OMB finalizes plain writing law implementation

Thursday - 4/14/2011, 3:32pm EDT

John Buckner
Federal News Radio

The Office of Management and Budget offered more details yesterday on how agencies should implement the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

In a second memo to agency officials since President Obama signed the bill into law, Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), outlined further steps agencies should take around training and implementing the law, and how to meet the deadlines.

Sunstein also sent a preliminary memo to the agency heads in November 2010 offering initial implementation guidance.

Sunstein focused on the importance of making sure employees can effectively write using plain language.

The document stated agencies should train employees with a plan that targets those who write regularly. Sunstein said the training should be in plain language and could mirror training plans provided on the PlainWriting.gov. Sunstein also provided some tips for integrating the new law.

"When implemented appropriately, plain writing will help your agency achieve its mission better by improving service to the public," Sunstein wrote.

The memo details several implementation strategies including:

  • Providing incentive to promote the use of plain writing, such as challenges or prizes.
  • Engaging and collaborating with the public
  • Determining performance goals to measure progress

The memo also reminds agencies that by July 13 they must designate a senior oversight official and create a plain writing section of the agency's website.

The July 13 deadline also requires agencies to:

  • Communicate the act to all employees and train them in plain writing.
  • Establish an oversight process for the law within the agency
  • Publish the agency's plan for compliance with the law online using plain language.

"Plain writing is thus more than just a formal requirement; it can be essential to the successful achievement of legislative and administrative goals, and it also promotes the rule of law," wrote Sunstein.

The guidance also reminds agencies of the Oct. 13 requirement to begin writing in plain language any documents that that are necessary for obtaining a federal benefit or for filing taxes, provide information about the any government service or benefit and any explanation to the public for complying with federal requirements.

Sunstein also provided key qualities in a senior oversight official and what their role is to meet these deadlines.

Sunstein said the senior officials should have cross-cutting responsibilities in the agency, experience in overseeing personnel, programs and policy and be involved in communications.

Agency senior officials overseeing the law's implementation also should:

  • Communicate the act's requirements to employees.
  • Train employees in plain writing.
  • Establish a process to facilitate the law within the agency.

John Buckner is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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