Federal Register

From Academic Kids

The Federal Register ("FR") contains most routine publications and public notices of United States government agencies. The FR is published daily, and provides notice to the public of a federal government agency's proposed new rules, or changes to existing rules. The published notice, called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (or "NPRM") typically requests public comment on a proposed rule, and provides notice of any public meetings where a proposed rule will be discussed. The public comments are considered by the issuing government agency, and the text of a final rule is published in the FR. The FR also contains executive orders and other presidential documents. In essence, the FR is a way for the government to think aloud to the people. The notice and comment process outlined in the FR gives the people a chance to participate in agency rulemaking. The FR is compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration and is printed by the Government Printing Office. The FR system of publication was created in 1935 under the Federal Register Act (44 U.S.C. Ch. 15) and was further enlarged and amended by the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 (5 U.S.C. Sec. 551).

Format of the Federal Register

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The Federal Register ("FR") is published daily. The FR is the main source for U.S. government agency proposed and final rules, notices of meetings and adjudicatory proceedings. When a final rule is published in the FR, it will ultimately become part of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Each daily issue of the FR is organized into four categories:

  • Presidential Documents (executive orders and proclamations)
  • Rules and Regulations (policy statements and interpretations of rules by federal agencies)
  • Proposed Rules (petitions by agencies for assistance in rulemaking and other proposals)
  • Notices (scheduled hearings and meetings open to the public, grant applications, and administrative orders)

Not all documents created by agencies are published in the FR. The government has the power to classify documents so that they are not published. The agencies required to publish in the FR are those who are required to promulgate regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). The final rules promulgated by a federal agency and published in the FR are ultimately contained (or "codified") in the CFR, which is updated annually.

Each agency is required to list the sections of the CFR that will be affected by the proposals or rulings in the day's FR. The List of CFR Sections Affected is published monthly, and is used to update CFR sections changed by new rules published in the FR. The FR is available online from 1994. Federal depository libraries also receive copies of the text, either in paper or microfiche format. The FR is not small; the 2003 FR weighs in at greater than 70,000 pages of text.

Any agency proposing a rule in the FR must provide contact information for people and organizations interested in making comments to the agencies. The agencies are required to give due diligence to these concerns when it publishes its final rule on the subject.

There are no copyright restrictions on the FR as it is a work of the U.S. government. Citations from the FR are Volume FR page number, e.g., 65 FR 66742.

Although the FR is quite important from a legal and historical perspective as a record of the regular business of American government agencies, few people (even lawyers) read it regularly due to its massive volume and the dry style of its content.


Nobel economist, Milton Friedman, consults the Federal Register as an attempt to determine how much individual liberty is diminished per year. He notes that the number of pages added to the Register each year declined sharply at the start of the Ronald Reagan presidency breaking a steady and sharp increase since 1960. The increase in the number of pages added per year resumed its upward trend after Reagan left office.

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