Harvey P. Hack: An Interview with the 2000 Chairman of the ASTM Board of Directors
Listening to Harvey Hack talk about his many years of experience
in standards development and corrosion control engineering gives
the impression that he may have missed his calling as an educator.
Hack, a thoughtful speaker, finds himself talking about issues
of education often. Educating corporate managers about incorporating
corrosion control up-front in the design phase, teaching executives
about the importance of promoting their employees standards development
activities, and fostering dialog in
industry about how crucial it is to be involved in international
standardizationall are subjects of
great interest to Hack.
Fortunately for ASTM, the chairman of the 2000 ASTM Board of Directors
is using his natural interest in educating, along with his leadership
and technical talents, to help guide the Society into this new
century. Hack has been committedthrough his involvement with
ASTM, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO),
and his employment in the federal and private sector defense industry
(see biographical sidebar)to helping the right industry representatives
understand how vital the role of domestic and international standardization
and engineering foresight are to his field. In this interview,
Hack explores with SN some of his insights into todays issues around the international
standardization climate, ASTMs future, and corrosion control
You have been a member of ASTM for over 20 years. How has the
Society changed as an SDO over this time?
When I first started attending ASTM meetings, most members were
older than me, but now most are younger, so our membership must
be getting younger. Seriously, ASTM has added many new committees
in recent years outside of the traditional testing and materials
area. Committees like E-48 on Biotechnology, E-50 on Environmental
Assessment, E-52 on Forensic Psychophysiology, and others are
showing that the concerns of ASTM mirror the concerns of society.
ASTM has been responsive to changes in our very culture.
In addition, ASTM is now far more involved in international standardization,
again reflecting changes in our society. We are a more efficient
organization that can produce standards faster and deliver them
in many more ways than 20 years ago.
Prior to joining Northrop Grumman in 1996, you worked for the
government at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Annapolis. Can
you describe how government and industry differ in how they view
the development and use of standards?
Theres actually quite a bit of difference. The Naval Surface
Warfare Center in Annapolis is a research and development laboratory
for Naval ships. The primary mission of the Materials Department
where I worked was to answer questions about what materials should
be used to optimize reliability in Naval ship systems. To do this
work, we would perform laboratory testsmany of which were standardized
by ASTMand failure analyses. Although we did not use standards
as much as engineering firms like Northrop Grumman, the Navy was
very supportive of standardization activities such as those at
ASTM. This was partially because of OMB Circular A-119 that encouraged
such participation, but mostly because the management realized
the positive benefits of interaction with peers in cutting edge
technical areas like writing testing standards.
At Northrop Grumman, the emphasis is not on writing standards,
but on using them. For example, Northrop Grumman is not as interested
in what the exact composition of a specific metal alloy may be
as much as in the fact that a standard exists that fixes both
composition and properties that we can use to buy material for
our systems. The corporation therefore has much less interest
in standards development, and will leave that up to others. In
my opinion, when corporations take this position, it is a somewhat
shortsighted view, since standards are developed by a consensus
between producers and users. Without user inputs from companies
like ours, the standards may not be optimized for our needs, ultimately
costing us more money to use.
What is your area of expertise at Northrop Grumman?
Northrop Grumman Corporations Oceanic Systems designs and builds
underwater vehicles and systems for the Department of Defense.
Because of the emphasis on the underwater environment, Oceanic
projects require expertise in marine corrosion, electrochemistry,
and in metallurgy of certain exotic metals. I was hired because
of the expertise in these areas that I gained by my 25 years of
experience working for the Marine Corrosion Branch at NSWC.
When the requirements for these areas are not in demand, I have
expanded into other areas like coating specifications, risk management,
and project management. One project I have done in my brief tenure
at NG has been to design the cathodic protection systemand help
specify materials for improved corrosion resistancefor the Advanced
SEAL Delivery System, a 65-foot submarine we build. I am currently
the lead engineer for a proposal we are preparing for building
a sonar system for the U.S. Navy.
How does Northrop Grumman use standards? Does it have a corporate
strategy around standardization?
I can only speak for the Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector,
Oceanic Systems, where I work. Northrop Grumman uses standards
in three areas. The first area, management and processes, relies
primarily on in-house standards. Our corporate strategy is to
put management procedures and our major processes in a section
of our company Web site called Command Media, where they are available
to anyone in the Corporation, and they can be revised and maintained
easily. This includes procedures for how we do everything from
business travel to cost accounting to system safety engineering.
The second area where we use standards is in certification. Our
customers require ISO 9000 certification and frequently require
other types of certifications as well, such as Software Engineering
Institute certification for software expertise.
The third area in which NG uses standards is in our design and
manufacturing processes. Rather than in-house standards, or ISO
standards, here we rely mostly on industry consensus standards.
