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SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ADVICE
FOR THE U.S. CONGRESS
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS
JULY 25, 2006
Serial No. 10957
Printed for the use of the Committee on Science
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/science
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
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HON. SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York, Chairman
RALPH M. HALL, Texas
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
KEN CALVERT, California
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma
JUDY BIGGERT, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
W. TODD AKIN, Missouri
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
JO BONNER, Alabama
TOM FEENEY, Florida
RANDY NEUGEBAUER, Texas
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
DAVE G. REICHERT, Washington
MICHAEL E. SODREL, Indiana
JOHN J.H. ''JOE'' SCHWARZ, Michigan
MICHAEL T. MCCAUL, Texas
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMARIO DIAZ-BALART, Florida
BART GORDON, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
LYNN C. WOOLSEY, California
DARLENE HOOLEY, Oregon
MARK UDALL, Colorado
DAVID WU, Oregon
MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
BRAD MILLER, North Carolina
LINCOLN DAVIS, Tennessee
DANIEL LIPINSKI, Illinois
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
BRAD SHERMAN, California
BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
JIM MATHESON, Utah
JIM COSTA, California
AL GREEN, Texas
CHARLIE MELANCON, Louisiana
DENNIS MOORE, Kansas
DORIS MATSUI, California
C O N T E N T S
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Statement by Representative Sherwood L. Boehlert, Chairman, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Statement by Representative Bart Gordon, Minority Ranking Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Prepared Statement by Representative Jerry F. Costello, Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Prepared Statement by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
Prepared Statement by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Member, Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives
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The Hon. Rush Holt, a Representative in Congress from the State of New Jersey
Dr. Jon M. Peha, Professor, Departments of Engineering and Public Policy and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Albert H. Teich, Director of Science and Policy Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Dr. Peter D. Blair, Executive Director, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
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Dr. Catherine T. Hunt, President-Elect, American Chemical Society; Leader for Technology Partnerships, Rohm and Haas Company
Appendix 1: Answers to Post-Hearing Questions
The Hon. Rush Holt, a Representative in Congress from the State of New Jersey
Dr. Jon M. Peha, Professor, Departments of Engineering and Public Policy and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Albert H. Teich, Director of Science and Policy Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Dr. Peter D. Blair, Executive Director, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
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Dr. Catherine T. Hunt, President-Elect, American Chemical Society; Leader for Technology Partnerships, Rohm and Haas Company
Appendix 2: Additional Material for the Record
Statement of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics EngineersUnited States of America (IEEEUSA)
Technology Assessment in Congress: History and Legislative Options, CRS Report for Congress, Genevieve J. Knezo, Specialist in Science and Technology Policy, Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Scientific Advice for Policy in the United States: Lessons From the National Academies and the Former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, Peter D. Blair, Executive Director, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, National Academy of Sciences
SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ADVICE FOR THE U.S. CONGRESS
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006
House of Representatives,
Committee on Science,
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The Committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:09 a.m., in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Sherwood L. Boehlert [Chairman of the Committee] presiding.
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Science and Technology Advice
for the U.S. Congress
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006
10:00 A.M.12:00 P.M.
2318 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
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On Tuesday, July 25, 2006, the Committee on Science of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing to examine how Congress receives advice about science, and whether and how the mechanisms for providing that advice need to be improved.
The Honorable Rush Holt is the Representative from the 12th District of New Jersey.
Dr. Jon Peha is a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He also was the co-editor with M. Granger Morgan of Science and Technology Advice for Congress, a compilation of policy papers evaluating existing systems and providing recommendations for science and technology advice for the legislative branch.
Dr. Al Teich is the Director of Science and Policy Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is also the author of Technology and the Future, a collection of papers on how technology and society interact.
Dr. Peter Blair is the Executive Director of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences at the National Academy of Sciences. He previously served as Assistant Director of the Office of Technology Assessment.
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Dr. Catherine Hunt is the President-elect of the American Chemical Society and the Leader for Technology Partnerships (Emerging Technologies) at the Rohm and Haas Company. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Council for Chemical Research.
3. Overarching Questions
The hearing will address the following overarching questions:
1. What resources are available to Congress to provide scientific and technical advice or assessments? How does Congress use these resources?
2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current system through which Congress receives scientific and technical advice? Overall, does the current system effectively meet Congress' needs, or do gaps exist?
3. What options are available to supplement or improve existing resources to provide advice and assessments on scientific or technical issues?
4. Brief Overview
Congress currently receives information and advice on science and technology issues from, among others, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), science and engineering professional societies, interest groups and think tanks. Additionally, some Congressional offices employ staff with scientific backgrounds.
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From 1972 to 1995, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a Congressional support office, prepared reports at Congressional request on science and technology issues. In 1995, funding for OTA was eliminated.
Reports from scientific groups and experts released in recent years have criticized the lack of a dedicated source of scientific and technical advice and assessment for Congress. They argue that the resources currently available do not always provide Congress with in-depth analysis, including analysis of multiple policy options, in a form and on a schedule that is useful to legislators.
Congressional advocates of creating (or recreating) a Congressional entity for science advice responded to this criticism, in part, by creating a pilot project within the General Accounting Office (GAO) to provide advice on specific issues. The Legislative Branch appropriation in fiscal years 20022004. GAO has completed four assessments as a resultone each on biometrics, cyber security, wildland fires and cargo security.
Advocates of an expanded scientific and technical assessment capability to support the Legislative Branch have proposed several options, including: (1) augmenting the capabilities of existing Congressional agencies, (2) expanding the use of the National Academy of Sciences, (3) increasing the number of privately-sponsored Congressional science and engineering fellows, (4) establishing a small Congressional office that would farm Members' requests for information out to expert non-governmental organizations, or (5) chartering a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing science advice and technology assessment for Congress.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC5. Background
History of the Office of Technology Assessment
Congress created the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1972 to aid Congress ''in the identification and consideration of existing and probable impacts of technological application.''(see footnote 1) All technology assessments conducted by the office were approved by the Technology Assessment Board, a bipartisan body made up of six Senators and six Representatives. Assessments could be requested by a committee chair, the ranking minority member of a committee, the majority of members in a committee, the Technology Assessment Board, or the director of OTA.
Funding for OTA was eliminated in 1995 as part of an effort to reduce size of the federal budget and the Congressional budget and bureaucracy. Proponents of eliminating OTA also argued that OTA reports took over a year to complete (as do many National Academy reports) and, therefore, were not available to legislators in a timeframe that was useful to them, and that Congress would be able to obtain similar advice from NAS, CRS, and GAO. Also, some Members felt that some of the reports produced by OTA were not pertinent to the legislative agenda or reflected a political bias.
GAO pilot program in technology assessments
The Fiscal Year 2002 (FY 2002) Legislative Branch Appropriations Conference Report allocated $500,000 to GAO to conduct a study as part of a pilot project in technology assessment. The resulting report, released in November 2002, was entitled Using Biometrics for Border Security.(see footnote 2) FY 2003 and FY 2004 appropriations reports contained similar allocations, and GAO completed another technology assessment in May 2004Cyber Security for Critical Infrastructure Protection.(see footnote 3) GAO completed the pilot project with two other technology assessmentsProtecting Structures and Improving Communications During Wildland Fires, released in 2005, and Securing the Transport of Cargo Containers, released in 2006.
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In addition to providing funds for these pilot technology assessments, Congress requested two reviews of the pilot project's performance. Overall, the external review, completed in 2002, reflected very favorably on GAO's performance. The reviewers found that GAO did a ''very good job'' given the constraintsa very short timescale for the assessment and no previous experience with conducting technology assessments. However, the reviewers also noted that GAO has few staff with adequate knowledge and experience of broad scientific and technical issues necessary to evaluate a range of policy options.
6. Proposals for Improving Science Advice to Congress
Over the past several years, numerous proposals have been offered for improving Congress' access to science advice and technology assessment through legislation and policy recommendations. Bills to directly re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment were introduced in the 107th and 108th Congresses. Additionally, legislation to create new Congressional agencies responsible for providing non-partisan scientific and technical advice has been introduced. In June 2004, Congressman Holt introduced H.R. 4670, which would build upon the pilot project at GAO by establishing within GAO a Center for Scientific and Technical Assessment. (That bill has not been re-introduced.) The Center would be dedicated to providing Congress with information, analysis, and advice on issues related to science and technology. In the Senate, Senator John Kerry introduced S. 1716 in 2001, in which Section 153 created a Science and Technology Assessment Service to provide ongoing independent science and technology advice ''. . .within. . .the legislative branch.'' Assessments would have been conducted using experts selected in consultation with the National Academy of Sciences.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Science and Technology Advice for Congress, a collection of essays by various authors, analyzes a number of potential means for expanding the scientific and technical assessment capability for the Legislative Branch. In addition to legislating mandating the creation of a dedicated Congressional support office in this area, authors representing groups such as AAAS, NAS, and various universities suggest improving the access to and responsiveness of private organizations capable of providing expert advice. One recommendation is to establish a cadre of private organizations who are prepared to quickly respond to questions distributed by a central office in Congress with knowledge of their areas of expertise. Another suggestion involves expanding the role of privately-sponsored Congressional science fellows by increasing the number of fellows available for employment in Congressional offices and better preparing them to deal with policy issues that arise in these positions. The editors, Morgan and Peha, note that ''any analysis process must continuously work to build widespread support among members on a bipartisan, bicameral basis, so that when conflicts arise. . .support for the analysis institution remains firm.''(see footnote 4)
7. Questions for the Witnesses
What resources are available to Congress to provide scientific and technical advice or assessments? How does Congress use these resources?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current system through which Congress receives scientific and technical advice, particularly with regard to depth and breadth, timeliness, and impartiality? Overall, does the current system effectively meet Congress' needs, or does a significant gap exist?
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What options are available to supplement or improve existing resources to provide assessments and advice on scientific or technical issues?
Chairman BOEHLERT. Good morning. I want to welcome everyone here tofor today's hearing on the vitally important topic of how Congress should get scientific advice. I want to thank Dr. Holt for urging us to have this hearing.
We have an excellent panel of witnesses before us today, and I hope they will give us some specific ideas for how we might improve the mechanisms for providing science advice to the Congress. I think we need to get beyond the debate about reviving the Office of Technology Assessment.
I must add I am a very strong defender of OTA, and I voted against defunding it, but the others didn't see the wisdom of the path that Dr. Holt and Dr. Ehlers and Dr. Bartlett and all our distinguished scientists were leading us down. Unfortunately, we didn't prevail. But OTA is not likely to be coming back any time soon.
I also have to say, as a proponent of OTA, that the reaction to the loss of OTA has been somewhat disproportionate. If you listen to the scientific community, you might think that OTA was the only thing separating Congress from barbarianism. We do have plenty of current sources of information, particularly the National Academies, and boy, do they do wonderful work. So the question before us today is: what specific gaps exist, and how can they be filled?
Also, much of the lament one hears about OTA's demise is really not a concern about what advice Congress is getting, but rather, about what decisions Congress is making when it gets that advice. So, it is important to remember that not all people will reach the same policy conclusions based on the same scientific information, even if they understand and accept that information.
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Perhaps the most dangerous fallacy in Washington is: ''If you knew what I know, you would think like I think.'' Let us not confuse policy differences with ignorance.
Which is not to say that Congress does not sometimes display ignorance, sometimes willful ignorance. But that is not a problem of not receiving advice, it is a problem of not listening to it. To take one current example, a high profile example, I might add, the National Academy, a few weeks ago, released a clear, balanced, and thoughtful overview of the current understanding of global temperature over the past 1,000 years. Some Members have taken that report to heart. Others are trying to distract from its conclusions by focusing on individual papers that have already been superseded. That is their right, but my only point here is that debate says nothing about the quality of information Congress is receiving.
I like to tell people that I work in an institution, and in a town, where everybody likes to say they are for science-based decision-making, but when the overwhelming scientific consensus leads to a politically inconvenient conclusion, then they want to go to Plan B.
Well, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today, but in discussing what kinds of information science needs, let us make sure we are not confusing the availability of information with any other issues.
With that, I am pleased to turn to Mr. Gordon.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Boehlert follows:]
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT
I want to welcome everyone here for today's hearing on the vitally important topic of how Congress should get scientific advice, and I want to thank Mr. Holt for urging us to have this hearing.
We have an excellent panel of witnesses before us today, and I hope they will give us some specific ideas for how we might improve the mechanisms for providing science advice to the Congress. I think we need to get beyond the debate about reviving the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).
I was a strong defender of OTAand I voted against defunding itbut OTA is not likely to be coming back any time soon.
I also have to say, as a proponent of OTA, that the reaction to the loss of OTA has been somewhat disproportionate. If you listen to the scientific community, you might think that OTA was the only thing separating Congress from barbarism. We do have plenty of current sources of information, particularly the National Academies, so the question before us today is: what specific gaps exist and how can they be filled?
