Federal Advisory Committee Act

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5 U.S.C. app., enacted by Pub. L. No. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770, Oct. 6, 1972. Amended by Pub. L. No. 105-153, § 1, 111 Stat. 2689, Dec. 17, 1997; Pub. L. No. 111-259, Title IV, § 410(a), 124 Stat. 2724, Oct. 7, 2010.

Lead Agency:

General Services Administration, Office of Asset and Transportation Management, Committee Management Secretariat

Overview

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) regulates the formation and operation of advisory committees by federal agencies in the executive branch. “Advisory committee” is defined in section 3 to include any committee or similar group that is established by statute or organization plan, established or utilized by the President, or established or utilized by any agency in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations for the President or one or more federal agencies or officers. Excepted from this definition are groups not wholly composed of full-time or permanent part-time federal officers or employees. In addition, the FACA also exempts advisory committees of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Public Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Reserve System, any local civic group whose primary function is to render a public service with respect to a federal program, and any state or local committee established to advise state or local officials or agencies. Finally, some other statutes specifically exempt certain activities from the FACA.

FACA requires in part that new advisory committees be established only after public notice and upon a determination that establishment is in the public interest (§ 9(a)); that each advisory committee has a clearly defined purpose and that its membership be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed (§ 5); that the status of and need for each committee be subject to periodic review (§§ 7, 14); and that meetings of advisory committees be open to public observation, subject to the same exemptions as those provided in the Government in the Sunshine Act (§ 10).

Section 7 places oversight and policy responsibility in the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) and directs the creation of a Committee Management Secretariat in GSA to fulfill those duties.

In any given year there are about 1,000 federal advisory committees. Of these, in 2011, 469 were not mandated by statute, a 41 percent decrease since 1993, when Executive Order 12,838, Termination and Limitation of Federal Advisory Committees, (Feb. 11, 1993) directed the elimination of at least one-third of all discretionary advisory committees. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued OMB Circular A-135 to implement this Executive Order.

The breadth of the definition of “advisory committee” has provoked uncertainty and litigation. GSA regulations attempt to provide guidance in this regard. See 41 C.F.R. §§ 102-3.25, 102-3.40. The requirement for committees to be balanced in terms of their composition and the procedures applicable to “meetings” has also been the subject of litigation. Most of the litigation under FACA has arisen pursuant to the judicial review provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act; it is an open question whether FACA itself creates a private cause of action for a violation of its terms.

The statute itself prescribes no conflict-of-interest requirements for advisory committee members. However, chapter 11 of title 18 of the U.S. Code, particularly section 208, applies to federal employees generally, including the category of “special government employees.” Unless an advisory committee member is appointed as a representative of a particular interest, and is thus not considered a government employee, he or she is likely to be a special government employee, whether compensated. Section 208(b)(3) authorizes an official who appoints an advisory committee member to exempt a special government employee where the need for the individual’s services outweighs the potential for a conflict of interest. See generally Advisory Committees—Food and Drug Administration—Conflicts of Interest, 2 Op. O.L.C. 151 (1978).

Special government employees are subject to disclosure requirements. See Financial Disclosure, Qualified Trusts, and Certificates of Divestiture for Executive Branch Employees, 57 Fed. Reg. 11,800 (Apr. 7, 1992).

Section 219(a) of title 18 of the U.S. Code makes it a criminal offense for a public official to be or to act as an agent of a foreign principal required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. The Department of Justice has concluded that members of federal advisory committees governed by the FACA come within the definition of “public official.” Applicability of 18 U.S.C. § 219 to Members of Federal Advisory Committees, 15 Op. O.L.C. 65 (1991). Section 219(b) allows the head of an agency to exempt from section 219(a) those individuals who serve on advisory committees as “special government employees” but not those who serve as representatives. In addition, the Department took the position that the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, § 9, cl. 8, prohibits an individual who is an agent of a foreign government from serving on an advisory committee absent specific congressional consent. The Department concluded that Congress has not consented to such service by enacting FACA.

Legislative History

Congress considered legislation to establish minimum standards for the organization and operation of federal advisory committees intermittently since the mid-1950s. After oversight hearings in the 91st Congress, legislation was introduced in both houses in the 92nd Congress, and both the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Government Operations held hearings. In April 1972, the House Committee on Government Operations reported out , the Federal Advisory Committee Standards Act (H.R. 4383). H.R. Rep. No. 92-1017 (1972). The House passed the legislation on May 9, 1972. After previously considering three separate bills, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs reported a clean bill, FACA (S. 3529), on September 7, 1972. S. Rep. No. 92-1098 (1972). The Senate approved this bill on September 12, 1972 and substituted its text for that in the House-passed bill. The relatively minor differences between the two bills were resolved in a Conference Report (H.R. Rep. No. 92-1403 (1972)), which the Senate adopted on September 20, 1972. FACA became effective on January 4, 1973.

