OMB tells agencies to standardize electronic regulatory dockets

New best practices guide for electronic dockets coming soon, memo says

The Obama administration has told federal agencies to standardize the way they present information in electronic dockets for regulations to make it easier to search and access content, according to a new memo.

Agencies publish their rule-making documents electronically at Regulations.gov, FederalRegister.gov, and agency Web sites. However, there are differences in how each agency labels and organizes the data.

“Currently, agencies do not always use consistent naming conventions and search criteria. The resulting inconsistency imposes an unnecessary burden on members of the public when they are attempting to review regulatory content,” Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in the memo dated May 28.

In the next six months, the government's eRulemaking Program Management Office and partner agencies will produce a best-practices document for all agencies that use Regulations.gov and Federal Docket Management System, the memo said.

That document will establish a common taxonomy and data protocols for the various document types, Sunstein wrote.

Agencies should aim to make their electronic regulatory dockets on Regulations.gov consistent with their paper-based dockets as much as possible, Sunstein said. Both dockets should provide the public with access to all relevant materials.

For example, supporting materials such as notices, significant guidances, environmental impact statements, regulatory impact analyses, and information collections should be included in the electronic docket. These materials should be in a machine-readable format to enable the public to perform full-text searches of the documents and to extract information, the memo said.

In addition, to ease the burden on agencies, the e-rulemaking office will work with the General Services Administration and the Regulatory Information Service Center to fill in some of the data in the dockets on the federal docket management system. Agencies will use this data and metadata in their public dockets on Regulations.gov, Sunstein wrote.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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