Also, much of the lament one hears about OTA's demise is really not a concern about what advice Congress is getting, but rather about what decisions Congress is making. So it's important to remember that not all people will reach the same policy conclusion based on the same scientific informationeven if they understand and accept that information.
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Perhaps the most dangerous fallacy in Washington is: ''If you knew what I know, you'd think like I think.'' Let's not confuse policy differences with ignorance.
Which is not to say that Congress does not sometimes display ignorance, sometimes willful ignorance. But that's not a problem of not receiving advice; it's a problem of not listening to it. To take one current example, the National Academy a few weeks ago released a clear, balanced and thoughtful overview of the current understanding of global temperature over the past 1,000 years. Some Members have taken that report to heart; others are trying to distract from its conclusions by focusing on individual papers that have already been superseded. That's their right, but my only point here is that the debate says nothing about the quality of the information Congress is receiving.
So I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. But in discussing what kinds of information science needs, let's make sure we're not confusing the availability of information with any other issues.
Mr. GORDON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for scheduling a hearing on this important topic of science and technology advice to the Committee, and we are particularly pleased that Congressman Dr. Holt is among our witnesses, and thank you for being here, Rush. You lend a particular dual role to this hearing.
We appreciate your leadership on this topic, and are pleased to join you in seeking better ways to incorporate the best available scientific and engineering knowledge to our legislative activities.
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It was over 40 years ago that the Science Committee first addressed the topic of science advice to Congress. Congressman Mim Daddario, a Member of the Committee, a charter Member of this committee, and Republican Chuck Mosher co-authored the legislation that created the Office of Technical Assessment.
It was Charles Lindbergh who got Congressman Daddario focused on technology assessment. In the early 1960s, Lindbergh was concerned that the Earth was heading for disaster, unless the balance between science and ecology were properly adjusted. Does my friend from California, Mr. Rohrabacher, think that this sounds familiar?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, I certainly do respect Mr. Lindbergh.
Mr. GORDON. Lindbergh felt Congress needed specialized scientific expertise to analyze this and other tough problems. Daddario and Lindbergh continued to talk about technology assessment for several years. During the 1960s, the Committee had many hearings, and issued several reports on science advice to the Congress that paved the way for legislation creating OTA in the early 1970s.
In the early '70s, the legislation that established OTA was reported unanimously by the Committee on Science. The Committee leadership then worked bipartisanly to get the bill through the House and Senate.
During its twenty years of operation, OTA created 700 reports on the science and technology behind issues of importance to Congress.
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We could use a service like OTA today, since relatively few Members of Congress have formal training and experience as scientists and engineers, and since much of the information we receive comes from advocates selling their points of view.
In the years since OTA, we have had an increasingly difficult time of reaching consensus on a wide variety of these topics. We certainly could use in-house help in sorting through conflicting expert opinion.
I therefore look forward to the testimony of today's experts, and to taking the first steps toward improving the way in which Congress receives and uses scientific and technical advice.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gordon follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE BART GORDON
Mr. Chairman, thank you for scheduling a hearing on the important topic of science and technology advice to the Committee and for including Congressman Holt among the witnesses.
We appreciate your leadership on this topic and are pleased to join you in seeking better ways to incorporate the best available scientific and engineering knowledge into our legislative activities.
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It was over 40 years ago that the Science Committee first addressed the topic of science advice to Congress. Democrat Mim Daddario, a charter Member of our committee, and Republican Chuck Mosher co-authored the legislation that created the Office of Technology Assessment.
It was Charles Lindbergh who got Congressman Daddario focused on technology assessment. In the early 1960s, Lindbergh was concerned that the Earth was heading for disaster unless the balance between science and ecology were properly adjusted.
Lindbergh felt Congress needed specialized scientific expertise to analyze this and other tough problems. Daddario and Lindbergh continued to talk about technology assessment for several years.
During the 1960s, the Committee had many hearings and issued several reports on science advice to the Congress that paved the way for the legislation creating OTA in the early 1970s.
In the early 1970s, the legislation establishing OTA was reported unanimously by the Committee on Science. The Committee leadership then worked bipartisanly to get the bill through the House and Senate.
During its 20 years of operation, OTA created 700 reports on the science and technology behind issues of importance to Congress.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We could use a service like OTA today since relatively few Members of Congress have formal training and experience as scientists and engineers and since much of the information we receive comes from advocates selling their points of view.
In the years since OTA, we have had an increasingly difficult time of reaching consensus on a wide variety of these topics. We certainly could use in-house help in sorting through conflicting expert opinion.
I look forward to the testimony of today's experts, and to taking the first steps towards improving the way in which Congress receives and uses scientific and technical advice.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Costello follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE JERRY F. COSTELLO
Good afternoon. I want to thank the witnesses for appearing before our committee to examine how Congress receives advice about science and discuss how this process can be improved.
For over twenty years, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) prepared reports by Congressional request on science and technology issues. In 1995, funding for OTA was eliminated. Currently, Congress receives information and advice on science and technology issues from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), science and engineering professional organizations, interest groups and think tanks. In recent years, reports from scientific groups have raised concerns over the lack of scientific and technical advice and assessment for Congress.
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I am interested to hear from our witnesses what options are available to supplement or improve existing resources to provide advice and assessments on scientific and technical issues given recent concerns. I look forward to hearing from the panel of witnesses.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Johnson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member. I would like to welcome today's witnesses and thank you for the perspective you will provide today.
Congress relies on experts from the scientific research community to assess the needs of our national scientific enterprise. It is important to know how America ranks compared with other nations.
Our competitive nature is what makes Americans, with our capitalistic society, one of the richest nations in the world. Americans are leaders.
In order to maintain our cutting edge when it comes to technology matters, we lawmakers need a consistent and reliable source of unbiased advice.
The National Academy of Sciences, the Congressional Research Service, professional societies, and think tanks are all examples of current advisors to Congress.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is interesting to hear your perspective on whether the way Congress receives its advice needs to be changed or even improved.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the remainder of my time.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jackson Lee follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE SHEILA JACKSON LEE
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I appreciate the fact that this hearing has been called today in order to re-examine the way in which Congress receives scientific and technological advice.
I would like to thank my colleague Mr. Holt for his interest and commitment to addressing this issue, as well as the other witnesses for testifying today: Dr. Blair, Dr. Peha, Dr. Teich, and Dr. Hunt.
As early as the 1950s, Members of Congress understood the importance not only of scientific and technological advice, but of even-handed ''Technology Assessment Board'' to explore and report on how technological advances would affect the environment. This lead to the creation of the Office of Technology Assessment in 1971.
For those who utilized the studies and resources of the OTA, its benefits and value were never in question. Sadly, the agency was cut in 1995 as part of a government-wide belt tightening, and Congress lost its most reliable and balanced science analysis tool.
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The Office of Technology Assessment can be compared to the other three remaining legislative branch research organizations: the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Congressional Research Service. As well respected as these organizations are, none of the three have the infrastructure, staff, or expertise to conduct thorough scientific examinations into legislative proposals or impact analyses on public policy.
Clearly, as we move into the 21st century, we will need increasingly sophisticated resources with which to develop the law of the land, and the public policy of our future. It is crucial that Congress make informed, intelligent, and evidence-based decisions in crafting this nation's energy, technology, and science policy. I hope that the hearing today will be able to further advise and inform us on how to proceed.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I yield the balance of my time.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, and now, we will hear from our first witness, the very distinguished witness, and a colleague with whom it is a pleasure to work, Dr. Rush Holt.
STATEMENT OF HON. RUSH HOLT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. HOLT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you and Mr. Gordon for those good remarks.
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I know in this committee, you are accustomed to hearing testimony of astounding novelty about really path-breaking advances, but I often tell witnesses, when they are testifying before a Congressional committee, that they shouldn't underestimate the pleasure they give an audience by telling them something they already know. And in this case, I will talk about something that, at least if we are honest with ourselves, we already know, and that is that none of us in Congress either have the time, or in many cases, the ability to analyze scientific and technological advances, make reasoned, logical determinations about their direction and the impact on industry and on nations and on education, on our citizens. And yet, we vote on decisions about topics on a regular basis that include technical and scientific components. The connections to science and technology are not always obvious, especially to Members who avoid science and technology, which, I must say, are most Members. So, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to say we cannot do this alone.
I will be brief, because we have some excellent people speaking after me, and I have read their testimony, I have talked with some of them, and I think we can learn a lot about what maybe we already know. Congress used to have an in-house professional office dedicated to providing technological assessment services. Mr. Gordon referred to Representative Daddario, for example, who helped set this up. And Congress received regular reports, in a legislatively relevant form, on such topics as agricultural technology, alternative fuels, arms control, banking, business and industry, communications, climate change, computer security, defense technology, economic development, education, energy efficiency, fishing, health, technology, international relations in technology transfer, natural disasters, nuclear energy, nuclear war and weapons, oceanography, oil, gas, mineral resources, transportation, yes, all of those things, on a regular basis.
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And Congress decided in 1995 that we didn't need an in-house body dedicated to technological assessment. The technological assessment could come, we told ourselvesthis was before my time herecould come through committee hearings, through CRS reports, through experts in our district, through think tanks, through the National Research Council and the National Academies.
Now, you and I know that Members of Congress have a low comfort level with technology in general and are generally unable to probe beyond our personal understanding or the briefing books crafted by our staffers, but let us look at the history. In the ten years since we said that these various groups could provide the technical advice that we need, we have not gotten what we need in order to do the people's work. We should acknowledge that.
Yes, there are organizations that separate us from the barbarians, as the Chairman has said, Congressional Research Service, the National Academies, institutions like Stanford or Carnegie Mellon or Princeton. We have organizations like the AAAS, the American Chemical Society.
We do not suffer from a lack of information here on Capitol Hill, but from a lack of ability to glean the knowledge and to gauge the validity, the credibility, and the usefulness of the large amounts of information and advice that we receive.
And there are real gaps in what Congress gets. We are not getting what we need, I would argue.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But why is this of such importance to Congress? Why do we need a specialized in-house scientific and technical assessment organization or organ? Well, I can think of three what I would call compelling reasons. Science and technology pervade almost all of the issues before us. If you look at today's hearings in the House and the Senate, or yesterday's, or last week's, you will find a number of topics that are being considered that most Members of Congress don't even think of as technological issues, and yet, they have technological components. What we will have on the Floor this week, what we had on the Floor last week, had technological components that in many cases, were not considered fully.
Secondly, the language and technologies are specialized and complex and require translation for Members and their staff. Third, Members think science and technology are for scientists and technologists, thus avoiding science and technology themselves. I think every Member of Congress is aware of the social, economic, moral, and political aspects of the issues before us, and in many cases, Members are good at analyzing those things. Not so with the scientific and technological aspects of the issues before us. Members duck those aspects, flee them, ignore them, or perhaps most often, march off oblivious to them.
The Science Committee is of least concern. Most Members here recognize that the issues that come before you have technological components, and you get the help necessary. However, this may not be true for other committees, all of which, every one of which, handles topics that have some scientific and technological components, whether it is the Agriculture Committee, the Appropriations Committee, the Education and Workforce Committee, or on down the line.
We need to fill the gaps in our science and technology advice. Technology has been studied extensively by scholars, some of whom we will hear from today, and the lessons are clear. The issues are too complex and the stakes are too high for us to try to wing it on issues like stem cell research or biofuels or technology transfer or healthcare. But if we are honest with ourselves, we should say that we actually don't even need scholars, however good today's witnesses are. We don't need scholars to tell us we need help. If we are honest with ourselves, we know it. We need a dedicated, in-house, permanently staffed organization to give us objective, nonpartisan advice on science and technology issues.
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We know it can be done. We have done it before, as a body. I hope we will find a way to do it again, and I thank the Chairman for leading us off on this.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Holt follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE RUSH HOLT
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I thank you for the opportunity to explore the state of science and technology advice and assessment for Congress. You each know my passion for this subject, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you on this matter today. I look forward to working with you on this critical topic in the future.
To use a cliché, but to set the stage properly, our world is changing at an accelerated rate brought on by technology. The invention of the transistor in 1947 led to the development of the computer. DARPA, our own military R&D facility, invented the Internet, and in 1989, a scientist at the Center for European Research in Nuclear Physics in Switzerland, invented the World Wide Web to meet the demand for automatic information sharing between scientists working at different locations around the world. Nothing has been the same since these advances; we all depend on our Blackberries and cell phones to keep appraised of the happenings of the world. However, technological advancements extend beyond communications into health care, education, transportation, intelligence and military activities, agriculture, environmental protection, as well as the very process of government from voting to judicial punishments, to agency record keeping. We see the effect of technological advances reverberate around the globe. The gap between industrialized nations and developing nations grows for some. Others nip at our heels to gain the world lead in one technology or another. Human interaction across the globe will never be the same, and it is hard to know where it is going. Yet, that is our job as Members of the United States House of Representatives. We were sent here by our constituents to lead our nation into the future, securing the livelihoods of each person we represent as well as protecting and maintaining the competitive edge of our nation in the emerging global knowledge economy.
