When is Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) Applicable?

When FACA Is and Is Not Applicable To Interactions with the Private Sector

INTRODUCTION
FACA was enacted in 1972 to control the growth and operation of the "numerous committees, board, commissions, councils, and similar groups which have been established to advise officers and agencies in the executive branch of the Federal Government." 5 U.S.C. App. 1, § 2(a).

When initially enacted FACA assigned to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) responsibility for government oversight of advisory committees. In 1977 President Carter, acting pursuant to a congressionally approved reorganization plan, transferred the advisory committee functions from OMB to the General Services Administration (GSA). (See Executive Order 12024.) The statutorily mandated Committee Management Secretariat (CMS) therefore, also was transferred to GSA to carry out this responsibility.

As part of its responsibility under FACA, GSA issues government-wide guidelines and regulations for Federal Advisory Committee Management.

ILLUSTRATIVE SCENARIOS
The scenarios illustrate when FACA does and does not apply to interactions between Executive branch officials and the private sector. An overview of the process when FACA applies is also included.

SCENARIO ONE - FACA NOT APPLICABLE
Factual assumptions: As part of continuing National Performance Review (NPR) initiatives, the Administrator wishes a series of meetings with senior corporate executives from companies which have faced or are facing challenges similar to those facing government today, e.g., downsizing, restructuring, reduced resources, creative financing needs, labor and human resources concerns, increased customer relations demands, etc.

The Administrator's intent is to obtain experiential and anecdotal information from each executive on challenges faced by his/her company, how the company met the challenges, approaches which were productive or successful, and those which were not. The attendees may or may not change from session to session. The specific agenda subjects will likely change and may be set in advance or be free form. No collective advice or recommendations resulting from group deliberation or interaction is expected or will be solicited.

FACA does not apply because:

  • The intent is to obtain information or viewpoints from individual attendees as opposed to advice, opinions or recommendations from the group acting in a collective mode.

FACA coverage could become an issue if:

  • The function/mission of the group changes over time and the Administrator begins to use the group as a source of collective advice or recommendations. The more static the group composition, i.e., the same attendees at each meeting, the more likely an issue of FACA's applicability will arise.

SCENARIO TWO - FACA APPLICABLE
Factual assumptions: Same fact pattern as described in paragraph 1 of Scenario One except rather than seeking information on individual corporate experiences the Administrator prefers to establish a committee composed of senior corporate officials which will meet, interact, deliberate, and advise him on a variety of issues arising out of the NPR. The committee structure could include a core membership with subgroups.

FACA applies because:

  • The committee is established by an agency head (the Administrator) to obtain advice or recommendations for himself or other federal officers in the executive branch; and
  • The committee is not composed wholly of full-time, or permanent part-time federal employees.

REQUIREMENTS/PROCESS WHEN FACA APPLIES
Establishment:

  • The Administrator is authorized to establish advisory committees to advise him/her on functions vested in the Administrator by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, or other GSA authorizing legislation.
  • Committees which advise the Administrator also may be established by specific statutory language.
  • No advisory committee can meet or take action prior to the Administrator approving a charter, and appropriate notifications and filing.

Members:

  • The membership must be balanced in terms of points of view represented and the functions to be performed by the committee.
  • Members may be subject to ethics laws depending on their appointment.

Meetings:

  • Must have 15 days advance notice in the Federal Register.
  • Must be open to the public unless limited statutory bases for closure apply.
  • Must have a Designated Federal Officer in attendance.
  • Must have minutes which are available for public inspection (except for portions of a meeting which was closed).
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