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 #~ ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Requests for copies of GAO reports should be sent to: '.> U.S. General Accounting Office Post Office Box 6015 Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877 Telephone 202-275-6241 The first five copies of each report are free. Additional copies are $2.00 each. There is a 25% discount on orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a single address. 'em ttl .... II' Ik\ I ~r~liJw. I 1.1.1 I.L I J.,) I , ••• :. __ ll,I.11 .-,ttm!li ITi
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)