
Development of     formal, agency-wide transition plan; a second agencY-GsA-has
Transition Plans   drafted such a plan. However, these agencies include two of the three
                   most significant ones in terms of determining the overall success of the
                   effort. A third agency, NRC, has made a detailed review of options for
                   developing a transition plan.

                   DOD issued its Metric Transition Plan, approved by the Secretary of
                   Defense, in January 1989. The purpose of the plan, according to the
                   Department, is to describe a comprehensive and integrated program to
                   comply with the amendments. The plan discusses DOD'S overall strategy
                   for metrication, defines general requirements and procedures applicable
                   to transition efforts, and details the tasks to be accomplished by desig-
                   nated DOD organizations. Each task description includes a background
                   section on current status and needs, a list of required actions, goals
                   (milestones), and responsibility assignments. The plan includes a total of
                   16 separate tasks that are identified in chapter 3.

                   GSA has developed a draft transition plan that is modeled after the DOD
                   plan. In its discussion of metrication strategy, GSA states that all
                   procurements, grants, and business-related activities are now affected
                   and that GSA'S efforts will be fully integrated with the efforts of the
                   entire government. As with DOD, GSA'S plan is divided into a variety of
                   major tasks. Final approval of the plan is expected by the end of March
                   1990.

                   A third agency, NRC, developed a draft "Metrication Committee Report"
                   in August 1989. The report contained the findings and recommendations
                   of NRC'S Metrication Committee, which was charged with reviewing NRC
                   activities for possible conversion to the metric system and developing
                   proposed schedules of activities to be converted. The report identified
                   five major areas of NRC activity for discussion and considered three


                   Page 14                             GAOjRCED·90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                    Chapter 2
                    Umited Planning for Metric Conversion




                    options for one-step, gradual, and partial conversion. The committee
                    found that immediate (one-step) conversion of NRC activities to metric
                    units is impractical. In general, for its various activities, NRC found grad-
                    ual conversion extending through 1997 to be more appropriate.

                    Transition plans in other agencies have not been formalized on an
                    agency-wide basis, although some efforts are underway. For example,
                    NASA has developed a planning document and has funded a contractor
                    study regarding metric issues affecting the space station. GPO does not
                    expect to complete its transition plan until October 1990. In general, the
                    transition plans of DOD and GSA and the report by NRC are the only
                    agency-wide documents that we were able to identify.


                    The Metric Conversion Act, as amended, states that each federal agency
Absence of Time     by a date certain and to the extent economically feasible by the end of
Frames for Metric   fiscal year 1992 should use the metric system. Thus, the establishment
Conversion          of intermediate time frames or milestone dates for achieving this objec-
                    tive is very important. In this regard, we found a general absence in all
                    agencies of time frames or milestones by which to measure such
                    progress.

                    None of the six agencies with completed guidelines as of February 1990
                    provided specific time frames indicating metric conversion by the end of
                    fiscal year 1992. DOD has scheduled some of its activities for conversion,
                    but it has not yet determined a date for completing the transition. (The
                    DOD Metric Transition Plan requires that time frames be recommended
                    by July 1991.) VA and GSA provided no time frames. GPO stated only that
                    it would implement conversion in a manner consistent with the law but
                    also provided no time frames. SBA provided benchmarks in a few areas
                    extending through 1993. The FCC indicated that it has completed its
                    guidelines and its transition to the metric system; having given this
                    assessment 01 its status, it provided no further time frames.

                    Two other agencies-Energy and NRC-indicated that they will not be
                    able to complete their work by 1992. NRC anticipates a time frame
                    extending through 1997 for metric conversion. The remaining agencies
                    did not provide time frames for their conversion activities.




                    Page 15                           GAOjRCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                     Chapter 2
                     Limited Planning for Metric Conversion




                     Agencies have conducted only limited planning activities for metric con-
Conclusions          version. In addition, problems with the content and timeliness of guide-
                     lines are evident. Moreover, no agency has provided us with a plan
                     indicating the extent of metric conversion by 1992.


                     Given the problems with the content and timeliness of agency guidelines
Recommendations to   and the general absence of time frames for metric conversion, we recom-
the Secretary of     mend that the Secretary of Commerce, as head of the lead agency in
Commerce             guiding and coordinating the federal metric transition, take steps to
                     focus attention on these issues. Specifically, the Secretary should
                     encourage federal agencies to

                     (1) conform with the DOD Directive 4120.18 on metric conversion in pre-
                     paring their guidelines and prepare these guidelines as soon as possible
                     and

                     (2) develop specific time frames in their guidelines or transition plans to
                     measure their progress toward metric conversion.




                     Page 16                             GAO/RCEI).90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Chapter 3

Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
Been Limited

                         In addition to specific planning activities mentioned in chapter 2, agen-
                         cies have initiated a variety of activities to promote metric conversion,
                         but overall progress is limited. Only about a third of the agencies
                         included in our survey have taken steps to inform key officials in their
                         agencies of the amendments to the Metric Conversion Act. Ten agencies
                         have established internal metric committees, but four of these commit-
                         tees have been inactive or were formed only recently. Although we iden-
                         tified specific areas of metric-related activity (such as the inclusion of
                         metric language in procurment, grants, and other business-related activ-
                         ities) the extent of activity in these areas is limited. Even DOD, which is
                         playing a major role, acknowledged that it has performed activities
                         essential to the transition to only a limited extent. Twenty-seven agen-
                         cies indicated that 75 percent or more of total work for metric conver-
                         sion remains to be done.


                         One of the most essential ingredients for metric conversion, according to
Progress as a Function   Commerce's Director, Office of Metric Programs, is the commitment of
of Commitment            the federal agencies. He told us that the agencies making the most prog-
                         ress have found at least one person, generally a senior official, to sup-
                         port the conversion effort. He also emphasized that without this active
                         support by at least one senior official, the progress of an agency's entire
                         metric conversion effort may be called into question.

                         As a further illustration of this point, Congressman George Brown, the
                         sponsor of the amendments to the Metric Conversion Act in the House
                         Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, directed his remarks spe-
                         cifically to the Department of Commerce at a meeting of ICMP officials in
                         October 1989. He recommended that Commerce's Under Secretary for
                         Technology be formally designated as the spokesperson and coordinator
                         in the federal government for metric conversion. He underscored his rec-
                         ommendation with the following point: "It is extremely important that a
                         high-level official be seen as taking charge in coordinating and providing
                         policy guidance for the federal government's transition to the use of the
                         metric system and to assist in the resolution of any metric-related
                         problems."

                         As noted previously, the position of Under Secretary for Technology has
                         remained vacant since its creation in January 1988. The absence of the
                         senior official formally assigned to chair the ICMP and oversee the fed-
                         eral metric transition since the passage of the amendments in 1988 has
                         added to Commerce's difficulties in guiding the conversion effort. The
                         vacancy, according to Commerce's Director, Office of Metric Programs,


                         Page 17                      GAO/RCED·90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                        Chapter 3
                        Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
                        Been Limited




                        has meant a reduced level of advocacy within the Department for metric
                        conversion. However, Commerce has attempted to fill the position and is
                        optimistic that the vacancy will be filled in the near future; in fact, the
                        confirmation process for a nominee is expected to be underway in early
                        1990.

                        Some agencies show early signs of progress. GPO, one example of an
                        active agency, furnished ample evidence reflecting its commitment to
                        conversion. GPO's progress appears to result from the strong support
                        provided by its ICMP and Moe officials. In addition to the detailed guide-
                        lines and work on a transition plan noted in chapter 2, GPO has formed
                        an internal metric committee and allocated a relatively high level of
                        staff years (5) for 1990 in the conversion effort. At the request of GPO'S
                        metric coordinator, Commerce's Director, Office of Metric Programs,
                        made a presentation on metric conversion attended by about 60 senior
                        GPO officials.

