As a preamble to this New York Times article, it must be noted that the FAA’s recent statement of a new policy on Personal Electronic Devices has received greater domestic and international coverage by the press than any FAA regulatory announcements over recent memory. This government body, responsible for aviation safety, issues incredibly complex and significant articulation of standards on operation, maintenance, design, control and flying of aircraft. Its pronouncements have critical impact on commercial, general/business, space and now UAVs industries. The press’ attention to those important FAA actions have received significantly less ink than the agency’s design about passengers’ use of smart phones, IPads, Kindles and the like. There must be some underlying reason for this imbalance of press attention.
To return to Prof. Cowen’s article, this author was inspired by the FAA’s PED action and he makes an excellent case about the degree to which industries, beyond aviation, are heavily regulated. He provides an interesting and useful review of the hidden mechanisms which contribute to the complexity and ineffectiveness of these rules. His picture of the regulatory process traces the path to the obscure office within the White House and further buried within the Office of Management and Budget called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs . (housed in the building pictured here)
The George Mason University professor argues that the PED decision is a demonstration that OIRA and the other steps in the regulatory processes unduly burden the process to create new needed rules and to remove old antiquated restrictions. The interference and delay inherent in the oversight of FAA regulations have been chronicled here in detail and frequently . The professor’s thesis can find further confirmation in the JDA Journal.
All of that said, Prof. Cowen, choosing the PED decision by the FAA to support the case for regulatory reform is inappropriate. The Administrator did not issue a final rule; the PED decision was issued as an agency policy, which placed the burden of proving aircraft systems’ inviolability to the electronic transmissions from PEDs. No final rule was needed. Thus, technically that FAA document was not subject to OIRA review prior to its issuance. That does not mean that this element of OMB, using the penumbra of its power, failed to stick its nose into the issue of the use of these instruments, everybody else did.
In the context of aviation rules, the maze, through which an FAA rule must pass, discourages the agency from taking actions through this formal process and has contributed to Europe’s ability to react more expeditiously.