Executive Order 13422 and OMB’s Bulletin on Good Guidance Practices will lead to major changes in the way federal agencies issue guidance.
The first step for each agency is to develop and publish inventories of their significant guidance documents. The deadlines for agency compliance are July 24, 2007 (for significant guidance documents issued on or after January 25, 2007) and August 23, 2007 (for all significant guidance documents).
The number and import of guidance documents issued by federal regulatory agencies is hard to estimate. for any individual agency or its component parts. there is no single place to look to find them. OMB’s Bulletin on Good Guidance Practices (GGP) set in motion new procedures for agencies to follow in issuing guidance. In addition, the GGP established new requirements for agencies to make these documents readily available to the public and, on occasion, subject to public comment.
Today we focus on the task of building the inventory of guidance documents. GGP Sec III(1) sets forth the inventory requirements:
- Each agency shall maintain on its website — or as a link on an agency’s website to the electronic list posted on a component or subagency’s website — a current list of its significant guidance documents in effect. The list shall include the name of each significant guidance document, any document identification number, and issuance and revision dates. The agency shall provide a link from the current list to each significant guidance document that is in effect. New significant guidance documents and their website links shall be added promptly to this list, no later than 30 days from the date of issuance.
- The list shall identify significant guidance documents that have been added,
revised or withdrawn in the past year.
For significant guidance documents issued on or after January 24, 2007, agencies’ web-based inventories must be complete within 180 days (July 24, 2007). They have an additional 30 days to complete these inventories for significant guidance documents issued before January 24, 2007.
The GGP says the web-based utility must be a list containing certain minimum specified data fields. Agencies are clearly permitted (and no doubt encouraged) to make their lists searchable using conventional web tools. However, a search utility alone would not comply because it would not be a list.
The requirement for a list is logical. Internet-based search utilities can be very useful, but their value depends on what data the utility is designed to search. Moreover, the extent to which the public can use a search utility effectively depends on how well these data fields correspond to search algorithms, which often are highly intuitive. Agencies should maximize the public utility of their lists and avoid any technology that makes access cumbersome or complicated for the public.
The GGP requires each list to include the following data elements:
- The name of the guidance document
- Document identification number, if any
- Issuance date
- Revision date, if any
- A link to the text
These data elements are minimalist, and unfortunately, they will not maximize a list’s value to the public. Many other data elements ought to be included to increase a list’s practical utility, such as:
- The activity to which and the persons to whom the guidance document applies
- A citation to the statutory provision or regulation (in Code of Federal Regulations format) to which it applies or interprets
Interestingly, these data elements are required for new significant guidance documents. So it’s unclear why OMB did not include them in its list of data elements required on the web-based list. Agencies making a good faith effort to implement the GGP will include these data elements for each guidance document on their list.
Section III(2)(a) also requires agencies to establish a mechanism for public feedback. Agencies making a good faith effort to implement the GGP will include this mechanism on the same page as the list.
For the entire text, click here.