Portman, Hassan, Comer, Maloney Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Improve Transparency of Federal Advisory Committees

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Federal Advisory Committee Transparency Act, legislation that will impose stricter ethics requirements on advisory committee members, require agencies to make more information about committees public, make the procedures for establishing a committee and selecting members more transparent, and extend the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to cover additional advisory committees that are currently exempt. Advisory committees are generally composed of individuals outside government who advise, and consult with, federal agencies on policy-making. U.S. Representatives James Comer (R-KY), Ranking Member of House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The text of the bill is here. 

“American taxpayers deserve greater transparency and accountability from their government, and improving the transparency of federal advisory committees is essential to accomplishing that goal,” said Ranking Member Portman.  “I’m particularly pleased that this bipartisan measure will strengthen the independence of federal advisory committees and close loopholes that permit agencies to skirt existing transparency requirements. At the end of the day American taxpayers deserve evidence-based, rather than interest-based, decisions by their government, and this bill will help to ensure that.” 

“This bipartisan legislation will increase the transparency of federal advisory committees that can play a significant role in advising how Americans’ taxpayer dollars are spent,” said Senator Hassan. “This bill is one common-sense way to make our government work better on behalf of the American people, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strengthen transparency and tackle waste, fraud, and abuse.” 

“The federal government must serve and be accountable to the American people, but bureaucratic hurdles and shadow governing often get in the way. By amending the Federal Advisory Committee Act, we are ensuring greater transparency in how federal advisory committees operate and select their members so Congress and taxpayers can better see, understand, and hold accountable these committees for acting in the best interest of our country and its citizens,” said Ranking Member Comer.  “I appreciate Chairwoman Maloney, Senator Portman, and Senator Hassan’s partnership in introducing this commonsense legislation, and I strongly urge both Senate and House leadership to urgently move this bill through both chambers.”

“This bipartisan legislation would strengthen the Federal Advisory Committee Act to make federal advisory committees more transparent and accountable.  Advisory committees provide expert advice to federal agencies on a range of topics,” said Chairwoman Maloney.  “For years, agencies have used loopholes to avoid making the work of these advisory committees transparent to the public.  Under this bill, agencies would have to disclose more information such as how advisory committee members are chosen and whether the experts who serve on those committees have conflicts of interest.” 

NOTE: Federal government officials often consult with individuals outside of the federal government through commissions, committees, councils, task forces, or boards. These bodies are collectively referred to as federal advisory committees. Since 1972 the management of, access to, and oversight of these entities has been regulated by the Federal Advisory Committee Act.  Today there are roughly 1,000 federal advisory committees.  Since then, however, loopholes within FACA have been discovered, and experts agree reforms to close these loopholes and bring greater transparency to advisory committees are needed.  The measure is supported by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), National Security Archive, Open the Government, Demand Progress, Public Citizen, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).