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Serial and Government Publications Division





Federal Depository Collection
arrow graphicFederal Advisory Committee Collection
International Organizations




Federal Advisory Committee Collection
see caption below

Young defense woman United States. Office of War Information. 1942? Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USE613-MD-001806 (b&w film neg.)
bibliographic record

When Congress passed the Federal Advisory Commission Act of 1972, the Library of Congress was designated by statute as the archival repository for Federal Advisory Commission (FAC) documents. Federal Advisory Commissions are the committees, boards, commissions, “blue ribbon” panels, councils, and similar groups that have been established to advise officers and agencies in the executive branch “as a useful and beneficial means of furnishing expert advice, ideas, and diverse opinions to the federal government” (Federal Advisory Commission Act of 1972, Pub. L. 92-463, Sec. 1, Oct. 6, 1972, 86 Stat. 770). These blue ribbon panels include advisory experts, political stakeholders, and consultants on whom Congress and the executive branch depend for advice and recommendations about a narrowly defined field. Most executive branch FACs are established by statute, executive order of the president, or presidential proclamation. Each is coordinated and supported by a parent federal agency.

Because Federal Advisory Committees reflect public policy issues of interest to the federal government and the public, they often take up social, scientific, health, and workplace issues. Women are the specific subject of a number of the FACs. For example, the twenty-one-member Glass Ceiling Commission was created in November 1991 to

focus greater attention to the importance of eliminating artificial barriers to the advancement of women and minorities to management and decisionmaking positions in business, and promote work force diversity.17

It also recommended procedures for the Frances Perkins-Elizabeth Hanford Dole National Award for Diversity and Excellence in American Executive Management (Advisory Committee Charter, March 26, 1992). The resulting reports, Good for Business (Y 3.2:G46/B96) and A Solid Investment (Y 3.2:G 46/IN 8), were published as government publications.

FACs are often the first to investigate and recommend policies and procedures for important issues not usually addressed by government agencies. For example,

  • The 1976-78 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Contraceptive Development Contract Review Commission (Health and Human Services), composed of clinical and research experts, determined methodologies for testing and monitoring the use of synthetic contraceptive drugs in male and female clinical trials.
  • In 1997 the Defense Department established an eleven-member Advisory Commission on Gender-Integrated Training and Related Issues in the Military Services.
  • More recently, in March 1999, the President's Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History issued recommendations on how best to acknowledge the accomplishments of American women.
Federal Advisory Committees also document women's expanding role as experts and advisers. Women appointed to serve on such committees are either acknowledged experts in their fields or political stakeholders. For example,
  • The annual report for the 1993 Women's Health Initiative Program Advisory Committee lists author Gail Sheehy and activist Linda Chavez among the twenty-three members of its panel.
  • Editor Janet W. James and director Jeannette B. Cheek of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America were members of the 1972 Advisory Committee on Women's Papers, recommending that the National Historical Publications Commission publish the papers of more than ninety women and women's organizations (Report of the Special Committee of the National Historical Publications Commission on Women's Papers, 1973).
The Library's collection of FAC material is primarily maintained in the Serial and Government Publications Division. Unless findings of a commission are deemed important enough to be published as government publications—such as the Glass Ceiling Commission reports—the FAC material is not available elsewhere in the Library. The FAC collection always includes the charter for each commission documenting its scope, membership, activities, and lifespan and may also include reports, records of public hearings, and issue briefs.

Using FAC Material

The Library's online catalog does not hold comprehensive records of FAC material. A card file index of FAC material received by the division is available in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Room.

Among the print sources providing useful information concerning FAC material are:

  • Encyclopedia of Governmental Advisory Organizations (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research; JK468.C7 E5 N&CPR), cumulated annually.
    Indexed by keyword, each entry provides the address, authorizing authority, program description, members, and publication information. Both current and terminated commissions are included, so the Encyclopedia is extremely useful for historical research. Useful keywords include: gender, women (and variations), maternal, sex, family (and variations), and affirmative action.
  • Annual Report of the President on Federal Advisory Committees (JK468.C7 U55a N&CPR full set, 1972-1998).
    Since 1972 the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration have issued this list of existing FACs for the year by parent agency. Each entry indicates the number of meetings held during the year, the actual and proposed costs, and the type of authorizing basis for each.
  • Steven D. Zink's Guide to the Presidential Advisory Commissions, 1973-84 (Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck Healey, Inc., 1987; JK468.C7 Z56 1987 N&CPR).
    Although limited to the time period indicated, the guide provides a detailed account of significant FACs, summarizing each FAC's activities and recommendations and giving meeting dates and bibliographic information for all reports issued.
Compared to federal government publications in general, FAC material is not as prevalent on the Web. The General Services Administration's Committee Management Secretariat maintains FACA Database <> (see Serial and Government Publications External Sites). Some committees have made their reports publicly available through Web sites, and can be found under the name of the committee using Google, Uncle Sam, and Firstgov (see Using Federal Depository Publications).

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