                        We also noted examples of a high level of activity and commitment
                        among members of the Moe. For instance, Commerce's metric coordina-
                        tor has played a pivotal role in organizing the Moe meetings, advocating
                        metric conversion in speeches to the private sector, bringing together
                        more than 200 federal and private sector officials at a national confer-
                        ence on metric conversion, and taking part in other conversion-related
                        activities. Treasury's metric coordinator has been instrumental in help-
                        ing to focus that agency's activities and reporting on progress within the
                        various branches of the Treasury.

                        Although some agencies reflect a growing commitment, many appear
                        uncertain about the importance of conversion.


                        Fourteen of the 37 agencies in our survey reported efforts to inform key
Limited Dissemination   officials of the Metric Conversion Act, as amended. The remaining 23
of Information on the   agencies reported that no efforts have been made in this regard. The 14
Amendments              agencies reporting efforts in this area included Commerce, DOD, Energy,
                        HUD, Justice, Labor, State, Treasury, GPO, GSA, NASA, NRC, the Smithso-
                        nian, and TVA. This list comprises many of the larger agencies; nonethe-
                        less, some of the major departments, such as Agriculture and
                        Transportation, reported no activity.




                        Page 18                           GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Chapter 3
                       Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
                       Been Limited




                       In an effort to facilitate the transition, numerous metric committees
Formation of Metric    have been or are being formed. These committees, which range from the
Committees and Their   top-level ICMP to internal agency committees used for coordination and
Activities             agency task forces used for studying specific areas such as procurement
                       or training, target a wide range of key issues and have a critical role to
                       play. The formation of internal metric committees in many of the key
                       agencies is a very positive sign. In general, however, the progress result-
                       ing from the various committees has been somewhat limited.


ICMPandMOC             As described in chapter 1, these two committees are responsible for
                       coordinating government-wide transition efforts. Subsequent to the pas-
                       sage of the Metric Conversion Act, as amended, the ICMP met for the first
                       time in November 1989, and the MOC, which meets on a quarterly basis,
                       has conducted six meetings.


MOC Subcommittees      Ten interagency Moe subcommittees' have been established, but progress
                       has been limited. Only the subcommittee concerned with construction
                       has convened, and it has met three times. Commerce's Director, Office of
                       Metric Programs, has drafted a charter for each of the subcommittees,
                       and chairmen have been appointed to nine of them. He told us that he is
                       actively encouraging their formation and believes that they will begin to
                       playa larger role in 1990.


Internal Agency        Ten agencies indicated that they have developed internal committees.
Committees             These agencies include Commerce, DOD, GPO, GSA, NASA, NRC, Treasury,
                       HHS, HUD, and the U. S. Postal Service. Three more agencies (Energy,
                       State, and SBA) reported plans to form such committees.

                       The level of activity in these committees has varied by agency. For
                       example, NRC'S committee was responsible for producing the detailed
                       report that reviewed NRC'S main areas of concern and options for metric
                       conversion. Other internal committees at GSA, DOD, and GPO have been
                       active in developing metric transition plans. Officials at NASA and the
                       U.S. Postal Service indicate that their committees have been dormant
                       but are being reactivated. HUD has recently formed an ad-hoc committee
                       to explore conversion issues. An HHS official describes HHS' committee as

                       'MOC subcommittees include Consumer Affairs, Construction, Federal Employee Training, Health
                       Care, Legislation and Regulations, Metric Practices and Preferred Units, Procurement and Supply,
                       Public Education and Awareness. Small Business Assistance, and Transportation.



                       Page 19                                GAOjRCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Chapter 3
                       Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
                       Been Limited




                       a loosely affiliated network, which met for the first time in December
                       1989.


Internal Agency Task   In addition to these internal agency committees that oversee transition
                       efforts within the agencies, individual task forces concerned with spe-
Forces                 cific areas of metric conversion are also being organized. For example,
                       DOD has established 16 task forces,2 which have been directed to identify
                       the areas where metric transition is required. GSA is in the process of
                       establishing seven task forces,') and other agencies, such as GPO, are con-
                       sidering the use of such groups.


                       A variety of other agency activities is also underway to a limited extent.
Other Activities       These activities include the identification of federal measurement-sensi-
Indicating Metric-     tive concerns; specific initiatives such as the inclusion of metric lan-
Related Progress       guage in procurement, grants, or other business-related activities; and
                       other activities such as a national metric conference and public hearing
                       on metric conversion.

                       In response to our questionnaire, 14 agencies reported that they have
                       identified federal measurement-sensitive concerns, including one or
                       more of the following: federallaw(s), federal regulation(s), agency direc-
                       tive(s), and federal specifications or standards. The areas of concern
                       most frequently cited involved federal specifications or standards (11
                       agencies) and federal regulations (7 agencies).

                       Eleven agencies reported efforts to revise agency guidelines in one or
                       more areas, including the actual or proposed development of new regu-
                       lation(s), modification of existing regulation(s), development of new
                       specifications or standards, modification of existing specifications or
                       standards, and modification of publications to include metric language.
                       The extent of these individual agency efforts, however, is somewhat
                       limited. For example, DOD, which has been reviewing many of these
                       areas, stated that these activities had occurred to only a very limited



                       '000 task forces include Transition Management; Operations, Safety, and Interoperability; Logistics;
                       Education and Training; Specifications and Standards; Construction; Food; Electronics; Clothing and
                       Textiles; Commodities; Test, Measurement, and Diagnostic Equipment; Health; Public Affairs; Metri-
                       cation Handbook; Interface With Metric Countries; and Cost Evaluation Guidelines.

                       "GSA task forces include Transition Management, Education and Training, Specifications and Stan-
                       dards, Construction, Electronics, Internal and Public Affairs, and a Metrication Handbook.



                       Page 20                                GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
  Chapter 3
  Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
  Been Limited




  extent. GSA, another of the key agencies in the transition, has under-
  taken efforts only with regard to federal regulations, while noting that
  the review of thousands of agency specifications remains to be done.

  We also asked agencies about their activities in six specific areas. These
  areas included the following possible actions: (1) disseminating educa-
  tional materials on the metric system to the public; (2) including metric
  language in procurements, grants, or other business-related activities;
  (3) notifying vendors of orders for metric goods and services; (4) meet-
  ing with associations, non-profit organizations, and standard bodies to
  discuss metric transition issues; (5) meeting with the private sector to
  discuss metric transition issues; and (6) giving assistance to small busi-
  nesses on metric issues.

  Our findings can be summarized as follows:

• 12 agencies reported that they have activities currently underway in
  one or more of these categories.
• lO currently include metric language in procurements, grants, or other
  business activities.
• 5 are currently meeting with associations, non-profit organizations, and
  standard bodies to discuss metric transition issues.
• 2 or fewer reported current activities in each of the remaining areas.

  A larger number of agencies plan to conduct activities in these areas in
  1990. A total of 19 agencies reported planned activities in one or more
  of the six areas. The ones most frequently mentioned, arranged in
  descending order, are: inclusion of metric language in procurements,
  grants, or other business-related activities (15 agencies); notification to
  vendors of orders for metric goods and services (12); meeting with
  asSOCiations, non-profit organizations, and standard bodies to discuss
  metric transition issues (11); meeting with the private sector to discuss
  metric transition issues (7); dissemination of educational materials to
  the public (6); and assistance to small businesses on metric issues (5).

  The agencies indicating the greatest number of planned activities
  include GSA (all six areas), DOD, NASA, and SBA (five areas), and Commerce
  and NRC (four areas). In addition, Labor, State, the Treasury, and OPM
  plan for activities in three of the six areas. Nine agencies reported plans
  regarding one or two of these activities. The remaining 21 agencies pro-
  vided no indication on the questionnaire of expected activities in any of
  the six areas.



