Broad Coalition Tells Congress To Bring Back The Office Of Technology Assessment

from the about-freaking-time dept

For many, many years now we've been talking about why Congress needs to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment that existed from 1972 until 1995 when Newt Gingrich defunded it as part of his "Contract with America" which apparently (who knew?) included making Congress more ignorant and less informed about technology. Year after year, some in Congress have proposed bringing back the OTA, but it keeps getting voted down. Just recently, we had two Congressional Representatives -- Rep. Mark Takano and Rep. Sean Casten -- write a piece here at Techdirt arguing why we need to bring back the OTA.

And it might actually be happening. While Gingrich defunded the OTA in 1995, the law creating it is still on the books. Congress doesn't need to pass any new law to bring it back, it just needs to fund it again. And, perhaps surprisingly, the House put forth an appropriations bill that includes $6 million towards reviving the OTA.

Earlier today, a very broad coalition of organizations and individuals (including our sister organization, The Copia Institute) sent a letter to the Senate urging it to support this small level of funding to better educate themselves on technology and technology policy issues. This is not a partisan issue in the slightest (as should be obvious from the coalition of signatories on the letter). This is an issue about spending a very small amount of money to make sure that our legislators actually know what the fuck they're talking about when they're trying to understand and regulate around technology issues.

On behalf of the undersigned organizations and individuals, we write to express our concern that Congress does not have sufficient capacity to tackle 21st century science and technology policy challenges. Accordingly, we urge you to prioritize efforts to augment this institutional capacity, including providing funding for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), as part of the fiscal year 2020 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

The Senate has played a leading institutional role in promoting science and technology capacity in Congress. We note with favor the recently created Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics (STAA) team inside the Government Accountability Office, and its expanding capabilities to serve Members of Congress with expert advice and analysis. We also look forward to the forthcoming report from the National Academy of Public Administration later this year.

But OTA and STAA have different comparative advantages: the former in foresight and emerging technologies, and the latter in oversight and evaluating federal government programs and expenditures. Congress must have both these capabilities to meet the ever-increasing demands on its oversight and legislative responsibilities.

Hopefully, this time, Congress will pay attention, and proactively choose to better educate themselves.

Filed Under: congress, ignorance, ota

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2019 @ 4:45am


    Ok, well you have your reality and I have mine.

    I remember the time you are talking about. It’s when ASSHOLES like you proclaimed that it was OK to call people BLACK - well, it was not OK back then and it is NOT ok NOW! They are Negros!

    And about your bullshit ideas that there are lies amongst us, let me say this! Money is a fantasy! We should all share with each other! I remember sharing my body with many, many, many men and boys in the 60’s, and I was RIGHT to do so! Many events I don’t remember, but that’s GOOD, because that’s what mushrooms are SUPPOSED TO DO! Yeah, just like in Colorado and California, mushrooms and young men and middle aged men and old men go well together (with me). That’s life, and you should respect it, OR ELSE!

    And you should listen to me! I’m a PhD, let me tell you how I got my degree. I studied horses, especially Pony Express horses, and what they lived, and how they felt, and what they ate., They ate APPLES! Wow, that was my first insight. And then, later, I uniquely discovered that they SHIT APPLE SEEDS! That’s right, I outright proved it, I might have been the first. AND THEN, JOHNY APPLESEED (or was it Jhon Smith?)took all the credit.

    He was a liar and a pervert and a racist and empathized with SLAVE HOLDERS! I was the first to prove that. AND SO, many of the Apples and Apple Seeds and Apple CIder and Apple Pie in America are RACIST PRODUCTS, and have been for HUNDREDS of YEARS and now you have to PAY. I think 5 cents for each racist apple produced in the US every year would suffice, approximately $18B growing at 2.5% annually, payable immediately, 212 years in arrears (negotiable).

    SIgned - Frederick Douglass, Paypall Accepted, Email to

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.