Slow-walking the Faith-Based Rules

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Remember the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (OFANP)? Well, it’s probably because the White House doesn’t really want you to.

Last Friday evening, the press was notified that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget had sent out a memorandum telling the heads of executive departments and agencies to proceed with implementing Executive Order 13559, “Fundamental Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships With Faith-based and Other Neighborhood Organizations.” Now, let it be said that Executive Order 13559 is unquestionably A Good Thing — President Obama’s effort to clean up most of the problems associated with President Bush’s Executive Order establishing the faith-based office.

But even by federal government standards this is one slow walk.

Signed on November 17, 2010, the Obama executive order established an Interagency Working Group and gave it 120 days to issue a report instructing the departments and agencies how to implement the order. It took the Working Group 120 days plus an additional year to get this guidance out.

Part of the delay was the result of the brouhaha over Obamacare’s contraception mandate, which threw a monkey wrench into whatever the Administration was doing that touched on religion. And when it did in fact see the light of day — in April of 2012 –the Working Group’s Report proved to be a worthy document, laying out useful useful criteria for implementing the Executive Order, creating model regulations, and answer probable questions.

After receipt of the Report, all that remained was for the Director of OMB, upon coordination with the Justice Department, to go ahead and tell the departments and agencies to implement the Executive Order. Which shouldn’t have taken more than a New York minute inasmuch as the co-chair of the Working Group was a senior official of the OMB and a representative of the Justice Department served on the Working Group.

And yet, it has taken the Director of OMB another 120 days plus a year to give its go-ahead, i.e. by way of the Memorandum sent out last Friday. Which instructs OFANP and OMB to reconvene the Working Group in order to achieve implementation of the Executive Order as structured by the Guidance and ordered by the Memorandum.

How long will Implementation take?

According to the Memorandum, the reconvened Working Group must first develop an implementation plan. Then specified agency heads have 120 days to submit their agency-specific plans for amending all their policies, guidance documents, and regulations to conform to the Executive Order. Then they will work with the Working Group to implement their plans “in an expeditious manner and in a way that achieves consistency across the Government to the greatest extent possible.”

I should live so long.