Proposals for a new direction for the NIOSH respirator certification program (RCP) were presented. A history of legislation on RCPs was outlined. The current RCP consisted of five primary functions: respirator certification; quality assurance of the respirator manufacturing or production processes; investigation of complaints concerning certified respirators; technical assistance to users, manufacturers, and other certified personnel; and standards development. The program serviced 6 to 7 million workers and processed 500 manufacturer applications annually, about 80% of the latter being granted certification. Details of the application process were set out, and current drawbacks were discussed. A new process that broadened the influence of the RCP without requiring proportionally more resources was needed. The formulated program had many benefits including enhanced protection, improved program quality, and stimulus for manufacturers. A plan for the development of an internationally integrated RCP by NIOSH was discussed. Performance standards, quality system standards and reliability standards were addressed. The upgrading of standards through a modular approach rather than in an all or none approach was needed. The provision of an electronic information system with databases for public information access was a component. The transition philosophy in moving to the new system, and which involved the integration of continuous improvement, industry empowerment, matrix management, and goal champions was discussed in detail. The authors conclude that the achievement of an internationally integrated RCP by NIOSH will ensure that the best protection is provided for workers.