The Federal Register (since March 14, 1936), abbreviated Fed. Reg., or sometimes FR) is the official journal of the United States Government that contains most routine publications and public notices of government agencies. It is a daily (except holidays) publication.
Citations from the Federal Register are [volume] Fed. Reg. [page number] ([date]), e.g., 65 Fed. Reg. 66,741 (2000-10-01).
In essence, the Federal Register is a way for the government to think aloud to the people, and also serves as official journal of record for the approved acts of the U.S. Government. The notice and comment process outlined in the Federal Register gives the people a chance to participate in agency rulemaking.
The United States Government Manual is published as a special edition of the Federal Register. Its focus is on programs and activities ().
Each daily issue of the Federal Register is organized into four categories:
The citation "44 Fed. Reg. 33,238" refers to "Federal Register, volume 44, page 33,238." 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 Federal Register.
The final rules promulgated by a federal agency and published in the Federal Register are ultimately reorganized by topic or subject matter and re-published (or "codified") in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is updated annually.
Not all documents created by U.S. federal agencies are published in the Federal Register. The government has the power to classify documents so that they are not published.
The agencies required to publish in the Federal Register are those who are required to promulgate regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR").
Each agency is required to list the sections of the CFR that will be affected by the proposals or rulings in the day's Federal Register. The List of CFR Sections Affected is published monthly, and is used to update CFR sections changed by new rules published in the Federal Register.
A "unified agenda" is published semi-annually (April and October of each year), listing regulatory efforts that federal agencies expect to undertake in the coming months. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act and other laws and Executive Orders, this agenda includes indices showing segments of the public and levels of government that are expected to be affected by each of these coming regulations.
To purchase current or back copies of Federal Register, one may contact the U.S. Government Printing Office. In each issue of Federal Register, there is a subscription page. Currently, a year's subscription rate within the U.S. is US$749. Each individual issue may be priced from $11 to $33 depending on its pages. Virtually every law library associated with an ABA-accredited law school will also have a set, as will Federal Depository libraries.
The Federal Register is not small; for example, the 2006 Federal Register was 69,428 pages long. Although the Federal Register is quite important from a legal and historical perspective as a record of the regular business of American government agencies, few people read it regularly (even lawyers, except for those specializing in keeping track of developments in it), due to its massive volume and the dry style of its content.
Any agency proposing a rule in the Federal Register 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.
As part of the Federal E-Government eRulemaking Initiative, the web site Regulations.gov was established in 2003 to enable easy public access to Federal Register publications related to rulemaking and was further enhanced in 2005 with the launch of the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS). Through FDMS, the public can use Regulations.gov to access entire rulemaking dockets from participating Federal Departments and Agencies" to include providing on-line comments directly to those responsible for drafting the rulemakings.
Nobel laureate and libertarian economist Milton Friedman consulted the Federal Register in an attempt to determine how much individual liberty he believed to be diminished per year. He noted that the number of pages added to the Federal Register each year declined sharply at the start of the Reagan presidency, breaking a steady and sharp increase since 1970. The increase in the number of pages added per year resumed a less-steep upward trend after Reagan left office.
Amateur radio enthusiasts and people in general consult the Federal Register to determine when FCC rule changes take effect. Rule changes announced by the FCC do not usually take effect until after some specified time of being published in the Federal Register (generally, a month later).