Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)?

What Federal Laws, Regulations, and Guidance Relate to the PRA?

Who is Responsible for Overseeing PRA functions?

Who is Responsible for Overseeing PRA functions in the Army?

What Counts as Information Under the PRA?

What Does Not Count as Information Under the PRA?

What is a Public Collection?

Who are members of the public?

Does the Public Play a Role in Obtaining a PRA Clearance?

How is the Public Protected by the PRA?

What is “Information Collection”?

What is an “Information Collection Request (ICR)”?

How Can You Determine Whether a PRA clearance is needed?

How do Social Media and Web-Based Interactive Technologies affect PRA?

Doesn't the PRA Cause More Paperwork, Not Less?

What Happens If You Just Ignore The Law?

 

What is the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)?

The Paperwork Reduction Act, Chapter 35 of Title 44, United States Code as amended by Public Law 104-13, is United States federal law that establishes a broad mandate for agencies to perform their information resources management activities in an efficient, effective, and economical manner.

The purpose of the PRA is to:

  • Minimize paperwork burden on members of the public resulting from the collection of information by or for the Federal Government
  • Ensure the greatest possible public benefit from and maximize the utility of information created, collected, maintained, used, shared and disseminated by or for the Federal Government
  • Improve the quality and use of federal information to strengthen decision making, accountability, and openness in government and society
  • Minimize the cost to the Federal Government of the creation, collection, maintenance, use, dissemination, and disposition of information, and
  • Ensure the integrity, quality, and utility of the federal statistical system

What Federal Laws, Regulations, and Guidance Relate to the PRA?

  • DoD Instruction 8910.1 provides DoD policy and procedures for collecting information from the public
  • Chapter 3 of DoD 8910.1-M provides the details of the submission process •
  • 5 CFR 1320 OMB regulation that implements the PRA
  • E-Government Act of 2002 (44 USC Chapter 36) establishes procedures to ensure the privacy of personal information in electronic records
  • Government Paperwork Elimination Act (P.L. 105-277, Title XVII) requires federal agencies to provide for the electronic submission of forms and information from the public whenever practicable, including accepting electronic signatures or alternatives and ensuring proper security
  • Federal Information Quality Act (P.L. 106-554, Section 515) requires that federal agencies develop information quality standards to ensure and maximize the quality of the information disseminated to the public, and allows affected persons to seek correction of information that does not meet these standards

Who is Responsible for Overseeing PRA functions?

OMB A-130 implements OMB authority to provide uniform Government-wide information resources management policies as required by reference.

The PRA requires that agencies obtain OMB approval before requesting most types of information from the public. All new information being collected from the public that is subject to the PRA must be submitted to OMB for clearance before being collected. Clearance must be obtained regardless of whether responding to the collection of information is voluntary or mandatory. In addition, revisions to information collections previously approved by OMB that are subject to the PRA must also be submitted for clearance.

Unless exempt, all information being collected from the public must be approved by OMB and assigned an OMB control number and expiration date to license the collection.

Who is Responsible for Overseeing PRA functions in the Army?

The Army Records Management and Declassification Agency RMDA) oversees PRA functions in the Army. RMDA has five Information Management Control Officers(IMCOs) responsible for assisting proponents with obtaining PRA clearances.

What Counts as Information Under the PRA?

OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Regulations define “information” as “any statement or estimate of fact or opinion, regardless of form or format, whether in numerical, graphic, or narrative form, and whether oral or maintained on paper, electronic or other media”. This category includes:

  1. requests for information to be sent to the government, such as forms (e.g., the IRS 1040), written reports (e.g., grantee performance reports), and surveys (e.g., the Census)
  2. recordkeeping requirements (e.g., OSHA requirements that employers maintain records of workplace accidents); and
  3. third-party or public disclosures (e.g., nutrition labeling requirements for food)

The PRA applies to collections of information using identical questions posed to, or reporting or recordkeeping requirements imposed on, “ten or more persons.”

What Does Not Count as Information Under the PRA?

