How to write an ACTION MEMO

Length: NO MORE than two typewritten pages, 10 point or larger


To: Actor

From: You

Subject: Short Title

Recommendation: Tell Actor what to do

Background: Tell Actor why this issue needs attention/resolution now, why it is important to actor, ripe for attention, delay would be costly


There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.


Criteria: Remind Actor of the criteria that should govern choice between alternative actions -- be explicit and concrete

Alternatives: Identify the relevant alternatives. Alternatives must be mutually exclusive and should be severally exhaustive

Evaluation of Alternatives in terms of identified Criteria

Implementation steps: Who should do what to carry out recommended action


Style tips:

Be brief

Get to the point; stay on point

Be concrete [avoid adjectives, especially fuzzy ones]

Don't repeat yourself

Write with active verbs; avoid be and helping verbs

Make clear the subjects of your sentences

Keep your sentences simple -- each sentence should answer a SINGLE QUERY: who, what, when, where, how, how many, which, when or why?



DATE: February 19,1996

TO: Lewis A. Engman, President, PMA

FROM: David H. Griggs, Vice President for Government Affairs, PMA

RE: Strategy for passing the Pharmaceutical Export Amendments of 1986



The PMA can pass the export amendments by striking a compromise with exchange for Waxman's approval of the export bill, the PMA agrees Rep. Waxman: in to support Waxman's vaccine injury compensation program. With Waxman's blessing, the export bill easily passes; without it, the bill dies in sub-committee. Similarly, without the PMA's backing, the vaccine bill cannot pass the House, but with the PMA's endorsement, it has a chance. Both parties are well positioned to help the other benefit from a change to the status quo. All affected interests stand to gain. The best strategy is to compromise.


The pharmaceutical industry and associated interests (firms and their
employees, suppliers, communities, and so forth down the rent chain) would enjoy
substantial benefits from the passage of the export act. However, the vaccine bill
would impose costs on the industry and it could open the door for other undesirable
regulation of the industry. The various manufacturers (who oppose the vaccine
bill) must be persuaded that the benefits of the export bin outweigh the costs of the
vaccine bill. The PMA must avoid repeating the mistakes made during the 1984
generic drug patent legislation and speak with a unified voice if it is to be an
effective coalition.

Since the benefits of the export bill are well known, our focus should be on minimizing the cost of the vaccine bill. On the plus side, the law would immunize manufacturers from legal liability, thus lowering legal costs. In effect some legal costs would shift to costs in the form of an excise tax (or some other fee). A tax based cost system would be much more predictable and controllable than a legal based one, which involves the enormous expense of litigation and the unpredictability of juries. Moreover, the specific method of funding need not be decided now. The PMA can support passage of the bill now, while leaving the details open to future negotiation. Of course, the PMA should actively participate in the entire vaccine injury compensation program so as to ensure that an efficient and effective system is created.

The unfortunate few who suffer adverse reactions to vaccines would gain a reliable, less costly means of achieving compensation for their losses. The industry would benefit from improved goodwill for supporting the program. That goodwill would override much of the negative effects generated by Sen. Metzenbaum and other remaining opponents of the export bill. The American public is more concerned about Americans who suffer "freak" injury than they are with people in foreign countries being exposed to unapproved drugs. The resulting gain in clout for the industry and the PMA would only enhance the PMA's ability to effectively handle future issues.

The opposition to the export bill possesses power only because of the unique position of Rep. Waxman. Their moral argument is shallow because it smacks of paternalism and ethnocentrism. Little media attention, and less public interest is likely. Waxman's principal motivation is enhance his position while serving his constituents. His role is that of political entrepreneur. While he earns some points for taking on the industry and stopping "dangerous" exports, he has far more to gain politically from helping Americans in need. The export bill is not important to Waxman; the vaccine bill is.


First, the PMA must stand firm as a coalition. All member firms should be consulted and convinced that the deal is in the best interests of everyone. Debate is likely. However, the compromise strategy should prevail. The alternative is for neither bill to pass -- there is very little chance that the export bill could bypass Waxman's committee. Although the passage of the export bill alone yields the greatest benefit to the PMA (and the industry), passing both bills together is better than the status quo. Once united, the PNLA informs the export bill's sponsors in the Senate of the decision. The Senate democrats would be helpful in persuading their fellows in the House; they are likely to favor both bills.

Although the republicans may need some convincing that the vaccine bill would be a good law, the PMA's position is very difficult to counter. When the industry to be regulated approves of the proposed regulation, few are likely to complain. Senate republicans would also help lobby the President for the passage of the vaccine bill. President Reagan is staunchly against new regulations and new taxes taxes. However, when he sees the industry supporting the bill, he will probably not object too loudly, especially if it means passing the export bill.

