The main statutory function of ACUS is to bring together the public and private sectors to recommend improvements to administrative and regulatory processes.

ACUS’s Office of the Chairman, with the approval of the Council, engages consultants to study administrative processes or procedures that may need improvement. Consultants or in-house staff then prepare a comprehensive research report proposing recommendations.  An ACUS committee discusses this report, preparing a draft Recommendation to submit to the Council and, with approval, to the Assembly.  Following a debate the Assembly adopts the final Recommendation, which ACUS undertakes to implement.

                                                                               ACUS Recommendation Process

On occasion, the ACUS membership has acted to adopt a “Statement” to express its views on a particular matter without making a formal recommendation on the subject.  ACUS statements are typically the product of the same process that leads to recommendations, but may set forth issues, conclusions from a study, or comments, rather than recommendations.  ACUS has adopted 19 such statements, which are included in the searchable database of recommendations.

  • Recommendation number: 2015-4
  • Adopted on: December 4, 2015
  • Committee: Regulation

Regulatory permits are ubiquitous in modern society, and each year dozens of federal agencies administering their regulatory permit authority issue tens of thousands of permits covering a broad and diverse range of actions.[1] The APA includes the term “permit” in its definition of “license.” In addition to agency permits, the APA defines licenses to include “the whole or part of an agency…certificate, approval, registration,...

  • Recommendation number: Statement #19
  • Adopted on: September 25, 2015
  • Committee: Judicial Review

The doctrine of issue exhaustion generally bars a litigant challenging agency action from raising issues in court that were not raised first with the agency.  Although the doctrine originated in the context of agency adjudication, it has been extended to judicial review of challenges to agency rulemakings.  Scholars have observed that issue exhaustion cases “conspicuously lack discussion of whether, when, why, or how [the issue]...

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)[1] makes available to any person, upon request, any reasonably described agency record that is not exempt under nine specified categories.  Congress has stated: “disclosure, not secrecy, is the dominant objective of the Act.”[2]  FOIA provides a two-level agency process for decisions on requests for access to agency records: (1) an initial determination that is ordinarily made by the component...

  • Recommendation number: 2014-2
  • Adopted on: June 5, 2014
  • Committee: Regulation

In the late 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of increasing public vigilance concerning the activities of government sparked by the Vietnam War and Watergate, Congress passed and the President signed a series of transparency laws designed to promote greater accountability and transparency in government decisionmaking.  The Government in the Sunshine Act, enacted in 1976, focused specifically on the transparency of meetings of multi-...

Over the past two decades, the use of guidance—nonbinding statements of interpretation, policy, and advice about implementation—by administrative agencies has prompted significant interest from Congress, executive branch officials, agency officials, and commentators. Most of this attention has been directed to “guidance documents,” freestanding, nonbinding statements of policy and interpretation issued by agencies. While such...

  • Recommendation number: 2014-4
  • Adopted on: June 6, 2014
  • Committee: Rulemaking

Informal communications between agency personnel and individual members of the public have traditionally been an important and valuable aspect of informal rulemaking proceedings conducted under section 4 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 553. Borrowing terminology from the judicial context, these communications are often referred to as “ex parte” contacts.[1] Although the APA prohibits ex parte contacts in formal...

  • Recommendation number: 2014-5
  • Adopted on: December 4, 2014
  • Committee: Regulation

Executive Summary

The following recommendation is intended to provide a framework for cultivating a “culture of retrospective review” within regulatory agencies.  It urges agencies to remain mindful of their existing body of regulations and the ever-present possibility that those regulations may need to be modified, strengthened, or eliminated in order to achieve statutory goals while minimizing regulatory burdens.  It...

  • Recommendation number: 2014-6
  • Adopted on: December 5, 2014
  • Committee: Rulemaking

Under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), federal agencies are required to “give . . . interested person[s] the right to petition for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule.”[1]  The statute generally does not establish procedures agencies must observe in connection with petitions for rulemaking.  It does, however, require agencies to respond to petitions for rulemaking “within a reasonable time,”[2] and to give...

  • Recommendation number: 2014-7
  • Adopted on: December 5, 2014
  • Committee: Adjudication

Agencies conduct thousands of adjudicative hearings every day, but the format of the hearing, whether face-to-face or by video, has not been analyzed in any systematic way.  Some agencies have provided hearings by video teleconferencing technology (VTC) for decades and have robust VTC programs.  These programs strive consistently to provide the best hearing experience, even as technology changes.  Other agencies have been reluctant...

  • Recommendation number: 2013-1
  • Adopted on: June 13, 2013
  • Committee: Adjudication

The Administrative Conference of the United States (Conference) has undertaken many studies over the years relating to the Social Security disability benefits system.[1]  It has issued a number of recommendations specifically directed at improving the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) initial application and appeals processes,[2] as well as other recommendations more generally designed to improve agency adjudicatory...