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None of us in Congress have time to analyze scientific and technological advances and make reasoned, logical determinations of their direction and impact on industry, nations, and education, but we vote on decisions about topics on a regular basis that include technical or scientific components. The connections to science and technology are not always obvious, especially to Members who avoid science and technology, which are most Members. We cannot do this alone.
Congress used to have an in-house professional office dedicated to providing technological assessment services. Congress received regular reports in a legislatively relevant form on such subjects as agriculture technology, alternative fuels, arms control, banking, business and industry, communications, climate change, computer security & technology, defense technology, economic development, education, energy efficiency, the fishing industry, health and health technology, international relations and technology transfer, natural disasters, nuclear energy, nuclear war & nuclear weapons, oceans and oceanography, oil, gas, and mineral resources, transportation, and waste management. Congress decided in 1995 that we did not need an in-house body dedicated to technological assessment.
The technical assessment could come, we told ourselves (before my time here), through committee hearings, CRS reports, experts in our district, think tanks, and the National Academy of Sciences. Now, you and I each know that Members of Congress have a low comfort level with technology and are generally unable to probe beyond our personal understanding or the briefing books crafted by our staffers. In the ten years since we said these various groups would provide the technical advice we need, we have not gotten what we need in order to do the people's work. We should acknowledge that.
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The Congressional Research Service does a good job of gathering the current information from a myriad of sources and presents the issues clearly in its reports. The GAO has taken upon itself to do some technical assessments. Some of us represent districts rich in scientific and technological expertise, in business, academia, or national laboratories and we informally or formally draw on the knowledge of our constituents. The National Academy of Sciences has the National Research Council, which completes studies for the Federal Government including recommendations of actions to be taken by the agency or branch of government. Some professional societies have started to reach out to Congress, and you will hear from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society today about what they do for Congress as far as technical or scientific advice or assessments.
We do not suffer from a lack of information here on Capitol Hill, but from a lack of ability to glean the knowledge and to gauge the validity, credibility, and usefulness of the large amounts of information and advice received on a daily basis. Although we would like to believe that the scientific and technical advice and assessment provided from outside remains politically neutral, this is not necessarily the case. In general, groups tend to be slow in responding to real-time needs of Members of Congress or their staffers in terms of science and technology assessment or advice, they often do not know what is happening in the halls of Congress, and have their own agendas.
There are real gaps in what Congress gets.
We are not getting what we need.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We need unbiased technical and scientific assessments in a Congressional time-frame by those who are familiar with the functions, the language, and the workings of Congress. We had this for twenty-three years through the Office of Technology Assessment, commonly referred to as the OTA. Although the OTA had its detractors, the OTA was a part of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government and existed to serve the Congress in one manner: scientific and technical advice for Congress. The OTA was able to elaborate on the broader context of an issue and inform the policy debate with assiduous and objective analysis of the policy consequences of alternative courses of action. The OTA expounded on the various outcomes given particular policy choices, at times extending beyond a mere technical analysis. In 1995 Congress defunded the OTA, and no group or combination of groups has been able to assume OTA's place as the provider of scientific and technical assessment and advice to Congress. To give you an idea, at a rapid glance at the list of the 703 reports produced by the OTA, there are dozens that are still relevant today. ''Potential Environmental Impacts of Bioenergy Crop Production,'' ''Innovation and Commercialization of Emerging Technologies,'' ''Retiring Old Cars: Programs to Save Gasoline and Reduce Emissions,'' ''Renewing Our Energy Future,'' and ''Testing in America's Schools: Asking the Right Questions,'' would all be OTA reports of use today.
Why is this of such importance to Congress? Why do we need specialized, in-house scientific and technical assessments and advice? I can think of three compelling reasons: science and technology pervade almost all issues before us, including many that are not recognized explicitly as technology issues; the language and technologies are specialized and complex, and require translation for Members and their staff; and Members think science and technology are for scientists and technologists, thus avoiding science and technology themselves. Every Member is aware of the social, economic, moral, and political aspects of each of the issues before us. Not so with scientific and technological aspects of the issues before us. Members duck those aspects of the issues, flee them, ignore them, and, perhaps most often, march off oblivious to them.
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Decisions made about fisheries, biofuels, agricultural technologies, educational technologies, intellectual property rights, technology transfer, foreign aid, the health care system, and broadband communications, will determine the course of our nation. On the floor we recently have dealt with such issues as voting, missile defense, and net neutrality, each of which has technological components. This week we will vote on the ''U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act,'' the ''Pension Protection Act,'' and the ''Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act,'' each with a technical componentsome larger, some smaller, some obvious to Members, many not obvious. In the last few weeks, various committees have held hearings on subjects which contain scientific and technical components. The committees sometimes seem unaware that the subjects contain scientific and technological components. The Science Committee is of least concern; most Members recognize the technological aspects of the issues and get the help necessary. However, this may not be so true for other committees, all of which handle topics with scientific and technical components. For example, the Agriculture Committee recently held a hearing on ''Reviewing the Federal Farm Policy;'' the Appropriations Committee held a hearing on ''the Census;'' the Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on ''NCLB: Can Growth Models Ensure Improved Education for all Students;'' the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on ''Expanding the Emergency Alert System;'' the Homeland Security Committee held a hearing asking ''Is Our Nation Prepared for a Public Health Disaster?;'' the Small Business Committee held a hearing on ''The Effects of the High Cost of Natural Gas on Small Business and Future Energy Technologies;'' and the House Administration Committee held a hearing on ''Voting System Standards.'' We lack the scientific and technological analysis of each topic. OTA could have provided this.
We, each day when we cast our vote, are deciding the future of our nation; we are deciding the future for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren. We are creating a legacy for which history will hold us accountable. We failed to assimilate some of the culture and knowledge of the Native Americans into our own working schemas when we spread into their lands. I am told that when the Iroquois made decisions for their nation, they were looking ahead to make sure that every decision related to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come, and that was the basis by which decisions were made. They asked themselves ''Will this be a benefit to the seventh generation?''
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In our technologically advanced, short-focused society, we have lost long-term vision. Investment and decisions concerning science and technology require an understanding of the scientific and technological development process, a sense of responsibility to understand the potential policy outcomes of our decisions, and the understanding that the pay-offs might not come until the next generation.
We need to fill the gaps in our science and technology advice. Technology has been studied extensively by scholars, and the lessons are clear. If we are honest with ourselves, we don't need scholars to tell us we need help. We know it. We need a dedicated, in-house, permanently staffed organization. Each Member of Congress should be able to request a study. The management structure should be designed to deal adequately with the needs of Congress. Political neutrality must be protected. It should also be physically close to Congress. Studies must be useful to the Members of Congress and in time and in language to make them relevant.
Jack Gibbons, referring to the need for an in-house technology assessment organ, sometimes quotes poet Edna St. Vincent Millay:
''Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric. . .''
There is no shortage of information and no shortage of wisdom. We are swamped with experts. We need help in weaving it into policy-relevant fabric.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBIOGRAPHY FOR RUSH HOLT
Rush Holt, 57, is a resident of Hopewell Township, N.J. Born in West Virginia he inherited his interest in politics from his parents. His father was the youngest person ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate, at age 29. His mother served as Secretary of State of West Virginia and was the first woman to have held that position.
Rep. Holt earned his B.A. in Physics from Carleton College in Minnesota and completed his Master's and Ph.D. at NYU. He has held positions as a teacher, Congressional Science Fellow, and arms control expert at the U.S. State Department where he monitored the nuclear programs of countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union. From 1989 until he launched his 1998 congressional campaign, Holt was Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility of Princeton University and the largest center for research in alternative energy in New Jersey. He has conducted extensive research on alternative energy and has his own patent for a solar energy device. Holt was also a five-time winner of the game show ''Jeopardy.''
An active Member of Congress and a strong voice for his constituents, Rep. Holt serves on two committees, including the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Holt is the only scientist and only Member from the New Jersey delegation to sit on the Intelligence Committee, where he serves as the Ranking Minority Member on the Intelligence Policy Subcommittee. He is also on temporary leave from a third committee, the House Committee on Resources. Holt is also a member of the bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards or the ''Franking Commission.''
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Holt has had the honor to serve on the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century chaired by former Senator and astronaut John Glenn and currently sits on several caucuses, including those on Renewable Energy, Sustainable Development, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Biomedical Research, India and Indian-Americans, Hellenic and Greek-American affairs, Farmland Protection, Human Rights, and a Woman's Right to Choose. Rep. Holt is also a member of the New Democrat Coalition.
In only a short time, Rep. Holt has won several significant victories in Washington. He helped secure more than $700 million in new federal funding for science and technology research. He passed an amendment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund providing millions in funding for protecting open space and he was instrumental in adding the lower Delaware River to the National Wild and Scenic River program. He also initiated a federal study to map the gene sequences of all potential biological weapons to help first-responders and law enforcement react more effectively in the event of biological attack and he commissioned a Congressional investigation into the care at 91 nursing homes in New Jersey following up on reports of negligence.
Rep. Holt has brought significant federal resources to New Jersey. He helped secure $5.6 million for security improvements at the Naval Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County, $2 million to establish a Land Use Municipal Resource Center to help local communities fight sprawl, and $500,000 for Hunterdon Medical Center to improve its emergency room facilities. Holt has also helped secure more than a hundred million dollars to improve roads, build libraries, and protect historic sites in the five counties he represents.
Throughout New Jersey's 12th district, Rep. Holt has developed a reputation as a tireless advocate for his constituents. He has assisted over five thousand constituents who have contacted his office with inquiries, producing resolutions for problems ranging from Medicare to veterans' health care to immigration. He has also made hundreds of school visits and held dozens of town meetings and forums on topics such as Homeland Security, Alternative Energy, Economic Growth, Prescription Drugs, Student Aid, Privacy, Long-Term Care, and Sprawl.
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Rep. Holt has received numerous awards and citations for his work, including the Planned Parenthood Community Service Award, the Biotech Legislator of the Year, and the Science Coalition's Champion of Science award. The magazine Scientific-American has also named Holt one of the 50 national ''visionaries'' contributing to ''a brighter technological future.''
Rep. Holt is married to Margaret Lancefield, a physician and Medical Director of the Princeton charity care clinic. They have three grown children, Michael, Dejan and Rachel, and six grandchildren, Noah, Niala, Boaz, Varun, Cecile, and Rohan.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Dr. Holt, and you know what? It shows you how well we get along together, Democrat and Republican, New Jersey, New York. I thought that was an outstanding statement, maybe because I agree with it.
But I want to increase your comfort zone somewhat. I am proud to report that this committee and the professional staff has 14 Ph.D.s, 14. That is very impressive, and I am also proud of the fact that we are very active with a number of organizations in town, and you mentioned some of them, AAAS, American Chemical Society, in providing opportunities for Ph.D.s in various scientific disciplines to serve a year's fellowship on the Hill. It is a wonderful program, and so, we are making progress. We are moving in the right direction. That doesn't negate anything that you said in the statement. It just supplements what you said.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOLT. If I may, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Sure.
Mr. HOLT. I do want to emphasize that I am not worried about the Science Committee. I mean, I do hope that in future years, it will have leadership as good as it has had in this Congress. However, it is all of those other committees, all of those other Members, that I worry about.
Chairman BOEHLERT. That like to wade into the science pool of activity, and sometimes, wellwe won't go into what some of the other committees do or fail to do.
Thank you very much for your outstanding statement. I do appreciate it. Does anyone have any particular questions for our colleague, who has got a very busy schedule?
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Chairman.
Chairman BOEHLERT. We are going to provide you with a treat now, Dr. Holt. Mr. Rohrabacher.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. I wonder if you could tell me what the budget was for the Office of Technology Assessment per year in the ten years prior to us eliminating it.
Mr. HOLT. At the time it wasI don't have the exact figures, and perhaps, staff can help us here, but when OTA was defunded, it was never deauthorized, when it was defunded in 1995, the operating budget was something in the twenties of millions of dollars a year. I would argue a bargain at any price, but
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Mr. ROHRABACHER. Did you ever request studies done by the Office of Technology Assessment?
Mr. HOLT. I was not a Member of Congress. However, I used many of their studies.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. I was, and I requested things, and they were always late, and often, they got us the material after the debate was already decided, and when the Republican majority came in in 1994, meaning the first year was '95, we were looking for the most inefficient things we could get rid of in Congress, in order to say that we are cutting back here, as well as in the rest of government, and the Members, by majority, found out thatand those of us who had used itthat this was one of the most inefficient operations that we had, and thus, deserved to be cut.
