Executive Order 12866
This rule is a significant rule under Executive Order 12866, because of the substantial public interest concerning and policy importance of programs to ensure nondiscrimination in Federally- assisted contracting. It also affects a wide variety of parties, including recipients in three important DOT financial assistance programs and the DBE and non-DBE contractors that work for them. It has been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. It is also a significant rule for purposes of the Department's Regulatory Policies and Procedures.
We do not believe that the rule will have significant economic impacts, however. In evaluating the potential economic impact of this rule, we begin by noting that it does not create a new program. It simply revises the rule governing an existing program. The economic impacts of the DBE program are created by the existing regulation and the statutes that mandate it, not by these revisions. The changes that we propose in this program are likely to have some positive economic impacts. For example, ``one-stop shopping'' and clearer standards in certification are likely to reduce costs for small businesses applying for DBE certification, as well as reducing administrative burdens on recipients.
The rule's narrow tailoring changes are likely to be neutral in terms of their overall economic impact. These could have some distributive impacts (e.g., if the proposed goal-setting mechanism results in changes in DBE goals, a different mix of firms may work on recipients' contracts), but there would probably not be net gains or losses to the economy. There could be some short-term costs to recipients owing to changes in program administration resulting from ``narrow tailoring,'' however.
In any event, the economic impacts are quite speculative and appear nearly impossible to quantify. Comments did not provide, and the Department does not have, any significant information that would allow the Department to estimate any such impacts.
Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis
The DBE program is aimed at improving contracting opportunities for small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Virtually all the businesses it affects are small entities. There is no doubt that a DBE rule always affects a substantial number of small entities.
This rule, while improving program administration and facilitating DBE participation (e.g., by making the certification process clearer) and responding to legal developments, appears essentially cost-neutral with respect to small entities in general (as noted above, the one-stop shopping feature is intended to benefit small entities seeking to participate). It does not impose new burdens or costs on small entities, compared to the existing rule. It does not affect the total funds or business opportunities available to small businesses that seek to work in DOT financial assistance programs. To the extent that the proposals in this rule (e.g., with respect to changes in the methods used to set overall goals) lead to different goals than the existing rule, some small firms may gain, and others lose, business.
There is no data of which the Department is aware that would permit us, at this time, to measure the distributive effects of the revisions on various types of small entities. It is likely that any attempt to gauge these effects would be highly speculative. For this reason, we are not able to make a quantitative, or even a precise qualitative, estimate of these effects.
Paperwork Reduction Act
A number of provisions of this rule involve information collection requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA). One of these provisions, concerning a report of DBE achievements that recipients make to the Department, is the subject of an existing OMB approval under the PRA.
With one exception, the other information collection requirements of the rule continue existing part 23 requirements, major elements of the DBE program that recipients and contractors have been implementing since 1980 or 1983. While the final rule modifies these requirements in some ways, the Department believes the overall burden of these requirements will remain the same or shrink. These requirements are the following:
- Firms applying for DBE certification must provide information to recipients to allow them to make eligibility decisions. Currently certified firms must provide information to recipients to allow them to review the firms' continuing eligibility. (After the UCP requirements of the rule are implemented, the burdens of the certification provisions should be substantially reduced.)
- When contractors bid on prime contracts that have contract goals, they must document their DBE participation and/or the good faith efforts they have made to meet the contract goals. (Given the final rule's emphasis on race-neutral measures, it is likely the burden in this area will be reduced.)
- Recipients must maintain a directory of certified DBE firms. (Once UCPs are implemented, there will be 52 consolidated directories rather than the hundreds now required, reducing burdens substantially.)
- Recipients must calculate overall goals and transmit them to the Department for approval. (The process of setting overall goals is more flexible, but may also be more complex, than under part 23. As they make their transition to the final rule's goal-setting process during the first years of implementation, recipients may temporarily expend more hours than in the past on information-related tasks.)
- Recipients must have a DBE program approved by the Department. (The final rule includes a one-time requirement to submit a revised program document making changes to conform to the new regulation.)
The Department estimates that these program elements will result in a total of approximately 1.58 million burden hours to recipients and contractors combined during the first year of implementation and approximately 1.47 million annual burden hours thereafter.
The final rule also includes one new information collection element. It calls for recipients to collect and maintain data concerning both DBE and non-DBE bidders on DOT-assisted contracts. This information is intended to assist recipients in making more precise determinations of the availability of DBEs and the shape of the ``level playing field'' the maintenance of which is a major objective of the rule. The Department estimates that this requirement will add 254,595 burden hours in the first year of implementation. This figure is projected to decline to 193,261 hours in the second year and to 161,218 hours in the third and subsequent years.
Both as the result of comments and what the Department learns as it implements the DBE program under part 26, it is possible for the Department's information needs and the way we meet them to change. Sometimes the way we collect information can be changed informally (e.g., by guidance telling recipients they need not repeat information that does not change significantly from year to year). In other circumstances, a technical amendment to the regulation may be needed. In any case, the Department will remain sensitive to situations in which modifying information collection requirements becomes appropriate.
As required by the PRA, the Department has submitted an information collection approval request to OMB. Organizations and individuals desiring to submit comments on information collection requirements should direct them to the Department's docket for this rulemaking. You may also submit copies of your comments to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), OMB, Room 10235, New Executive Office Building, Washington, DC, 20503; Attention: Desk Officer for U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Department considers comments by the public on information collections for several purposes:
Evaluating the necessity of information collections for the proper performance of the Department's functions, including whether the information has practical utility.
Evaluating the accuracy of the Department's estimate of the burden of the information collections, including the validity of the methods and assumptions used.
Enhancing the quality, usefulness, and clarity of the information to be collected.
Minimizing the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of electronic and other methods.
The Department points out that, with the exception of the bid data collection, all the information collection elements discussed in this section of the preamble have not only been part of the Department's DBE program for many years, but have also been the subject of extensive public comment following the 1992 NPRM and 1997 SNPRM. Among the over 900 comments received in response to these notices were a number addressing administrative burden issues surrounding these program elements. In this final rule, the Department has responded to these comments.
OMB is required to make a decision concerning information collections within 30-60 days of the publication of this notice. Therefore, for best effect, comments should be received by DOT/OMB within 30 days of publication. Following receipt of OMB approval, the Department will publish a Federal Register notice containing the applicable OMB approval numbers.
The rule does not have sufficient Federalism impacts to warrant the preparation of a Federalism assessment. While the rule concerns the activities of state and local governments in DOT financial assistance programs, the rule does not significantly alter the role of state and local governments vis-a-vis DOT from the present part 23. The availability of program waivers could allow greater flexibility for state and local participants, however.