House blocks another attempt to re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment

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Climate Science Watch joined 11 other scientific, environmental, transparency, public health, and public interest groups in supporting an amendment to the legislative branch appropriations bill that would have provided $2.5 million to re-establish the congressional Office of Technology Assessment.  The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), was defeated in a House floor vote, 175-235. Text of letter to House Appropriations Committee and signers below.

OTA produced early reports that analyzed in detail issues of climate change mitigation and adaptive preparedness, including:

Changing by Degrees: Steps To Reduce Greenhouse Gases, February 1991
and
Preparing for an Uncertain Climate (2 volumes), October 1993

Congress should have paid more attention to and acted on the issues developed in these reports, instead of zeroing-out funding for the messenger and evading coming to grips with the climate change problem for the past 20 years.

The letter:

The Honorable Ander Crenshaw
United States House of Representatives
440 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 
The Honorable Harold Rogers
United States House of Representatives
2406 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
 
The Honorable Norman Dicks
United States House of Representatives
2467 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

July 21, 2011

Dear Chairman Crenshaw, Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member
Dicks:

As scientific, environmental, transparency, public health and public interest groups we strongly support the Holt amendment to the legislative branch appropriations bill that would provide $2.5 million for the Office of Technology Assessment.  The funds will come from the House Historic Buildings Revitalization Trust Fund.

The environmental, public health, and national security challenges that face our nation can be met only if members of Congress are able to make fully-informed decisions.

Congress needs an independent body of experts to offer guidance on issues directly related to public health and safety, the best use of taxpayer dollars, encouraging American innovation and competitiveness, and the best strategies for creating and sustaining viable jobs.

For 23 years, the OTA, with a bipartisan structure, provided trustworthy, non-partisan information on scientific and technological issues confronting Congress, helping lawmakers understand complex issues and saving significant tax dollars. OTA studies also inspired private-sector innovation and entrepreneurship in a host of scientific fields, and spurred Congressional efforts to prevent breast cancer.

  • A 1994 report helped Congress assess the Social Security Administration’s computer procurement plan, and ended up saving the government $368 million.
  • A 1988 report laid the groundwork for the start of the Human Genome Project, which mapped the 20,000 or so genes that make up the human genome. Mapping the genome opened up the emerging field of biotechnology, promising both jobs and medical breakthroughs in the years to come.
  • OTA studies prompted Congress to require Medicare to pay for pap smears and mammograms for women 65 and older, a move that has saved tens of thousands of lives.
  • Its groundbreaking 1984 study of Alzheimer’s disease continues to be used and referred to by those in the field.

Despite its good work, OTA was the victim of budget cuts in 1995, a move that saved the government a little more than $20 million annually. But the lack of an OTA over the past 15 years contributed to the waste of billions of dollars on unproven technology. Examples of that waste include radiation detectors that didn’t work as promised that cost the Department of Homeland Security $1.5 billion, and a weapons system, the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, that ballooned in cost, from $15 billion to $28 billion.

Congress cannot afford any more waste of precious taxpayer dollars.  The Holt amendment will help give lawmakers the expertise they need to be informed stewards of the public purse and to develop policies that create jobs and stimulate innovation.

Sincerely,

Lynne E. Bradley
Director, Office of Government Relations
American Library Association
 
Rick Piltz
Director
Climate Science Watch 
 
William Sullivan
President
Council of Environmental Deans and Directors
 
Diana Zuckerman
President
National Research Center for Women & Families
Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund 
 
Peter Saundry
Executive Director
National Council for Science and the Environment 
 
Cynthia A. Pearson
Executive Director
National Women's Health Network 
 
Scott Slesinger
Legislative Director
Natural Resources Defense Council 
 
Patrice McDermott
Director
OpentheGovernment.org 
 
Ellen Paul
Executive Director
The Ornithological Council 
 
Danielle Brian
Executive Director
Project on Government Oversight 
 
Francesca Grifo
Program Director
Scientific Integrity Program
Union of Concerned Scientists
 

Earlier post:

Reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment: Letter to Congress from 90 organizations

This entry was posted in Climate Science Watch, Congress: Legislation and Oversight. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to House blocks another attempt to re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment

  1. C. Alexander Brown says:

    Because Newt Gingrich was in such a hurry to kill off the OTA, he and his foot soldiers did not do so with legislation. They simply cut off funding. Therefore, de Jure, the OTA still exists. All that it will take to revive it is an authorization signed by President Obama and an allocation of funding, which can be a straightforward transfer of funds from other programmes...!! That is all. How is it that I, a retired Canadian official, can know this, but folks in Washington do not? I suggest that Congressman Dr. Rush Holt ((A distinguished scientist in his own right. I 'm going to suggest that he be made a Fellow of the Perimeter Institute, of which Stephen Hawking is a member)) or anyone else for that matter --- not excluding the White House's Science Advisor --- to ask the Congressional Budget Office to examine and prepare a report on this question of what exactly is needed, de facto to reactivate the OTA. The matter is so straightforward that a report could be ready in a month.

    C. ALEXANDER BROWN.

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