Mr. HOLT. Well
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Over the objection of others, like the Chairman, et cetera, who didn't see that, but
Chairman BOEHLERT. Let me point out, Mr.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. But the majority did believe that.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Mr. Rohrabacher, let me
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Mr. ROHRABACHER. Yes.
Chairman BOEHLERT.point out that not everyone looked at the picture and saw the same vision. There were a number of us who highly valued the outstanding work of the Office of Technology Assessment, and many of us felt that sometimes, while they were a little bit delinquent in responding to a particular request that you might have advanced, because they were getting so many requests, because it was very obvious that there was a need for the product they were producing, because they were getting so many requests for information. Members like me, who are justI pride myself in being a pretty darn good generalist, but not a specialist in anything, and you know, I just sort of threw up my hands, and said where do I go for information. And I was not alone. A number of my colleagues did the same thing, and so, I would contend they were sort of overworked, and therefore, that is why they were somewhat delinquent.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, I would agree, Mr. Chairman, that, you know, your worldview sometimes, you know, affects your assessment of, not only the scientific assessment, assessment of how you should spend your money. I mean, I operate under the assumption that bureaucracy is the most effective method ever developed that can turn pure energy into solid waste, and if you couple that, you know, couple great scientists with bureaucracy, and you are expecting to get something out of it more effective than what other bureaucracies produce, I think it really is wishful thinking, and I think, by experience, those of us who voted to eliminate the program, or eliminate funding for it, realized that asking consultants on the outside to do the same job was actually more cost-effective, and you actually had more control on them than you did once you hired someone as a government employee, and anyway, I would just say that, although we all agree that science is important, and making sure that we try to get nonpartisan assessments is important, certainly we shouldn't give up our analysis of what happens to even scientists when they become bureaucrats, and part of this bureaucracy
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Chairman BOEHLERT. I was
Mr. HOLT. I would like to address
Chairman BOEHLERT. Mr. Gordon is most anxious to have an intervention, also, but
Mr. HOLT. I am not here, and I don't think the witnesses are here, to re-fight old battles. I do think that we have now 10 years of data, and it is pretty clear to me, since I have been here most of those ten years now, that we have not gotten the kind of technological assessment and advice that we told ourselves we would be able to get through other methods. So, it hasn't worked over the last 10 years. Now
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Could you give me some examples of that?
Mr. HOLT. There may be some
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, a couple examples.
Mr. HOLT. Sure. How about, let me see, do I have today's
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, we have got global warming advice coming out our ears, of course, by everyone who is being paid to give us that advice, but go ahead.
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Mr. HOLT. Yeah. Well, I will illustrate this in a way.
Chairman BOEHLERT. I told you it would be an interesting intervention.
Mr. HOLT. Not to harp on OTA, but to make the point that we still have a crying need for policy-relevant, I would argue in-house, but at least policy-relevant technological assessment and advice, let me also address your point about the timeliness of the reports we got from OTA.
We got reports from OTA on adverse reaction to vaccines, computer software and intellectual property, saving energy in U.S. transportation, retiring old cars, export controls and nonproliferation policy, electronic surveillance in a digital age. Let me suggest to the gentleman that those reports were so timely that they are still useful today. Now, maybe you didn't get it on the week that you wanted it, but these are reports that are still useful today.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Some of those reports may have been given to us after we had the vote in Congress on the issue.
Mr. HOLT. But my point
Mr. ROHRABACHER. That is the important point.
Mr. HOLT. My point to the gentleman is we have not yet resolved the issues of adverse reactions to vaccines, intellectual property and computer software, saving energy in U.S. transportation, retiring old cars, export controls and nonproliferation policy, electronic surveillance in a digital age. We still need those reports, and in fact, we are still using them.
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Mr. ROHRABACHER. Thank you.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Mr. Gordon.
Mr. GORDON. Just briefly, I know, I disagree with my friend from California, Mr. Rohrabacher, but I don't disagree with his sincerity. I know that he is sincere in these issues, so I am not going to try to get into an argument, because we are not going to change anybody's mind.
But let me just again point out that if there was a problem with timeliness at OTA earlier, the problem, I think, as the Chairman pointed out, was it was underfunded and over-requested, which demonstrates, you know, it was the wrong reaction. We should have increased the funding, and I think by having good information, we would have saved the country money.
And I particularly have to disagree that we want towith Mr. Rohrabacher's announcement that we need to contract these things out, so we would have more control over them. We don't want to have more control over them. We want to have good, you know, solid scientific information.
Again, he is sincere, Mr. Holt is sincere, I think. Nobody would be at this stimulating meeting today, if they weren't sincere.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, would the gentleman yield for just one moment.
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Mr. GORDON. And so
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. GORDON. Certainly, certainly.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. What I have been told is the budget over a ten year period was $200 million, and they had two hundred employees in, you know, the Office, and that is an awful lot of consulting work that we could have had done for $200 million
Mr. GORDON. Well, that is $20 million a year.
Mr. HOLT. Yes, it was about $20 million a year in those years' dollars, at its peak, 143 employees, I am told.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thanks. Anyone else? All right. Thank you very much, Dr. Holt.
We could have a spirited, over a cup of coffee, discussion with Mr. Rohrabacher and our colleagues on the Committee, because for the benefit of the audience, this is the type of conversations we oftentimes will have on the floor, and Dana Rohrabacher and I don't always see eye to eye, but we always agree to have a nice friendly little chat about such things as global climate change, which he thinks is a figment of my imagination, but thank you, Dr. Holt, and thank you, Mr. Rohrabacher, for the intervention.
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Now, our second panel, and here is what I would like to do. I ask unanimous consent that Dr. Holt be permitted to sit with the Committee, and participate in the questioning. Without objection, so ordered.
Now, panel number two. Dr. Jon Peha, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Al Teich, Director, AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Peter Blair, Executive Director, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, the National Research Council, and Dr. Catherine T. Hunt, the Leader of Technology Partnerships, Rohm and Haas Company.
Panelists, thank you so much for being facilitators for the Committee, information sources. We really appreciate your preparing for this hearing, and providing testimony. Your complete statements will be included in the record at this juncture. We would ask that you try to summarize them, so that we could have the benefit of a dialogue, conversations with Congress. Thanks so much.
Dr. Peha, you are first.
STATEMENT OF DR. JON M. PEHA, PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENTS OF ENGINEERING AND PUBLIC POLICY AND ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. PEHA. So much for my mastery of technology.
Good morning. My name is Jon Peha. I am a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and Associate Director for the Center for Wireless and Broadband Networking.
There may be no institution on Earth inundated with more unsolicited advice than Congress, so it should sound strange for me to say that Congress is not getting information that it needs, but that is precisely what I have come here to say.
You can master many complex issues by filling a table like this one with people who have competing interests, and watching them argue their points of view. Unfortunately, this approach breaks down when the issue is highly technical. For example, in the current debate on network neutrality and the Internet, I have watched advocates from all sides advance their agenda by giving misleading simplifications of how the Internet actually works and what neutrality might mean. From that, I don't see how any non-expert could tell what the issue is about, much less what to do about it. I couldn't separate substance from rhetoric until I did my own assessment, rooted in the technology of the Internet.
With this kind of issue, Congress needs balanced analysis that identifies possible policy options, and pros and cons of each, without telling Congress what to do. Armed with this basic information, Members can listen to stakeholders and make their own decisions. But who can provide this basic background?
Congress can turn to CRS, CBO, or GAO, but this type of analysis is not within their traditional mission. They would have to build the capability. Congress has the National Academies, which can bring together leading experts who will collectively recommend a course of action. Such studies are valuable, but Congress often needs someone to frame the issue, not recommend a solution.
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There are university faculties that try to advise Congress, and I hope we are useful. I spend a lot of time at this. But faculty are removed from Capitol Hill. We may not produce reports on the issues of greatest importance to Congress at the time of greatest need, or in the format that is useful to Congress, and thus far, Congress has not created mechanisms to help us do so. Moreover, without investigation, you can't know the professor is advancing a balanced assessment or personal agenda.
So, in short, there are information sources that produce thorough, accurate, and balanced reports, and sources that are attuned to the needs of the Congress, but there is a shortage of sources that do both, and Congress should fill this gap with a new program, either as a new agency, or inside an existing one.
Now, there are many ways to do this. I will focus here on four important qualities of an effective program. It should be responsive, credible, impartial, and independent.
So first, the organization must be responsive to the needs of Congress. To ensure this, there should be a core group of professionals who are ultimately responsible for all products, who interact regularly with Members and their staffs, and for whom Congress is the principal client and funding source.
Second, the organization should have credibility in technical communities, even from stakeholders who don't like the latest report. Since no one organization can have credible expertise in all areas, this organization must be able to draw on leading scientists and engineers as needed, and leaders of the organization should have strong professional credentials that will earn respect outside the Beltway.
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Third, the organization must be impartial and appear to be impartial. To achieve this, it must develop procedures that include careful outside review. It must have leaders who understand balanced technology assessments and will make appropriate use of dissenting views, and it must have strong bipartisan, bicameral oversight from Congress, to ensure that the interests of all Members are well served.
Finally, the organization must have the independence to release controversial studies without risk of elimination. The method of deciding which studies will be completed must be carefully designed to reflect the needs of both the majority and minority in Congress, and Congress should allocate budgets years in advance, so the organization can ride out one or two very controversial reports.
An organization with these qualities would help all Members of Congress. It would be an insurance policy against unintended consequences from complex legislation, and it would earn the praise of scientific professional societies and their members.
I commend the Committee for considering this issue, and I thank you for hearing my opinions.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Peha follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JON M. PEHA
Good morning Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee.
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My name is Jon Peha. I'm a Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and Associate Director of the Center for Wireless and Broadband Networking.
There may be no institution on Earth that is inundated with more unsolicited advice than Congress, so it could sound strange for me to say that Congress is not getting information that it needs, but that is precisely what I've come here to say.
You can master many complex issues by filling a table like this one with people who have competing interests, and watching them argue different sides of the issue. Unfortunately, this approach breaks down when the topic is highly technical. For example, in the current debate on ''network neutrality'' in the Internet, I've seen advocates from all sides advance their agendas by giving misleading simplifications of how the Internet actually works and of what ''neutrality'' might mean. From that, I don't see how any non-expert could tell what the issue is about, much less what to do about it. I could not separate substance from rhetoric until I did my own assessment, rooted in the technology of the Internet.
With this kind of issue, Congress needs balanced analysis that identifies possible policy options, and pros and cons of each, without telling Congress what to do. Armed with this basic knowledge, Members of Congress can listen to stakeholders, and make their own decisions about which policy is best overall. But who can provide this background?
Congress can always turn to CRS, CBO, or GAO, but this type of analysis is not within their traditional mission. They would have to build the capability. Congress also has the National Academies, which can bring together leading experts who will collectively recommend a course of action. Such studies are valuable, but the process can be slow and expensive, and Congress often needs someone to frame the issue, rather than recommend a solution.
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Some university faculty try to advise Congress, and I hope we are useful. However, faculty are removed from Capitol Hill. We may not produce reports on the issues of greatest importance to Congress, at the time of greatest need in Congress, or in a form that can be easily used by Congress. Thus far, Congress has not created mechanisms that would help us do so. Moreover, without investigation, you cannot know if a professor is offering a balanced assessment or advancing a private agenda.
In short, there are information sources that produce thorough, accurate, and balanced reports, and sources that are attuned to the needs of Congress, but there is a shortage of sources that do both. Congress should fill this gap with a new program, either as a new agency or inside an existing one.
There are many ways to do this. I will focus here on four important characteristics of an effective program It must be responsive, credible, impartial, and independent.
First, the organization must be responsive to the needs of Congress. To insure this, there should be a core group of professionals who are ultimately responsible for all products, who interact regularly with Members and their staffs, and for whom Congress is the principal client and funding source, as with GAO or CBO.
Second, the organization must have credibility in technical communities, even from stakeholders who are not thrilled with any given report. Since no one organization can have credible expertise in all areas, this organization must be able to draw on the country's leading scientists and engineers whenever needed. Moreover, the leaders of this organization should have strong professional credentials that will earn respect outside the beltway.
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Third, the organization must be impartial, and appear to be impartial. To achieve this, it must develop procedures that include careful outside review, both when framing the issues and when vetting the results. This organization must have leaders who understand what balanced technology assessments look like, and will make appropriate use of dissenting views. There must also be strong bipartisan bicameral oversight from Congress, to insure that the interests of all Members of Congress are well served.
Finally, the organization must have the independence to release controversial studies without risk of elimination. The method of deciding which studies will be completed must be carefully designed to reflect the needs of both the majority and minority in Congress. Moreover, Congress should allocate budgets years in advance, so the organization can ride out one or two reports that offend a powerful group.
An organization with these qualities would help all Members of Congress. It would be an insurance policy against unintended consequences from legislation involving science or technology. It would also earn praise from many scientific professional societies, and their members.