  • Affidavits, oaths, affirmations, certifications, receipts, changes of address, consents, or acknowledgments, provided that they entail no burden other than that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent's address, and the nature of the instrument. (By contrast, a certification would likely involve the collecting of "information" if it were conducted as a substitute for a collection of information, to collect evidence of, or to monitor compliance with regulatory standards)
  • Samples of products or of any other physical objects. (This category includes requests for information that is already available in a form suitable for distribution and is provided in that form to all requesters)
  • Facts or opinions obtained through direct observation by an employee or agent of the sponsoring Agency or through non-standardized oral communication in connection with such direct observations
  • Facts or opinions submitted in response to general solicitations of comments from the public, published in the Federal Register or other publications, provided that no person is required to supply specific information pertaining to the respondent, other than that necessary for self identification, as a condition to the Agency's full consideration of the comment
  • Facts or opinions, obtained initially or in follow-up requests, from individuals (including individuals in control groups) under treatment or clinical examination in connection with research on, or prophylaxis to prevent, a clinical disorder; direct treatment of that disorder; or the interpretation of biological analyses of body fluids, tissues, or other specimens; or the identification or classification of such specimens. This includes medical records established as a result of this type of action
  • A request for facts or opinions addressed to a single person
  • Examinations designed to test the aptitude, abilities, or knowledge of the persons tested and the collection of information for identification or classification in connection with such examinations
  • Facts or opinions obtained or solicited at, or in connection with, public hearings or meetings
  • Facts or opinions obtained or solicited through non-standardized follow-up questions designed to clarify responses to approved collections of information
  • Like items so designated by OMB

What is a Public Collection?

A public collection is a collection of standardized data from ten of more members of the public on an annual basis that requires approval by OMB under the requirements of the PRA  unless such information collection falls under an exemption to the PRA

For more information see:

Information Management Division Website – Public Collections
OMB Website for Currently Active DoD Collections

Who are members of the Public?

  • Individuals not employed by the Federal Government or Active Duty Military*
  • Partnerships, Associations, Corporations, Business Trusts or Legal Representatives
  • Not for Profit Organizations                                       
  • Organized Groups of Individuals                                              
  • State, Tribal, or Local governments                                         
  • Members of Industry                                                    
  • Government Contractors                                            
  • Foreign Nationals                                                            
  • Former/Retired Military                                                               
  • Veterans                                                            
  • Former/Retired Federal Employees
  • Spouses * *
  • Same-sex domestic partners* *
  • Dependents* *
  • Other family members (parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, siblings) * *
  • Guardians
  • Caregivers (any of the above family members, neighbor, friend, nurse)
  • Private sector doctors, nurses, and attorneys
  • Banks and Credit Unions

* Federal Employees and Military Members can be considered members of the public if the collection of information is addressed to them in their capacity as private citizens.
** These populations can be considered “Internal” when information is being collected in survey format per  10 USC 1782 and tied to a Federal Program.

Does the Public Play a Role in Obtaining a PRA Clearance?

Yes. To obtain the public’s input on an agency’s proposal to collect information, the PRA generally requires the agency to publish a 60-day notice in the Federal Register (https://www.federalregister.gov/) soliciting public comment on the agency’s proposed collection. The notice must include a specific request that the public:

  • evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary
  • evaluate the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden that the collection would impose on respondents
  • comment on how to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected and,
  • comment on how to minimize the burden of the collection of information.

After the 60-day comment period is over and the agency’s internal consideration of the public’s comments, the agency submits the collection to OMB and publishes a second Federal Register notice to announce the start of OMB review. This second notice informs the public about how to submit comments to OMB and informs the public that OMB may act on the agency’s request only after the 30-day comment period has closed.

How is the Public Protected by the PRA?

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with a collection of information that is subject to the PRA if:

  • The collection of information does not display a valid OMB Control Number assigned by OMB in accordance with the PRA
  • The Agency fails to inform the person who is to respond to the collection of information that such person is not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a valid OMB Control Number

This public protection clause provided by the PRA may be raised in the form of a complete defense, bar, or otherwise at any time during the agency administrative process or judicial action applicable thereto.

