House Moves to Re-establish Office of Technology Assessment After 24 Year Hiatus

May 10, 2019

by ASME.org

The House Committee on Appropriations recently released the FY2020 Legislative Branch funding bill. The bill funds the Legislative Branch of the federal government, which includes the House of Representatives, Congressional Budget Office and Capitol Police.

Among the provisions in the bill, it directs for $6 million in funding to re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) using the agency’s existing authorization. OTA was established in 1972 to provide Congress with nonpartisan analyses of complex technology issues. The overall mission of the agency was to ensure lawmakers were provided with the information they required on burgeoning technology issues, as well as objective analyses of the technologies’ impacts on policy matters. From 1974 to 1995, when the agency was defunded, OTA was governed by a bipartisan Technology Assessment Board comprised of six Senators and six Representatives.

Last year, Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced a resolution last year to restore OTA funding.  Earlier this year, Representatives Bill Foster and Mark Takano (D-CA) sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting OTA funding for FY2020. In their letter they noted that “Congress is grappling with questions around how to encourage innovation while minimizing the potential harms of new technologies. A restored OTA could help Congress develop thoughtful, targeted policy around emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles and face recognition.”

In discussing the renewed funding of OTA, Rep. Foster noted, “The Office of Technology Assessment is the ideal organization to provide critical insight and assessments into the effects technology will have on our economy and everyday lives and allow us to make informed policy decisions that benefit our constituents and the country.”

To view the FY2020 Legislative Branch funding bill, click here:
https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FY2020%20Leg%20Branch%20Sub%20Markup%20Draft.pdf

To view the letter Reps Foster and Takano sent to the House Appropriations Committee, click here:
https://foster.house.gov/sites/foster.house.gov/files/Signed%20FY19%20OTA%20Approps%20Letter.pdf