President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to executive department heads and agencies on Jan. 30, 2009, calling for a revision to the principles guiding the federal regulatory process. The memo required agencies to submit within 100 days recommendations for a new executive order. The memo also precipitated a call for public comments by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to gather the public's ideas for reforming the regulatory process. At the one-year mark of his administration, OMB Watch in a press statement called on the president to complete this process by issuing a revised executive order.
OMB Watch further urges the administration to ensure that the revised order provides agencies greater flexibility and a more streamlined process for engaging in rulemaking and seeking White House review. Political interference, delay, and numerous procedural requirements have often limited federal agencies’ ability to issue crucial public protections under the current centralized review process.
"President Obama is defaulting on his commitment to bring greater transparency and accountability to the regulatory process," said OMB Watch Executive Director Gary D. Bass. "The president should sign – as soon as possible – an executive order that helps federal agencies fulfill their missions and that promotes a regulatory agenda that actively works to protect the public," Bass said.
The need for a flexible process grew more urgent this week amid news that the president will limit discretionary spending increases at federal agencies. The spending cap threatens to aggravate an already serious problem: for years, agencies have seen resources drained, undercutting their ability to write and enforce regulations that protect consumers, workers, and the environment.
"In light of anticipated tightening of agency budgets, the administration must do everything it can to help agencies make efficient use of their time and resources," Bass noted. "Any regulatory reform effort should limit political review of agency regulations and reduce delay." Currently, agencies are required to perform any number of analyses before writing new standards, including the notoriously unreliable cost-benefit analysis.
OMB Watch has been a staunch critic of the regulatory process, raising concerns about the bias against regulation, the length of time it takes to publish a final rule, the quality of regulations that have been published, the interference of OIRA in the substantive work of agencies, politics superseding science, and the lack of energy behind enforcement of existing rules. OMB Watch has urged the Obama administration to restructure the relationship between OIRA and rulemaking agencies, to respect the rulemaking authority that Congress has delegated to agencies, to make the process more transparent and accessible to the public, to streamline the regulatory process, and to restore the importance of science in decision making.