(Revised May 11, 1998)
PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT
1. What you need to do before collecting information from the
Background and Objectives
A government office cannot ask or require the
public to provide it with information just because that office
has decided that it needs or wants the information. For years
members of the public have been complaining about the expense
of answering information requests, especially ones that seem
unnecessary. In response to this, there are clearance procedures
for any planned information collections. This issuance explains
(1) what types of collections require clearance, (2) what the
clearance process involves, and (3) what you must do to obtain
clearance if you do plan to make an information collection.
Types of Information Collections Affected
Your collection needs clearance from the Office
Management and Budget (OMB), Executive Office of the President,
if it uses identical questions to obtain or solicit facts or
opinions from 10 or more persons. If the information is not
obtained by the Federal Government, but is distributed to the
general public or to third parties, the Paperwork Reduction
Act (PRA) may not apply; however, contact F/SF5 for specific
guidance. The term "persons" includes corporations,
universities, state and local agencies, associations, etc.,
as well as individuals. You do not need to obtain a clearance
for a collection aimed at Federal agencies unless the information
will be used for general statistical purposes.
Although the law requires the clearance of only
collections affecting 10 or more persons, OMB has interpreted
this section of the law broadly in its regulations (5 CFR part
1320). Two presumptions are included in OMB's definition of
"ten or more persons." Any recordkeeping or reporting
requirement contained in a rule of general applicability is
deemed to involve ten or more persons. Any information collection
request addressed to all or a substantial majority of an industry
is presumed to involve 10 or more persons, although this assumption
You are regarded as the "sponsor" of
a collection if the information being gathered is for your use;
so you are responsible for obtaining clearance even if the information
is actually being gathered by a contractor, a state government,
or another agency, as long as you are the one "causing"
the collection. Specific tests are applied in determining whether
data collected by a state under a cooperative agreement with
NMFS are considered "information collections" for
purposes of the PRA. Generally, it must be shown that the state
has the authority, and would have used that authority, to impose
the same recordkeeping or reporting requirement in the absence
of a cooperative agreement. All such interpretations should
be cleared through F/SF5 to avoid inconsistencies.
You still may have an information collection
to which the PRA applies, even if there is no form involved.
If you use telephone or personal interviews, for instance, to
ask standard questions of 10 or more persons, your collection
requires clearance. There are very few exceptions to the clearance
requirements. Some people have believed that they do not need
clearance for technical or voluntary collections, but this is
not the case. If you are planning any collection, contact F/SF5
for advice as to the requirements for your specific situation.
Types of Clearances Required
Information collections need two types of clearances,
and the relationship between them causes some confusion. One
clearance process requires submission of a standard form OMB
83-I to request OMB approval for a specific collection. The
other procedure is the Information Collection Budget process.
We will examine each procedure separately, and then see how
a. The Information Collection Budget (ICB): The
first clearance necessary for a new information requirement
involves the ICB, which is an attempt by OMB to maintain control
over the burden the agency will be placing on the public. The
agency submits to OMB (through DOC) a listing of all new information
collections planned for the upcoming fiscal year and reports
on the new collections which actually took place in the current
year. Minimal information is required. In the ICB process, clearance
is assumed unless specific disapproval of a collection takes
place. The ICB no longer includes existing collections and no
burden hour ceiling is established by the process.
b. OMB 83-I Clearance: A sponsor of an information
collection needing clearance must submit an OMB 83-I and a Supporting
Statement for OMB approval, as well as copies of any forms,
questionnaires, laws, or regulations involved in the collection.
The directions for preparing clearance requests are contained
in guidance issued by the NOAA Clearance Officer, OA1x1.
The information required by OMB is quite specific,
enabling a detailed review of the collection to determine whether
the information requested is important enough to justify the
burden on the public. Generally, OMB can approve or disapprove
a collection as submitted, or it can make its approval contingent
upon changes in the collection's scope or format. Collections
imposed by rulemaking must be approved before they can become
effective in a final or interim rule.
If OMB approves the collection, it issues a control
number and an expiration date, both of which must appear on
any forms used in the collection. The forms must also inform
the potential respondent of the obligation to respond to the
information request (is it mandatory, voluntary, or required
to obtain or retain a benefit) and the amount of time an average
response is estimated to take. There is a format for the latter
statement that can be obtained from F/SF5.
OMB approval is only valid for the collection
as it was described in the OMB 83-I request. If you make any
substantial changes in the collection you must submit a revised
OMB 83-I package. For example, the OMB 83-I requires an estimate
of the annual reporting and recordkeeping burden in hours the
collection will impose upon the public. "Burden hours"
is a key term meaning the amount of time required by the public
to read or listen to the request, gather any data needed, fill
out any forms involved, etc. You may not increase the number
of burden hours involved in a collection by adding questions
or the number of people involved without revising and resubmitting
the clearance package and waiting for OMB approval. You also
may not substantially revise a collection's questions without
approval, even if you anticipate that the total burden will
not change or might even be reduced.
OMB approval of an OMB 83-I request for clearance
of information collections is limited by law to a maximum of
3 years. Requests for extension of approval must be
submitted well before the expiration date (e.g., 90 days before
the expiration date). F/MS periodically issues a status report
that outlines when clearances will expire and when renewal requests
Procedures for Clearance of New Collections
An ICB call is usually issued each May or June.
