In a major new development, the FAA has sent the Small UAS NPRM to the White House for a final interagency review. This means that a final small UAS rule is coming soon – and that NOW is the last opportunity to influence the rule before it is released.
Before any significant regulatory action takes effect, it first must go through a review process at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the White House. OIRA is located within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Executive Office of the President. It is commonly said that OIRA is the most important agency in Washington, DC that nobody has heard of. OIRA reviews draft regulations before they are implemented and reviews and evaluates cost/benefit analyses to determine whether the benefits of a rule would justify the costs.
We are now at an extremely important step in the rulemaking process, which provides industry stakeholders with one final opportunity to provide additional input before the final rule is released.
The period for OIRA review is limited by Executive Order 12866 to 90 days. Under the Executive Order, the review period may be extended indefinitely by the head of the rulemaking agency; alternatively, the OMB Director may extend the review period on a one-time basis for no more than 30 days. According to OIRA, the average review period is 53 days. OIRA received the FAA’s Small UAS NPRM for review on April 20, 2016.
As part of its review process, any member of the public—including UAS manufacturers, operators, and users—can request a meeting with the agency to discuss the proposed rule, what it should contain, and how the rule will impact them. The meetings are conducted by the OIRA Administrator or his designees, and a log of all meetings is publicly available.
A meeting with OIRA provides a golden opportunity for stakeholders to make their voices heard on key UAS policy issues. Companies that want to provide input on issues such as certification of pilots and visual observers, registration of UAS, approval of operations, federal preemption of UAS policy issues, and operational limits for UAS now have the chance to provide their ideas directly to the White House. It is also helpful for stakeholders to reinforce the importance of expediency in moving the rulemaking forward.