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How Does OIRA Make Agencies More Accountable?

Does the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs improve the work produced by administrative agencies? Professor Susan Dudley explains how OIRA can provide a useful objective analysis that helps agencies work together, avoid duplication, and gain a broader perspective on issues. OIRA also provides a channel of communication between the President and the executive agencies under review. https://youtube.com/watch?v=5fyo_aLcWok


OIRA is a very important institution for making agencies accountable for several reasons. The most important thing is probably to recognize that agencies tend to have a narrow focused mission. Even within a big agency, say the Environmental Protection Agency that has a broad goal, individual groups will be focused on one particular pollutant or one particular problem. When you spend 10, 20, or more years of your life focused on that one issue you know it is the most important problem in the world, if not the universe, and that no amount of resources devoted to it will be too much. That tunnel vision of agencies may push them to go to extremes in dealing with the problem that they are responsible for. It also makes them more susceptible to special interests who may want to lobby or influence how the regulations are made. An advantage of an office like OIRA is that it sits separate from the individual agencies. It also has an advantage in that it is able to bring lots of different agencies together. that provides a more cross-cutting perspective on each individual issue seeing where different agencies may be handling things differently and where there may be conflict or duplication. Being able to from that perch, be able to see the trade-offs that all these different possible policies create is very valuable and it makes OIRA better able to see those trade-offs and have that broader perspective. It makes them much less susceptible to special interest arguments. Having that cross-cutting vision I think is one of the reasons why OIRA is a very successful institution. A second reason is that it is a group of individuals who have skills in regulatory analysis, thinking through not only what are the intended consequences of this policy but what might go wrong? What are the unintended outcomes? It has that skill set. Then finally it's part of the executive office of the president and that means it answers to the person who the entire country has elected. That also it has strengths and weaknesses because there are times when political folks in the White House may have a point of view that would diverge from what OIRA's more analytical analysis might be. In my experience, those were few and that more often than not OIRA brings that broader perspective but it also has the clout of being part of the White House, part of the executive office of the president.

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