Commerce document-tracking system goes live

Regulations.gov

Commerce Department officials went live this week with a new Web-based system that will enable them to internally draft, track and manage regulatory documents more efficiently.

The Paperwork and Regulation Information Management Environment (PRIME), which is a modified version of the Transportation Department’s regulatory tracking system, took about two years and $300,000 to develop.

The system is being rolled out in phases across Commerce, but the main beneficiary will be the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Jim Sargent, special assistant to NMFS’ chief information officer, said the agency, which oversees the conservation and management of marine ecosystems, is responsible for about 80 percent of the regulations drafted at Commerce.

“We are very much a science-based agency, but we are also a regulation mill, so to speak,” he said. “In any year, we have about 300 regulatory actions and that puts us as the third or fourth biggest rule-making agency in the federal government.”

Sargent said NMFS has been working toward improving the way it does business internally and has also pushed the prime responsibility for developing regulations to its regional offices. Officials at those offices are being trained on the new business processes and the new system, which should be completed by the end of May, he added.

The new system is expected to make the process of drafting regulations and getting approval easier through greater transparency, communication and accountability.

“One of the things that it supports is submissions of draft and final regulatory documents for review electronically,” Sargent said. “Before, we had to e-mail them, which was electronic, but some of the steps involved actual paper versions of it. So we have streamlined that.”

PRIME replaces a system that was unable to support the department’s requirements to track and monitor documents and the Office of Management and Budget’s e-rulemaking specifications.

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