  Page 21                           GAOjRCED-!MH31 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                         Chapter 3
                         Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
                         Been Umited




                         We also found some very recent examples of additional activities indi-
                         cating progress toward metric conversion. The following list is intended
                         to be illustrative rather than exhaustive:

                     o   Several agencies conduded activities that involved the public. Com-
                         merce officials helped organize and chaired a two-day national confer-
                         ence in October 1989 attended by more than 200 representatives from
                         the public and private sector. The conference was the largest in the
                         1980s dealing with metric conversion issues. NRC officials conducted a 2-
                         day hearing in November to gain public input on their metric conversion
                         activities. GSA obtained about 65 generally favorable public comments on
                         its proposed guidelines in late 1989.
                     o   NASA'S metric coordinator conducted a survey regarding support of met-
                         ric projects by general and aerospace machine shops. The survey
                         focused on small machine shops, which are occasionally cited as a "bar-
                         rier" to metrication. In November 1989, the coordinator summarized the
                         major findings. Among them: 39 of the 40 shops contacted had actually
                         performed metric projects at one time or other; many had a significant
                         amount of their business in metric operations. The capability to go met-
                         ric is available if the client requests or requires it.
                     o   Commerce's National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is
                         currently evaluating a new metric-based code that would be used in
                         reporting and forecasting selected weather data. Elements such as tem-
                         perature, dew point, and visibility would be reported in metric units.
                         International review will be given the proposal in late 1990. If approved,
                         an implementation date of about 1994 will be established.


                         The Metric Conversion Act, as amended, also required each federal
Agency Response to       agency, as part of its annual budget submission, to report to the Con-
the Reporting            gress on its actions to implement the metric system. Four agencies-DOD,
Requirement              NASA, Treasury, and GSA-complied with this requirement in 1988. Vari-
                         ous factors, such as the passage of the law relatively late in the year and
                         agency uncertainty whether a report was required in 1988, accounted
                         for the limited number of responses. Additional agencies are responding
                         to the reporting requirement for 1989. The Director, Office of Metric
                         Programs, who has requested agencies to submit copies to his office,
                         told us in March 1990 that at least 12 agencies have submitted their
                         reports and that more reports are being prepared.




                         Page 22                           GAO/RCED·90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                     Chapter 3
                     Progress Toward Metric Conversion Has
                     Been Limited




                     In spite of such individual initiatives, the overall impression that only a
Much Remains to Be   limited amount of progress has been made so far was confirmed by the
Done                 agencies in response to our questionnaire. At the end of the question-
                     naire, we asked them to estimate the percentage of total work for metric
                     conversion (including guidelines, plans, and other activities) remaining
                     to be completed in their respective agencies. A total of 27 agencies,
                     including Commerce, DOD, and GSA, indicated that 75 percent or more
                     remains to be done. Only five agencies reported less than 75 percent.
                     These five included Treasury, Consumer Product Safety Commission,
                     FCC, Federal Maritime Commission, and SBA. Five agencies did not specif-
                     ically respond to the question.




                     Page 23                           GAOjRCED-9(H31 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Chapter 4

Problems Relating to Metric Conversion


                    Problems relating to metric conversion are sufficiently serious to call
                    into question the federal agencies' commitment to the conversion. Staff
                    resources available to guide the effort at Commerce and GSA have been
                    minimal. Resources in most other agencies are also very limited. Diffi-
                    culties in coordinating the conversion between agencies are conspicuous;
                    in particular, 9 of the 10 interagency MOC subcommittees have not con-
                    vened their first meeting. Moreover, the long-standing problem of coor-
                    dination with and conversion of the private sector to the metric system
                    is perceived as a likely obstacle by 15 federal agencies, including DOD
                    and GSA. Other areas of concern, such as the review of specifications and
                    standards, costs resulting from conversion, and education, pose addi-
                    tional problems to various agencies. We believe that corrective actions
                    need to be taken regarding the problems relating to metric conversion.


                    We found that 27 agencies reported that less than 1 staff year was used
Limited Resources   for such work in fiscal year 1989; 5 agencies reported 1 to 5; and only 1
Available for the   agency (DOD) reported more than 5 staff years. Three agencies did not
Conversion Effort   report a specific figure for fiscal year 1989. The numbers for fiscal year
                    1990 showed 20 agencies reporting less than 1 staff year and 9 agencies
                    reporting 1 or more. Two agencies (GSA and the U.S. Postal Service) indi-
                    cating more than 1 staff year in fiscal year 1989 stated that they could
                    not provide the data for the current fiscal year, but, based on fiscal year
                    1989, it seems likely that they will assign more than 1 staff year again,
                    raising the total number of agencies with more than 1 to 11. Again, only
                    000 reported more than 5 staff years. Four agencies did not report a
                    specific figure for fiscal year 1990. (Appendix II provides the exact
                    response from all of the agencies.)

                    Several key agencies expressed strong concerns about the adequacy of
                    staffing and resources. DOD, for example, stated that there is considera-
                    ble feeling within the Department that the U.S. metric program lacks
                    national direction and, most importantly, dedicated resources for effec-
                    tive and efficient metric implementation. GSA stated that one of its con-
                    cerns involves its need to ultimately review thousands of specifications
                    and standards, presumably without additional resources. Energy stated
                    that neither the private sector nor the federal government is expending
                    sufficient effort or resources in developing the necessary metric stan-
                    dards for the Department to implement the amendments by 1992. In its
                    response to the questionnaire, Energy added that it planned to recom-
                    mend this concern about inadequate resources as a priority issue for the
                    MOC to address.




                    Page 24                      GAOjRCEI).9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Chapter 4
Problems Relating to Metric Conversion




The lead agency for the transition also indicated problems in this regard.
Commerce's Director, Office of Metric Programs, described the Depart-
ment's difficulties in adequately guiding and coordinating the conver-
sion effort with the current level of resources. He stated that the two
professionals and current support services are simply unable to cope
with the accelerated metric activities. In January 1988, he proposed a
modest increase in resources equalling about 1.5 staff years but has
received no response to it. Commerce's reply to the questionnaire indi-
cated an expectation of about 5 staff years for this effort in fiscal year
1990, but these resources have not been provided.

The metric coordinator at GSA stated that the staffing level at Commerce
is inadequate to guide the metric conversion effort. In its response to our
questionnaire, GSA also stated: "We believe the federal government's
metric conversion activities would be greatly enhanced if Commerce
were adequately staffed. This also would ensure greater uniformity in
activities taken by the agencies and probably would reduce the expendi-
ture of agency resources in the long run." The metric coordinator at 000
also expressed doubts about the ability of Commerce to play the lead
role at the current staffing level.

In addition, several metric coordinators noted the adverse effect on the
overall "morale" of federal conversion efforts, when Commerce, the lead
agency, has limited its own resources in this area. The coordinators at
GSA, 000, and NASA have indicated to Commerce's Director, Office of Met-
ric Programs, that they have encountered added difficulties in further-
ing metric conversion in their own agencies because of the perceived
lack of support within Commerce. A metric coordinator at one of the
small agencies expressed a similar view to us. He said that when the
lead agency plays such a limited role, he wondered why his own agency
should do anything at all.

A lack of resources also handicaps the other major civilian agency in the
transition. GSA reported even fewer staff years-I. 25-than Commerce
for the transition in fiscal year 1989. As one example of work to be
done, GSA'S metric coordinator states that thousands of procurement-
related GSA documents need to be reviewed, but he is uncertain of the
availability of the resources to accomplish the task.