What is “Information Collection”?

Information collection can occur in any form or format, including the use of report forms; application forms; schedules; questionnaires; surveys; reporting or recordkeeping requirements; contracts; agreements; policy statements; plans; rules or regulations; planning requirements; circulars; directives; instructions; bulletins; requests for proposal or other procurement requirements; interview guides; oral communications; posting, notification, labeling, or similar disclosure requirements; telegraphic or telephonic requests; automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques; standard questionnaires used to monitor compliance with agency requirements; or any other techniques or technological methods used to monitor compliance with agency requirements. 5 C.F.R. 1320.3(c)(1).

What is an “Information Collection Request (ICR)”?

An Information Collection Request consists of a set of documents that describe what information is needed, why it is needed, how it will be collected, and how much collecting the information will cost the respondents and the government. To comply with the PRA and its implementing regulations, Federal Agencies must complete an ICR.

How Can You Determine Whether a PRA clearance is needed?

You can determine if a public collection requiresa PRA Clearance by looking at the individuals who you are collecting the information from. If the population affected falls under Members of the Public, a PRA Clearance will likely be required. Generally a PRA clearance request must be completed and OMB approval must be granted for any situation in which 10 or more public respondents are involved and the questions are standardized in nature. In some cases, an Army Information Management Control Officer (IMCO) or Privacy Official will also inform you that OMB clearance is required.

How do Social Media and Web-Based Interactive Technologies affect PRA?

Certain uses of social media and web-based interactive technologies are treated as equivalent to activities that are currently excluded from the PRA activities whether occurring on a .gov website or on a third-party platform. These include:

  • many uses of wikis
  • the posting of comments
  • the conduct of certain contests, and
  • the rating and ranking of posts or comments by website users
  • mailing addresses collected for agency mailing lists

Included in PRA activities are:

  • agencies post surveys of any kind, including web polls and satisfaction surveys that pose identical, specific questions (including through pop-up windows). These surveys, like in-person, mail, or telephone surveys, are subject to the public notice and comment requirements of the PRA and must have OMB Clearance before use
  • agency requests for information from respondents beyond name and email or mailing address (e.g., age, sex, race/ethnicity, employment, or citizenship status), because it seeks information beyond what is “necessary” for self-identification of the respondent
  • agency requests that the public to respond to a series of specific questions or a series of specific prompts that gather information (e.g., for purposes of aggregation or survey) about whether, for example, a particular program is or is not effective, the collection of information is subject to the PRA

However, if you are planning a data collection involving 10 or more respondents in any 12-month period, the need for OMB review should be determined by the Army IMCO Reports Clearance Officer.

For more information see http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/collections/files/guidance/social_media_guidance.pdf - Social Media, Web-Based Interactive Technologies, and the Paperwork Reduction Act

Doesn't the PRA Cause More Paperwork, Not Less?

For government employees, yes. The objective of the law is to reduce the paperwork burden on the public. The process of trying to do that adds to government paperwork.

What is exempt from OMB Clearance?

By statute, the PRA does not apply to some types of information collections.  A PRA clearance is not required for information collections:

  • during the conduct of Federal criminal investigation or prosecution, or during the disposition of a particular criminal matter
  • during the conduct of a civil action to which the United States is a party, or during the conduct of an administrative action, investigation, or audit involving an Agency against specific individuals or entities
  • by compulsory process pursuant to Sections 41 and 1311 of Title 15 U.S.C., and
  • during the conduct of intelligence activities, or during the conduct of cryptologic activities that are communications securities activities

What Happens If You Just Ignore The Law?

Failure to gain OMB approval, or to properly protect the public's information can lead to several negative outcomes for the Department:

  • The Information Collection Budget (ICB) is an annual report to Congress required by law which includes all PRA violations for DoD-High visibility
  • If collecting information without approval, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of Defense (DoD) Chief Information Officer, or DoD Clearance Officer can order a cease and desist of the collection, and destruction of all information or systems used thus far
  • Potential litigation can result from collecting this information without OMB approval or proper protection of the the information