eRulemaking Challenges in the United States

November 01, 2010

Rick Otis

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We define eRulemaking as the application of information technology to the process of developing regulations. It offers the potential to substantially transform the process and the use of regulatory information by improving internal government operations, enhancing transparency and public engagement, creating more productive deliberation and collaboration mechanisms, reducing time delays, simplifying terminology, making document formats more consistent and understandable, and improving regulatory outcomes. It also offers the potential to better coordinate related statutes, regulations, legal reviews, compliance, enforcement, and programmatic evaluation.

Over the past 15 years, various efforts have been undertaken by the U.S. government, think tanks, interest groups, and academia to advance eRulemaking. These include a research effort by the National Science Foundation, small and large scale use of software by individual federal agencies to manage their internal regulatory processes, a federal government-wide on-line regulatory docket and public commenting system, and academic research papers and forums.

While some eRulemaking improvements have been made, substantial opportunities remain. Many federal agencies employ complex, time consuming, and manual work processes. Public understanding, access, and engagement remains limited. Transparency continues to be circumscribed. Related activities (such as developing laws and regulations) remain distinct processes. Congressional interest is limited. Little effort seems to be dedicated to developing an overall vision for eRulemaking and putting in place the steps necessary to address these and other challenges.