Federal Advisory Committees Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Federal Advisory Committee?

An advisory committee is any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force, or other similar group, or any subcommittee or other subgroup thereof that is established by statute or reorganization plan, established or utilized by the President, or one or more agencies, in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations for the President or one or more agencies or officers of the Federal Government.

In this context, a "utilized" group is one that is organized directly by the Federal Government, or is closely tied to, or controlled largely by, the Federal Government.

What is not a Federal Advisory Committee?

The Federal Advisory Committee Act specifically excludes from the definition of advisory committees:

  • Any committee that is composed wholly of full-time officers or employees of the Federal Government
  • Any local civic group whose primary function is that of rendering a public service with respect to a Federal program
  • Any State or local committee, council, board, commission or similar group established to advise or make recommendations to State or local officials or agencies.

Section 204(b) of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-4) provides that the Federal Advisory Committee Act does not apply to actions in support of intergovernmental communications where:

  • Meetings are held exclusively between Federal officials and selected officers of State, local, and tribal governments (or their designated employees with authority to act on their behalf) acting in their official capacities, and
  • such meetings are solely for the purposes of exchanging views, information, or advice relating to the management or implementation of Federal programs established pursuant to public law that explicitly or inherently share intergovernmental responsibilities or administration.

In addition to the above, which are explicitly exempted by statutory language, the General Service Administration's guidelines contain several examples of meetings or groups that are not covered by FACA. See the General Service Administration FACA website.

Who Approves the Establishment of an Advisory Committee and Appoints Members?

Except as provided by statute, regulation, or other Department of Transportation directive, the authority to establish, utilize, renew, abolish, or appoint members to advisory committees is reserved by the Secretary of Transportation and exercised only by her.

What is Required Before an Advisory Committee Can Meet?

No advisory committee can meet or take any action until a charter has been filed with the standing committees of the Senate and House of Representatives that have legislative jurisdiction over the Department of Transportation; the Library of Congress; and the Committee Secretariat, General Services Administration. Charters must be filed upon establishment or renewal of advisory committees.

What Does a Charter Contain and How Often is it Renewed?

All advisory committees require rechartering by the filing of a new charter every 2 years. Charters will contain the following information:

  • the committee's official designation;
  • the committee's objectives and the scope of its activity;
  • the period of time necessary for the committee to carry out its purposes;
  • the agency or official to whom the committee reports;
  • the agency responsible for providing the necessary support for the committee;
  • a description of the duties for which the committee is responsible, and, if
  • such duties are not solely advisory, a specification of the authority for such functions;
  • the estimated annual operating costs in dollars and man-years for such committee;
  • the estimated number and frequency of committee meetings;
  • the committee's termination date, if less than two years from the date of
  • the committee's establishment; and
  • the date the charter is filed.

Is it Necessary to Maintain Meeting Minutes?

Detailed minutes of each advisory committee meeting must be kept. Minutes must include the time, date, and place of the meeting; list of members, staff, agency employees, and members of the public who were present; an accurate description of each matter discussed and the resolution; and copies of each report or other document received, issued, or approved by the committee.

Do Advisory Committee Meetings have to be Open to the Public?

All advisory committee meetings must be open to the public except when a closed meeting is determined proper and consistent with the provisions of the Government in the Sunshine Act. Any proposal to close or restrict an advisory committee meeting must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Solicitor prior to final determination by the Director. Advisory committee meetings will be announced in the Federal Register. Non-committee members wishing to present oral statements at an advisory committee meeting or submit written comments to an advisory committee must notify the Committee Management Officer as described in Federal Register meeting notices.