Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Commerce Achieves Record Veteran Hiring Numbers in 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Honoring All Who Served

In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the Department of Commerce’s commitment to hiring veterans. In Fiscal Year 2013, 13.2 percent of new Commerce hires were veterans and 3.6 percent were disabled veterans, the highest numbers of veterans the Department has employed in over 20 years.

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Veteran Employment Council, made up of volunteer human resources (HR) specialists, advisors, and program managers, plays a major role in hiring and retaining veterans and works with the individuals once they come on board.

“Here at Commerce, we take hiring veterans very seriously,” said Kevin Mahoney, Commerce’s Chief Human Capital Officer and Director, Office of Human Resources Management. “I would like to thank the DOC Veteran Employment Council for their hard work throughout the year, and we look forward to seeing even higher numbers next year.”

This year, the Department of Commerce trained over 3,100 hiring managers and human resources specialists on veterans’ preference and special appointing authorities for veterans and disabled veterans. Top performing agencies in the Department of Commerce for veteran hiring include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at 31.8 percent, the Office of the Secretary (OS) at 20 percent, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at 16.2 percent and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at 13.2 percent.

New Spectrometry Standard for Handheld Chemical Detectors Aids First Responders

Christopher Neary of the NIST Environmental Management Group demonstrates the use of a handheld Raman spectrometer to determine the identity of an unknown sample.

When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. But size and speed must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result.

The recent publication of a new standard—a culmination of years of research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.

Such detectors are used by emergency responders to check for the presence of explosives or toxic chemicals that threaten public safety. Quality control managers in the pharmaceutical industry use them to verify the identity of chemicals going into their production lines.

NIST Releases Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework, Will Seek Comments

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today released its Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework to help critical infrastructure owners and operators reduce cybersecurity risks in industries such as power generation, transportation and telecommunications. In the coming days, NIST will open a 45-day public comment period on the Preliminary Framework and plans to release the official framework in February 2014, as called for in Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

In February 2013, President Obama directed NIST to work with stakeholders to develop a voluntary framework for reducing cyber risks, recognizing that U.S. national and economic security depends on the reliable functioning of critical infrastructure. Through a request for information and a series of workshops held throughout 2013, NIST engaged with more than 3,000 individuals and organizations on standards, best practices and guidelines that can provide businesses, their suppliers, their customers and government agencies with a shared set of expected protections for critical information and IT infrastructure. 

The Preliminary Framework outlines a set of steps that can be customized to various sectors and adapted by both large and small organizations while providing a consistent approach to cybersecurity. It offers a common language and mechanism for organizations to determine and describe their current cybersecurity posture, as well as their target state for cybersecurity. The framework will help them to identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement within the context of risk management and to assess progress toward their goals. 

Obama Administration Awards $20.5 Million In Make It In America Challenge Grants

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, today announced the 10 winners of the Make it in America Challenge, an Obama administration initiative to accelerate job creation and encourage business investment in the United States. The 10 grantees will receive a total of $20.5 million for projects supporting regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements. The programs are designed to encourage U.S. companies to keep, expand or re-shore their manufacturing operations—and jobs—in America, and to entice foreign companies to build facilities and make their products here.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Labor Department’sEmployment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) are providing funding for the winning proposals. Additionally, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) plans to make awards in early FY2014.

“Given our competitive advantages in energy costs, research and development, labor productivity, and intellectual property protection, there is no better place to do business than the United States," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The Make it in America Challenge grants support innovative, regionally-based strategies that will encourage businesses to capitalize on those advantages.”  Full release

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

Commerce’s NIST Awards Grants to Improve Online Security and Privacy

NIST Awards Grants to Improve Online Security and Privacy

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced more than $7 million in grants to support the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).  The funding will enable five U.S. organizations to develop pilot identity protection and verification systems that offer consumers more privacy, security and convenience online.

