Notice & Comment

Agency Best Practices: DHS Regulatory Affairs Practice Group Roundtable

Last Thursday I had the privilege of presenting my empirical study on agency statutory interpretation to roughly fifty agency officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of DHS’s Regulatory Affairs Practice Group Roundtable (“DHS Roundtable”), which is sponsored by the DHS Office of General Counsel.  It was a terrific group, and I enjoyed walking through the study’s key findings while quizzing them about the various interpretive tools (via polling technology my law school graciously allowed me to take with me).
In this post I wanted to highlight this DHS Roundtable as a model for other federal (and state) agencies to consider implementing. To be sure, its value may be particularly high at a department like DHS, which, as my mentor Tino Cuellar carefully details in his book Governing Security, consists of a diverse set of agencies under the homeland security umbrella.  But my guess is that any agency with significant rulemaking responsibilities would similarly benefit from such a program. Here are the details of the DHS Roundtable, as I gathered from my participation last week.
The DHS General Counsel’s Office invites agency officials involved in regulatory affairs — from both DHS headquarters and the eight or so agencies within DHS that are headed by a Chief Counsel or equivalent — to attend the DHS Roundtable.  This event takes lasts for roughly an hour and a half. It begins with an ice breaker, where folks from different agencies and divisions get to know each other better. For instance, last week the officials paired up, interviewed each other, and then presented each other to the whole group. After the ice breaker, an internal or external speaker leads a discussion with the group for an hour or so about a current topic in administrative law and regulation . So the DHS Roundtable serves as both a networking and continuing legal education event. And based on my experience last week, it seems like a very effective vehicle for both purposes.
With all of the terrific research being conducted by administrative law professors — some of which I highlight in my weekly AdLaw Bridge Series — as well as by ACUS and other organizations, it would make sense for federal agencies to adopt a similar roundtable series and bring in experts to discuss trending topics in administrative law and regulation. The DHS Roundtable is certainly a best practice for agencies to model, and I wonder how many other federal agencies have already implemented similar programs.
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