In terms of resources needed to complete the task of conversion, we
found only one agency that had specifically attempted to estimate the
amount of support that would be required for its conversion to the met-
ric system. NRC'S report on metrication states that approximately 20 to


Page 25                            GAO/RCED-!JO..131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                      Chapter 4
                      Problems Relating to Metric Conversion




                      25 full-time equivalent staff and $2 million to $3 million in contractual
                      support spread over the 1990-1997 time frame will be needed.

                      We are concerned by the relatively low number of staff years assigned
                      to the conversion effort and by the comments of some of the most
                      important agencies in the transition. In particular, two of the three
                      major agencies in the transition, Commerce and GSA, applied a total of
                      4.75 staff years to the task in fiscal year 1989.


                      Coordinating the metric conversion is a formidable task because it must
Difficulties in       take into account the exceptionally large number of agencies and issues.
Coordinating Metric   For purposes of coordination in such a complex environment, the role of
Conversion            interagency committees becomes a paramount concern.

                      A particular area of concern is the difficulty in organizing the inter-
                      agency MOC subcommittees, although signs of progress in 1990 suggest
                      that this problem is being addressed. These subcommittees, as listed in
                      chapter 3, include many of the major areas and challenges facing the
                      federal government in its metric transition. Various statements testify-
                      ing to their potential importance have been made. For example, Com-
                      merce's metric coordinator considers them "crucial" to implementing the
                      transition. DOD states that most of its 16 task forces have emphasized
                      that it is vital that the subcommittees be established and working for a
                      government-wide effort to proceed. DOD concluded that its ability "uni-
                      laterally to make substantial metric transition progress is quite limited."

                      In spite of this recognition of the subcommittees' importance, we found
                      that as of January 1990, only one of them-the construction subcom-
                      mittee-had actually conducted a meeting. The construction subcommit-
                      tee has met three times and is being chaired by a Navy official who is
                      concerned about the extent of the barriers to metric conversion in the
                      construction industry. With the help of Commerce metric officials in
                      identifying task force members from other agencies, the chairman
                      staffed the subcommittee and organized the meetings.

                      However, other subcommittees have not convened. One source of prob-
                      lems in organizing the subcommittees has been uncertainty regarding
                      who is responsible for appointing members. Commerce's Director, Office
                      of Metric Programs, wrote a draft charter for each of the subcommittees
                      and notes that 9 of the 10 are currently chaired. He considers it the
                      responsibility of the chairmen to appoint the other members, although
                      he has demonstrated his willingness to assist in this process with regard


                       Page 26                            GAO/RCID9IJ.131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                        Chapter 4
                        Problems Relating to Metric (',onversion




                        to the construction subcommittee. The uncertainty about responsibility
                        for appointing members accounts to a great extent for the fact that the
                        GSA-chaired subcommittee on procurement and supply has possessed a
                        chairman but no members for about a year.

                        The education subcommittee provides another example of the lack of
                        coordination and progress in this regard. The current Department of
                        Education officials designated by Education as responsible for metric
                        issues told us that they did not become aware until October 1989 at the
                        ICMP meeting that they were supposed to chair this particular subcom-
                        mittee, although a briefing of Education officials by Commerce officials
                        had been held in early 1989 to discuss Education's role in metric educa-
                        tion, including this subcommittee.

                        We also found some evidence of frustration within agencies about the
                        lack of progress in this area. For example, Treasury's metric coordinator
                        told us that his agency had designated Treasury officials for various
                        subcommittees but that the lack of appointments from other agencies
                        has prevented them from meeting.

                        Signs of progress in 1990, however, suggest that more subcommittees
                        may begin to convene. At a meeting of the Moe in January 1990, the
                        assistant to the Director, Office of Metric Programs, stated that almost
                        all of the subcommittees now have enough members "on board" to begin
                        convening regularly. He also strongly encouraged the approximately 40
                        Moe representatives in attendance to continue pressing their agencies for
                        nominations to fill the remaining vacancies on the subcommittees.


MOC Subcommittees and   Although the Moe subcommittees are to be staffed by federal agency
the Private Sector      personnel, the draft charters developed for the subcommittees clearly
                        indicate that the subcommittees are to have an important role in coordi-
                        nation not only among the agencies but with the private sector. For
                        example, the construction subcommittee is expected to interact with
                        American industry, labor, and other public and private sector represent-
                        atives. The charter for the health care subcommittee refers to interac-
                        tion with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical groups. The
                        procurement subcommittee is expected to interact with industry and
                        small business procurement representatives. The Director, Office of Met-
                        ric Programs, said that he considers the subcommittees an important
                        link between the federal government and the private sector; he believes
                        that the difficulties in convening the subcommittees have reduced the



                        Page 27                              GAOjRCED-9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                             Chapter 4
                             Problems Relating to Metric C,onversion




                             federal agencies' ability to coordinate their metric conversion efforts
                             with the private sector.


                             Fifteen agencies, including DOD and GSA, indicated that the federal
Difficulties Relating to     agency /private sector dilemma that hindered transition efforts in the
the Private Sector           past will continue to be an active force that interferes with the progress
                             of current conversion efforts. Only three agencies expect the private
                             sector to facilitate their efforts. One of the most difficult areas, accord-
                             ing to seven agencies, is construction. DOD and other agencies have iden-
                             tified additional areas of difficulty ranging from food to the electric
                             industry and postal equipment. Even the principal procurement-related
                             agencies, DOD and GSA, stated that their ability to influence metrication
                             in the private sector is limited.

                             Based on the results of our questionnaire, many agencies indicated that
                             measurement-sensitive concerns in the private sector are likely to hinder
                             their transition to the metric system. We asked the agencies to rate how
                             much, if at all, measurement-sensitive concerns such as specifications
                             and standards in the private sector are likely to facilitate or hinder their
                             transition:

                           • Eight agencies, including two (DOD and GSA) of the most important,
                             reported that measurement-sensitive concerns in the private sector are
                             very likely to hinder their transition. Others included Education, CIA,
                             IIUD, NASA, TVA, and the Postal Service.
                           • Six agencies consider such concerns somewhat likely to hinder their
                             transition. These included Agriculture, Justice, GPO, NRC, SBA, and the
                             U.S. International Trade Commission.
                           • One agency-Labor-stated that such concerns are very likely to hinder
                             its Mine Safety and Health Administration's transition and somewhat
                             likely to hinder its Occupational Safety and Health Administration's
                             transition.
                           • Three agencies (Transportation, HRS, and the Commodity Futures Trad-
                             ing Commission) said that the private sector would be somewhat likely
                             or very likely to facilitate their transition.
                           • The remaining agency responses indicated no expectations of a negative
                             or positive effect from the private sector.


Construction as a Major      One of the major areas of concern is construction. A number of agencies,
Area of Concern              including GSA, RUD, DOD, State, CIA, OPM, and the Smithsonian, referred to
                             their concerns about this area of activity.


                             Page 28                             GAOjRCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                                Chapter 4
                                Problems Relating to Metric Conversion




                                GSA stated in its draft metric transition plan that construction in the
                                United States is almost totally in inch-pounds and will probably be one
                                of the last industries to transition fully to metric. The long life of build-
                                ings, dams, factories, and other structures means that inch-pound repair
                                parts may be needed for decades after transition. To satisfy the require-
                                ments of the law, GSA stated that it must work closely with the construc-
                                tion industry in the development of short- and long-range transition
                                plans.

                                Similarly, HUD expressed strong concerns about the construction indus-
                                try. It stated that the home building industry is a scattered, diverse
                                industry basically organized at the local level. It is, according to HUD,
                                very conservative in changing to new ideas. Imposing metric measure-
                                ments on this industry, which also must meet local building code and
                                other regulatory requirements, would have a short-term negative impact
                                due to over-regulation.

                                The other agencies mentioned above also indicated a variety of concerns
                                in converting the construction area to the metric system. For example,
                                Justice is concerned about constraints on its prison construction
                                program.