We specify materials from which we build our systems, mechanical
components like fasteners, electronic components, and manufacturing
processes like welding, soldering, etc., using standards from
ASTM and other SDOs.
Although our engineering and production area wouldnt be able
to function without standards, to the best of my knowledge we
currently have no corporate strategy for dealing with this area
of standardization, particularly regarding how to handle standards
obsolescence, multiple standards on the same topic, and the use
of ISO standards. I am working to correct this hole in our corporate
strategy. I havent yet found the magic bullet that convinces
the right people that such a strategy is necessary. All I can
do, like in any educational effort, is keep at it, finding the
people that I think should get the message and telling them.
When and how did you first become involved in ASTM?
I attended my first meetings of ASTM Committee G-1 on Corrosion
of Metals in the early 1970s because others in the Marine Corrosion
Branch were attending. As a young researcher, I was more than
willing to travel, but didnt realize what possible benefit my
participation could have for either the Navy or myself. After
a few meetings I found that the interaction with the technical
professionals was a better learning experience than college had
ever been, so I joined ASTM and began attending regularly.
A very smart man who unfortunately did not have the time to continue
the commitment chaired one of the subcommittees that I attended.
When he stepped down, I knew that the subcommittee topic area
interested me enough that I would be willing to put additional
time into it, so I volunteered to chair the subcommittee, even
though I had been an ASTM member for only a brief time. I have
held the chair of some subcommittee or committee in ASTM ever
since. The management expertise I have gained by leading these
groups is just as valuable to me as the technical expertise gained
by interaction with experts on these groups.
As an expert in marine corrosion control, can you describe
some of the most pressing issues for the field of corrosion engineering?
I believe that the most pressing issue in the field of corrosion
is the need for education and communication with engineering decision-makers.
If corrosion engineers are allowed to become involved in the design
process early on, maintainable structures and systems can be produced
that have low life-cycle costs with little additional purchase
What usually happens now is that the corrosion expert or the metallurgist
is brought in at the end of the design process. The designers
say, Heres our design, now tell us how we can keep it from rusting.
Oh, and by the way, we dont have any money to do this, and you
cant change the design because its already fixed, so dont tell
us to make it a little different. And we really cant change the
materials either, because were making it as cheap as we can,
but tell us how to keep it from rusting. Usually the answer at
that point is prayer.
Corrosion needs to be treated as a valuable discipline, not something
that can be learned by a spare engineer in a one-week short-course.
Good corrosion engineers, if properly employed, will save their
companies many times their salaries.
Your chief involvement as an ASTM technical committee member is
with CommitteeG-1 on Corrosion of Metals. How has G-1 changed
in recent years to meet the evolving needs of the scientific community?
Until recently, the G-1 structure has remained almost the same
as it was when it was formed. But a shift has occurred in the
support base for corrosion standardization. Where years ago alloy
developers supported large research departments that had individuals
who were able to go to G-1 meetings to develop standard test methods,
today the company emphasis is on whether an activity can produce
additional profits this quarter. As a result, G-1 is not attracting
and holding new members as well as it used to, and the writing
of generic test methods is giving way to the writing of standards
that are directed at a specific industry.
The G-1 executive committee feels that the committee needs to
recognize which industries it can best serve, and to attract new
membership from those industries. They realized that G-1 will
need to produce standard specifications, and so recently the scope
of the committee was expanded and the committee was classified,
so it is now able to write specifications. G-1s long range plan
is to produce several specifications in new, industry-specific
areas, within the next few years. And theres nothing that gets
people more interested in standardization than coming up with
a spec that might exclude their product. Not only thatif you
have specs, it makes life a whole lot easier for certain segments
of an industry; they dont need to write their own specs, they
can count on ASTMs. And that saves them money, and anything that
saves them money this quarter is important.
In this vein, more recent standards being developed by the committee
have focused on such topics as the protection of underground fuel
storage tanks, cathodic protection of ships and marine structures,
and corrosion failure analysis. Training in corrosion testing
and corrosion protection methods is also becoming more important,
with Technical and Professional Training courses now being developed
in specific areas of industry need.
You are administrator of the U.S. TAG to the ISO TC on Corrosion.
What are some of the issues you face in creating standards for
corrosion engineering that will be acceptable around the world?
The biggest issue is determining what standards are really wanted
or needed. The TAG in the past has successfully helped produce
ISO test standards based on ASTM tests, so that testing would
be carried out throughout the world in the same way that it is
conducted in the United States. Interest in testing methods is
waning however. Industries in the U.S. want to have standards
that will promote their business overseas. It is unclear to them
at this point how corrosion standards can help achieve this goal,
and so U.S. support for the TAG to ISO/TC 156 is also waning.
