The Views of a Political Scientist on the Institutionalization of OIRA

Given the high priority accorded to controlling the size of the regulatory state by the Trump Administration the upcoming hearings on the nominee for the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is being accorded considerable attention by a range of interested stakeholders.

Although it is likely that the Senate hearings will focus on pending regulatory issues a more compelling line of inquiry is whether the new leader(s) of OIRA share a commonality with their predecessors concerning the need for the institutionalization of OIRA which  is dependent upon the exercise of neutral competence  as a basic pillar of its sustainability. If the aforementioned commonality exists it provides a basis for projecting the likely outcome of forthcoming decisions and a determination as to whether or not they will be in accord with former paradigms.

A must read presentation by Professor Rudalevige of the Department of Government at Bowdoin College to the Midwest Political Science Association is an analysis of the factors and passions that lead to the creation of OIRA.

The presentation is not only based upon a review of the published literature but is also based upon an in-depth review of archival information collected from the National Archives, Presidential Libraries and private collections.

The thrust of the presentation is best stated in this statement:

It excavates the genesis of regulatory review efforts dating to Lyndon Johnson through Nixon’s Quality of Life Review to the early days of OIRA under Ronald Reagan. The narrative is grounded in extensive archival research that traces the choices that led to OIRA’s organizational development and its place in the presidential branch. Structure is shown to be necessary —but not sufficient—for presidential management of the regulatory state.

Successful institutionalization is not simply a matter of structure and process – that is, adding a box to an organizational flow chart – but requires resources ranging from staff, autonomy, political leverage, and expertise.

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