As part of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, the General Services Administration (GSA) has created a new website that makes information about government advisory committees easier for the public to obtain and understand.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which GSA is responsible for implementing under Executive Order 12024, establishes requirements for creating, maintaining, and terminating advisory groups that include non-employees of the federal government.
The new eFACA website allows users to view a list of all current and terminated committees within each federal agency, providing links to committee websites where available.
It also displays downloadable graphs of total and individual agency spending on advisory committees since 2001. According to data on the site, for example, total federal government spending for advisory committees increased from $226 million in 2001 to $384 million in 2006. Since 2006, spending has stayed between about $340 and $390 million annually. At any given time, there are about 50 agencies sponsoring about 1,000 total committees.
The new website breaks down committees by legal authority and subject matter. It provides the contact name and email address of each agency’s Committee Management Officer, the person who oversees the agency’s committees under FACA. Users can also view lists of all individual members of committees and their occupations.
The GSA had previously placed certain FACA data online, both on the GSA’s “FACA Database” and at Data.gov. However, the agency said that it created the new website because “the FACA database may not be intuitive to navigate if someone is not well versed on the Federal Advisory Committee Act.”
Under FACA, federal agencies must find the establishment of a new advisory committee essential to the performance of an executive branch function. Agencies must also oversee their committees’ meeting agendas, maintain and disclose records on committee membership and costs, ensure that committees operate efficiently and in accordance with FACA, and open most advisory committee meetings to the public. Committees expire after two years unless their sponsoring agencies can justify their continued existence under FACA.