OMB Watch notes:

A House panel voted last week to tie the hands of agency regulatory policy officers (RPOs). The move comes in response to continued concern about President Bush’s 2007 executive order that expanded the powers of RPOs.

President Bush’s E.O. 13422 — http://www.ombwatch.org/article/archive/477which amended E.O. 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review — dramatically expands the power of the RPO. E.O. 13422 states, “no rulemaking shall commence” without the RPO’s approval. Conveniently, E.O. 13422 does not define when a rulemaking commences, thus providing the RPO with wide latitude in exercising this new authority.

Ultimately, the RPO can act as a regulatory gatekeeper within the agency. OMB Watch has expressed concern that this power may be abused when the RPO’s interest align more closely with those of the White House Office of Management and Budget than with the RPO’s own agency or, more importantly, the public.

E.O. 13422 also requires the RPO be selected from among the presidentially appointed positions already existing within the agency.

While the provision does not technically remove any power from the RPOs, it would tie their hands by cutting off funding for their activities. The provision reads, “None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used” for Bush’s changes related to RPOs.

The provision is included in the House FY 2009 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote June 25. That bill funds the Executive Office of the President and some other agencies. However, because the provision states, “by this or any other Act,” the bill would freeze funding for RPOs across the federal government.

As an official position or designation with attendant priveleges, is an RPO in every agency a usefull function? If used to INCREASE regulatory power, would you agree, since it appears to be a move to promote administrative idealogies against bureaucratic tendencies?

Is greater compliance of some kind useful? Does civil service have a value separate from as well as part of political governing?