Statutes and Related Legislation
Advisory committees have played an important role in shaping programs and policies of the federal government from the earliest days of the Republic. Since President George Washington sought the advice of such a committee during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, the contributions made by these groups have been impressive and diverse. The extent of these contributions also pointed to the need for regulated use of advisory committees. Attempts to regulate advisory committees included Department of Justice guidelines in 1955; a bill in 1957 that did not make it out of Congress; Bureau of the Budget (predecessor to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)) guidance in the early 1960’s; and an Executive Order in 1962.
It wasn’t until a House Committee on Government Operations Subcommittee initiated an investigation on the use of advisory committees by the federal government in 1969/1970, and held hearings, that the groundwork was laid for legislation to regulate advisory committees. Based on the investigation findings, in 1970 the House Committee issued recommendations that became the foundation of a bill introduced in 1971 to regulate advisory committees. This bill was eventually passed by Congress, and President Nixon signed the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) into law (P.L. 92-463; 5 U.S.C. App.) on October 6, 1972. The Federal Advisory Committee Act formalizes a process for establishing, operating, overseeing, and terminating Federal advisory committees (FACs). Information about the legislative history and rationale behind the language in the Act can be found at legislative history.
Since 1972, several laws and actions were implemented that affect the operation of FACs:
- Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. 552b). (1976) The purpose of the Act is to provide information regarding the decision-making process of the federal government to the public. This Act also lists situations when the President and federal agencies can close FAC meetings to the public.
- Executive Order 12024, Transfer of Certain Advisory Committee Functions. (1977) This Executive Order delegated to the Administrator of General Services all the functions vested in the President by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
- Executive Order 12838, Termination and Limitation of Federal Advisory Committees.(1993) This Executive Order reduced the number of discretionary FACs at the time by one-third, and required compelling justification for any new discretionary FACs.
- OMB Circular No. A-135. (1994) This Circular provides guidance and instructions on managing FACs and requires executive departments and agencies to establish a committee planning and review process.
Section 204 of Public Law 104-4 (Unfunded Mandates Reform Act or UMRA). (1995 ) UMRA provides a critical exemption to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), in order to promote the free communication between the federal government and state, local, and tribal governments. More details on what it means and whether or not the exemption applies to a particular situation can be found at UMRA. Access OMB guidelines and instructions for implementing Section 204.