The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Jimmy Carter
Improving Government Regulations Statement on Executive Order 12044.
March 23, 1978

I have often said that the American people are sick and tired of excessive Federal regulation. To many citizens who have to deal with it on a regular basis, the Federal Government has become like a foreign country, complete with its own interests and its own language.

As a farmer and a small businessman, and later as a Governor, I shared this resentment and frustration. I resented the cost of Government redtape, the interference it represented in my business and personal life, and not least of all, having to deal with the bureaucratic gobbledygook itself. I know I am not alone in this frustration. Many Members of Congress have expressed to me their personal concerns in this area.

I came to Washington to reorganize a Federal Government which had grown more preoccupied with its own bureaucratic needs than with those of the people. This Executive order is an instrument for reversing this trend. It promises to make Federal regulations clearer, less burdensome, and more cost-effective.

First, it will direct that regulations be written in plain English. Government regulations are usually written by experts for experts. Your clear mandate will be to translate regulations into language a small businessman—who must be his own expert-can understand.

Second, this order opens up the regulatory process to broad public involvement. It requires that departments and agencies issue regular "early warning" announcements of any significant new regulatory action that is being considered. This announcement must contain the name and telephone number of a specific official responsible in this area.

Third, it requires that you be personally and clearly accountable for the regulations that are being considered. You must sign off on items on the agency agenda; be satisfied that feasible alternatives have been carefully examined; and assure that regulatory burdens are reduced. It requires that the public be given the name, address, and telephone number of a knowledgeable agency official who can answer questions about new regulations.

Fourth, it directs that whenever a regulation may have a major economic consequence, the agency must conduct an early and rigorous examination of all alternatives of achieving the stated objective. This requirement will ensure that Federal regulations are cost-effective and impose minimum economic burdens on the private sector.

Finally, and very importantly, it requires every agency to undertake a systematic, "sunset" review of existing regulations. The agencies are to eliminate those which are unnecessary and reform others to reduce the burden to the minimum.

Many of these reforms are already underway at EPA, as well as HEW, DOT, Labor, and the Department of Energy.

I am confident that efforts of executive agencies to carry out this order will be matched by similar efforts on the part of the independent regulatory agencies. Many commissions are already well on their way in this regard. The Federal Communications Commission, for example, has just completed their rewrite of regulations that affect millions of CB radio owners. Here's a line from the old version:
"Except as provided in paragraph B of this section, applications, amendments thereto, and related statements of fact required by the Commission shall be personally signed by the applicant, if the applicant is an individual."

Instead of that gobbledygook, the new version says: "If you are an individual, you must sign your own application personally."

This is an example of the kind of change the Executive order is meant to encourage.

Citation: Jimmy Carter: "Improving Government Regulations Statement on Executive Order 12044. ", March 23, 1978. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
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