Now is the Time to Enhance the Legislative Branch’s Science and Technology Capabilities in Government Reform

BPC Action applauds Sens. Tillis (R-NC) and Hirono (D-HI) and Reps. Takano (D-CA) and Foster (D-IL) for the bipartisan, bicameral introduction of the Office of Technology Assessment Improvement and Enhancement Act. This legislation provides beneficial and timely recommendations for improving science and technology support for the Legislative Branch. Specifically, the legislation makes practical improvements by enhancing, modernizing, and reimagining what was formerly the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).

Since the defunding of the OTA 24 years ago, Congress has increasingly lacked the necessary understanding and resources to address critical technological issues; meanwhile, science, technology, and data capabilities have continued to rapidly evolve. As these technologies shape our nation’s future, Congress must be able to receive timely, high-quality, non-partisan information to guide its policy decisions. Enhancing Congress’s scientific and technological capacity would give lawmakers the level of understanding critical to making informed decisions while bolstering congressional commitment to evidence-based policymaking.

This legislation and the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress’s recommendation to revive and restructure an improved OTA signal growing bipartisan momentum on Capitol Hill. Additionally, the funding included in the FY20 House Legislative Branch Subcommittee bill has accelerated that conversation. Congress should now examine the best way to provide itself the resources and expert advice it requires, and this legislation provides a pathway to that discussion. We look forward to reviewing the National Academy of Public Administration’s report on the Legislative Branch’s science and technology capabilities later next month, which will help provide further ideas for Congress. We stand ready to work with members of Congress and other stakeholders to bolster these efforts and ensure that Congress has the tools necessary for policy decisions on evolving science and technology matters that are crucial to our nation.