Study: Agencies miss rulemaking deadlines half the time

Study: Agencies miss rulemaking deadlines half the time
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Federal agencies have missed half of their congressional deadlines in the last two decades, according to a new study released by the R Street Institute on Tuesday.

In analyzing data from the Office of Management and Budget, Scott Atherley, an associate fellow at the D.C.-based think tank, found that unrealistic guidelines set by Congress and a lack of consequences for agencies that fail to comply were the main reasons for missed rulemaking deadlines.

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“One might argue that these are exceptional cases, but unfortunately, deadline compliance is a systemic problem. Data collected for this analysis suggest that federal agencies failed to meet more than 1,400 deadlines between 1995 and 2014, which translates into an estimated success rate of less than 50 percent,” Atherley said in his study.

Given the number of missed statutory deadlines each year and the other massive demands on Congress' time, Atherley said oversight tends to be neglected.

The study, however, found that agencies are far more likely to comply with deadlines set by a court order rather than Congress. The overall compliance rate for judicial deadlines during the years studied was nearly 80 percent.

With a compliance rate at nearly 90 percent, the study found that Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency has little trouble meeting judicial deadlines.

To improve agency compliance with statutory deadlines, Atherley recommends the Congress require agencies to report their progress.

"Congress cannot monitor federal agencies effectively without a system dedicated to tracking directives and following up to evaluate agency responsiveness,” he said in the report.  

He also recommended Congress establish a new Regulatory Affairs Office to track agency compliance.