The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is nudging the Department of Commerce to develop performance goals with measurable targets for the government’s Manufacturing USA effort – a joint effort among Commerce, the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DOE) on a network of 16 advanced manufacturing institutes to promote advanced manufacturing and technologies.

The three agencies have provided $1.7 billion for Manufacturing USA effort – and many of the 16 institutes have reported progress on goals that the programs aims to achieve.

“Manufacturing USA institutes reported making progress toward achieving their technology goals,” wrote GAO in a new report. “Progress on institute projects is often tracked using technology readiness levels (TRL), a standardized scale for assessing maturity and risk.”

GAO found that projects moved through a range of TRLs, with many moving from TRL level 4 to level 6, “taking a manufacturing technology from a point where it could be demonstrated in a lab to a point where a prototype system could be created in a simulated production environment.”

The three agencies have implemented prior GAO recommendations on interagency collaboration and developing sustainability criteria, but Commerce has yet to fully implement two of GAO’s prior recommendations related to network-wide performance goals for the program.

GAO recommends Commerce develop network-wide performance goals with measurable targets and time frames and align performance measures with goals. Commerce partially agreed, and worked with DoD and DOE to develop some measures, but has not fully implemented the recommendations.

GAO still maintains that some of its recommendations require further action.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.