Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the Conclusion section of “GAO-14-714, Federal Rulemaking: Agencies Included Key Elements of Cost-Benefit Analysis, but Explanations of Regulations’ Significance Could Be More Transparent.” In the section of the report discussing agency comments on the evaluation, GAO noted that OMB was “not opposed to the language in our recommendation directing agencies to include the relevant portion of Executive Order 12866’s definition of significant regulatory action in the preamble to rules.”
Federal agencies and OIRA could do more to improve the transparency of the rulemaking process. Our review of 109 significant rules showed that some agencies provided clear information about why some rules were deemed significant, but many did not. Publishing information regarding the reasons for designating a rule as significant would enhance transparency in the rulemaking process and would align with a key component of internal control requirements. Publication of this information would also reinforce the executive orders and guidance documents directing agencies to take specific steps to be more transparent in their decision-making and operations. In addition to such direction, executive orders contain criteria for how agencies should categorize their regulations as significant regulatory actions; publishing these reasons may contribute to a more consistent application of the criteria. Without information explaining the reason why rules are designated as significant, Congress, the public, and other federal agencies may have difficulty interpreting why some rules are significant and others are not. With this information, agencies’ existing efforts to conduct regulatory cost-benefit analysis would be even more transparent and agencies would be able to better plan for future regulatory actions.