ICYMI: Rebuilding a technology assessment office in Congress: Frequently asked questions

Congress is not known for being particularly tech savvy. This reputation comes in part from its quaint anachronisms, such as prominent Members’ desire to eschew email and smartphones, or preference for a typewriter over a laptop. While many potential solutions have been put forward, one that has recently gained traction is to revive an agency that once helped Congress understand complex, technical issues: the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).

In a new policy paper, R Street associate fellow and head of policy at the Lincoln Network, Zach Graves, gives an overview of the OTA model, offers a look at different arguments for and against the revival of Congress’s technology assessment function and explores some of the challenges involved in bringing it back.

The paper argues that Congress’s capacity to understand science and technology has drastically declined in recent decades. In fact, Congress faces an increasing array of high-tech policy challenges, such as infrastructure cybersecurity, election hacking and artificial intelligence regulation. It is essential for Congress to rebuild its capacity to understand technical issues, so it can adequately oversee major tech regulatory policies and clear the way for America’s leadership in innovation.

The author laments: “Unfortunately, rather than adapting to the increased demands of the 21st century, Congress’s internal staffing and support has significantly declined in recent decades, leaving our elected representatives woefully underprepared for contemporary policy challenges.”

A PDF version of the paper is available here.