DearColleague.us

Letter

From: The Honorable Rush Holt
Sent By: sean.gallagher@mail.house.gov
Date: 5/1/2014

Vote Yes On Holt Amendment to Legislative Branch Appropriations To Reinstitute Office of Technology Assessment
Dear Colleague,
For 23 years, Congress had an insightful, non-partisan agency aimed at providing Members of Congress and their staff with expert advice on technological aspects of public policy. It was called the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), and from 1972 to 1995 it produced reports on topics that were striking in their relevance today: computer software security, disposal of chemical weapons, teaching with technology, bioenergy and more. OTA was part of Congress and understood well the congressional process. It spoke the language of Congress. It looked at the technological aspects of a large variety of issues, and provided clarity where it was needed most.
Mistakenly, Congress turned out the lights on OTA in 1995 with the thought that outside agencies, universities and private industry would fill the void. But they have not. In the years since OTA was defunded, our need for its work has grown only more acute. Too often we have considered or not considered legislation in ignorance of the technological factors.
This is why I am introducing an amendment to re-fund OTA. The Holt Amendment would reallocate to the OTA $2.5 million dollars appropriated for the already well-funded House Historic Buildings Revitalization Trust Fund. During its 23 years, OTA produced an amazingly high return investment with hundreds of millions in savings through its recommendations to Congress.
A study on Agent Orange helped save the government $10 million.
An OTA report was the source of recommendations for upgrades in computer systems at the Social Security Administration that led to a savings of over $350 million.
Studies on the Synthetic Fuels Corporation raised important questions about the program, and its subsequent abolishment saved tens of billions of dollars.
When Congress abolished OTA, scientific topics did not become less relevant to the political process. They just became less understood. And scientific thinking lost its toehold on Capitol Hill, with troubling consequences for the ways we legislate on all issues – not just those that are explicitly scientific.
I urge you to vote yes on my amendment to give Congress a tool we desperately need to do the people’s work with clarity and reason. This is not a new agency; it is simply adding a small sum to renew a dormant congressional support office.
Please contact Sean Gallagher of my staff at sean.gallagher@mail.house.gov with any questions.

Sincerely,

Rush Holt
Member of Congress