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A stack of volumes from the Law Library's collection of the CIS publication Reports Required by Congress
Reports Required by Congress. Photograph by Anna Price.

A Primer on Congressionally Mandated Reports and How to Find Them

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Last month, we discussed recent updates to Congress.gov, focusing on executive communications. As we noted, executive communications are “messages sent to the chambers by the President, executive branch officials, state or local governments, private citizens, and other entities.” This post focuses on using online and print resources to locate one type of executive communication: congressionally mandated reports submitted to Congress from executive agencies and the federal courts.

Background on Congressionally Mandated Reports

Congress receives thousands of reports each year from executive and judicial branch officials and agencies. Not to be confused with congressional committee reports, agencies draft congressionally mandated reports when required by federal statutes. Agencies submit these reports to the House and/or Senate, and sometimes a specific congressional committee. Here are some examples of reporting requirements found in federal statutes:

While some federal agencies have elected to make select reports available on their websites, historically, these materials have been difficult to locate. Apart from limited exceptions explained below, the Law Library of Congress does not collect congressionally mandated reports. The Congressional Record and Congress.gov’s Executive and Other Communications collection helpfully note when Congress receives these materials, but the contents of these communications are usually limited to a general description of the report’s subject, rather than the report’s full text. A couple examples of these communications are included below.

A screen capture of EC2728, with a Congressional Record citation and abstract of the report that reads, "A letter from the Treasurer, National Gallery of Art, transmitting the Gallery's Performance and Accountability Report for the year ended September 30, 2023, pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 3515(a)(1); Public Law 101–576, section 303(a)(1) (as amended by Public Law 107–289, section 2(a)); (116 Stat. 2049); to the Committee on Oversight and Accountability."
EC 2728 from the 118th Congress, in Congress.gov’s Executive Communications collection.
A screen capture of EC 5441 with a Congressional Record citation and abstract of the report that reads, "A communication from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, transmitting, pursuant to law, a report relative to the proceedings of the Judicial Conference of the United States for the September 2007 session; to the Committee on the Judiciary."
EC 5441 from the 110th Congress, in Congress.gov’s Executive Communications collection.

Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

On December 23, 2022, Congress enacted the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act through the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. This law requires federal agencies to submit congressionally mandated reports to the Government Publishing Office (GPO), for subsequent online publication on GPO’s GovInfo website. GovInfo went live with this collection of reports in late 2023. Researchers are now able to browse this collection by committee or topic, or download data as either a CSV or JSON format file. More search tips are available on GovInfo’s Congressionally Mandated Reports help page.

Screen grab of the Congressionally Mandated Reports homepage on GovInfo.gov
The Congressionally Mandated Reports Collection on GovInfo.

Locating Older Reports

The vast majority of available reports on GovInfo were authored since 2023, and it appears that this collection will add new reports as they are published, but will not upload archival or historical reports. Researchers looking for older reports can sometimes find them on agency or program-specific websites, but they are more likely to be stored at the National Archives and Records Administration. CIS, a commercial service, published an annual index of reports from 1994-2002 entitled Reports Required by Congress: CIS Guide to Executive Communication, with accompanying microfiche of reports for 1994-1995 and 1997-1998. The Law Library of Congress has copies of these annual indexes and the microfiche for the years indicated.

Various libraries also collect copies of reports to Congress, either from the agency itself or from the congressional committee to which the report was submitted. Researchers may want to search WorldCat.org to determine whether any GPO federal depository or local libraries hold copies of a certain report.

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