I commend the Committee for considering this important issue, and I thank you for inviting me to express my views.
Appendix 1: Published in Renewable Resources Journal, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 1923
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Science and Technology Advice for Congress:
Past, Present, and Future
JON M. PEHA
Legislation Blowing in the Wind
With visions of Hurricane Katrina dancing in their heads, many Members of Congress wanted to immediately push some kind of legislation that would save American lives in future disasters, but how? Disaster response is a complex matter. Katrina, like any problem that dominates the American news, produces a deluge of proposed ''quick fixes'' to be evaluated by Congress. When proposals involve science or technology, this can be difficult.
One problem Congress could address in the aftermath of Katrina is the wireless communications systems used by firefighters, paramedics, National Guardsmen, and other emergency responders. Search and rescue efforts often were crippled by failures in these systems. Some will now push for grants to local governments to improve technical ''inter-operability,'' i.e., the ability of responders in one agency to communicate with responders in another agency. After all, inter-operability failures cost lives on 9/11 , after Katrina, and on too many other occasions . Others will push to take spectrum away from television broadcasters, because a portion of this spectrum would go to public safety. After all, there is good reason to fear that a dangerous shortage of public safety spectrum is coming . However, the decisions are not simple. One company after another will tell Congressional staff of their alleged ''solution'' to inter-operability problems, if government agencies would only purchase their products. Other companies will describe how the release of television spectrum in the manner they propose would be the salvation of public safety, and by coincidence, the proposed change also will affect their commercial systems in subtle but important ways. It is hard for someone without technical expertise to make sense of all these claims. Worse yet, changes may have side effects. Some plans intended to make more spectrum available to public safety would accidentally create new inter-operability problems, and some plans intended to improve inter-operability would accidentally exacerbate a spectrum shortage [4,21]. Moreover, in preparing communications systems for the next hurricane, some issues could be even more important than either inter-operability or a potential spectrum shortage, but no one successfully has brought these issues to the attention of Congress. There may be no one with sufficient incentive to do so.
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There is nothing unique about this drama. This year, almost every committee in Congress will face one or more issues that are similarly hard to disentangle without expertise in some area of science or technology. This includes issues related to energy, the environment, health care, food safety, national defense, homeland security, space exploration, intellectual property, transportation, and telecommunications, just to name a few. The majority of these typically are not labeled as ''science issues,'' and most do not go through the Science Committee.
Plenty of Input, Not Enough Clarity
Congress relies primarily on adversarial procedures that are honed for equitably setting priorities, in contrast with the very different forums of scientists, which are honed for advancing knowledge [5,6]. Congress must answer questions like 'is it more important to reduce the cost of automobiles or to reduce gasoline consumption?' and 'is it better to increase taxes or to cut programs?' Stakeholders from all sides of a debate make their case. Members of Congress, acting as representatives of their constituents rather than experts in any narrow discipline, then adopt a position based on their own values and priorities. Debates continue until consensus emerges for a compromise between competing interests. All of this works well if Members of Congress have a clear understanding of the issues and tradeoffs. Understanding can be extremely difficult when issues are rooted in science or technology. Indeed, it can be hard for someone with no technical expertise to ask the right questions. Thus, as shown by the above example of communications systems for public safety, Congress may need assistance in framing and prioritizing the fundamental problems, identifying the legislative options, assessing advantages and disadvantages of each option, and calling attention to any unintended side effects. With this information, Members of Congress of all political persuasions can apply their own values, and make informed decisions. Unfortunately, Congress has no reliable source for this kind of assistance on technical issues.
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This does not mean Congress has no information. Indeed, Capitol Hill is overflowing with lobbyists who are prepared to tell Members of Congress how to vote and why. While input from stakeholders and their representatives is essential, it clearly is no substitute for the kind of impartial assessment described above. Members of Congress also can turn to a cadre of dedicated and intelligent staff. However, given the tremendous range of issues that Congress must address, most Congressional staff are generalists whose primary expertise is the legislative process, rather than any scientific discipline. Alternatively, Members of Congress can seek advice from one of their support organizations: the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), or the Government Accountability Office (GAO). While each of these organizations plays an important role, and all are in a good position to understand Congressional needs, the detailed assessment of technical issues simply is not part of their historical mission, so they traditionally have not built staff expertise, institutional mechanisms, or credibility in this area . Of course, Congress may be changing that traditionan option that will be discussed later.
Another important source of information on issues related to science and technology is the executive branch agencies, many of which have significant expertise. However, the U.S. system is based on checks and balances, and Congress is obligated to oversee the activities of the executive branch. Meaningful oversight is impossible without independent expertise. For example, Congress cannot oversee the Nation's finances if they depended entirely on the White House for analysis, which is why Congress has a Congressional Budget Office that is completely independent of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Unfortunately, on matters related to science and technology, Congress has no comparable support.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There still are more sources of information outside of government. These tend to be inappropriate for different reasons. The National Academies sometimes are an excellent resource for Congress [8[, but for a different purpose. The National Academies generally attempt to bring diverse experts together to produce a consensus recommendation about what Congress should do. In many cases, Members of Congress do not want to be told what to do. Instead, they want a trustworthy assessment of their options, with the pros and cons of each, so they can make up their own minds. Universities and research institutes also produce valuable work on some important issues, but it rarely is generated at a time when Congress most needs it, or in a format that the overworked generalists of Congress can readily understand and apply. Moreover, Members of Congress must be suspicious that the authors of any externally produced report have an undisclosed agenda.
In short, there is a fundamental gap in the information available to Congress. There is no consistent source of in-depth assessments that are balanced, complete, impartial, and produced at a time and in a format that is sensitive to the specific needs of Congress . CRS reports are sensitive to Congressional needs and are designed to be impartial, but, by design, are limited in scope and depth. Partisan input also can be sensitive to the needs of Congress, but it is never impartial. Other information produced outside of Congress tends to be far less sensitive to Congressional needs, and the majority of it advocates for particular positions rather than merely providing a baseline assessment.
The Controversial History of Technology Assessment
There have been notable attempts to fill this gap. The flagship solution was the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a stand-alone organization that worked specifically for Congress, like CRS, CBO, and GAO. OTA produced roughly 750 reports during its 23-year lifespan, many of which were rigorous, respected, and widely cited by both supporters and opponents of the controversial measures that these reports addressed. Using OTA as a model, many nations have created similar organizations to advise their national legislatures . While OTA had its supporters, it also had some severe critics, and this would ultimately be the organization's undoing. When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 1995 after four decades in the minority, they eliminated OTA.
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Some of the reasons for eliminating OTA had little to do with its effectiveness. While the Republicans were in the minority, they often had called for the elimination of various government programs and agencies. When they became the majority party in the House, they were under great pressure to follow though on these promises, but it was not easy to eliminate big targets like the Department of Education. Ultimately, they would succeed in eliminating exactly one agencyOTAgiving it great symbolic importance.
Nevertheless, the debate over OTA was not all symbolism. Some Members of Congress raised noteworthy concerns. The most serious allegation was bias. It is not surprising that the party in the minority (before 1995) would raise concerns about bias, given that the other party had dominated Congress throughout OTA's existence. For example, some conservatives claimed bias in a series of OTA reports that questioned the technical feasibility of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (dubbed ''Star Wars'' in the press) . SDI was intended to shield America from incoming missiles. To the horror of then-President Ronald Reagan and his supporters in Congress, OTA concluded that the SDI vision of protecting all Americans from Soviet missiles was ''impossible to achieve.'' 
Two decades later, the debate continues over whether OTA was biased, but this debate is largely irrelevant. Regardless of whether the bias concern was rooted in reality, appearance, or fabrication, the lessons are the same. Bias or the appearance of bias can be devastating. An organization designed to serve Congress must be both responsive and useful to the minority, as well as the majority. Representatives of both parties and both houses must provide careful oversight, so that credit or blame for the organization's professionalism is shared by all.
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The most likely way for bias to arise is in the selection of issues to be investigated. Consequently, both parties and both houses must have significant say in this selection. Shared oversight can prevent a pattern of bias across many issues, but if an unbiased organization is doing its job well, there still will be individual reports that anger one group within Congress. As long as there was no bias in the selection of topics, all reports will not displease the same group. Consequently, the organization must be constructed in such a way that the furor over any one or two controversial issues is likely to die down before angry partisans can eliminate the agency. For example, funding and staff levels might be fixed four years ahead of time, instead of just one year.
Probably the most frequent criticism of OTA from supporters and detractors alike is that it was too slow; some studies took so long that important decisions already were made when the relevant reports were released. Many have argued that any future organization must be faster. This may be the case, but there are more important lessons here. Good work takes time, particularly if Congress is expecting a broad scope, and extensive depth. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes a Congressional Committee happily will accept a narrow scope or a significant amount of recycled content, if the report is available quickly. The most important lessons here are that an organization providing technology assessments must offer Congress a wider range of services with varying durations and scopes, and that it must be part of this organization's culture to listen carefully to its client (Congress) to understand the client's preferences for any given project.
A New Era for Technology Assessment
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In June 2001, six years after OTA's demise, Carnegie Mellon University organized a workshop in Washington, D.C. on the state of science and technology information in Congress. The workshop drew leaders from both the scientific community and from Congress. Speakers from Congress included Representatives Sherwood Boehlert (RNY), Vernon Ehlers (RMI), Rush Holt (DNJ), and Amo Houghton (RNY). There was remarkably strong consensus that Congress needed new institutional support to provide advice on issues related to science and technology, although opinions differed on the ideal form of this support. Some preferred a return to the OTA model, and others preferred something quite different.
Six distinct approaches are discussed in detail in Science and Technology Advice for Congress , a book produced by many workshop participants. Two difficult questions divide many of these models: (1) should this technology assessment capability reside in an existing organization or a new organization, and (2) should its staff work directly for Congress or should there be institutional separation?
The problem with creating a new technology assessment capability and placing it in an existing organization, whether it is CRS or the National Academies, is that these organizations already have their own missions and their own cultures, which are not perfectly compatible with the technology assessment process. This clash can make it more difficult to do high-quality technology assessments. Moreover, if these assessments are viewed internally as a diversion from the organization's real mission, there is a danger that some important resources (e.g., staff, funding) will be directed elsewhere when budgets are tight. On the other hand, if this new program is a division of an existing organization, there may be more opportunities to share scarce resources and expertise. Moreover, judging from the OTA experience, a stand-alone organization may be more vulnerable to complete elimination during heated controversies.
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With regard to the second question of ''distance'' from Congress, some advocated that technology assessments be conducted within an organization that answers directly to Congress (i.e., GAO, CRS, CBO), or a new organization that is similarly constructed. Others wanted an organization (new or existing) that operates under contract to Congress, and perhaps to other clients as well, as the National Academies do today. The former would encourage staff to be more sensitive to the needs of Congress. It also could afford them less protection when bringing news that Members of Congress do not want to hear. Moreover, the staff size of a Congressional organization is always limited, making it difficult for this organization to have expertise in every topic of potential interest to Congress. By contracting work to outside organizations, talent can be drawn from a much larger pool. This issue becomes particularly important if the technology assessment effort is relatively small.
Given these tradeoffs, my proposal would create a hybrid, in which a small dedicated staff work on Capitol Hill directly for Congress . Their job is to understand the needs of Congress, and to insure that all reports in their final form meet those requirements. However, much of the assessment work would be done by a collection of outside organizations, each of which would be certified every few years for competence, professionalism, and impartiality.
After the workshop, Senator Jeff Bingaman (DNM) proposed the creation of a small pilot program in technology assessment. Thanks to bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, the pilot received $500,000 of funding in the 2002 budget. Work began in March 2002, and GAO's first assessment on biometric technology for border security came out in November 2002 . This was remarkably fast turn-around, especially given that GAO had no institutional experience with this kind of analysis. GAO also invited an external evaluation of their work from outside experts , which demonstrates seriousness about quality. (Most agencies avoid criticism rather than seek it). Other GAO technology assessments have followed [19,20].)
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Early results are quite encouraging. Experience to date shows that a technology assessment program operating within GAO is capable of producing balanced, timely, and relevant reports containing a range of useful information on important issues before Congress. Not surprisingly, early results also show that improvement is possible and desirable, in large part because technology assessments differ substantially from the traditional GAO studies in intent, content, and process. Thus, for example, GAO must learn new methods of soliciting input from outside experts, framing a technology assessment, and subjecting work to fast but effective peer review. If Congress keeps funding this pilot, it is likely that GAO will continue to improve with experience.
This small pilot will do some useful work, and foreshadow the effectiveness of a program within GAO before making longer-term decisions. However, the GAO pilot cannot succeed in the long run if it remains a mere pilot. A technology assessment program must develop or recruit a staff that has strong credentials to impress both the scientific and Congressional communities, and significant expertise in science or technology, in communicating with Congress, and in technology assessment. Attracting, developing, and retaining outstanding people with these diverse skills will not be easy for a program that could abruptly cease to exist with little warning.
