National Association of Government Contractors

Lawmakers Concerned With Regulation Task Force

In order to achieve the regulatory reforms announced in February with President Trump's executive order calling for cuts, a regulatory task force was formed among agencies to review and take actions on regulations -- the secretive composition and actions of that task force concerns lawmakers.

According to a letter to the White House from four Democratic House members, there is great concern over the task force that has secret membership and secret deliberations, the lack of transparency and the authority the group is a source of concern, they say.

Citing an investigation published in July jointly by The New York Times and ProPublica, the lawmakers say they have found that the task forces' work has been "conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts."

According to the published reports, a review of meeting sign-in sheets indicated that as many as a third of the participants were lawyers representing businesses with cases against regulatory agencies, or political donors, or employees of industry-funded organizations.

"We write to express our alarm concerning the lack of transparency, accountability and independence of the Regulatory Reform Task Forces," Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.; Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; and David Cicilline, D-R.I., said in an Aug. 7 letter to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Neomi Rao.

"We believe that the interests of the American public must be paramount when reviewing the worthiness of regulations," the letter stated. "Therefore, these task forces must have an effective and transparent guard against conflicts of interest, especially those in which industry lobbyists seek to overturn environmental and health protections for financial gain."

They letter warns that the secrecy and refusal of some agencies to disclose documentation could violate both the Federal Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act. They said the implementation of Executive Order 13777 must be "consistent with applicable law."

To illustrate how several employees could profit from their work on the task force, they noted that the wife of one task force member at the Environmental Protection Agency is the top lobbyist for a large oil company.

In the interest of transparency, lawmakers requested documents and information, including a description of every task force created pursuant to the executive order, a list of the names and titles of every member of each task force, and communications related to non-governmental entities participating in their meetings.

As  previously reported, opinions regarding the outlook of the process  of re-regulation and itDs impact remains mixed within the contracting community, particularly for small-to-medium sized contractors. Within the contracting community similar concerns exist regarding the transparency of the process. 

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