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September/October 2008
SpotLight

James H. Turner JrCelebrating an Ongoing Career in Standardization

James H. Turner Jr. to Be Honored on World Standards Day

No two days are quite the same for James H. Turner Jr., chief counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. In his position, Turner works every day with members of the U.S. Congress, their staffs and others from industry and the standards community on a wide variety of issues. Over the years, he has been a constant friend and adviser to the standards community, worked with the community on legislative solutions to its problems and served on a variety of standards boards and committees.

In recognition of this work, Turner will receive the Ronald H. Brown Standards Leadership Award, which will be given on World Standards Day, Oct. 23, in Washington, D.C. The award, named for the late U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1993 to 1996, recognizes demonstrated leadership in promoting the role of standardization in eliminating global barriers to trade. ASTM International and ASME International nominated Turner for the Brown award.

Among Turner’s most important work was his assistance in the enactment of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act, which was signed into law on March 7, 1996. The NTTAA directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology to coordinate with other federal agencies as well as state and local governments to achieve greater reliance on voluntary standards and decreased dependence on government-produced standards. Turner played a key role in developing a version of the NTTAA legislation that was acceptable to both the administration of President William J. Clinton and to Congress and the standardization community.

Turner feels that the NTTAA has been effective because it enabled Congress and the executive branch of the government to reach agreement on the role of voluntary consensus in federal procurement and regulation. He believes the NTTAA should be a catalyst for rethinking the way the federal government carries out its public and safety responsibilities and to learn from the private sector’s adoption of quality principles. “If these principles could be the standard way that the government as well as the private sector does business and the public and private sectors continually improved the way they worked together, huge amounts of waste could be eliminated as both sides achieved their goals better than ever before,” says Turner.

At the heart of Turner’s work is his conviction that standards play an important role in accomplishing many of the legislative objectives of the U.S. Congress. “As our world becomes more and more interrelated, we become more and more dependent on high quality standards to establish the framework in which to operate,” says Turner. “I think many people on Capitol Hill grasp that standards are important and that the consistency that standards bring are essential to establishing uniform policies or programs across the country. This is why an increasing number of bills each Congress reference standards.”

In 2000, Turner received the William T. Cavanaugh Memorial Award from ASTM. The Cavanaugh award is granted to a person or persons of widely recognized eminence in the voluntary standards system. In addition, Turner served on ASTM International’s board of directors from 2005 to 2007.

Turner says that he is honored to be receiving the Ronald Brown award, particularly since he knew and worked with Brown after Brown’s nomination to serve as secretary of commerce. ”My job was easy because Ron Brown was so bright and had an uncanny ability to ask just the right question,” says Turner.  “I have been lucky over the years to be exposed to more than my share of our best and brightest, but Ron was as quick as anyone I have known in understanding what was ahead.”