Worse yet, should a technology assessment ever produce news that is unwelcome to any powerful group within Congress, there is little to protect the program from termination. Since management within GAO knows this, they might be tempted to avoid controversial issues, or worse yet, to dilute the conclusions of experts and staff members. If they succumb to this temptation, the program will be of limited effectiveness, and if they do not, the program will not survive for long.
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When issues are rooted in science or technology, Members of Congress often need assistance in framing issues, identifying legislative options, and assessing all the pros and cons of each option, so they can make informed decisions that are consistent with their own values and priorities. Today, Congress has no reliable, impartial source available to provide detailed analysis of this type, with the possible exception of a limited pilot effort within GAO. It is time for Congress to move beyond pilots, and to establish a permanent technology assessment capability. When creating a permanent solution, the greatest challenges will be to ensure that this new technology assessment program has careful and balanced bipartisan and bicameral oversight, and that its staff and funding levels will remain stable, even through heated controversies and budget crises. Ideally, they should receive sufficient resources to offer a significant amount of support for Congress, but stability is more important than size.
 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, 2004. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911
 J.M. Peha, ''Protecting Public Safety With Better Communications Systems,'' IEEE Communications, Vol. 43, No. 3, March 2005, pp. 1011. http://www.ece.cmu.edu/peha/safety.html
 Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC), Final Report, Sept. 1996. http://ntiacsd.ntia.doc.gov/pubsafe/publications/PSWACAL.PDF
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 J.M. Peha, ''How America's Fragmented Approach to Public Safety Wastes Spectrum and Funding,'' Proc. 33rd Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC), Sept. 2005. http://www.ece.cmu.edu/peha/safety.html
 J.M. Peha, ''Bridging the Divide Between Technologists and Policy-Makers,'' IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 38, No. 3, March 2001, pp 1517. http://www.ece.cmu.edu/peha/policy.html
 M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha, ''Analysis, Governance, and the Need for Better Institutional Arrangements,'' Chapter 1 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 C.T. Hill, ''An Expanded Analytical Capability in the Congressional Research Service, the General Accounting Office, or the Congressional Budget Office,'' Chapter 7 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 J. Ahearne and P. Blair, ''Expanded Use of the National Academies,'' Chapter 8 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha, ''Where Do We o From Here?,'' Chapter 13 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
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 N.J. Vig, ''The European Experience,'' Chapter 5 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 R.H. Margolis, D.H. Guston, ''The Origins, Accomplishments, and Demise of the Office of Technology Assessment,'' Chapter 3 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, Ballistic Missile Defense Technologies, Sept. 1985. http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ota/disk2/1985/8504n.html
 U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, Anti-Satellite Weapons, Countermeasures, and Arms Control, Sept. 1985. http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ota/disk2/1985/8502n.html
 U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, SDI: Technology, Survivability, and Software, May 1988. http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ota/disk2/1988/8837n.html
 M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), Science and Technology Advice for Congress, RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha, ''A Lean Distributed Organization To Serve Congress?,'' Chapter 10 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
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 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Using Biometrics for Border Security, GAO03174, Nov. 2002. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03174.pdf
 R.W. Fri, M.G. Morgan, and W.A. Stiles, An External Evaluation of the GAO's Assessment of Technologies for Border Security, Oct. 18, 2002, Appendix 3 in Science and Technology Advice for Congress, M.G. Morgan and J.M. Peha (eds.), RFF Press, Washington, DC, 2003.
 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Cyber Security for Critical Infrastructure Protection, GAO04321, May 2004. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04321.pdf
 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Protecting Structures and Improving Communications During Wildland Fires, GAO05380, April 2005. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05380.pdf
 J.M. Peha, ''The Digital TV Transition: A Chance to Enhance Public Safety and Improve Spectrum Auctions,'' IEEE Communications. http://www.ece.cmu.edu/peha/safety.html
For further discussion, please see the following book
Science and Technology Advice for Congress,
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M.G. MORGAN AND J.M. PEHA,
RFF PRESS, WASHINGTON, DC, 2003.
The elimination of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1995 came during a storm of budget cutting and partisan conflict. Operationally, it left Congress without an institutional arrangement to bring expert scientific and technological advice into the process of legislative decision-making. This deficiency has become increasingly critical, as more and more of the decisions faced by Congress and society require judgments based on highly specialized technical information.
Offering perspectives from scholars and scientists with diverse academic backgrounds and extensive experience within the policy process, Science and Technology Advice for Congress breaks from the politics of the OTA and its contentious aftermath. Granger Morgan and Jon Peha begin with an overview of the use of technical information in framing policy issues, crafting legislation, and the overall process of governing. They note how, as non-experts, legislators must make decisions in the face of scientific uncertainty and competing scientific claims from stakeholders. The contributors continue with a discussion of why OTA was created. They draw lessons from OTA's demise, and compare the use of science and technological information in Europe with the United States.
The second part of the book responds to requests from congressional leaders for practical solutions. Among the options discussed are expanded functions within existing agencies such as the General Accounting or Congressional Budget Offices; an independent, NGO-administrated analysis group; and a dedicated successor to OTA within Congress. The models emphasize flexibilityand the need to make political feasibility a core component of design.
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BIOGRAPHY OF JON M. PEHA
Jon M. Peha is Associate Director of the Center for Wireless and Broadband Networking at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has addressed telecom and e-commerce issues on legislative staff in the House and Senate, and helped launch a U.S. Government interagency program to assist developing countries with information infrastructure. He has also served as Chief Technical Officer of several high-tech start-ups, and as a member of technical staff at SRI International, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and Microsoft. Dr. Peha's research spans technical and policy issues of information networks. This has included broadband Internet, wireless networks, video and voice over IP (VOIP), communications systems for first responders for public safety and homeland security, spectrum management, universal service, secure systems for financial transactions over the Internet, e-commerce taxation and privacy, and network security. He holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Dr. Peha. Let me point out that sometimes, advice and information are two different things entirely.
STATEMENT OF DR. ALBERT H. TEICH, DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE AND POLICY PROGRAMS, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE
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Dr. TEICH. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Gordon, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear here this morning on behalf of AAAS.
AAAS, as you may know, is the world's largest multi-disciplinary scientific association. We were founded in 1848, and today represent roughly 10 million individuals who are members in our affiliated societies. We are also the publisher of the journal Science.
Congress today is addressing an increasing number of complex scientific issues. Last week alone, the House and its committees addressed, among other topics, stem cell research, climate change science, voting technology, fuel cells, and agricultural policy.
Few Members of Congress, with the notable exception of several Members of this committee, and relatively few Congressional staff, at least outside of this committee, have backgrounds in science. Do adequate resources exist for Congress to address these kinds of issues? From our perspective, the answer is no. Information is abundant, but objective, timely, policy-relevant analyses, which is what Congress really needs, are in short supply.
The increased use of technology and the Internet have revolutionized the way in which people and organizations communicate with elected officials. A recent study found that Congress received four times more communications in 2004 than it did in 1995. An average Congressional staffer, of which there are over 10,000, receives 200 emails a day from advocacy groups, constituents, and colleagues, and I suppose that doesn't even include advertisements for Viagra and other similar emails.
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How can a Member of Congress, as busy as he or she is, digest this enormous amount of information, and separate the wheat from the chaff? Many scientific assessments are conducted or funded by entities that have a financial or political interest in the issue at hand, and funding from such groups is often perceived to affect the study's findings. Conflicting reports from groups with different viewpoints can make it difficult to determine where the scientific consensus lies, particularly for those not deeply familiar with the scientific process.
Congressional support agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Congressional Research Service, play an important role. Nonpartisanship, objectivity, and responsiveness to Members' requests make them valuable resources. Each one, however, has limitations when it comes to providing scientific and technical policy analyses, as I indicate in my written statement.
Though they are not Congressional support agencies, the National Academies and the National Research Council respond to approximately 10 to 20 Congressional requests for studies each year. Though reports can be completed quickly sometimes, often, the process takes twelve to eighteen months. These authoritative studies by distinguished scientific experts therefore tend to be most useful for in-depth treatment of long-term issues.
Other large-scale assessments, including international projects, such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the executive branch research efforts, such as the Climate Change Science Program, also provide in-depth studies, but again, not on a time scale that is consistent with the needs of Congress.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One resource available to Congress, as mentioned earlier, is the Congressional Science Fellows program. Begun by AAAS in 1973, the program today provides an opportunity for approximately 35 Ph.D. level scientists and engineers to work as professional staff in Congressional offices for a year. Fellows' stipends are paid by scientific societies, making them a free source of expertise for Members. Many Fellows catch Potomac Fever and remain in Washington as permanent Congressional staff, providing a scientific perspective on policy issues. Nevertheless, the relatively small number of Fellows means that the percentage of staff with scientific backgrounds remains low.
In recent years, universities and scientific societies, including AAAS, have expanded efforts to bring objective scientific information to Congress through reports on policy relevant topics and scientific briefings. These activities are often limited by funding. In addition, scientists are often cautious about providing policy analyses on scientific issues, sticking instead to providing data, limiting their ability to inform decisions in a meaningful way.
To sum up, information is not in short supply on Capitol Hill, as you, Mr. Chairman, indicated, but information is not knowledge. Credible sources are needed to provide timely analysis and synthesis of scientific and technical information as a foundation for Congressional decisions.
These concerns are not new, as Mr. Gordon mentioned in his statement. Back in 1970, and in fact, previous to that even, at least in 1970, a study of Congress found that it lacked ''independent sources of scientific and technical advice.'' This realization led to a number of important organizational innovations. The even greater role of science and technology in today's society demands that Congress seek innovative methods suited to 21st Century needs to obtain objective, timely, policy-relevant analyses, that is, knowledge that Members can use.
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AAAS and the scientific community stand ready to help in this vital endeavor. Thank you very much for allowing me to express my views.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Teich follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ALBERT H. TEICH
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today on behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to discuss scientific and technical advice for Congress. AAAS is the world's largest multi-disciplinary scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. AAAS was founded in 1848, and represents roughly 10 million individuals through its members, affiliated societies and academies of science.
Congress is increasingly addressing complex scientific issues. Last week alone, the House and its committees addressedamong other topicsstem cell research, climate change science, voting technology, fuel cells, and agricultural policy. Over the past year, the list expands to include intellectual property, avian influenza, bioterrorism threats, research priorities in aeronautics, and ocean resource management.
Few Members of Congress, with the notable exception of several Members of this committee, and relatively few congressional staff, have backgrounds in science. Do adequate resources exist for Congress to address these issues? From our perspective, the answer is no. Information is abundant, but objective, timely, policy-relevant analyses are in short supply.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The increased use of technology and the Internet have revolutionized the way in which people and organizations communicate with elected officials. A recent study found that Congress received four times more communications in 2004 than it did in 1995. Virtually all of this increase is from Internet-based communication. The average congressional staffer (of which there are over 10,000) receives 200 e-mails each day from advocacy groups, constituents, and colleagues.(see footnote 5)
How can a Member of Congress, as busy as he or she is, digest this enormous amount of information, and assess its validity? Many scientific assessments are conducted or funded by entities that have a financial or political interest in the issue at hand. Funding from such groups or organizations is often perceived to affect the study's findings. Conflicting reports from groups with different viewpoints can make it difficult to determine the scientific consensus, particularly for those not deeply familiar with the nature of science, the peer-review process, the definitions of scientific consensus, and principles of uncertainty.
Furthermore, a key challenge for members and their staffs is to use the information and assistance provided by interest groups without becoming bound to their agendas. In the words of one observer, ''interest groups usually have their own ideas about proper allocation, and they seldom coincide with Congressmen's predilections.''(see footnote 6)
Nonpartisanship, objectivity, and responsiveness to Members' requests make Congressional support agencies, such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), valuable resources, though they are not solely dedicated to science and technology. One explanation of Members' overall positive appraisal for the agencies may lie in an observation by Davidson and Oleszek:
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''Unlike committee or personal aides, these agencies operate under strict rules of nonpartisanship and objectivity. Staffed with experts, they provide Congress with analytical talent matching that in executive agencies, universities, or specialized groups.''(see footnote 7)
CRS reflects its base in the Library of Congress by providing quick responses to thousands of congressional requests annually for factual information, as well as providing policy research and analysis. Its reports are useful, but its ability to provide synthesis is limited. Though it has the ability to conduct scientific and technological assessments, GAO's work reflects its traditional major focuseliminating waste and fraud and improving program performance. At its current staffing levels, GAO can only complete one to three technology studies per year.(see footnote 8)
Though they are not congressional support agencies, the National Academies and National Research Council respond to approximately 1020 requests for studies from Congress each year. Though reports can sometimes be completed quickly, the process generally takes 1218 months. These authoritative studies that involve distinguished scientific experts writing peer-reviewed reports tend to be most useful for in-depth treatment of long-term issues.