                                The fact that the construction industry will need a long time for metric
                                conversion, according to Commerce's Director, Office of Metric Pro-
                                grams, necessitates early and extensive planning; for this reason, it is
                                especially important that the MOC construction subcommittee has
                                already gotten underway.


Other Areas of Concern in       Many agencies identified other areas of concern besides construction.
the Private Sector              The following selection is intended to illustrate the variety of these
                                concerns.
Identified by AgenCies
                            •   DOD has conducted an assessment of the different areas of procurement
                                in terms of their amenability to metric conversion. It indicated in its
                                metric transition plan the particular areas where it expected difficulty.
                                In addition to construction, it identified food, clothing and textiles, and
                                commodities.
                            •   TVA reported that measurement-sensitive concerns in the private sector
                                are very likely to hinder its transition. It notes that the research, trade,
                                and vendor community in the American electric power industry are not
                                proceeding with metric conversion.



                                Page 29                            GAO/RCED-90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                      Chapter 4
                      Problems Relating to Metric Conversion




                      The Postal Service stated that to "metrify" to a large extent, it would
                      have to convince its vendors and customers to do so. Many vendors and
                      customers do not do business on an international scale. Currently, when
                      the Postal Service buys equipment that was designed in metric dimen-
                      sions, it still has to convert some parts back to inches to ensure a ready
                      and economical parts supply.
                      Both DOD and GSA emphasized that their ability to influence metrication
                      in the private sector is limited. DOD stated that the volume of its
                      purchases, while large, does not provide sufficient leverage to induce
                      metrication in most commercial areas. GSA stated that in dealing primar-
                      ily with suppliers of commercial products and services, it can encourage
                      its suppliers to convert to the metric system but cannot dictate to them.


                      We also identified other areas of difficulty, induding the review and
Additional Areas of   conversion of specifications and standards, considerations of cost, and
Difficulty            education.


Specifications and    Several agencies stated that the task of reviewing and converting their
Standards             specifications and standards will pose difficulties. DOD indicated that
                      although it has begun a review of thousands of specifications and stan-
                      dards, it conducted only a limited review in fiscal year 1989, and a great
                      deal of work remains to be done. (DOD has established a computerized
                      database listing needed metric specifications and standards identified by
                      contractors to support development of metric-based weapons systems
                      and equipment. A plan is being prepared to verify the need for these
                      specifications and standards and to develop them on a priority basis.)
                      GSA stated that only a small percentage of the documents listed in the
                      GSA Index of Federal Specifications, Standards, and Commercial Item
                      Descriptions are metric. Energy commented that it cannot complete its
                      conversion of specifications and standards by 1992. NRC and NASA are
                      also facing a major task in dealing with concerns about specifications
                      and standards.


Costs                 Cost considerations are likely to limit the use of the metric system in
                      NASA'S procurement of the space station. NASA estimates the additional
                      costs entailed in metrication ofthe space station at about $200 million,
                      based on information it requested from all of the major contractors
                      involved in its development. NASA'S metric coordinator told us that the
                      Agency has no basis to challenge this estimate. As a result, NASA officials



                      Page 30                             GAO/RCEI).9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
             Chapter 4
             Problems Relating to Metric Conversion




             decided in late 1989 not to "go metric" with the space station. In prac-
             tice, this means that inch-pounds will be the predominant units of mea-
             surement for the space station but that specific systems can be procured
             in metric units where cost does not become a barrier.

             With regard to procurement in other agencies, DOD,' Justice, GPO, GSA, the
             Interstate Commerce Commission, and SBA reported that procurement
             costs would increase somewhat as a result of conversion. TVA expects its
             costs for procurement to greatly increase.

             Justice, GPO, GSA, the Smithsonian, and TVA expect the costs for other
             business activities to increase somewhat. Labor reports that its costs for
             other business activities regarding the Mine Safety and Health Adlninis-
             tration will greatly increase as a result of conversion.

             Almost without exception, however, the agencies surveyed indicated
             that costs for grants would neither decrease nor increase as a result of
             conversion or that they did not know (at the time of the questionnaire)
             what the effect would be. Only TVA indicated that its costs would
             increase somewhat.


Education    Although the Metric Conversion Act, as amended, directs agencies to
             increase understanding of the metric system through educational infor-
             mation and guidance, the Department of Education as of January 1990
             had not established a policy for responding to this requirement nor had
             it appointed a chairman to the MOC subcommittee on education. (Addi-
             tional discussion of Education and metric education activities in other
             agencies is contained in chapter 5.)


             We believe that progress in metric conversion may be outweighed by the
Conclusion   problems associated with implementing it. A combination of factors-
             including lninimal staff resources, difficulty in organizing the MOC'S sub-
             committees, and measurement-sensitive concerns in the private sector-
             suggests that conversion may take longer than the Congress may have
             intended.




             'DOD stated that short·term procurement costs will increase somewhat but will be outweighed by
             long-term cost avoidance.



             Page 31                               GAOjRCED-9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                                                                               '>
                       Chapter 4
                       Problems Relating to Metric CAJnversion




                       Given the concerns about the low level of resources that have been made
Recommendations to     available to support the conversion effort and the difficult task of coor-
the Secretary of       dinating activities not only among a large number of federal agencies
Commerce               but with the private sector, we recommend that the Secretary of Com-
                       merce, as head of the lead agency in guiding and coordinating the fed-
                       eral metric transition, take steps to focus attention on these issues.
                       Specifically, the Secretary should encourage federal agencies to

                       (1) develop a realistic estimate of the amount of resources needed to
                       ensure the maximum practicable degree of metric conversion and

                       (2) fill the vacancies on the Metrication Operating Committee's 10 inter-
                       agency subcommittees and convene these subcommittees on a regular
                       basis as soon as possible.


                       Given the problems that we identified and especially the low level of
Matters for            resources that agencies have made available to support metric conver-
Consideration by the   sion, the Congress may wish to require that agencies (1) follow guidance
Congress               provided by Commerce as the lead agency and (2) include in their
                       annual reports to the Congress a realistic estimate of the resources
                       needed and the time frame required to achieve metric conversion.




                       Page 32                             GAOjRCEI).9().131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Chapter 5

Metric Education Activities in Federal Agencies


                      Because education is specifically addressed in the third amendment to
                      the Metric Conversion Act and is an important element in implementing
                      any program changes, we address this issue separately in this chapter.
                      In general, metric education activities in federal agencies provide exam-
                      ples of both progress and problems. DOD states that it provides metric
                      training as needed, and GSA has drafted a formal plan to do so. Progress
                      in other agencies is more limited, and some problems, especially in the
                      Department of Education, are evident. We reviewed the status of metric
                      activities in the Department of Education, the National Science Founda-
                      tion, SBA, Labor, GSA, and DOD.


                      In its January 1989 transition plan, DOD indicated that it had assigned a
Progress at Several   task force to develop a metric education program. However, in a meeting
Agencies              on March 8, 1989, and a subsequent memo on June 20, 1989, the task
                      force concluded that DOD "".at this time, does not need a common metric
                      education/training program. The [Department] currently trains those
                      individuals who need a 'working knowledge' of the metric system to do
                      their jobs. This training will be expanded as more weapon systems are
                      built using metric measures. This process is and, in the near term,
                      should continue to be completely adequate to satisfy the needs for met-
                      ric trained personnel."

                      GSA'S draft transition plan states that "a comprehensive program to edu-
                      cate personnel throughout the agency is needed." The Agency's metric
                      coordinator is considering further plans to implement a program that
                      would range from basic orientation to specialized training. He said that
                      GSA'S Training Center conducts hundreds of courses around the country
                      and would serve as the focal point for the Agency's metric education
                      efforts.