NOAA's Information Resources Management Staff, OA1x1, assembles
and coordinates the submissions. At this time, you will need
to identify any possible new collections for the next fiscal
year. To make a submission, you just need to know the general
objective of the collection and approximately how many hours
it will take the public to respond to it. If your collection
has missed the ICB formulation process, you must provide an
explanation with the OMB 83-I submission below explaining why
the collection was not foreseen. Procedures for clearance of
collection-of-information requests are subject to change and
the information required by OMB will be made on an annual basis.
Upon submission of an ICB entry, you can proceed
at any time with more detailed planning for the collection unless
you hear otherwise. You need to have completed this planning
before starting the OMB 83-I clearance procedures. You need
to know what the objectives of the collection are, what the
specific questions will be, what any questionnaire will look
like, how the information is going to be used, who is being
required/requested to supply information, approximately how
long it will take to respond to the questions, what the effects
will be on a person who fails to respond, etc. OMB has issued
some general guidelines for collections; your clearance request
will have to justify any variations from these guidelines.
If your proposed collection is going to be included
in a rulemaking, special procedures must be followed. See the
paragraph below on "Rulemaking Submission Procedures"
5 CFR 1320.13.
An OMB 83-I package should be submitted to OA1x1
through F/SF5. The package usually needs to reach OA1x1 through
these channels at least 75 days before the planned collection
is to take place, since OMB is permitted a 60-90 day review
period. There are provisions for "emergency" collections
when approval can be given quickly, but these only apply to
situations that were unforeseeable. If you think you do have
an emergency action, contact F/SF5 for advice.
Clearance for In-place Collections
All collections now being conducted should have
OMB approval. F/SF5 will advise you when the OMB approval is
approaching expiration, and this will allow you time to submit
a new OMB 83-I package if you intend to renew the collection.
If you change the collection at any time prior to the expiration
date it is your responsibility to contact F/SF5 to find out
whether a revised request for collection of information needs
to be submitted. Sponsors of approved collections do not need
to make an ICB submission unless otherwise instructed.
Rulemaking Submission Procedures
If you are going to issue a rule that includes
an information collection, a recordkeeping requirement, or a
public disclosure requirement, there is a separate set of procedures
that must be followed; F/SF5 can provide additional information.
It is essential that the clearance process is started well before
the proposed rule stage. Failure to do so can lead to OMB disapproval,
and seriously impair the effectiveness of your rule. The clearance
request must have reached OMB on or before the date of the publication
of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. Information collections
in interim or final rules cannot be made effective until OMB
approval has been received.
Collections Affecting Educational Institutions
There is an additional clearance process required
collections whose primary respondents are educational institutions.
Clearance for such collections must be obtained (through OA1x1)
from the Federal Education Data Acquisition Council, which is
part of the Department of Education. F/FS5 needs to be informed
of such new collections by February 1 if they are to take place
in the next fiscal year. Planning this far in advance can be
difficult, but it has to be done to obtain OMB approval.
2. State-collected data
Reliance on state data collection has been an
acceptable means to fulfill data needs of an FMP. Such an approach
has minimized the public and private costs of data collection
by avoiding Federal duplication of existing state activities.
In such a case the existing state regulation is referenced in
the proposed or final rule as the source of data for FMP decision-making.
This does not trigger OMB approval under the PRA.
The use of state-collected data and OMB approval
is slightly clouded when it is provided to NMFS under terms
of a cooperative statistics agreement. OMB believes the Federal
Government imposes a burden (i.e., triggers PRA) when it causes
another entity to impose or request a collection of information
to meet a Federal request or requirement. Specific tests are
used by NMFS and OMB to determine whether data collections by
a state under a cooperative agreement with NMFS are subject
to burden hour approval. A cooperative agreement does not trigger
the PRA if: (1) The state already gathers the information in
question for its own use, and NMFS is just gaining access to
it by making Federal data available to the state; (2) the state
is instituting a new collection as a result of an agreement
with NMFS to avoid the duplication of data-gathering efforts,
but the state acts under its own authority and will use the
information obtained for its own purposes, not just provide
it to NMFS; or (3) any Federal money given to the state is for
processing fishery data, or continuing its current collection
efforts, and does not constitute payment for conducting specified
information collections. A cooperative agreement triggers the
PRA if: (1) NMFS specifically requests the state to institute
a data collection for Federal use; or (2) NMFS gives money to
a state for the express purpose of collecting specific types
of fishery data, or retains approval authority for any collection
Determination of need for OMB approval of state-collected data
should be made early in the FMP process. If requested, F/SF5
will help the sponsoring office to determine, during the draft
FMP or amendment phase, if OMB approval is needed. Joint consultation
with the Region/Center, Council, state, and Regional Attorney
3. Voluntary v. mandatory
Changes from voluntary to mandatory collection
methods would require OMB approval of the revision (see 5 CFR
1320.11 (h)). No substantive or material modification may be
made by an agency in an information collection request or requirement
after it has been assigned an OMB control number unless the
modification has been submitted to OMB for review and approved
pursuant to the procedures outlined in this part.
In the preamble of its regulations when published
in the Federal Register, OMB cited section 3504(h)(5)(d) of
the PRA as granting OMB the authority to disapprove a collection
of information if an agency materially modified a collection
of information without adequately notifying OMB. Conversion
from voluntary to mandatory information collection would be
considered a substantive modification of the existing requirement,
even though the number of responses and burden hours may not