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Recommendations of the Administrative Conference of the United States





1 C.F.R. s 305.80-3

s 305.80-3 Interpretation and Implementation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (Recommendation No. 80-3).

The Federal Advisory Committee Act was enacted in 1972 in response to a wide range of criticisms concerning the activities and influence of advisory committees operating within and alongside government agencies. The need for the large number of committees in existence was questioned, and there were complaints over lack of adequate public information concerning their purposes, their membership, the course of their deliberations, and the extent of their influence. In addition, fears were expressed that committees were often inadequately balanced to reflect the spectrum of interests affected by their recommendations. Finally, the Government seemed frequently to fail to implement, or even to respond to, important recommendations offered by prestigious committees after protracted and expensive research, hearings and study.

It cannot be expected that FACA in operation would have wholly silenced the criticisms which led to its enactment. Yet, the Conference's study does indicate certain positive results from FACA, including more careful evaluation by Government of the need for establishing or continuing advisory committees, more attention paid to their makeup and responsibilities, and more openness in their deliberations. We are not prepared to recommend at this time any major revision of the statute, either to embrace more activities by committees and similar groups, or to reduce the coverage and requirements of the Act. However, there are areas where clarification and perhaps some narrowing of coverage would ease problems of administration and remove artificial barriers to communication between the agencies and the interested public. In addition, a more vigorously coordinated implementation of FACA by the Executive Branch would provide more guidance to the agencies and the public and a more consistent application of FACA within Government and in the courts.


1. The Federal Advisory Committee Act directs the Office of Management and Budget to "prescribe administrative guidelines and management controls applicable to advisory committees." This authority has since been transferred to the General Services Administration by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1977, and Executive Order 12024. Neither OMB nor GSA has made adequate use of this statutory authority to assist the agencies in resolving difficult questions involving the coverage of the Act, particularly the applicability of the Act to ad hoc and informally established advisory groups. As a result, courts have been faced with the need to resolve such issues without the assistance of authoritative administrative guidelines. Accordingly, GSA, in consultation with OMB and the Department of Justice, should undertake a revision of the guidelines at present contained in OMB Circular A-63, so as to provide greater assistance to the agencies, and, in particular, to deal with the problems of classification of committees experienced under the Act (see paragraph 2, below). The proposed guidelines should be made available to agencies and the general public for comment before they are finally issued, and upon issuance the guidelines should be widely published. Where a legal dispute concerning the applicability of the Act to particular advisory bodies cannot be resolved between the agency and GSA, the dispute may be submitted to the Department of Justice for resolution pursuant to Part 1-4 of Executive Order 12146.

2. The most serious problems regarding the coverage of FACA have involved the applicability of the Act (a) to groups convened by agencies, on an ad hoc basis, without formal organization or structure or continuing existence, to obtain views on particular matters of immediate concern to the agency, and (b) to privately established groups whose advice is "utilized" by an agency.

(a) Uncertainty as to the applicability of FACA to one-time or occasional meetings between ad hoc groups and Government officials has tended to discourage useful contacts with the private sector. It is impractical to require such meetings to conform with the Act's requirements regarding chartering, advance notice, and structure of the committee. The Administrative Conference believes that the Act is not applicable to ad hoc, unstructured, non-continuing groups and that GSA's guidelines should make this clear. Coverage of such groups would not further the purposes of the Act.

(b) The Conference believes that the definition of "advisory committee" is limited to committees either established by Government action or affirmatively supported and "utilized" by the Government through institutional arrangements which amount to the adoption of the group as a preferred source of advice. GSA's guidelines should make this clear.

(c) Agencies should be sensitive to the desirability of making available to the public advice or information obtained from private or ad hoc groups not covered by FACA when the agency is considering action based on such advice or information.

3. Advisory committees frequently are useful in furnishing expert technical and scholarly advice to the Government, often at little or modest cost, and in providing a valuable channel of communication between the Government and the private sector. FACA has been successful in bringing about the elimination of many unnecessary advisory committees. It continues to serve a constructive purpose in requiring agencies and GSA periodically to evaluate the usefulness of each advisory committee, but such a review should be objective and should not be premised on any assumption that fewer advisory committees is a desirable goal in and of itself.

Note: A separate statement was filed concerning this recommendation.

[45 FR 46775, July 11, 1980]

Authority: 5 U.S.C. 591-596.

SOURCE: 38 FR 19782, July 23, 1973; 57 FR 61760, 61768, Dec. 29, 1992, unless otherwise noted.

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