Thursday, September 23, 2010

FEMA ICRs Rejected by OMB

I frequently mention various information collection requests (ICR) that are submitted to OMB for approval. These are an important part of the regulatory process as this is the mechanism that has been designed to protect the public from having to provide inappropriate information to government agencies. Usually this is just a formality; sometimes OMB will approve an ICR with a note that some minor changes are required, on a relatively rare occasion they will return an ICR unapproved because major changes are made. On Tuesday OMB probably set a record with the number of ICR’s they returned to a single agency, FEMA. I did not count them all, but there were seven that would probably be of interest to the chemical security community.

Rejected ICRs

All of the rejected ICRs dealt with FEMA grant applications. Since FEMA administers most of the grant programs for DHS, this affected a wide variety of programs. The grant programs that would be of interest to the chemical security community include:

Trucking Security Program (TSP)
Freight Rail Security Grant Program (FRSGP)
Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP)
Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP)
Port Security Grant Program (PSGP)
● Buffer Zone Protection Program (BZPP)
Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP)
The information being collected for these grant programs that would be covered by the ICRs is the standard information that the applicant fills out when requesting these grants; information used by FEMA to determine who would get grants of how much money. None of this is new information because these grant programs have been around for some time. I’m not sure why these new ICRs were being submitted this year; they should have been submitted when these individual programs were first started.

Reason for Rejection

According to the OMB web site, each of these ICRs was rejected for the same reason; “DHS did not properly attribute burden change to a potential violation of the PRA.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds like there was a bureaucratic error made on the paperwork. If that is the case, I expect that we’ll see these ICRs re-submitted to OMB in the near future. It doesn’t sound like they will have to be republished for public comment.

Practical Effect of Rejection

The practical effect of this rejection, other than requiring additional work by someone at FEMA, is non-existent. The public is not required to complete any form used by the Federal Government if it does not have an approved ICR collection number on it. Of course since there hasn’t been an approved ICR for these forms since they were initiated, no body has been paying any attention.

Practically speaking, if a State or local government agency or a private entity wanted to get money from these grant programs they are going to provide the information required by FEMA. This would probably extend to some inappropriate information; people will do a lot to get free money and that ‘people’ includes government agencies. Of course, that is the reason that the ICR program was established.

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