OMB wants government to be easier to deal with

The Obama administration issued guidance June 22 to show agencies ways and reasons to reduce their regulatory burdens and lessen the required paperwork for outside entities that need to interact wit the government. The guidance lists a number of steps to make those interactions less troublesome.

To continue efforts to decrease regulatory trouble, officials want all agencies to attempt to identify at least one initiative, or combination of them, that would eliminate at least 50,000 hours in annual burdens.

To help, the administration wants agencies to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and redundant collections. Officials should streamline the ways they collect information by reducing the number of questions on forms and increasing simplicity.
  • Provide respondents the option of using streamlined short forms for situations that are of less importance or complexity.
  • Consider exempting small businesses from some required reports.

“Because of economies of scale, a collection [of information] may be disproportionately more burdensome for a small entity than a large one,” the guidance states.

More goals:

  • Simplify applications. Renewing or applying for federal licenses or for participation in government programs can be time-consuming, confusing, and unnecessarily complex, the guidance states. In fact, it may discourage participation.
  • Opt for pre-populated electronic forms for applications that are unchanged from prior ones. In addition, the guidance states that agencies should think about dispensing with forms and rely more on automatic approvals.
  • Use sampling when it’s not possible get data from everyone in a field. Agencies may be able to justify sampling to reduce respondent burden, cost, and complexity.
  • Become more efficient by using electronic communications
  • Ask for information less often. Agencies should reexamine the frequency of routine reporting. Fewer reports may still meet program needs, the guidance states.
  • Keep fewer administrative records. Those records can take up valuable storage space, time, and human resources to maintain them.
  • Re-use data that the agency already has, as much as possible.

The guidance is based on President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13610, which requires agencies to focus on cumulative burdens and give priority to reforms to reduce regulatory complexities.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 SPMayor Summit Point, wv

While the stated goal is admirable the Government begins on a false premise. One of the criticisms of the regulatory process is its understatement of the burden hours required to comply with any one reporting requirement. The 50,000 goal looks significant in that it gives the impression of significant reporting reductions that are based on these understated estimates.It would be reasonable to state actual burden hours are substantially greater on average by a factor no less than 3-5x. The data collection efforts contractors need to implement and the associated cost are substantially greater than recognized by the regulatory process.

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 Owen Ambur Silver Spring, MD

If the information is public, regulated entities should be permitted and expected to post it on their own websites in open, standard, machine-readable format. All they should be required to submit to government is the URL. Prospects should also be explored for replacing regulation by bureaucrats with the power of social networking, supported by open data, to create market incentives and enforce responsible behavior.

Tue, Jun 26, 2012

All they need to do is allow businesses to do what the federal government does all the time -- opt out of the requirement for themselves.

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