Agencies Use Internet to Improve Service, Avoid Anthrax

The Federal Communications Commission and the Office of Management and Budget have unveiled plans to move more interactions with citizens to the Internet. The FCC's action comes in response to the threat of anthrax exposure through the mail.

The FCC announced new guidelines Oct. 17 for document delivery. Among the changes, until further notice, the FCC will not accept documents delivered by hand or by messenger at its Washington headquarters. It will accept such deliveries at its Capitol Heights, Md., facility as of Oct. 22.

"The commission finds it necessary at this time to make these changes to its procedures to protect the health and safety of its employees," the announcement said. The commission encourages its customers to use its electronic systems to facilitate filing documents.

The full text of the FCC's revised procedures can be found at www.fcc.gov.

OMB's plan to move to the Internet is to allow greater public examination of its regulatory and paperwork review processes. The agency's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs plans a multiyear expansion in the amount and scope of information it discloses to the public through the Internet.

The goal "is to increase public understanding of OMB's regulatory review responsibilities, thereby allowing public scrutiny, criticism and praise of what we do," said John Graham, OIRA administrator, in an Oct. 18 statement. "If OMB is to be a credible advocate of e-government, we must practice e-government ourselves."

By Nov. 1, OMB intends to provide greater access to information on regulatory review through its Web site and through the government's portal at www.FirstGov.gov. This includes:

*Lists of regulations under review, updated daily;

*Monthly statistical summaries on reviews by the agency and the economic significance of the rule;

*Copies of review-related letters from OMB and OIRA to agencies;

*Information on meetings with outside parties required to be disclosed by executive order.

In the long term, funds have been committed to developing a new computerized tracking system to manage the reviews of both regulations and information collection requests. The system will replace a 20-year-old tracking system with electronic capabilities for submission of public comments and dissemination of OIRA documents.

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