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Paper Cuts

OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein announces new steps the Administration is taking to reduce paperwork and reporting burdens on the American public.

President Obama has made it a priority to reduce paperwork and reporting burdens on the American public. Recent reforms are eliminating tens of millions of burden-hours imposed on both businesses and individuals.

Many of these reforms have been spurred by Executive Order 13563, which calls for a government-wide “lookback” at existing regulatory requirements. Building on that Executive Order, President Obama recently issued Executive Order 13610, which specifically directs agencies to prioritize “initiatives that will produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens.” Executive Order 13610 also requires agencies to focus on “cumulative burdens” and to “give priority to reforms that would make significant progress in reducing those burdens.”

Today, in response to Executive Order 13610, we are taking action to promote additional burden reductions. A new guidance document directs agencies to take meaningful steps to decrease paperwork and reporting burdens on the American people, including small businesses. These steps include:

  1. Eliminating redundant and unnecessary collections
  2. Using simplified and shorter forms.
  3. Exempting or streamlining reporting requirements on small business. 
  4. Using electronic communication and “fillable fileable” forms.
  5. Reducing frequency of information collection.

We are also requiring agencies to undertake new initiatives to produce significant reductions in paperwork and reporting burdens.

Recent steps have already produced significant burden reductions. A few examples:

  • A rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration eliminated 1.9 million annual hours of burdens imposed on employers.
  • The Department of Education simplified the application process for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), saving 5.4 million annual hours of burdens once imposed on students and their families.
  • The Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security eliminated 1.5 million annual hours of burdens formerly imposed on U.S. aircraft operators.
  • The Customs and Border Protection of the Department of Homeland Security eliminated 1.7 million annual hours of burdens once imposed on air travelers returning to the United States.
  • The Department of Transportation recently promulgated a rule that eliminated over 38 million reports annually, formerly required from truck drivers.

Today’s initiative is an important step forward in the President’s continuing efforts to streamline and simplify our regulatory system.  Agencies will be engaging with the public to promote those efforts.

Cass Sunstein is the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs