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The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (hereinafter "the Act") was signed into law by President Clinton on March 7, 1996. The Act mandates that all federal agencies use technical standards developed and adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, as opposed to using government-unique standards.

The guidelines used by agencies to assess and report their conformity with the requirements of the Act are detailed in Office of Budget and Management (OMB) Circular A-119 ("the Circular"). The Circular establishes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the agency responsible for coordinating conformity assessment activities, and requires NIST to report annually to OMB on the progress that federal agencies have made toward using voluntary standards.

In order to collect agency assessments, NIST has developed the Agency Reporting Tool. Standards Executives (or their representatives) use this tool on an annual basis to report on the status of their agency's interaction with voluntary standards bodies.