the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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“Lookback” Progress

As part of the Administration's ambitious regulatory lookback, Cass Sunstein announces new agency progress reports that provide an update on recent achievements and new initiatives.

Ed Note: This post is updated with a correction on HUD borrower savings as those figures have not yet been finalized.

President Obama is committed to a regulatory approach that protects public safety and welfare while also promoting economic growth and job creation. In January 2011, the President issued a historic Executive Order, setting forth new cost-saving, burden-reducing requirements for federal regulations, and requiring an ambitious government-wide “lookback” at existing regulations. In response to that requirement, over two dozen agencies identified more than 500 reforms. Agencies have already proposed or finalized more than 100 of them.

On May 10, we announced a series of final rules that will save nearly $6 billion over the next five years. Other rules, now proposed or finalized, will produce billions of dollars in additional savings, producing total savings in excess of $10 billion from just a small fraction of the reform initiatives.

Also on May10, the President institutionalized his regulatory lookback with an historic Executive Order requiring federal agencies to continue to scrutinize rules on the books to see if they really make sense. That Executive Order takes three new steps. To promote priority-setting, the Order requires agencies to identify reforms that will produce significant quantifiable savings, especially (but not only) for small business. To promote accountability, the Order requires agencies to report to the public regularly on their past efforts and their future plans -- with details and deadlines. To promote public participation, the Order directs agencies to obtain public comments to see which rules should be simplified, improved or repealed.

There is a lot more to come, but today, numerous agencies are releasing progress reports, including both recent achievements and new initiatives, large and small. To offer just a few examples:

  • On May 21, the Department of Agriculture streamlined its meat and poultry labeling approval process, creating a new, web-based electronic alternative to paper applications, making the process faster, cheaper, and more accurate.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration plans to eliminate unjustified regulations imposed on the railroad industry, streamlining and simplifying existing requirements and saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is finalizing today a rule eliminating a reporting requirement imposed on truck drivers, doing away with roughly thirty-eight million reports annually – an amount that represents over $50 million in annual paperwork savings.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to eliminate burdensome and unnecessary requirements for mortgage insurance, thus enhancing consumer choice, reducing administrative and paperwork burdens on HUD and the borrowers, and producing savings for prospective borrowers.

With the President’s recent Executive Order, agencies will be engaging directly with the public for ideas about streamlining, improving, or eliminating existing rules. As that Executive Order states, “members of the public, including those directly and indirectly affected by regulations, as well as State, local, and tribal governments, have important information about the actual effects of existing  regulations,” and agencies must invite public suggestions “about regulations in need of retrospective review and about appropriate modifications to such regulations.” We eagerly look forward to those suggestions.

Cass Sunstein is the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.