Former Hill Staffers on Factors Needed to Reinstate Tech Advisory Office in Congress

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A few lawmakers have launched an effort to revive the congressional office of technology assessment and some congressional staffers believe that such an institution, if reinstated, should operate in a nonpartisan manner and with adequate funding to be effective, Nextgov reported Wednesday.

The OTA, which had a budget of $25M and approximately 140 employees when it ceased operations in 1995, used to educate and advise lawmakers on technology issues ahead of congressional hearings.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the last measure to bring back the OTA, organized a discussion with a group of former Hill staffers and advocates to talk about the factors needed to set up a viable tech advisory office in Congress.

“There’s the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is part of the executive branch. It makes sense to have an OTA—an office to analyze science and technology policy—for the legislative branch,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress and a former attorney at the Congressional Research Service.

“Having something that is independent; that is capable of doing this work; that is bipartisan—or better yet, nonpartisan; that has buy-in from the political parties and the factions within the political parties is something that makes the most sense,” Schuman added.

Robert Cook-Deegan, a professor at Arizona State University and former OTA staffer in the 1980s, said the office should be established with sufficient funds.