Other large-scale assessments, including international projects such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), provide in-depth assessments of the current state of knowledge on broad topics. The IPCC aims to provide information that is policy relevant but not policy prescriptive. Similarly, ongoing executive branch research efforts such as the Climate Change Science Program use experts to determine the scientific consensus on key issues. However, these large-scale projects are seldom conducted on a time scale that is consistent with the needs of Congress.
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One resource available to Congress is the Congressional Science Fellows program. Begun in 1973 by a group of scientific and engineering societies led by AAAS, this program provides an opportunity for approximately 35 Ph.D.-level scientists and engineers to work as professional staff in congressional offices for a year. Fellows' stipends are paid by scientific societies, making them a free source of expertise for Members. Many Fellows catch ''Potomac Fever'' and remain in Washington as full-time congressional staff, continuing to provide a scientific perspective on policy issues.
Over the years, many Members of Congress have indicated how valuable they find the program. For example Rep. John Peterson (RPA) noted that ''Congressional Fellows have played a key role on my staff. . .and the knowledge and expertise which they bring to the table has been a tremendous asset when dealing with science and technology issues.'' Senator Harry Reid (DNV) added that Fellows in his office ''have made critical contributions to a wide range of legislative and oversight projects, including health, environmental, educational, technological, economic and security issues.'' Nevertheless, the relatively small number of fellows means that the percentage of staff with a scientific background remains low.
Universities and scientific societies, including AAAS, have expanded efforts to bring accurate scientific information to Congress through reports on policy-relevant topics, position statements, and scientific briefings. These activities are often limited by funding. In addition, scientists are often cautious about providing policy analysis on scientific issues, sticking instead to providing scientific data, limiting their ability to inform decisions in a meaningful way.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To sum up, information is not in short supply on Capitol Hill, but information is not knowledge. Credible sources are needed to provide timely analysis and synthesis of scientific and technical information as a foundation for Congressional decisions.
These concerns are not new. A 1970 report found that Congress lacked sufficient ''independent sources of scientific and technical advice.''(see footnote 9) This realization led to a number of important organizational innovations. The even greater role of science and technology in today's society demands that we seek innovative methods suited to 21st Century needs to provide Congress with objective, timely, policy-relevant analysesthat is, knowledge that Members can use.
About the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest multi-disciplinary scientific society and publisher of the journal Science (www.sciencemag.org). The non-profit AAAS (www.aaas.org) is open to all, and our members come from the entire range of science and technology disciplines. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of over one million. AAAS fulfills its mission to ''advance science and serve society'' through initiatives in science education; science policy; international programs; and an array of activities designed both to increase public understanding and engage the public more with science. Programs designed to provide Congress with scientific resources include:
AAAS Science & Engineering Policy Fellowships. The Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (http://fellowships.aaas.org/) began in 1973 with seven Fellows serving in congressional offices, providing their scientific expertise to policy-makers facing increasingly technical legislative issues. The ensuing decades have led to the establishment of AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships in nearly a dozen executive branch agencies.
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The fellowships provide the opportunity for scientists and engineers, from recent Ph.D. recipients to senior-level professionals, to learn about policy-making while contributing their knowledge and analytical skills to the Federal Government. About 30 other scientific and engineering societies participate, selecting and funding their own Fellows.
The Fellows, representing a broad array of science and engineering fields, bring a common interest in learning about the intersection of science and policy, and a willingness to apply their technical training in a new arena. The host offices value the Fellows for their external perspectives and critical thinking skills, as well as for their technical expertise.
Center for Science and Technology in Congress. The Center for Science, Technology, and Congress (http://www.aaas.org/spp/cstc/) is one of the principal channels for AAAS communication between the scientific community and the legislative branch of the U.S. Government. It was established in 1994, under an initial grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Center's primary function is to facilitate communication between the science and engineering community on the one hand and the legislative community and the public it represents on the other.
AAAS's inclusiveness and breadth of coverage among fields of science and engineering enable it to both draw upon and reflect the views of virtually the entire science and technology enterprise. The Center's multi-faceted strategy is a strong example of how AAAS approaches its mission and long-term goals. It reports on S&T-policy relevant news through the monthly newsletter Science & Technology in Congress; the Center organizes congressional briefings; it provides Policy Briefs on critical scientific issues facing policy-makers; and it assists in the preparation of AAAS formal statements and resolutions, congressional testimony, and letters to the executive and legislative branches of governments. Its activities reach out to Members of Congress and staff, AAAS affiliates, academic institutions, science attaches, and the media.
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Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy. The Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy (http://cstsp.aaas.org/) was established by the AAAS through support from the Science, Technology & Security Initiative at the MacArthur Foundation. The goal of the Center is to encourage the integration of science and public policy for enhanced national and international security. The Center acts as a portal that facilitates communication between academic centers, policy institutes, and policy-makers.
The Center speeds the delivery of balanced technical analysis to Congress, Executive Branch agencies and the public at large through monthly briefings, special reports from panels of technical experts, and partnerships with the broad international network of leading universities, think-tanks, professional societies and nongovernmental organizations.
R&D Budget and Policy Program. Every year since 1976, AAAS has published a report analyzing research and development (R&D) in the proposed federal budget in order to make available timely and objective information about the Administration's plans for the coming fiscal year to the scientific and engineering communities and policy-makers. At the end of each congressional session, AAAS publishes a report reviewing the impact of appropriations decisions on research and development, entitled Congressional Action on Research and Development in the Budget. AAAS has also established a website (www.aaas.org/spp/R&D) for R&D data with regular updates on budget proposals, agency appropriations, R&D trends in past years, and outyear projections for R&D, as well as numerous tables and charts.
BIOGRAPHY FOR ALBERT H. TEICH
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Albert Teich is Director of Science & Policy Programs at AAAS, a position he has held since 1990. He is responsible for the Association's activities in science and technology policy and serves as a key spokesperson on science policy issues. Science and Policy Programs, which includes activities in ethics, law, science and religion, and human rights, as well as science policy, has a staff of 40 and a annual budget of about $9 million. He also serves as Director of the AAAS Archives.
He received a Bachelor's degree in physics and a Ph.D. in political science, both from M.I.T. Prior to joining the AAAS staff in 1980, he held positions at George Washington University, the State University of New York, and Syracuse University. Al is the author of numerous articles and editor of several books, including Technology and the Future, the most widely used college textbook on technology and society, the tenth edition of which was published by Thompson Wadsworth in 2005.
Al is a Fellow of AAAS and the recipient of the 2004 Award for Scientific Achievement in Science Policy from the Washington Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the editorial advisory boards to the journals Science Communication; Science, Technology, and Human Values; Prometheus; and Renewable Resources and a consultant to government agencies, national laboratories, industrial firms, and international organizations. He is a Past Chair of the Board of Governors of the U.S.Israel Binational Science Foundation, where he remains a member of the executive committee; a member of the External Research Advisory Board of the University of California at Davis, the Norwegian Research and Technology Forum in the United States, and the National Research Council's Research and Technology Transfer Committee.
Al is married to Jill H. Pace, Executive Director of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. He has three children and three grandchildren. He is an accomplished amateur photographer, has published several photographs, and had a one-man show of his photographs at the Black & White Gallery in Arlington, Virginia, in 2005, and another in the AAAS Science and Art Exhibition Gallery in 2006.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Doctor, and just let me point out, and I think on behalf of the entire Committee, both sides of the aisle, the AAAS Fellows program is a wonderful program that is warmly embraced by all.
But it is a two way street, and I would suggest that some of the Fellows who come up, as you say, get Potomac Fever and they stay, and that is good, because that helps us be better informed. There are some in our committee and in our respective individual offices, but most of the AAAS Fellows go back from whence they came, into the community. And that is good for science, because I find, in most instances, science, scientists are not particularly effective at lobbying for their interests. They need guys like me to be lobbyists, because welland Mr. Gordon.
So, it works well. So, you have a better appreciation for how the political process works, andbecause of the Fellows coming back, and the Fellows who we retain guide us, and we have a better appreciation for the science of the subject matter we are dealing with. So, keep it up please.
Dr. TEICH. Thank you.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Expand it, if anything.
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STATEMENT OF DR. PETER D. BLAIR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DIVISION ON ENGINEERING AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES, NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
Dr. BLAIR. Thank you for the invitation to testify today about science and technology assessment advice to the Congress. The subject is certainly a longstanding one with me, that I have seen from different perspectives in my professional life. So I appreciate the opportunity to share those experiences and perspectives with you and the Committee.
The breathtaking pace of science and technology over the past half-century has delivered both staggering benefits to society as well as sobering challenges associated with the role of technology in virtually every aspect of our lives. Society, in reaping the benefits, must also be able to cope with the challenges.
Indeed, among the Founding Fathers' deepest concerns about the fledgling American democracy was that it could function well only when the electorate, and in particular, its institutions of government, are well informed about the issues upon which it must decide. On the slide are Mr. Madison's sentiments on the matter.
Because science and technology issues, perhaps in particular, are so complex, or often so complex, and have such impact on society, a government poorly informed on such issues is destined to make bad policy choices. Yet today, it is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone, or even any institution, to keep pace with the frontier of scientific knowledge. So how, then, can the Congress acquire useful, relevant, informed, independent, objective, authoritative, and timely advice on science and technology dimensions of the issues it faces?
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The information revolution has dramatically expanded the quantity of information available to the Congress, but more has not proved necessarily to be better. Indeed, a fundamental problem today is not the quantity of information at all, but rather, how to gauge validity and usefulness within the flood of available information, advice, and advocacy.
Another way to put this is Will Rogers' old observation that ''What gets us into trouble isn't so much what we don't know, it is what we know for sure that just ain't so.'' The former chairman had a similar perspective called a defense against the dumb.
Congress certainly has many possible resources at its disposal, such as universities, think tanks, the professional societies, trusted constituents, existing Congressional agencies, and of course, the National Academies. My colleagues on the panel will explore some of these options, so I will focus on three points.
First, the current and evolving role of the Academy in providing advice to the Congress through itsprincipally, through its operating arm, the National Research Council. Second, what I consider to be an especially important gap in the sources of advice available to the Congress, and third, some concluding thoughts on the options.
As an additional and more detailed discussion, I refer to a report, ''Scientific Advice for Policy in the United States: Lessons from the National Academies and the Former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment,'' which I would like to include for the hearing record. In that document, and also, in my written statement, I recap for you the charter of the Academies, and how today, our studies continue to be among those most familiar and respected sources of independent scientific advice to the Congress.
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Indeed, Academy committees produce over two hundred reports annually, of which between 15 and 25 a year are mandated by Congress, which means that while the Academy is a substantial enterprise in the science and technology advice world overall, its role specifically for the Congress is actually a relatively small part of the portfolio. We could do more, and indeed, as my colleagues on the panel will attest, the entire science community could do much more.
The key strengths of the NRC in providing advice to the Congress are principally threefold. First, the long established reputation for credibility, enhanced by its association with the prestigious memberships of the Academies. Second, a historical ability to convene leading experts, and third, a well established and respected study process, designed to maintain balance and objectivity throughout a study committee's work, that produces reports considered to be both unbiased and authoritative.
The resulting NRC study reports often serve an important need of Congress, that is, an authoritative set of consensus findings and recommendations from a widely recognized group of experts, often leading to a specific recommended course of action. Some of the sample reports shown on this slide should be very familiar to this committee, you have talked about just in recent weeks, and one the chairman mentioned a while ago.
Nonetheless, like any process designed to serve many needs, the NRC study process is not perfectly tuned to serve all government needs. For example, our process is less well equipped, currently, to go beyond technical analysis, to gauge the broader policy implications of alternative actions, especially those implications that may involve fundamental value judgments or tradeoffs for which it may be difficult to impossible to achieve consensus. In short, and at some risk of being simplistic, what seems to be missing is a mechanism to inform the Congressional debate, including perspectives that may go beyond science and technology to include the broader implications of alternative actions related to science and technology issues being considered, and especially, a comprehensive evaluation of such perspectives. In the question period, I would be happy to offer some examples.
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In my view, both of these kinds of analysis, that is, both the traditional NRC study and this new type of study I am talking about, are important to Congressional deliberations. Since the closure of OTA now a decade ago, this latter type of analysis, as performed by a disinterested, analytical organization tuned specifically to the needs of Congress, is not readily accessible to the Congress.
Such a function may need to be reconstructed in some way, through adapting an existing organization, or through creation of a new organization answerable directly to the Congress, or perhaps by creating a new process within an existing Congressional agency. There are some experiments underway at GAO, for example.
