On 12 May, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee considered the nomination of Cass Sunstein to be administrator of the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Throughout Professor Sunstein’s academic career, and particularly during his recent time at Harvard Law School, he has been an advocate of cost-benefit analysis, but with a twist that I’m guessing Republicans would call “compassionate” and that he called “inclusive” and “humanized”

Regardless of the labels one might use, his take on the use of data and statistical analysis to understand the impact of regulatory analysis is a welcome sign to those of us in the homeland security space, because one of the guiding tenants of DHS policy and regulatory activity is risk management–which is grounded in analytical assessments of risks and rewards, or costs and benefits. As a result, Professor Sunstein should be a positive influence on DHS, which has inconsistently practiced risk management. (See recent GAO report on TSA risk management.)

Here is hoping that Professor Sunstein will bring this history of rigorous cost-benefit analysis to OIRA, and that this will be fully embraced throughout the segments of DHS that have regulatory authority. Doing so will be an important step toward implementation of risk management at DHS, and will help private sector partners really understand why and how DHS makes decisions, and what risks are acceptable–and which are not–from a cost benefit perspective.

  • Andy Hoffman

    It sounds like you have enjoyed great success with something approximating cost-benefit analysis in your line of work. But in the regulatory world, too often that philosophy has been used to obfuscate and politicize policy at the public’s expense. Like you, I am hopeful that Sunstein will stick to a “humanized” version of the approach, but based on his past statements, I won’t necessarily hold my breath.