David vs. Godzilla, OIRA and the Federal Agencies

From: Mercatus Center | George Mason University

Before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations

Richard Williams

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The Growing Imbalance between OIRA and Other Federal Agencies

Employment in federal regulatory agencies almost doubled between 1980 and 2016, from 146,000 employees to 280,000. When it was established in 1981, OIRA had 77 staff members, but in 2013, it had only 38. Today, most federal regulations are promulgated without OIRA review. In the decade ending in 2014, regulatory agencies issued more than 37,000 regulations, yet 92 percent of them were not reviewed by OIRA. For the typically 8 percent of rulemakings OIRA reviews, its primary job is to evaluate the content and quality of regulatory impact analyses, in particular the estimates of benefits and costs of a proposed regulation. Of the roughly 3,000 major rules that OIRA reviewed between 2004 and 2014, however, only 116 included estimates of both benefits and costs. The absence of such important information makes OIRA’s job difficult, to say the least.

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Conclusion

OIRA is no longer any match for the huge number of agencies and regulations that they issue. Restoring OIRA to its original strength, adding risk assessment professionals, and tasking it with ensuring that multiple agency rules do not bog down compliance when agencies bunch up rules can help to ensure that the federal government only issues rules informed by sound analysis and that no industries face compliance dates that are overwhelming.

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