40th Anniversary of the Paperwork Reduction Act

Bottom Line

President Carter signed the Paperwork Reduction Act on December 11, 1980 making it unique in the history of the  Presidency in that oversight would be exercised over one component of the administrative state on a daily basis by intervening in its insatiable appetite for more information.  It should be noted that this landmark effort was preceded some nine years earlier by another precedential action which gave the President oversight authority over environmental, health and safety regulation, the Nixon Quality of Life Review, which provided the information base for designing process changes championed by the Ford, Carter and Reagan Administrations.

Of equal significance is the fact that the passage of the Paperwork Reduction Act gave a statutory basis to the establishment of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs which became  the  linchpin for the initiation of centralized regulatory review as reported in this article in the Washington Post in 1981. The precursor to OIRA was the Office of Regulatory and Information Policy established administratively by the Carter Administration.

A public discussion of the future direction of OIRA is timely because it just turned 40 years of age.  Arguments can be made that it is best to have such a debate in public and before the confirmation hearing for the next Administrator of OIRA. Also see 50th Anniversary of Centralized Regulatory Review.

Background Materials

Three controlling documents describing each of the aforementioned events are:

OIRA and its Origins:  Implications for Management of the Administrative State

OIRA’s Formative Years

Quality of Life Review

These landmark actions have been the focus of  numerous publications including:

Management of the Administrative State: The Fifty Year Record

Centralized Regulatory Review

A library of supporting material includes:

Different individuals will have different interpretations of the significance of the enactment of the Paperwork Reduction Act, hopefully the aforementioned works will make available relevant material to reviewing parties of all persuasions.


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