These new pilots build on the successful launch of five NSTIC pilots awarded in 2012Launched by the Obama administration in 2011 and housed at NIST, NSTIC is an initiative that aims to support collaboration between the private sector, advocacy groups and public-sector agencies. The selected pilot proposals advance the NSTIC vision that individuals and organizations adopt secure, efficient, easy-to-use, and interoperable identity credentials to access online services in a way that promotes confidence, privacy, choice and innovation.

The grants announced today will support privacy-enhancing technologies that help make Internet transactions more secure, including better protection from fraud and identity theft, and are an important step toward giving American companies and consumers greater confidence in doing business online.  Release

NIST Releases Study on Reducing Damage and Loss from Wildfires

A wooded area aflame during the 2007 Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire in Southern California. A new report from NIST looks at the fire's impact on structures in one community based on their pre-fire exposure risk to direct fire contact and embers (both seen in the photo). Credit: With permission from Dan Tentler, lightbending.net

recent study of one of California's most devastating wildland fires by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) strongly suggests that measures for reducing structural damage and property loss from wildland urban interface (WUI)* fires are most effective when they are based on accurate assessments of exposure risks both for individual structures and the community as a whole.

The report also describes how the NIST-USFS WUI Hazard Scale provides a state-of-the-art tool for making such assessments and how that data could be linked to improved building codes, standards and practices that will help communities better resist the threat of wildfires.

The Witch Creek/Guejito WUI fire (commonly known as the Witch Fire) was the largest of a series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California on Oct. 20, 2007. It affected areas north and northeast of San Diego, starting in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spreading westward toward the coast because of strong Santa Ana winds. The Witch Fire burned some 80,000 hectares (nearly 200,000 acres), destroyed more than 1,600 structures, caused an estimated $1.8 billion in property damages and cost $18 million to fight. It also was responsible for two civilian deaths and 39 firefighter injuries.  Full release

Fostering Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship

Green Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Showcase

This week the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) welcomed dozens of representatives from Maryland businesses to learn about collaboration and technology licensing opportunities at a “Green Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Showcase.” The event was hosted by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), an independent organization that provides entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland.

In a 2011 Memorandum, President Obama wrote, “Innovation fuels economic growth, the creation of new industries, companies, jobs, products and services, and the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. One driver of successful innovation is technology transfer, in which the private sector adapts federal research for use in the marketplace.”

The memo instructed agencies to take steps to enhance successful technology innovation networks by fostering increased federal laboratory engagement with external partners. TEDCO is one of the partners working with NIST to foster tech transfer and its economic benefits.

Attendees at today’s event learned about the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which supports small- and mid-size manufacturers across the U.S.; how to work with NIST; and technologies available for license from NIST’s Engineering and Material Measurement laboratories.

Secretary Pritzker Visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Gaithersburg, Md., Campus

Secretary Pritzker tours the NIST Trace Contraband Detection laboratory with Acting Deputy Secretary and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.  The laboratory helps law enforcement agencies protect the public and enforce the law by developing improved methods and standards for trace detection of drugs and explosives.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.

The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their  existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.

Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.

Commerce's NIST Awards 13 Companies with 2013 Small Business Innovation Research Funding

NIST campus sign

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that more than $2.3 million in funding for Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects will be awarded to 13 U.S. small businesses. The awards provide funding to help develop manufacturing and cybersecurity technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit. 

"We congratulate the companies selected out of the numerous high-quality proposals we received," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "The SBIR program provides a great way to foster technological innovation at small businesses and help keep America innovative and competitive."

NIST's SBIR program seeks to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, especially at minority and disadvantaged firms, strengthen the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs and increase commercialization of federal research and development.

SBIR awards are funded through a competitive, three-phase process. In Phase I, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed research and development. Phase I awardees compete for Phase II funding of up to $300,000, enabling them to continue their efforts. Phase III involves commercial applications of the newly developed technologies, with funding from outside the SBIR program.