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Memorandum on the Regulatory Planning Process

January 04, 1985

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
Subject: Development of Administration's Regulatory Program

With your help and active support, this Administration has substantially reduced the burden and intrusiveness of Federal regulatory programs. In the past three years, we have eliminated many needless rules, revised ill-conceived ones, and held the number of new rules to the minimum necessary. The policies and procedures of Executive Order No. 12291 have imposed long needed discipline on the rulemaking process. As a result, Federal paperwork and the size of the Federal Register have declined for four consecutive years—for the first time ever. Our accomplishments so far have been substantial, and we can take pride in them.

Much more can and should be done, however. Regulation has become one of the most important and costly activities of government, yet it is managed far less systematically than direct government spending. Several statutes and Executive Order No. 12291 establish procedures for agency rulemaking, but this is only the final stage of the regulatory process. Developing a government rule often involves years of studies, hearings, and intermediate decisions before even a proposed rule is issued for public comment. Frequently, senior agency officials are involved only after these earlier activities have greatly narrowed the options for final action and precluded effective Administration policy review.

Today, I have signed an Executive Order to establish a regulatory planning process by which we will develop and publish the Administration's Regulatory Program for each year. Under this process, it will be the personal responsibility of the head of each agency to determine—at the beginning of the regulatory process, not at the end-whether a given regulatory venture is consistent with the goals of the Administration and whether agency resources should be committed to it. Each agency head will thus be accountable for the management of the regulatory process, to ensure that policy options are not narrowed prematurely and that each significant regulatory proposal will be considered in relation to others.

To do this, I am requesting each regulatory agency to draft its proposed regulatory policies at the beginning of each year and to set forth a statement of priority regulatory activities, including pre-rulemaking actions, that constitute the agency's regulatory program for the year. This document should explain how each new activity will carry out the regulatory policies of this Administration and specify the agency's plan for reviewing and revising existing regulatory programs to bring them into accord with Administration policies.

After approval by the head of the agency, the agency's draft regulatory program should be submitted for review by the Office of Management and Budget. This review should focus on consistency with general Administration policy, and with the draft regulatory programs submitted by other agencies. The Office of Management and Budget will circulate a draft of the Administration's Regulatory Program for agency comment, review, and interagency consideration if necessary before the document is put in final form for publication. Issues may be raised for further review by a Cabinet Council or by me or by such other group as I may designate. This review will not interfere with the exercise of authority committed by statute to heads of agencies.

The final regulatory programs of all agencies will be published by the Office of Management and Budget in May as the Administration's Regulatory Program for the twelve-month period beginning April 1, 1985. During the year, this document will be used as a basis for reviews of individual rules under Executive Order No. 12291. At the end of the year, it should be used to assess the agency's performance and to prepare the next year's program.

I am directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to implement this regulatory review process immediately and to establish the procedures under which these documents will be submitted to the Director and reviewed. For their first submission, agencies shall submit their draft regulatory program to the Director on the date specified by him. The Director will prepare for my consideration the goals and priorities for all agencies in a manner similar to the identification of significant issues in the fiscal budgetary process.

I am convinced that this process will result in substantial improvements in Federal regulatory policy. It will help ensure that each major step in the process of rule development is consistent with Administration policy. It will enable agency heads to manage agency regulatory actions more effectively, at the same time that it enables the President to hold agency heads more closely accountable for implementing Administration policy.

While ambitious, this program will build on our earlier efforts that have proven successful-the Executive Order No. 12291 review process, the reviews of inherited rules by the Task Force on Regulatory Relief, and the annual "paperwork budget" process.

I am confident that your wholehearted support will make this next stage of our regulatory reform program equally successful.


Ronald Reagan, Memorandum on the Regulatory Planning Process Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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