OMB Risk Analysis Memorandum Continues Bush Administration Policy of Less Regulation


-For Immediate Release-
September 19, 2007

Contact: Brian Gumm, (202) 234-8494,

OMB Risk Analysis Memorandum Continues Bush Administration Policy of Less Regulation

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2007—The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) today released a risk analysis memorandum, "Updated Principles for Risk Analysis," outlining principles that federal agencies must follow for risk assessment, management and communication. The memorandum reiterates a policy that has been in place since 1995. But that policy, taken in the context of other regulatory changes made by the Bush administration, continues a policy of less regulation even as the public demands more protections of our food, consumer products, environment and workplace.

Risk assessments are processes by which agencies identify and evaluate risks such as toxic exposure or structural failure. Risk assessments often lay the scientific or technical foundation for public health and safety rulemakings.

OMB has significantly changed the regulatory process during the Bush administration. This memo updates risk analysis principles identified in a 1995 OMB memorandum, but it places these principles in the context of regulatory changes concerning cost-benefit analysis, data quality guidelines, and peer review guidelines. Specifically, the memo:

  • Suggests agencies develop risk management policy options, i.e., regulatory options, using guidance from OMB's cost-benefit guidelines;
  • Prompts agencies to adopt transparency measures that would facilitate Data Quality Act challenges;
  • Urges agencies to highlight the degree of scientific uncertainty and alternative risk studies; and
  • Suggests agencies put more emphasis on quantitative analysis than did the 1995 memo which generally treated quantitative and qualitative factors equally.


Today's memorandum replaces the proposed draft Risk Assessment Bulletin OMB issued January 2006, which was roundly criticized during the public comment period and was judged to be "fundamentally flawed" in a Jan. 11, 2007, report by the National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academy of Sciences. The NRC report urged OMB to withdraw the bulletin completely, and with today's announcement, OMB is complying with that withdrawal request.

OMB Watch applauds the decision to withdraw the Risk Assessment Bulletin. Today's memo imposes no new requirements on agencies, nor does it give OMB additional reviewing powers.

Nonetheless, OMB Watch remains concerned about how the memorandum released today fits into a broader pattern of "less regulation is better regulation" promoted by the Bush administration.

"The practical effect of this new memo is probably not very significant," said Rick Melberth, Director of Regulatory Policy at OMB Watch. "Agencies will probably stick this in a desk drawer because this doesn't change much in the way that agencies conduct their regulatory analyses. OMB set out the framework for these decisions already through the other changes it has made to the regulatory process during this administration."

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