TQM-ing OMB: Or Why Regulatory Review Under Executive Order 12,291 Works Poorly and What President Clinton Should Do About It

E. Donald Elliott, Yale Law School


No feature of modem U.S. government has been more controversial over the last decade than review of agency rules by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") and other parts of the Executive Office of the President. And yet, despite all the controversy, no president, not Bill Clinton and probably not even Ross Perot, would dream of abolishing review of agency actions by the OMB, or some other entity in the Executive branch. Indeed, on October 4, 1993, after this article was presented, President Clinton signed an Executive Order revising the OMB regulatory planning and review process, and incorporating some of the suggestions made in this article.4 Clark Clifford explains: "If a President did

not control the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy would control him."OMB review is like God: if it did not exist, we would need to invent it. Between 1989 and 1991, I found myself, as General Counsel of the Environmental Protection Agency, on the front lines in perhaps the most contentious and troubled relationship between the OMB and the agencies. This article contains my reflections on what I saw and my thoughts on how the new Administration should improve this necessary, but deeply troubled, relationship.