Customer service, federal style

Did you know that there is a federal government entity devoted to improving customer service by federal agencies? It is called USA Services, and its mission is to present U.S. citizens with a single point of reference for government, allowing them to receive accurate, timely and consistent answers and information.

Better yet, USA Services has proposed rules that would set government-wide standards for responding to citizens’ e-mails. These rules would require that simple questions submitted by e-mail be answered within two business days at least 90 percent of the time. Questions that require research or approval or involve multiple agencies would be answered within five business days. For more complex questions, the sender would receive an e-mail within two business days providing an estimated response time.

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  • Suggested time frames are nice, but even if it’s an agency’s own policy to reply within a certain amount of time, they sometimes don’t.

    In July, I complained to the Government Printing office about the indenting they use in the online version of the U.S. Code. They use a non-intuitive, paper-saving method that’s not appropriate for the online version. I also complained about their website being slow. The GPO’s auto-response said “Thank you for contacting the U.S. Government Printing Office. Your question has been received. You should expect a response from us within one business day.” I’m still waiting.

    No response from the following September 22nd complaint either:
    Under “Related Documents” on your Public and Private Laws main page at you link to two old versions (21st Edition) of How Our Laws Are Made. At you have a link to both the new edition (23rd Edition) and the old edition. Please update the link at If it hadn’t been for the government’s Thomas website where I saw a link to the 23rd Edition, I would have linked to the old edition on my webpage at

    I also sent a complaint to the appropriate Federal Election Commission email address about the FEC’s Federal Campaign Finance Laws page, which claims to include “documents relevant to federal campaign finance legislation” but omits relevant CFR documents which have the force of law. No response.

    The response from the government isn’t all bad though. My July 12th response from Amy Bunk, Attorney, Legal Affairs and Policy, Office of the Federal Register, to my question about whether statutes (USC) and regulations (CFR) are both legally binding was about as good as can be. I won’t hold the typo in the second paragraph against her.