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Highlights

Under Executive Order 12866, the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviews hundreds of agency rules each year before they are published in the Federal Register. Those reviews can have a significant effect on a broad array of public policies. GAO was asked to (1) describe OIRA's review process and any changes in its policies or processes in recent years, (2) provide detailed information about rules submitted by nine health, safety, or environmental agencies that were returned, withdrawn, or changed at OIRA's suggestion, and (3) describe how OIRA decided that certain existing rules merited high priority review.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should define the transparency requirements applicable to the agencies and OIRA in section 6 of Executive Order 12866 in such a way that they include not only the formal review period, but also the informal review period when OIRA says it can have its most important impact on agencies' rules. Doing so would make the trigger for the transparency requirements applicable to OIRA's and the agencies' interaction consistent with the trigger for the transparency requirements applicable to OIRA regarding its communications with outside parties.
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should change OIRA's database to clearly differentiate within the "consistent with change" outcome category which rules were substantively changed at OIRA's suggestion or recommendation and which were changed in other ways and for other reasons.
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve the implementation of the transparency requirements in the executive order that are applicable to OIRA. Specifically, the Administrator should more clearly indicate in the meeting log which regulatory action was being discussed and the affiliations of the participants in those meetings.
Closed - Implemented
In his written comments on the draft report, the Administrator of OIRA said that OIRA planned to review its implementation of the transparency requirements and, in particular, would work to improve the clarity of its meeting log. The OMB website link providing information on meetings and outside communications now more clearly identifies which regulatory action was discussed at a meeting and the affiliation (including client represented, if applicable) of the participants in the meeting. On May 18, 2005, an OMB representative confirmed that OIRA agreed with this recommendation and took action to improve the transparency of its meeting logs in response to GAO's recommendation.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve the implementation of the transparency requirements in the executive order that are applicable to OIRA. Specifically, OIRA should reexamine its current policy that only documents exchanged by OIRA branch chiefs and above need to be disclosed because most of the documents that are exchanged while rules are under review at OIRA are exchanged between agency staff and OIRA desk officers.
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve the implementation of the transparency requirements in the executive order that are applicable to OIRA. Specifically, the Administrator should establish procedures whereby either OIRA or the agencies disclose the reasons why rules are withdrawn from OIRA review.
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve the implementation of the transparency requirements in the executive order that are applicable to rulemaking agencies. Specifically, the Administrator should define the types of "substantive" changes during the OIRA review process that agencies should disclose as including not only changes made to the regulatory text but also other, noneditorial changes that could ultimately affect the rules' application (e.g., explanations supporting the choice of one alternative over another and solicitations of comments on the estimated benefits and costs of regulatory options).
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve the implementation of the transparency requirements in the executive order that are applicable to rulemaking agencies. Specifically, the Administrator should instruct agencies to put information about changes made in a rule after submission for OIRA's review and those made at OIRA's suggestion or recommendation in the agencies' public rulemaking dockets, and to do so within a reasonable period after the rules have been published.
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should improve the implementation of the transparency requirements in the executive order that are applicable to rulemaking agencies. Specifically, the Administrator should encourage agencies to use "best practice" methods of documentation that clearly describe those changes (e.g., like those used by FDA, EPA's Office of Water, or FMCSA).
Closed - Not Implemented
OMB disagreed with the recommendation and made no change to its transparency requirements. We followed up on this recommendation under one of the objectives addressed in GAO-09-205, and OIRA officials confirmed that the agency did not implement the recommendation. We are therefore closing this recommendation as not implemented.

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