In 1976, the Congress applied to advisory committees the grounds for closure of meetings found in the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. § 552b, Pub. L. No. 94-409).

On November 9, 1997, Representative Steve Horn, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology, introducedthe Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1997 H.R. 2977). The proposed legislation sought to clarify public disclosure requirements applicable to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration and to overrule legislatively the decision of Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Shalala, 104 F.3d 424 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The bill was marked with few revisions and passed the same day. Cong. Rec. H 10578. On November 13, 1997, the Senate introduced and passed H.R. 2977 with no revisions. Cong. Rec. S 12515. The Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1997 became Pub. L. No. 105-153 on December 17, 1997.

Section 410 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Pub. L. No. 111-259) added the Director of National Intelligence to the list of agencies exempted from compliance with the FACA.

Source Note

The relevant legislative history materials of the original Act are collected in Federal Advisory Committee Act (Public Law 92-463), Source Book—Legislative History, Texts, and Other Documents (1978), prepared for the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.

Bibliography

Legislative History and Congressional Documents

  • Cong. Research Serv., Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. No. 92-463), Source Book – Legislative History, Texts and Other Documents (1978).
  • Hearings on Bills to Amend the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Pub. L. No. 92-463, 86 Stat. 770 (1972), Before Subcomm. on Reports, Accounting, and Mgmt. of the S. Comm. on Gov’tal Affairs, 94th Cong. (1976).
  • Oversight of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Hearing Before S. Comm. on Gov’tal Affairs, , 98th Cong. (1984).
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act and the President’s AIDS Commission, Hearing Before the S. Comm. on Gov’tal Affairs, 100th Cong. (1987).
  • Department of Defense Strategic Defense Initiative Organization Compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Hearing before S. Comm. on Gov’tal Affairs, 100th Cong. (1988).
  • Federal Advisory Committee Amendments of 1988, Hearing Before S. Comm. on Gov’tal Affairs, 100th Cong. (1988).
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1989, Hearing Before S. Comm. on Gov’tal Affairs, 101st Cong. (1989).
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1992, S. Rep. No. 102-281 (1992).
  • The Federal Advisory Committee Act, Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Gov’t Mgmt., Info., and Techn. of H. Comm. on Gov’t Reform and Oversight Committee, 105th Cong. (1997).
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 2015, H.R. Rep. No. 114–386 (2016).
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 2017, S. Rep. No. 115-217 (2018).

Executive Orders and OMB Documents

ACUS Recommendations

Other Government Documents

Books and Articles

  • Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws: The Privacy Act, The Freedom of Information Act, The Federal Advisory Committee Act, The Government in the Sunshine Act (Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr., various eds. most recent 2010).
  • Jay S. Bybee, Advising the President: Separation of Powers and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 104 Yale L.J. 51 (1994).
  • Reeve T. Bull, The Federal Advisory Committee Act: Issues and Proposed Reforms (Sept. 12, 2011) (report to ACUS).
  • Michael H. Cardozo, The Federal Advisory Committee Act in Operation, 33 Admin. L. Rev. 1 (1981).
  • Jennifer E. Chung, Federal Advisory Committee Act, 65 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 786 (1997).
  • Steven P. Croley, Practical Guidance on the Applicability of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 10 Admin. L.J. 111 (1996).
  • Steven P. Croley & William F. Funk, The Federal Advisory Committee Act and Good Government, 14 Yale J. on Reg. 451 (1997).
  • David Marblestone, The Coverage of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 35 Fed. B.J. 119 (1976).
  • Megan Colleen McHugh, The Affordable Care Act’s Federal Advisory Committees, 8 Wm. & Mary Pol’y Rev. 1 (2016).
  • Brian C. Murphy, Implementation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act: An Overview, 9 Gov’t Publications Rev. 3 (1982).
  • Mary Kathryn Palladino, Ensuring Coverage, Balance, Openness, and Ethical Conduct for Advisory Committee Members Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 Admin. L.J. 231 (1991).
  • Michael Sant’Ambrogio & Glen Staszewski, Public Engagement with Agency Rulemaking (Nov. 19, 2018) (report to ACUS).
  • Richard A. Wegman, The Utilization and Management of Federal Advisory Committees (Kettering Found. 1983).

Agency Regulations

General Services Administration, Federal Advisory Committee Management Regulations (41 C.F.R. Part 102-3)

Statutory Provisions and Regulations

Federal Advisory Committee Act

Title 5 U.S.C. app.

Appendix—Federal Advisory Committee Act