OMB unveils plan for rulemaking portal

OMB Director Mitch Daniels: "Consolidating technology investments will better serve citizens by decreasing existing islands of automation and minimizing government costs." (Photo and front photo by Henrik G. de Gyor.)

Office of Management and Budget officials recently outlined plans to launch a new federal portal by Dec. 31 where individuals can comment on proposed federal rules. The online rulemaking project is one of 24 e-government initiatives designed to make the government more efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of citizens.

In a May 3 memo to agency heads, OMB Director Mitch Daniels said the initiative will consolidate fragmented rulemaking efforts. Currently, individuals must know the agency responsible for developing a regulation in order to view the relevant materials online, and citizens generally must comment in writing.

"Consolidating technology investments will better serve citizens by decreasing existing islands of automation and minimizing government costs," Daniels said in the memo. Developing and maintaining redundant rulemaking Web sites across the government will cost more than $70 million over the next 18 months, according to OMB.

OMB has identified at least nine potentially redundant agency systems related to the rulemaking process. Spending on these systems totals nearly $28 million in 2002 and is projected to exceed $32 million in 2003, according to the memo.

"Millions of Americans want to easily find and comment on proposed regulation. This action means that, by the end of this year, the public will no longer need to navigate through a sea of agency Web sites to comment on regulations that will impact their lives," said Mark Forman, OMB associate director for information technology and e-government.

According to the Pew Foundation of Philadelphia, 42 million Americans viewed federal regulations via the Internet in 2001, and 23 million commented on proposed rules, regulations and policies.

According to the National Archives, the public retrieved more than 65 million documents from the online Federal Register in 2001.

The Department of Transportation, the managing partner of the initiative, is working with other partner agencies to develop a new business case that will include a technical assessment of the various systems. The assessment and business case will identify online features and functions to incorporate into the new Web portal.

The second phase of the project, to be finished by Dec. 31, 2003, will consolidate duplicative back-end information technology systems and deploy an integrated solution, the memo said.

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