Speaking at the 21st Annual Western Conference of the Rutgers University Center for Research in Regulated Industries in Monterey, California on June 18, Federal Trade Commission Chairman William E. Kovacic presented his plan for assessing how well the agency is fulfilling the destiny that Congress foresaw for it in 1914, what type of institution the agency should aspire to be when it begins its second century in 2014, and other basic questions about the agency's future direction.
"There is no substitute for the agency's own sustained efforts to get things right," Kovacic said. He began the speech by outlining the rationale for a self-assessment, saying that the self-assessment will be undertaken in the coming months and will have two basic aims - to ask what the Commission must do "to continue the valuable work that the agency performs today," and "to identify steps we must take to do still better in the future."
The "urgency to revisit fundamental questions about the possibilities for improvement" stems from several sources, he said. First, the policymaking challenges to the Commission grow more demanding each year. "In carrying out its competition and consumer protection responsibilities, the agency confronts some of the most difficult issues of economic policy." In addition, the FTC's success in a variety of initiatives - such as the National Do Not Call Registry for telemarketers - has created high expectations about the Commission's ability to respond to these challenges. "The agency's experience in undertaking these and other measures has shown that the pursuit of sensible policy solutions requires an unrelenting search for better practices," the Chairman said.
The FTC also is motivated toward self-assessment by the examples of its foreign counterparts. "There is much to learn from what his happening outside our borders," he continued, saying that if the FTC is to exert effective leadership in forming policy at home and abroad, "We must be no less driven [than our foreign counterparts] to examine and enhance our own institutional framework and operations." Another reason to conduct a self-assessment of the FTC, the Chairman said, is to "ingrain in the agency a habit of periodic self-evaluation to illuminate the way to future improvements."
According to the Chairman, the agency's self-assessment will focus on six basic questions. First, when we ask ourselves how well the Commission is carrying out its responsibilities, by what criteria should we assess its work? Second, by what techniques should we measure the agency's success in meeting the normative criteria by which we determine whether the agency is performing well? Third, what resources - personnel, facilities, equipment - will the FTC need to perform its duties in the future? Fourth, what methods should the FTC use to select its strategy for exercising its powers? Fifth, how can the FTC strengthen its processes for implementing its programs? And sixth, how can the FTC better fulfill its duties by improving links with other government bodies and nongovernmental organizations?
The Chairman next describes how the self-assessment will be conducted, including a mix of internal deliberations and external consultations. He concluded the speech by saying, "The progress of the Federal Trade Commission in its modern era has built heavily upon the willingness of its people to assess their work critically and explore possibilities for improvement. The FTC at 100 self-assessment extends that tradition."
Copies of the Chairman's speech are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.
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