Testimony Before House Appropriators on Improving S&T Expertise in Congress
On April 2, 2019, I testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee on improving S&T expertise in Congress. At hand was the ongoing discussion on building-out technology assessment capabilities (modeled on the defunct Office of Technology Assessment) within the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The following is an excerpt of the testimony (available here) that was delivered to Chairman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio):
While interest in reviving OTA has become more salient, it is not a recent idea. Over the years since its defunding, there have been numerous efforts to revive it. These go all the way back to 1995, when an unsuccessful effort was made to avert its demise by relocating it under CRS. Since then, failed efforts to refund OTA, which has its authorizing statute still in effect, have come up repeatedly. These didn’t fail for purely partisan reasons; they came up in Democrat controlled congresses, Republican-controlled congresses, and ones like today’s. They often had bipartisan support, as well as opposition…
While the challenges to reviving OTA are primarily about scarce resources and partisan politics, STAA’s principle challenges are primarily institutional. Thanks to the efforts of this committee and Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, GAO’s primary challenge – that of finding the necessary resources – seems to have been addressed. Its next challenge is figuring out how to structure a nimble, semi-independent, and forward-looking research unit within another large agency, while mitigating potential conflicts in mission, function, and process. These were concerns that Rep. Holt and others saw and spent considerable time contemplating two decades ago. If they are to be resolved and adapted to the needs of our current environment, it will require the steady oversight and expert guidance of this committee and other stakeholders.