Dec 31 2009 Strengthen the Voice of the American People

In January 2003, was launched by a
team of six federal agencies, led by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB).

The site is the first step in the president's E-Rulemaking
initiative, an effort designed to strengthen the voice of the
American people in decisions made by their government.
Members of the program management team represent a broad
spectrum of federal government. We have convened interagency
workgroups to support the effort, focusing on budget and
resources, legal and policy issues, the operation and maintenance
of, the development and deployment of the
federal docket system, and harnessing
best practices and tools for rule making.

With each new enhancement to
the site, we expand the ways that
citizens can review and provide
input to the decisions that
government makes and that
affect almost every aspect of
their daily lives. With each
such advance, we further
fulfill the president's promise
to transform the way that
Americans interact with their
federal government. represents
the beginning of a fundamental
shift in the way citizens can
make their opinions heard by
government officials. The site
provides one-stop online access
to every regulatory action taken by
more than 160 federal agencies. Users
need not be Washington insiders to
search out and submit comments
on regulations as they're being

The development team—led
by EPA and OMB and including the
National Archives and Records
Administration, Government Printing
Office, Department of Labor, and Health
and Human Services/Food and Drug
Administration, with the assistance of
several IT contractors—developed the
site in less than three months for about
$250,000. That's fast work in meeting
federal procurement standards, and the
price tag, given the scope of the task, is a
modest one by any standards.

Based on code provided by the National
Archives and Records Administration, the
toolset for lets users view
and search within regulatory documents
published in the Federal Register. An
additional component, hosted by EPA at
our National Computing Center, lets users
submit a comment on ongoing rule
making and automatically relays the
comment to the appropriate federal

Use of has held
steady for the first year, with nearly 2.5
million hits—about 6,000 daily—from
more than 240,000 unique visitors. The
number of regulatory documents
downloaded from the Federal Register
has tripled to more than 15,000 each
month, and more people than ever
before are learning about the regulatory
decisions their government is making.'s value to citizens and
government has been widely
acknowledged by several awards,
including the Citizen Service SecurE-Biz
Leadership Award, the E-Gov 2003
Pioneer Award, the Robert J. Colburn
Innovation Award from the National
Association of Secretaries of State and
the Grace Hopper Government
Technology Leadership Award.

It's been an impressive first year, but
more remains to be done. We need to
develop educational tools for users to
help demystify the sometimes-arcane
rulemaking process. We need to provide
them with more user-friendly ways of
finding regulatory actions.

We need to find ways to let users
view all the background documentation
that now is too often in inaccessible file
cabinets in Washington. We need to find
more ways, such as listservs, of
engaging users in the regulatory
process. We need to supply users with
new tools to, for example, review and
comment on public comments
submitted to the record by other users.

All of these capabilities must—and
will—be available 24 x 7 from users'
computers at home, in the office or at a
public library.

We don't have to reinvent the
wheel. Models for many of these
capabilities exist within the federal
government today. For example,
EDOCKET is an online public docket
and comment system at (A docket
comprises all publicly available
documents supporting any regulatory
decision.) EDOCKET is designed to
expand access to documents in the
agency's major rulemaking dockets.
These often contain "Federal Register"

notices, support documents and public
comments for regulations that the
agency publishes.

The Transportation Department also
has online its Document Management
System ( Users can
subscribe to listservs, offer feedback and
read about the department's services.

We have the means at hand to create
a universally accessible online docket
system that will span the federal
government and replace a hodgepodge
of paper-based and electronic systems.

Today, we are in the midst of
developing an overall architecture for
that system. Key component
technologies will include:

• Applications for workflow and
knowledge management

• Database storage and retrieval tools

• Scanners for converting paper
documents into electronic form

• Technology to convert scanned files
into readable text.

The new system will provide users
with one-stop access to docket contents
by criteria such as topic, keyword and
agency. Users accustomed to doing
business directly with an agency will be
able to access the system from agency
Web sites.

Also under consideration for
inclusion on the site are other tools that
would enhance the electronic docket for
both the public and agency staff. Such
components include applications that
would help users to submit more
targeted, informed and insightful
comments; threaded discussions on
topics within an ongoing rule making;
mechanisms that presort incoming
comments into specific categories; and
Web services for interactive simulations
or models, among others.

As the E-Rulemaking initiative
continues to evolve, it will help agencies
enhance other aspects of their
regulatory business processes. As we
develop this system, we'll be looking for
best practices from across state and
federal agencies to develop tools that
will assist federal regulatory staff in
reaching better decisions more quickly.

Interagency cooperation among
CIOs and regulators will be key to the
initiative's success. As Tad Anderson,
OMB's associate administrator for
e-government and IT, recently said,
"Web enablement is not just a process,
it's about people, too. Anywhere there is
change, there is a need for cooperation."

The goal is to leverage more of the
experience and knowledge from across
the nation, from both the government
and the private sector. As part of our
efforts to build the federal docket
system and other aspects of the
initiative, we are seeking involvement
and ideas from a wide range of groups
across the country. If you have
suggestions for improving the way
citizens interact with the federal
government through the E-Rulemaking
initiative, go to
and click on Contact Us.

Together we can take one step closer
to the president's vision of a federal
government attuned and responsive to
the people it was created to serve.