E-mail a link to this directive


Number: DAO 201-21
Effective Date: 1995-01-10


.01 This Order implements the Department of Commerce (the "Department") metric conversion program as directed by Executive Order 12770 (the "Executive Order") and the Metric Conversion Act (as amended).

.02 This revision is a major rewrite of the entire Order. Changes have been made throughout to clarify and update requirements.


.01 Departmental offices and operating units shall use metric units where measurements are used to accomplish mission activities.

.02 Metric conversion shall be according to the current Commerce Metric Transition Plan.

.03 Any cost related to metric conversion shall be treated as normal operating expenses.


.01 Each Departmental Office and Operating Unit Head shall:

a. Ensure complete metric conversion in all acquisition, grants, and business-related activities in the shortest time, while minimizing costs and inconveniences, and taking into account the interest of public and private sector clients.

b. Designate a "Metric Coordinator" to serve on the Commerce Metric Committee and to help coordinate metric conversion throughout the Department.

c. Develop a metric transition plan to:

1. Use metric units in the acquisition or modernization of equipment and systems, where compatible with the capability of supply sources, and

2. Use metric units in grants programs and in documents, studies, reports, and databases, consistent with the capability of customers to use metric units.

d. Make available metric competency training for personnel whose duties require knowledge of the metric system.

.02 The Under Secretary for Technology shall:

a. Assist the Secretary in executing the Secretary's authorities and responsibilities under the Executive Order and the Metric Conversion Act. This includes overseeing the Department's metric conversion activities, revising and updating the Commerce Metric Transition Plan, and submitting the Plan to the Secretary.

b. Chair the Interagency Council on Metric Policy, which is chartered by the Secretary of Commerce.

c. Serve (or appoint a senior-level official to serve) as the Department Metric Executive.

.03 The Metric Executive shall:

a. Provide management oversight of the Department's metric transition plans, activities, and progress reports. This includes coordinating and supporting Department metric transition activities and the execution of this Order; formulating metric conversion policies and guidelines for the Department; and submitting to the Secretary the Commerce Annual Metric Report (required by 15 U.S.C. 205j-1(a) and Office of Management and Budget Circular A-11).

b. Work to remove barriers to the use of metric units within the Department.

c. Make information available within the Department regarding the correct use of metric units.

d. Maintain awareness of other Federal and private sector metric conversion efforts and coordinate Department metric activities with those of other agencies.

.04 The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Metric Program shall:

a. Assist the Under Secretary in executing the Department's responsibilities under the Executive Order and the Metric Conversion Act.

b. Execute the interagency leadership tasks in the Commerce Metric Transition Plan and coordinate the activities of the Interagency Council on Metric Policy and its committees and subcommittees.

c. Work with the Commerce Metric Committee to ensure implementation of this Order within the Department.

.05 The Commerce Metric Committee shall:

a. Assist the Metric Executive to coordinate and support the Department's metric conversion efforts as required by this Orders.

b. Recommend to the Metric Executive effective and consistent metric conversion policies for the Department's procurement, grants, and other business-related activities, including standards, education and public information, weights and measures, consumer affairs, domestic and international business matters, and Departmental administrative procedures.


.01 Each Departmental office and operating unit head shall submit to the NIST Metric Program, before November 15 of each year, a report for the fiscal year just concluded, according to the format requested by the NIST Metric Program.

.02 The NIST Metric Program shall consolidate the Departmental office and operating unit reports into the Commerce Annual Metric Report. This report shall be submitted to the Metric Executive by December 31 of each year.

.03 The Metric Executive shall present the report to the Secretary by January 15 of each year for inclusion in the Department's budget submission to Congress.


.01 The Metric Conversion Act of 1975 (15 U.S.C. 205a-k), as amended by the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988:

a. Designates the metric system as the preferred system of weights and measures for U.S. trade and commerce; requires each Federal agency, by a date certain, to 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 less of markets to United States firms; and calls for seeking out ways to increase understanding of the metric system of measurement through educational information and guidance in government publications.

b. Assigns to the Secretary of Commerce the responsibility to interpret or modify, for the United States, the modern metric system, called the International System of Units (SI); and to consult with the National Conference of Weights and Measures to assure that State and local weights and measures officials are appropriately involved in metric conversion activities, and assist them in bringing about timely amendments to weights and measures laws.

.02 Executive Order 12770, "Metric Usage in Federal Government Programs," issued on July 25, 1991, implements the Metric Conversion Act and:

a. Directs executive branch departments and agencies to use the metric system in procurements, grants, and other business-related activities, by such date or dates established by the department or agency in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce; to seek out ways to increase understanding of the metric system of measurement through educational information and guidance and in Government publications; to seek the appropriate aid, assistance, and cooperation of affected parties, including other Federal, State, and local agencies and the private sector, in implementing metric use; to formulate metric transition plans and programs that implement the requirements of the Metric Conversion Act and the Executive Order; and to designate a senor-level official as the Metric Executive to assist the department or agency head in implementing metric use.

b. Designates the Secretary of Commerce to direct and coordinate efforts by Federal departments and agencies to implement metric use in procurements, grants, and other business-related activities; and to report to the President annually on Federal agency progress in using the metric system of measurement in Federal Government procurements, grants, and other business-related activities.


This Order is applicable to all elements of the Department of Commerce.


This Order supersedes Department Administrative Order 201-21, dated July 6, 1989.

Signed by: Secretary of Commerce

Office of Primary Interest
: Office of the Under Secretary for Technology

Index Changes:


Commerce Metric Conversion 201-21

Questions and Comments

Send Questions or Comments on the Commerce Directives Management program to Directives@doc.gov.

Office of Privacy and Open Government
Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce


April 7, 2010