Troops lined up, the PMA can make the offer of compromise directly to Rep. Waxman. Waxman's alternatives to accepting a compromise are not as beneficial to him. If he rejects outright, he gains close to nothing (not much public exposure comes from killing a relatively "uninteresting" bill in subcommittee and the,foreign people he's "protecting" have never heard of him, and they cannot vote). If he accepts, he wins big.

Waxman will probably want assurances that his bill will go all the way. Having effectively conveyed the benefit of the deal to the crucial institutions (the Senate and the President), the PMA will be able to assure passage. In addition Waxman may press for specifics regarding the funding of the vaccine bill. The PMA should counter that the export bill needs to be passed quickly (this session) and stand firm to leaving the details open. Waxman is not likely to risk blowing the deal the details.


Date : March 20, 1975


FROM: DON HOMUTH, Director of External Affairs

SUBJECT: EPA Procedural Options Remaining



One clear procedural option remains -- submit a plan by July 1. By submitting a plan, KPC will remain in compliance with the main condition of its permit, i.e. that a plan be submitted. At that point, the onus of the matter rests with EPA. If EPA does accept it (and there are a number of environmental and procedural reasons why it should), KPC should be prepared to implement it. If it does not, KPC and the EPA are back into negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. During the time KPC and the EPA are negotiating, operations would continue under the provisions of the present permit, including discharge levels,

HOWEVER - the plan need NOT specify the construction of an activated sludge plant immediately, or indeed at any time in the near future. The plan may instead specify any reasonable, feasible and workable plan that would reduce effluent discharge to a reasonable level and still allow KPC to remain competitive with other firms similarly situated.


A. Initial permit application July 1973

B. Public Hearing August 1973

C. Permit issued October 1973

D. Request for hearing filed February 1974

E. Adjudicatory hearing June 1974

E. EPA proposed regulations July 1974

F. Revised permit issued November 1974


Under present permit provisions, KPC must present a final plan for compliance with effluent discharge levels by July 1, 1975. At the present time, no specific regulations for discharge levels have been finalized. Therefore, both the discharge levels and the means for meeting the discharge levels are subject to negotiations between KPC and the EPA.


KPC could (and probably should) have objected to the EPA requirements at the hearing of 8/73 and again at the hearing of 6/74. During the public comment period after the EPA proposed its regulations in 7/74, KPC should have commented, objecting to the discharge provisions of 1983 and especially the "zero-discharge" provisions of 1985 as being unfeasible, unworkable and counter-productive regarding the on-land sludge disposal problem. The time for comments has expired.

By accepting the revised permit, including the higher level discharge variance, in 11/74, KPC has obligated itself to fulfill the provisions of the permit or face administrative sanctions, most notably permit revocation. That would require immediate construction of an interim

discharge control system, which we have already concluded is too expensive, and would harm our relationship with the EPA during any future negotiations.


We may safely assume that the EPA will issue its final regulations regarding NPDES standards in the near future. When it does, during the period of public comment, KPC ought to raise its objections to the regulations, specifically:

1. That "zero-discharge" standards are unnecessary.

2. That activated sludge treatment plants are both unfeasible and unworkable.

3. That zero discharge and activated sludge together are counter-productive, in that on-land disposal would cause more environmental harm than ocean discharge.

4. That by administratively mandating a "zero-discharge" standard, the EPA has gone beyond the original intent of the Pollution Control Act and is now acting ultra vires in the matter.

The purpose of these actions would be to insure that KPC would have grounds to bring a suit in U.S. District Court in the event of any future legal battle between KPC and the EPA. Such a battle would occur only if the EPA were to take actions to enforce administrative sanctions against KPC.

During any legal action, company operations would proceed ex ante, and the present effluent discharge levels remain until all legal options had expired. That could conceivably take years, and the company could win OR lose.


There is already considerable political pressure on the EPA to allow KPC to continue operation. KPC and EPA need to reach a mutually agreeable plan that would provide for some lower level of effluent discharge than present, but still fall short of the zero-discharge proposed standard. Environmentalists consider the cumulative effect of the total amount of discharge over time. A three-step effluent discharge control system of settling, aeration, and filtration would remove a sizeable part of the solid wastes and reduce Biological Oxygen Demand to a level where long-term cumulative effects would be less than continued present effluent levels during the negotiation and litigation period. The cost would be less than litigation and possible construction of the activated sludge system. If the EPA would accept such an agreement, KPC should require relief from any future standards during the remaining life of the plant as a condition of the agreement. Environmentally, the reasoning is sound. Economically, it provides for future operations, both short and long-term. Politically, with environmental and economic criteria favoring a settlement, resolution of the matter is likely.