Executive order directs ‘modern’ regulatory system

January 20, 2011

A new presidential executive order directs federal agencies to use the best available cost-benefit analysis techniques and encourage private-sector participation in the creation of new regulations.

The executive order may give general aviation a prime opportunity to help shape what President Barack Obama is calling a regulatory system for the 21st century—and the order comes in a year when AOPA is urging pilots to participate in an industry-wide effort to rally GA.

On Jan. 18, Obama announced that he had signed an executive order “improving regulation and regulatory review.” It directs federal agencies to “ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive,” the president wrote in a Jan. 18 Wall Street Journal op-ed article on the new policy.

The measures “will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades,” he wrote.

Obama went on to describe a regulatory standard that employs more affordable, less intrusive means to accomplish the same ends—and with more participation in the process by experts and private citizens.

Implicit in his prescription for regulatory reform was a call for government to close the technological gap with the private sector.

“This means writing rules with more input from experts, businesses and ordinary citizens. It means using disclosure as a tool to inform consumers of their choices, rather than restricting those choices. And it means making sure the government does more of its work online, just like companies are doing,” he said.

The announcement could boost the efforts of AOPA and other members of the aviation community when rising to the challenge of resisting rulemaking proposals that cast a broad net without proper efforts to identify cost burdens.

One far-reaching instance is the published mandate for all transponder-equipped aircraft to be outfitted with automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast (ADS-B) Out technology by 2020 in connection with the Next Generation air transportation system. AOPA continues to press the FAA for assurances that benefits will accrue promptly to users to justify the cost of the upgrade. The FAA has been criticized for stating its expectation that users will equip before the deadline, despite no clear path emerging for offsetting the costs.

In some cases, there has already been new regulatory action consistent with the spirit of the new executive order.

AOPA reported on Jan. 13 that the Federal Communications Commission had stayed its order that would have banned the manufacture, sale, or use of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) that use the frequency 121.5 MHz, and required users to replace them at their own expense with 406 MHz ELTs.

When the rule was announced, AOPA and other organizations made the case to Congress that there simply weren’t enough 406 MHz to outfit the general aviation fleet. Meanwhile, an existing rule requiring most aircraft to carry ELTs was seen effectively grounding the majority of aircraft.

From airspace redesigns to residential-through-the-fence access to airports, the aviation community will continue working—not just watching—to bring the newly articulated principles to bear on rulemaking.

AOPA will work to ensure that agencies adhere to the new executive order’s directive to “use the best available techniques to quantify anticipated present and future benefits and costs as accurately as possible.”