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Federal Communications Commission: Federal Advisory Committees Follow Requirements, but FCC Should Improve Its Process for Appointing Committee Members

GAO-05-36 Published: Dec 10, 2004. Publicly Released: Dec 10, 2004.
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FCC has regulatory authority over many complex telecommunications issues. To obtain expert advice on these issues, FCC often calls upon its federal advisory committees, comprised mostly of members from industry, private consulting, advocacy groups, and government. These committees must follow the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which sets requirements on the formation and operation of such committees. Because of Congressional interest in how FCC receives advice from outside experts, this report provides information on (1) FCC's current advisory committees, (2) the extent to which the committees follow applicable laws, (3) how FCC makes use of the committees' advice, and (4) the non-FACA advisory groups that FCC has established.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Communications Commission To better ensure that FCC's federal advisory committee members are fully informed about the advice they are being asked to provide, the FCC should establish a process for determining and documenting the type of advice federal advisory committee members are expected to contribute. FCC should appoint advisory committee members to serve as representatives only after making a clear determination of what interests those members are expected to represent on the committee. Committee members who are not representing a specific interest or viewpoint may be more appropriately appointed as special government employees. For representative members, FCC should specifically state in their appointment letters what particular interest those members are appointed to represent. This statement will be especially important for the committee members affiliated with universities, law firms, or private consulting firms, since it is not always clear or transparent what interests FCC would like them to represent.
Closed – Implemented
FCC is no longer classifying all Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) members as representative members. It is also informing those who are serving as special government employees of that status and its implications.

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