Obama’s chief regulatory reviewer expands guidance to agencies

The impresario of the Obama administration's quest to identify regulations that are outdated, inefficient or "plain stupid" has released expanded guidance to agencies, giving them 100 days to draft strategies that "promote public participation, improve integration and innovation, increase flexibility, ensure scientific integrity, and increase retrospective analysis of existing rules."

The Feb. 2 memorandum from Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein to agency heads, however, might not placate Republican critics, who are demanding an extensive rollback of federal regulations.

In reiterating provisions of President Obama's Jan. 18 executive order on reviewing federal regulations, Sunstein's memo stressed the importance of prior consultation with "those who are likely to benefit from and those who are potentially subject to such rule-making," and encouraged agencies to "solicit ideas about alternatives, relevant costs and benefits (both quantitative and qualitative), and potential flexibilities."

Coming a week after Sunstein appeared before a House panel wary of regulations that some GOP lawmakers said curtail job growth, the new guidance directed agencies not to "call into question the value of long-standing agency rules simply because they are long-standing…. While systematic review should focus on the elimination of rules that are no longer justified or necessary," it said, "such review should also consider strengthening, complementing, or modernizing rules where necessary or appropriate -- including, if relevant, undertaking new rule-making. Retrospective review may reveal that an existing rule is needed but has not operated as well as expected, and that a stronger, expanded, or somewhat different approach is justified."

Though the memo asked reviewers to determine methods and schedules to identify regulations that are "obsolete, unnecessary, unjustified, excessively burdensome, or counterproductive," it also reminded agencies that "candidates for reconsideration include rules that new technologies or unanticipated circumstances have overtaken."

Independent agencies, which by law are not subject to OIRA's mandates, were encouraged to consider the executive order's provisions voluntarily.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, released a statement on Feb. 2 noting: "A report in The Wall Street Journal found that the cost of regulations in the United States rose to $1.75 trillion in 2008, and it is likely higher now. It is the American people who must comply with these regulations and pay their costs, and I am asking them to report any burdensome regulations that hurt the economy."

After acknowledging Sunstein's recent offer to work with his subcommittee, Stearns added, "I am turning to the real experts on regulations, the American people, to help us identify and eliminate those regulations."

Matt Madia, a regulatory policy analyst at the advocacy and research group OMBWatch, said the Obama review was never intended "to clear the books of huge amounts of regulations -- that was a Republican mischaracterization to serve their own interests."

But what he sees as new in Sunstein's memo is the emphasis on public participation. "The public can provide beneficial comments on what should be looked at and tinkered with," Madia said. Such participation can help make the process more "transparent and accountable" as opposed to being merely "a sop to industry" whose "well-heeled lobbyists would come in with their lists" of regulations to target.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.