The issue has reached criticality, in that the TAG is not currently
getting enough income to support its expenses. There are some
problems within ISO TC 156 that are very similar to whats happening
in other ISO committees. The TAG has experienced the dominance
of ISO by the European Union countries, with very close alliance
with the CEN [European Committee on Standardization] Corrosion
Committee. This is disturbing in that if a CEN standard is being
developed, the United States has no input into the process, but
this standard can become an ISO standard by parallel voting in
ISO/ TC 156. If the European countries decide to vote as a block,
the U.S. cannot stop this adoption.
Often, the voluntary consensus standardization process is faulted
for being too slow. How can, and how has, ASTM bridged the gap
between consensus and speed?
The nature of industry has changed over the years. Today, if you
dont get the standard this quarter, you dont generate the profits
this quarter, so theres now an emphasis on getting things done
more quickly than in the past. But at the same time theres also
an emphasis on not sacrificing the quality of the standard because
of increased speed.
ASTM recognized this problem some time ago and has very effectively
been addressing it over the years. The Society has provided more
administrative support, particularly at the subcommittee level
with balloting, to remove this burden from the members so that
they can concentrate on technical issues. The balloting process
has been streamlined over the years, with the addition of simultaneous
subcommittee/main committee ballots, more rapid turnaround of
ballots, and more recently, the change of the Society ballot into
a Society review. This has all been done by not only maintaining
full consensus, but also improving it.
In the long run, people who are familiar with the ASTM procedures
and the history of developing standards know that slow is not
in our vocabulary any longer. Of course, on contentious standards,
full consensus will mean multiple negatives to be addressed and
multiple re-ballots. But where the consensus is not obvious, I
think the process should slow down. Because until you have a true
consensus, you shouldnt be proceeding.
Consensus and speed are not mutually exclusive, however. In some
cases, the methods ASTM has employed to improve speed have also
improved consensus. The fact that we invite international participation
over the Web and make it easier through fax balloting and the
soon-to-be e-mail balloting means that we can now get some foreign
input into the consensus process we didnt have before in some
In your view, what are some of the challenges and opportunities
ASTM faces as we enter the 21st century?
The biggest challenges and opportunities ASTM faces in the 21st
century stem from improved worldwide communications. The advent
of computers and the Internet has changed the face of information
delivery and human interactions. Information delivery in the form
of paper books, as has been the tradition in the past at ASTM,
is being replaced by delivery-on-demand over the Internet. Within
the next two to three years, ASTM will turn a major corner by
delivering more standards electronically than are delivered on
paper. ASTM has prepared to meet this challenge by the establishment
of an electronic publishing system that holds all standards in
electronic format, for delivery in whatever form is requested.
One big challenge facing ASTM in the future is pricing of electronic
media. When standards were sold in books, where only a percentage
of the standards purchased were actually used, unit pricing could
be kept low. In a standard-on-demand system, maintenance of ASTMs
income will be predicated on appropriate pricing for individual
standards, custom compendia, and multiple standard licensing.
A second challenge facing ASTM is an increasing demand for our
standards in languages other than American English. We are already
translating some standards into Spanish, and are producing the
index in Chinese. More standards can be sold if they are made
available in the native language of the customer. We are also
challenged to bring the non-English speaking person into the standards
development process. The Web-based Interactive Standards Development
Forum removes geographical location as a barrier to participation
in standards development, but in the next century, we must provide
some form of translation service tied into this product. As computer
translation becomes more sophisticated, this may eventually be
an attainable goal. And when we achieve this, I think weve truly
Is there anything else you want to add?
First, I want to express my gratitude to the Naval Surface Warfare
Center for supporting my attendance at ASTM meetings for many
years. I was elected to the Board of Directors while working for
them, and it would not have been possible without their believing
in the value of my participation.
Secondly, I want to share what other members who attend the ASTM
committee meetings already knowthat the ASTM staff is simply
the best in the field. The ASTM members contribute the technical
knowledge, but the staff makes the whole standardization process
happen. Everyone I have met on staff, from the security guards
to the president, is good at their job, friendly, and courteous.
ASTM is truly fortunate to have such a resource to call on to
help us members get our standards written. Jim Thomas is a truly
phenomenal person, with a passion for ASTM and standardization
and knowledge and ability that are unsurpassed in the standards
Im looking forward to going to Committee Weeks and meeting our
members, going to executive subcommittee meetings, and seeing
how other committees operate. As Ive progressed up through the
various levels in ASTM, Ive gotten exposed to broader and broader
areas within the organization; I have developed an appreciation
for whats involved in standardization and how ASTM fits into
that picturein the U.S. and the world. Im very appreciative
of the fact that Ive been given this opportunity to serve ASTM
even more. //