                      The National Science Foundation's Assistant Director, Directorate for
                      Science and Engineering Education, presented a positive picture of the
                      widespread use of the metric system in grade and high school science
                      curricula. The Agency is funding about a dozen large curricula develop-
                      ment projects, most of them focused on the kindergarten through sixth
                      grade level. The Agency plans to fund high school curricula develop-
                      ment projects, which will be in a metric format.

                      Labor issued a metric-related bulletin to state apprenticeship programs
                      in December 1989. The bulletin recommends strongly that the states
                      include instruction in the metric system as a part of their programs. In



                      Page 33                      GAOjRCED-90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Chapter Ii
                       Metric Education Activities in
                       Federal Agencies




                       general, however, Labor officials are only beginning to explore the edu-
                       cation-related issues. The Director, Office of Management Support, dis-
                       cussed two possible options-Job Corps training and activities that
                       would involve labor unions. The former would cover only a small frac-
                       tion of the labor force; the latter would be more comprehensive, but,
                       from the Department's perspective, activities in this area would have to
                       be initiated by industry.

                       SBA officials told us they are considering a "specific push" on the metric
                       system through self-help articles and SBA'S Service Corps of Retired
                       Executives, a group of about 13,000 people who work with small busi-
                       nesses. They said that the Office of Business Development and the
                       Office of Procurement Assistance would be relevant to SBA efforts to
                       promote metric education. They indicated, however, that SBA had not
                       made specific decisions regarding metric education activities.


                       The president of the U.S. Metric Association, a nonprofit organization
Specific Concerns      promoting the use of the metric system, expressed concern about the
About the Department   slow pace of activity at the Department of Education in April 1989. She
of Education           expressed her concerns specifically in a letter to the Secretary of Educa-
                       tion. Subsequent discussion with senior Education officials in October
                       1989 indicated that the Department is still at an early stage in its review
                       of the issues.

                       The first time that the current Education officials learned that the
                       Department was expected to playa leading role in the metric education
                       area was at the ICMP meeting in October 1989, when Education's respon-
                       sibility to chair the MOC'S education subcommittee was mentioned. A
                       chairperson has not been designated. According to Education officials,
                       the information has helped to emphasize the importance of the issue and
                       make it more visible within the Department.

                       General policies or specific actions have not been determined regarding
                       Education's support for conversion to the metric system. The Depart-
                       ment has not issued a statement informing the educational community
                       that metric is now the preferred system but told us that this issue is on
                       the agenda for discussion as a leadership effort. Knowledge of the met-
                       ric system is not one of the national goals prescribed for high school
                       graduates, but the Department is considering what can be done to
                       include it among these goals.




                       Page 34                          GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                      Chapter 5
                      Metric Education Activities in
                      Federal Agencies




                      When asked whether the Department knew the status of metric educa-
                      tion in the school system, senior officials stated that they had only lim-
                      ited anecdotal information but nothing more comprehensive or
                      systematic. As a result, they could not discuss with certainty the size of
                      the "gap" between the current metric education opportunities in the
                      school system and the possible goal of "metric literacy."

                      Education officials also discussed various opportunities for the Depart-
                      ment to exert leverage on behalf of the metric system. For example, cer-
                      tain organizations could be used to publicize the metric policy; the
                      Council of the Chief State School Officers would be one possible forum.
                      The Department can also exert some limited leverage through meetings
                      with the community that controls the content of textbooks and curric-
                      ula. It could also exert some metric influence through its $2 billion grant
                      programs, but it pointed out that it has no authority or mandate to
                      require state or local districts to use a portion of these funds for this
                      particular purpose. Subsequent discussion indicated that these possibili-
                      ties had not yet been considered in any detail, and no decisions had been
                      made regarding them.


                      In the original request letter, the Chairman asked us whether an educa-
Should an Education   tion program focusing on the metric system should be developed by a
Program Be            federal agency (or agencies). We believe that this question is being
Developed?            addressed, at least in part, through the activities of DOD and GSA. DOD, as
                      noted previously, considers its existing approach to metric training ade-
                      quate to meet its needs and does not consider a full program necessary.
                      GSA has perceived a need for a somewhat more formal program in its
                      own agency. The activities at DOD and GSA appear to be appropriate in
                      view of their key roles in the metric transition.

                      We believe that the interagency MOC subcommittee on education, which
                      is to be chaired by Education, has a potentially important role to play in
                      addressing the full range of metric-related education issues throughout
                      the federal government. Since our recommendation to the Secretary of
                      Commerce regarding the need to staff and convene the MOC subcommit-
                      tees includes the education subcommittee, we are making no additional
                      recommendations concerning this issue.




                      Page 35                          GAOjRCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Appendix I

Agencies Included in the GAO Survey


               Department of Agriculture
               Department of Commerce
               Department of Defense
               Department of Education
               Department of Energy
               Department of Health and Human Services
               Department of Housing and Urban Development
               Department of the Interior
               Department of Justice
               Department of Labor
               Department of State
               Department of Transportation
               Department of the Treasury
               Department of Veterans Affairs
               Central Intelligence Agency
               Commodity Futures Trading Commission
               Consumer Product Safety Commission
               Environmental Protection Agency
               Export-Import Bank
               Federal Communications Commission
               Federal Emergency Management Agency
               Federal Maritime Commission
               Federal Reserve Board
               Federal Trade Commission
               General Services Administration
               Government Printing Office
               Interstate Commerce Commission
               National Aeronautics and Space Administration
               National Science Foundation
               Nuclear Regulatory Commission
               Office of Personnel Management
               Office of the United States Trade Representative
               Small Business Administration
               Smithsonian Institution
               Tennessee Valley Authority
               United States International Trade Commission
               United States Postal Service




               Page 36                     GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Appendix II

Staff Years Allocated for Metric Conversion by
Federal Agencies

                Agencies were asked to report staff years allocated in fiscal year 1989
                and estimates for fiscal year 1990.


                Agency                                                                                      FY89                               FY90
                Department of Agriculture                                                                     0.10                              060
                Department of Commerce                                                                        3.50                              5.00
                Department of Defense                                                10.60                    510"
                                                   -_._--'_._._----- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - . - - - - ---
                Department of Energy                                                  0.30                    3.20
                ----------
                Department of Education                                               0.05                    0.05
                                             -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - . ' - - - - - _ _ - - - " - ----              ..

                Department of Health and Human Services                               000                          h

                Department of HOUSing and Urban Development                                                   0.10                              075
                - - - - _ . - _.. _.,---                          -_.---_.        __ ._--,--       ._--   ---   ----_.-----

                Department of the Interior                                                                    0.05                              010
                                                                       -- --- '------   _ . - - - - - -_.----_.    __ . -              ---     --
                Department of Justice                                                                         0.25                              0.63
                                                                 ---   --   -- -- '-    .----      '--    - - ---.---           ---
                Department of Labor                                                                           0.90                              090
                Department of State                                                                           0.00                              1.00
                                                                       ------._-_.---,-------            --   ---         -------           -----       ---
                Department of Transportation                                                                  ODD                               000
                -         - _.. _-----
                Department of the Treasury                                                                    041                               0.64
                ----------                                                              -      -- -           --           --    --     -               --
                Department of Veterans Affairs                                               0.13                                               0.13
                _._------_.----               - - - - ------_.. _ - - - - - - - _ . _ - _ . - - - - - - - , - -

                Central Intelligence Agency                                                  013                                                0.50
                                            - ----------                                                                                                     -
                Commodity Futures Trading Commission                                         000                                                0.00
                                     ---     ---   --       ------------.-.-------------                        -----
                Consumer Product Safety Commission                                                            0.10                              0.10
                             -----_ ..---
                Environmental Protection Agency                                                               000                               0.20
                ---_._-_._          .._---     - -- ' - -                '-
                Federal Communications Commission                                                             040                                   040
                ------_.- --                            -       -- --- - -                                    - - , -----       ----

                Federal Emergency Management Agency                                                           0.01                                  0.05
                              - - - - - '-   -- --._----'--                                 '---

                Federal Maritime Commission
                - - _ .__. - ---
                                                                                                          000                                   000
                                               -- --------,_. -                                -----------_._---------
                Federal Reserve Board                                                                                 h
                                                                                                                --'------
                Federal Trade CommiSSion                                                                              h


                Government Printing Office                                                                    1.00                              5.00
                           - - , - - - ----
                General Services Administration                                                               125



                National SCience Foundation                                                                   0.00
                Nuclear Regulatory Commission                                      0.80                  3.10
                --'.             - - - --       -        - - -------------_.-- _       _ - ' - - - - - - ---    ...

