When an organization fails to get the little things right, I have difficulty believing they are competent to get the big things right either. That’s the way I feel about the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).
OIRA is part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), was created by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, and is charged with reviewing certain proposed federal regulations and approving agencies’ requests to collect data from the public. One of OIRA’s responsibilities, as outlined in the 1993 Executive Order (EO) 12866, is coordinating the publication of the Administration’s Regulatory Plan for the upcoming fiscal year. This document is supposed to be published in October to facilitate regulatory planning by affected parties and to make the rulemaking process more accessible to the public.
October 2011 is long gone, as is November and December, but the Obama Administration’s regulatory czar has yet to publish the Regulatory Plan. When I asked OMB’s press office on December 30 when OIRA expects to issue the document, no one with information about the plan was at work that day. The Obama Administration’s reg czar is now the first in history to miss not only the October deadline, but to fail to publish altogether in a calendar year its Regulatory Plan.
Since the time EO 12866 was issued in 1993, 18 annual Regulatory Plans have been published. The Clinton Administration met the October deadline twice, and published the remaining six of its eight plans in November. The GW Bush Administration’s regulatory czar only met the October deadline once, publishing six of its eight plans in December, and one in November. The Obama Administration is two-for-two missing the October deadline, publishing its 2009 and 2010 regulatory plans on December 7 and December 20, respectively.
As the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) reminds us, missing deadlines is not the only example of mismanagment and overreach by OIRA. In a March 2010 letter to the White House Counsel’s office, CPR scholars provide example after example of OIRA’s violations of its authority. These include OIRA’s failure to make public all documents exchanged between itself and agencies during its review of propsed rules and insisting on reviewing and approving of agency guidance documents and other materials not covered by EO 12866. I’ve written about OIRA’s failure to follow its own rules for disclosing the meetings it’s hosted with private interests about proposed agency rules.
Admininstration officials, including the OIRA director Cass Sunstein, say they have been transforming the federal regulatory system. They insist their reforms emphasize transparency, predictability and certainty. It’s difficult to see how that jives with OIRA’s performance, including the simple task of meeting the deadline for publishing an annual Regulatory Plan.