A Meeting of the Minds Sought for E.O. 13559

August 7, 2013 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

1031820_conference_2The call has gone out for federal agency heads to huddle up with the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan for agencies to implement the requirements of Executive Order 13559, “Fundamental Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships With Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations.” In November 2010, President Obama signed E.O. 13559, which amended E.O. 13279, to clarify the fundamental principles that guide agencies work with faith-based and neighborhood organizations.

E.O. 13559 established the Interagency Working Group on Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Partnerships to review and evaluate existing regulations, guidance documents and policies, and to develop a model set of regulations and guidance for agencies to adopt. The working group, comprised of the heads of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and OMB along with several senior agency officials, has since recommended model regulations and guidance in its “Report to the President: Recommendations of the Interagency Working Group on Faith-based and Other Neighborhood Partnerships.”

Key recommendations in the report addressed the need to adopt rules, policies and guidance related to:

  • prohibited uses of direct federal financial assistance and separation requirements;
  • protections for religious identity;
  • the distinction between “direct” and “indirect” federal financial assistance;
  • protections for beneficiaries of social service programs;
  • transparency requirements, consistent with and in furtherance of existing open government initiatives;
  • obligations of nongovernmental and governmental intermediaries;
  • instructions for peer reviewers and those who recruit peer reviewers;
  • methods for monitoring the uses of federal financial assistance that avoid excessive entanglement between religious bodies and governmental entities and for enforcement of relevant rules and policies; and
  • training on these matters for government employees, grant reviewers, and federal, state and local governmental bodies as well as for nongovernmental organizations that receive federal financial assistance under social service programs.

OMB now has issued a memorandum instructing specified agency heads to adopt regulations and guidance that will fulfill the requirements of E.O. 13559. Agencies also would be required to amend all existing agency regulations, guidance documents and policies to ensure that they are consistent with the fundamental principles set forth in the E.O.

To help agencies in this endeavor, OFBNP and OMB will reconvene the working group in an attempt to encourage uniform implementation of these principles and policymaking criteria, although the memorandum did not specify a date. After the working group develops an implementation plan, specified agency heads will have 120 days to provide memoranda to OFBNP and OMB setting forth agency-specific plans for amending, to the extent permitted by law, all existing policies, guidance documents and regulations of their respective agencies that have implications for faith-based and other neighborhood organizations.

This sounds like an onerous task for federal agencies, especially in light of the pending changes that are likely to result from OMB’s proposed grants reform guidance, when it becomes final. It will be interesting to see how difficult this effort may be. A unified approach is always desired, so one would hope that this requirement won’t prove overly taxing. Let’s see where this all stands a year from now.

What do you think about this E.O. and its requirements? Do you think agencies can effectively address it in their rules and policies? Let us know.

 

 

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