                Office of Personnel Management                                     0.00                  0.50
                C5ffiCe0f the 'U.S.·'Trade Representative- .----.-- -- -,--- ,----- ---0 - - ----
                                                                                                                                                         -

                Small Business Administration                                                                 0.90                                  140
                                                            -      ----- -----   _.--_."----_.---- ---.-. ---                                       -
                                                                                                                                  (continued)




                Page 37                                           GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Appendix II
Staff Years Allocated for Metric Conversion
by Federal Agencies




Agency                                                                        FY89                 FY90
Smithsonian Institution                                                        0.20                 0.50
Tennessee Valley Authority                                                     0.10                 1.50
U.S. International Trade Commission                                            0.20                 0.20
U.S. Postal Service                                                            3.00                         b


'DOD noted that these figures do not include time spent by members of its Metric Transition Plan Task
Groups. DOD also indicated that total staff years to be allocated for metric conversion in fiscal year
1990 would probably exceed the total indicated for fiscal year 1989. but exact figures were not available
at the time of its response to the questionnaire.

blnformatlon was not available

'According to the Interstate Commerce Commission. the staff year allocation was "negligible" during
these years.




Page 38                                  GAOjRCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Appendix III

Additionallnfonnation Provided by Agencies
on the GAO Questiormaire

                       Agencies provided additional information that is helpful in understand-
                       ing their efforts to implement the amendments to the Metric Conversion
                       Act. The following excerpts are taken directly from their responses to
                       the GAO questionnaire.


                       Commerce stated that its various units are at different stages in their
Department of          planning and efforts. The National Institute for Standards and Technol-
Commerce               ogy, as a scientific unit, has more widespread use of metric units than
                       the Office of Economic Affairs. Also, more of the Department's export
                       promotional publications have begun wider use of metric units than
                       have the in-house or consumer-oriented publications.


                       DOD has what are called "buy commercial" policies, but the volume of
Department of          DOD purchases, while large, does not provide sufficient leverage to
Defense                induce metrication in most commercial areas. The Department added
                       that in many of the "buy commercial" areas the industry appears to
                       have no plans to change and this adversely affects DOD'S move to the
                       metric system. Moreover, in some "military unique" areas the industry
                       maintains that transition will result in significant cost increases. DOD
                       also noted that some international laws or multinational agreements
                       require use of nonmetric units, e.g., international air navigation and
                       meteorological reporting.


                       HHS  stated that in the Department and the private sector the metric sys-
Department of Health   tem is appropriate for and used extensively in the health care and medi-
and Human Services     cal research areas. (It is used because of its simplicity, a decrease in
                       error rates, and the necessity for exchange of dialogue between various
                       countries.) HHS uses the metric system in many areas of its clinical
                       health activities, including both inpatient and outpatient units, medical
                       records, rehabilitation medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. In addition,
                       most of the medical research supported by the Department through
                       grants and contracts is metric-oriented, and it uses the metric system
                       extensively in developing speCifications for specialized medical/labora-
                       tory equipment. HHS also indicated that the private sector performs
                       much of its research and provides health care using the metric system of
                       measurements and physiological standards. In particular, drug dosages,
                       medical equipment, and measurements of the human skeletal system,
                       circulatory system, muscles, and other areas are specified in metric
                       measure.



                       Page 39                      GAO/RCED-!JO.131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                      Appendix III
                      Additional Infonnation Provided by Agencies
                      on the GAO Questionnair..




                      HUD stated that it does not generally procure materials and products for
Department of         its own use, other than normal administrative supplies. It does become
Housing and Urban     involved with the procurement of construction supplies and services for
Development           certain HUD-assisted housing. The Consolidated Supply program pro-
                      vides a central point for Public Housing Agencies to obtain certain con-
                      struction items used to maintain and upgrade public housing, while the
                      property disposition staff in its regional and field offices frequently
                      must contract for the repair and refurbishment of residential units, that
                      have undergone foreclosure, before they are resold. In both programs,
                      HUD is dealing with housing built using the English (non-metric) system
                      of measurements and must specify replacement parts and construction
                      in the same measurement system. In general, since HUD'S primary con-
                      stituencies involved with physical measurement systems are the home
                      building industry, Public Housing Agencies, and organizations concerned
                      with rehabilitating older housing, the Department sees some difficulty in
                      making a major transition to the metric system in the near future. It is,
                      however, working on a departmental policy to initiate this transition.


                      Labor noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Department of Labor   issued a memorandum in January 1977 requiring all new proposed
                      administration standards to display the metric equivalent. The memo-
                      randum states that in the area of occupational health, the majority of
                      health standards have used metric measurements for decades and that
                      over 90 percent of the instruments and other tools provided for its com-
                      pliance staff are using metric measurements. Labor also states that its
                      Mine Safety and Health Administration and Occupational Safety and
                      Health Administration particularly may need to survey private employ-
                      ers to estimate the impact of metric conversion.


                      Transportation discussed its general policies and activities within its
Department of         nine program agencies. It stated that the metric-sensitive aspects of
Transportation        these agencies vary significantly from one program to another because
                      of the different technological characteristics. These variations are so
                      great that a general policy dealing with the metric provisions of the
                      Trade Act is not practical at this time. Hence, a program-by-program
                      approach is required. Transportation commented on the significant role
                      of state and local governments, industries and firms subject to its
                      departmental regulations (especially regarding safety), and other fed-
                      eral agencies (especially DOD and GSA) in shaping metric policy.




                      Page 40                            GAOjRCED·90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
    Appendix ill
    Additional Infonnation Provided by Agencies
    on the GAO Questionnaire




    It also described the metric-related concerns of each of the nine program
    agencies, indicating that some of them are evaluating metric conversion
    opportunities and using the metric system in specific areas. The situa-
    tion in each program agency was summarized as follows:

o   The Coast Guard coordinates all its standards practices with the Navy
    and the Department of Defense. A team is evaluating the Agency's
    response to the Trade Act and is preparing a Commandant Instruction
    for future policy guidance.
    The Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Aviation Policy and
    Plans is evaluating the practicality of converting the Air Traffic Control
    System and safety regulations to metric standards.
o   The St. Lawrence Seaway is coordinating all its policies and practices
    with the Seaway of Canada and may already be in conformity with the
    Trade Act.
o   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration follows closely
    metric developments in the automotive industries and permits the use of
    metric standards in safety regulations to the extent that they are practi-
    cal and do not compromise safety.
o   The Federal Highway Administration is forbidden by the Surface Trans-
    portation Act of 1978 to provide for the utilization of metric measures
    exclusively on highway signs on the Federal Aid systems. Construction
    standards and specifications on grants are jointly determined with the
    states. Metric applications depend on the progress of state efforts.
o   Most Urban Mass Transportation Administration grants are for automo-
    tive equipment used in mass transit. The practicality of metric usage
    hinges on the adoption of metric standards and practices in the automo-
    tive industries. Rail equipment is often procured abroad with many met-
    ric standards used in its construction.
o   The Maritime Administration attempts to coordinate its standards and
    practices with the international shipping community, operating through
    specialized maritime organizations, and has been active in exploring
    metric usage in the U.S. shipping sectors. Moreover, recent legislation
    has permitted the construction of U.S. flag vessels abroad, with further
    impetus toward metric standards.
    The Research and Special Programs Administration's safety regulations
    apply principally to the oil and gas industries, and metric adoptions
    depend on the policies of such industries.
o   The Federal Railroad Administration must deal with long-standing rail-
    road usages and practices that govern safety regulations in the railroad
    industry. The practicality of converting these to metric standards has
    not been determined.



    Page 41                            GAOjRCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                     AppendixID
                     Additionallnfonnation Provided by Agencies
                     on the GAO Questionnaire




                     VA provided very specific details on its metric conversion activities.
Department of        When submitting new items to the Defense Integrated Data System, VA
Veterans Affairs     has been including metric units as required by the Federal Item Identifi-
                     cation Guides. The majority of these guides used by the VA have been
                     changed to include metric units in reply tables. In the VA'S computerized
                     supply system, metric units are added to the expanded description when
                     industry furnishes metric information in its literature. The VA also dis-
                     cussed in detail its development of a product acceptability clause to
                     comply with requirements contained in the Code of Federal Regulations
                     (50 FR 27578, dated July 5, 1985), Federal Property Management Regu-
                     lation, 101-29, Standardization Handbook and Federal Standard No. 376,
                     "Preferred Metric Units for General Use by the Federal Government."
                     The clause permits the acceptance of metric products when they fall
                     within the tolerances specified in the standardization document. Conver-
                     sion tables contained in the latest revision to Federal Standard No. 376
                     are used to determine the appropriate conversion from inch-pound units
                     to metric units. All other requirements of the standardization document
                     must be met. The metric clause has been adopted for use in a variety of
                     shared procurement activities involving VA, DOD, and the Public Health
                     Service.


                     The Commission regulates trading in commodity futures and options;
Commodity Futures    the underlying contracts are traded in units such as bushels, pounds,
Trading Commission   and ounces, which are established by other agencies. It noted that GSA
                     contracts use United States' standards. The Commission also remarked
                     that the task of conversion is onerous and that it takes a lot of leader-
                     ship and coordination. A few lead agencies must convert and then many
                     other private and public agencies will follow.


                     The Federal Trade Commission pointed out a conflict between the Trade
Federal Trade        Act of 1988 and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (15 USC 1451
Commission           (1966)) enforced by both the Commission and the Food and Drug
                     Administration. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which requires
                     that consumer commodities be labeled as to contents, also requires the
                     content disclosure to be in inches and pounds. Thus, a disclosure solely
                     in metric would be a violation. The Commission suggested that the act
                     may need to be amended.




                     Page 42                            GAO/RCED-9Q.131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Appendix ill
                       Additional Information Provided by Agencies
                       on the GAO Questionnaire




                       GSA stated that one of its concerns involves the need to ultimately
General Services       review thousands of specifications and standards, presumably without
Administration         additional resources. Other concerns involve the potential need to
                       develop appropriate metric language for inclusion in solicitations and
                       contracts and to establish uniform procurement practices for all federal
                       agencies. It added that in dealing primarily with suppliers of commercial
                       products and service, it can encourage its suppliers to convert to the
                       metric system but cannot dictate to them. This may delay GSA'S total
                       transition to the metric system and require GSA to deal with varying
                       degrees of metric usage for years to come. GSA'S Office of Acquisition
                       Policy (V) has established the GSA Metric Steering Group to coordinate
                       the agency's metric transition efforts. All affected services and staff
                       offices are represented on the steering group. Upon request, GSA has pro-
                       vided copies of its draft metric guidelines and transition plan to other
                       agencies for their information and use in developing their own
                       documents.


                       Among federal measurement-sensitive concerns that may affect its tran-
National Aeronautics   sition to the metric system, NASA has identified federal specifications or
and Space              standards. In this regard, its major concerns are availability of technical
Administration         standards and supporting reference data (e.g. materials properties),
                       availability of qualified metric parts, and experience. (It added that
                       "experience" is an indirect but important factor in the sense that it is
                       the proof of reliability, an essential prerequisite of space programs.)
                       NASA reported that it has modified or proposed modifying existing regu-
                       lation(s) and specified or proposed new technical specifications or stan-
                       dards. It stated that a proposed modification to the NA.<;A Federal
                       AcqUisition Regulations would facilitate metric replies to procurement
                       requests where functionality and safety requirements are met.

                       NASA  believes that measurement-sensitive concerns in the private sector
                       are very likely to hinder transition. Internal standards, design practices
                       and procedures of the aerospace industry are generally inch-pound.
                       Conversion of the above is only the first step; verifying and gaining con-
                       fidence in the revised standards, practices, and procedures is expected
                       to require additional effort, expense, and time. NASA added that small
                       demand for metric systems is also a major barrier to conversion in that
                       "first" programs can bear a disproportionate share of the conversion
                       burden. In further comments, NASA stated that the technical complexity
                       and high safety and reliability requirements of NA.<;A programs generally
                       require long lead times for planning, evaluation of alternatives, design,
                       testing, and verification. Metrication will occur, but ensuring that other


                       Page 43                            GAO/RCED·90·131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
                       Appendix ill
                       Additional Information Provided by Agencies
                       on the GAO Questionnaire




                       constraints are not violated will take time. Metrication is further compli-
                       cated by the generally "one of a kind" nature of NASA'S programs. Also,
                       the metric transition may be impractical for certain sectors of the aero-
                       space industry, a consideration that forecasts transition problems in this
                       area.


                       NRC  commented that its current regulations use conventional units,
Nuclear Regulatory     although in a few exceptions dual units are used. (For example, the pro-
Commission             posed revision to 10 C.F.R. part 20, Standards for Protection against
                       Radiation, uses dual units.) NRC must also be responsive to federal laws
                       such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and the Nuclear Waste Pol-
                       icy Act. The acts use conventional units and are the primary responsibil-
                       ity of EPA and the Department of Energy respectively. NRC believes that
                       measurement-sensitive concerns in the private sector are somewhat
                       likely to hinder transition. In this regard, it commented that the nuclear
                       industry currently operates and communicates with NRC in conventional
                       units. Any changes undertaken by NRC to convert to metric must be con-
                       sistent with the metric conversion by the nuclear industry due to the
                       health and safety aspects of regulating nuclear power. It intends to coor-
                       dinate its metric conversion activities principally with Energy, EPA, the
                       Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Food and Drug
                       Administration. These coordination activities will include high level
                       waste management and regulation and emergency response operations.
                       It has identified no procurements and grants that might be excluded
                       from conversion, but one business-related activity might be excluded.
                       This activity involves emergency communications with licensees; exclu-
                       sion is to be based on considerations of safety and impracticality.


                       The Postal Service has identified federal measurement-sensitive con-
United States Postal   cerns, including federal specifications or standards and other concerns,
Service                that may affect its transition to the metric system. In particular, it noted
                       that it is regulated as far as rates are concerned by the Postal Rate Com-
                       mission. The Postal Service's current size and weight standards would
                       have to be changed; this is a lengthy and difficult process. Its postal
                       mailers would have to be convinced that to metrify is in their best inter-
                       est as they would also have conversion costs.




                       Page 44                            GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
Appendix IV

Major Contributors to This Report


                        Lowell Mininger, Assistant Director
Resources,              Dennis S. Carroll, Evaluator-in-Charge
Community, and
Economic
Development Division,
Washington, D.C.




(005760)                Page 45                     GAO/RCED-90-131 Metric Conversion in Federal Agencies
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