Let me conclude by reiterating that the need for useful, relevant, informed, independent, objective, authoritative, and timely advice on the science and technology issues to the Congress is becoming more and more noticeable out here. There are certainly a variety of options for filling the various gaps, including the specific gap I mentioned today. We at the Academy look forward to playing a role in building those various options. I mentioned Will Rogers' advice earlier, but perhaps Yogi Berra's advice seems appropriate here concerning which path to take on improving and expanding the mechanisms for science and technology assessment and advice to the Congress: ''When you get to the road, and you have towhen you get to that fork in the road, and you have to choose, take it.'' Since there are multiple paths that you can follow.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for the opportunity to share my thoughts, and I look forward to answer any questions you may have.
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[The prepared statement of Dr. Blair follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PETER D. BLAIR
Thank you for the invitation to testify today about the science and technology advice to the Congress. The subject is certainly a longstanding one with me that I have seen from many perspectivesfrom academia, to private science and engineering consulting, to a senior management role in the former Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), to managing a professional scientific society, to my current post at the National Academies. I appreciate the opportunity to share those experiences and perspectives with you and the Committee.
The breathtaking pace of science and technology over the past half-centuryfrom the remarkable advances in medicine, to cell phones, to the Internet, to countless othershas delivered both staggering benefits to society as well as sobering challenges associated with the role of technology in virtually every aspect of our lives. Society, in reaping the benefits, must also be able to cope with the challenges.
Among the founding fathers' deepest concerns about the fledgling American democracy was that it could function well only when the electorate and, in particular, its institutions of government are well informed about the issues upon which it must decide.
James Madison or Thomas Jefferson might well have argued that a government poorly informed about science and technology issues, because such issues are often so complex and have such impact on society, is destined to make bad policy choices. Yet, today, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for anyone, or even any institution, to keep pace with the frontier of knowledge. How, then, can the Congress receive useful, relevant, informed, independent, authoritative and timely advice on the science and technology dimensions of the issues it faces? So your hearing today is important and timely.
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In the last decade the information revolution has dramatically expanded the quantity of information available to the Congress, but more information is certainly not necessarily better information. Indeed, a fundamental problem now is not really the lack of information; rather, it is how to gauge validity and usefulness within the flood of available information and advice.
Congress certainly has many possible resources at its disposal, ranging from universities, to independent think tanks, to existing Congressional agencies such as GAO, CBO, and CRS, and, of course, the National Academies. Other witnesses at this hearing will explore many of these options, so in my testimony I will focus on (1) the current and evolving role of the National Academies in providing advice to Congress, (2) what I consider to be an especially important gap in the current sources of advice for Congress, and (3) some thoughts related to a number of the options under consideration for filling this gap.
As an additional and more detailed discussion of some of these issues I would like to include for the record a report I prepared for a conference in Berlin earlier this year on precisely this topic: Scientific Advice for Policy in the United States: Lessons from the National Academies and the former Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.(see footnote 10)
The Traditional Role of the National Academies
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Today, among the most familiar sources of independent scientific and technical advice to Congress is the collection of organizations we now refer to as the National Academies, which include the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and their ''operating arm,'' the National Research Council (NRC). In 1863 Congress chartered the NAS as an independent non-profit corporation to ''whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art.'' This charter was signed by President Lincoln during the height of the U.S. Civil War, and the President was among the first to call upon the Academy for advice.
Today, the NAS, NAE, and IOM are each honorary societies that elect new members to their ranks annually and all operate under the original NAS charter. The NRC assembles committees of academy members and other experts to carry out studies for executive branch agencies, but Congress also frequently mandates studies by the NRC spanning the entire spectrum of science and technology related issues. The NRC produces around 200 reports annually, of which approximately 25 are mandated by Congress.
The studies at the National Academies involve nearly 10,000 volunteers annually serving on expert committees and in the review process as well as over a 1,000 professional staff. In the science and technology advice world, the Academy is a substantial enterprise for providing advice to the Federal Government in a broad range of areas, although the role specifically for Congress has traditionally been a relatively small part of the overall Academy portfolio.
The key strengths of the NRC in providing advice to the Administration and to Congress are its long-established reputation for credibility, its convening power, and the integrity of its study process resulting in reports widely accepted as unbiased. Some features of these key strengths include the following:
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Credibility. Perhaps the principal strength of the NRC is its institutional credibility, enabled significantly by its association with the prestigious memberships of the NAS, NAE, and IOM. The process by which this nongovernmental institution conducts its work is designed to ensure the results are evidence-based and tightly reasoned, and its independence from outside influences and pressures from various interest groups including government agencies. It should also be noted that the Academies conduct several studies each year using our own endowment or foundation sources, often focusing on topics that the Academies believe to be important but that the government may not be willing or able to fund. Examples include the recent effort, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, and the 2002 study Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism as well as many others very well known to this committee.
Convening Power. A second major strength is the convening power of the NRC. That is, the experts invited by the NRC to participate in its studies generally accept the invitation and are willing to invest considerable time and energy on a pro bono basis. Studies are carried out by groups of volunteers who are broadly considered among the best experts on the issues to be studied, are free of conflicts of interest, and have very carefully balanced biases. Because of the breadth of membership in the academies and the links of the organization to the scientific and technical communities worldwide, the NRC is well equipped to identify and recruit leading experts to serve on study committees.
Study Process and Products. Finally, another key strength that has continued to evolve over the years is the NRC study process itself that is designed to maintain balance and objectivity throughout a committee's work and that produces reports considered to be both unbiased and authoritative. A key quality control feature in the process is independent peer review. After consensus is achieved by a study committee and a draft report is prepared, the NRC process requires the committee to address all of the comments from a carefully selected collection of peer reviewers, whose identity is not revealed to the committee until the study is publicly released.
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Challenges for Serving Congressional Needs
Over the years the NRC process has proved consistently to be a strong model for providing independent authoritative advice to government. Like any process designed to serve many needs, however, it is not perfectly tuned to serve all the needs of all parts of government that need science and technology advice. The most commonly cited issues associated with the NRC study process, especially perhaps as they relate to Congressional needs, are the following:
Cost. It is often perceived to be expensive to commission an NRC study; even though committee members are volunteers whose time is contributed pro bono (except for travel expenses). At least in part this perception is due to the fact that a separate contract is negotiated for each individual studyunlike the central funding for agency advisory committees.
Timeliness. The NRC process, which includes commissioning and contracting for the study, selecting and convening a study committee, arranging subsequent meetings among busy people who are serving on a volunteer basis, and navigating a report through peer review, editing, production, and release takes time. The average time for an NRC study is 18 months, but can be longer. It should also be noted, however, that studies can be carried out quite rapidly given an important national need or specific agency or Congressional requirements. As examples, both Rising Above the Gathering Storm and Making the Nation Safer, noted earlier, were completed in about six months and a widely cited study, Climate Change Science, was completed in one month.
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Sources of Sponsorship. Most NRC studies are commissioned and paid for by federal agencies through contracts, even those mandated by Congress which adds the additional hurdle of enacting a law. On the one hand, this is beneficial in that it helps ensure that what the NRC does is relevant and important, and the diversity of support helps assure independence. On the other hand, it often takes six to nine months through a government procurement process to initiate an NRC study even after a mandated study has been enacted in law (or included in report language). For those studies mandated by Congress, an additional delay often results from the time needed to enact the relevant legislation.
A Gap in Types of Advice Currently Available to Congress
The NRC study process is well developed and serves an important need of Congressan authoritative set of findings and recommendations from widely recognized experts, often leading to a specific recommended course of action. In particular, NRC committees are usually assembled with the intention of achieving consensus recommendations supported by evidence. In a very controversial subject area with scientific and other uncertainties, if a broad set of perspectives are included in the study committee, as one might expect if the purpose is to include all possible scientific and other perspectives on a problem, a consensus might be difficult to achieve. This is why the NRC places a high priority on an appropriately balanced committee and a rigorous information-gathering phase of a committee's work, where such perspectives are heard.
Since the historical focus of the NRC process has been on delivering consensus-based advice on science and technology topics, the process is less well equipped to elaborate on the broader context of an issue and inform the policy debate with careful and objective analysis of the policy consequences of alternative courses of action, especially those that may involve value judgments and trade-offs beyond the scope of technical analysis. Consequently, it has been far less common for the NRC to assemble committees charged with identifying and evaluating the pros and cons of a range of alternative policy options, although it would certainly be possible to develop such a study process in the National Academies.
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Both types of analysis just described are important to congressional deliberation depending upon the circumstances. With the closure of the former Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), the latter type of analysis as performed by a disinterested analytical organization is no longer readily accessible to the Congress and may need to be reconstructed in some way, either through adapting an existing organization or through creation of an organization that is answerable directly to the Congress or perhaps creating a new process within an existing Congressional agency.
As an example illustrating the analysis gap just noted, consider the case where Congress may be interested in the future of the Nation's electric power system, following a major blackout. The salient issues could be posed in two alternative ways:
One type of study would be to seek an authoritative set of recommendations for making the system more secure and reliable in the wake of blackouts or threats of terrorist attacks on the Nation's infrastructure. In such a study, the well established NRC approach would be to assemble a committee of experts, review what is known about the power system and where it is headed, and deliver specific engineering and operational recommendations about how to improve system reliability and performance. Indeed, we currently have such a study underway to assist the Department of Homeland Security.
In another type of study, Congress might be interested in exploring the technical as well as societal, environmental, economic, regulatory, or other broad implications of alternative scenarios for the future of the Nation's electric utility industry, perhaps once again precipitated by a blackout. Not only technical, but also political, economic, social, environmental, and probably many other kinds of tradeoffs and value judgments are involved in characterizing a series of scenarios for the future structure of the industry, ranging from moving toward a national centrally controlled grid to fully deregulating wholesale and retail electricity segments of the industry.
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These two types of studies are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but unlike the first case, in the second case a set of consensus recommendations is not the principal objective, and the collection of stakeholders and experts necessary to carefully identify and explore these alternatives would be considerably different than for the study committee structured to reach an evidence-based, tightly reasoned consensus recommendations based on scientific evidence and on specific technical issues.
In short, and perhaps at the risk of being simplistic, the first type of analysis is designed to illuminate the scientific and technical aspects of a problem to help in directing a specific course of action while, in the second case, the analysis is designed principally to inform the Congressional debate, including perspectives that may go beyond science and technology about the broader implications of alternative actions related to the science and technology issues being considered, but both types of analysis are very important to Congressional deliberations.
Evolving Study Processes at the NRC
The fact that the NRC process does not now accommodate the second form of advice noted above does not mean that it could not; indeed, NRC processes to do change from time to time in response to government needs. As a case in pointthe horrific terrorist events of September 11, 2001 spurred widespread interest in findings ways to contribute to the understanding of the science and technology dimensions of homeland security and countering terrorism. Specifically, many government agencies expressed urgent needs for immediate advice in these areas. In response, the NRC used its convening power to assemble small groups of experts who then provide advice as individuals, rather than as a group constituting an NRC committee. Such ''real-time'' advice, which is done orally and not by a written report, does not carry the imprimatur of the NRC study process, especially the quality control aspects of committee deliberation and peer review of a written report. It does, however, provide a new means of satisfying a real need of the government, i.e., providing timely input to policy makers and other organizations, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with whom we now have a longstanding relationship along these lines.
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Additional Congressional needs vary widely, including such deliverables as (1) ''instant education'' on a complex science and technology issue, (2) ''translations'' of authoritative reports to more readable and understandable language tuned to the needs of broad policy-makers, (3) summaries of landmark authoritative reports, and (4) updates or adaptations of existing reports and information to current needs, and (5) readily available and trusted expert consultants on call to help with quick turnaround questions and interpretations of complex technical information. Some of these capabilities are accessible to varying degrees through the Congressional Research Service and through various other means. Missing, however, especially since the closure of OTA, is an ability to provide comprehensive analysis in any organized or readily accessible way by an organization directly accountable to Congress.
Collaboration and a GAO Experiment
In an experiment to test the feasibility of developing a ''technology assessment'' capability in the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a first-of-a-kind GAO technology assessment report on biometric technologies was released in 2002. The NRC did not participate in developing this assessment, but it did use its contacts to assist the GAO in identifying individuals with the proper expertise. There are some shortcomings in the approach adopted by the GAO in carrying out its first attempt at a technology assessment, most notably the lack of a substantive and accountable peer review process. Nevertheless, the experiment has been more successful than many anticipated and the GAO seems receptive to incorporating improvements suggested by a review group commissioned to review the GAO approach. In particular, the group identified a number of significant organizational challenges that it felt were necessary to refine the GAO approach, such as the incorporation of a mechanism for peer review, which could then possibly evolve into a more mature technology assessment capability within the legislative branch.
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Whether the GAO is capable of such reforms on a larger scale remains to be seen, but it seems fair to conclude that the initial GAO experiment has yielded evidence sufficient to continue the experiment. We are pleased that the NRC's modest role in this experiment, by providing experts to talk with GAO, appears to have been one of the successful features of this approach and may constitute a way in which the National Academies can contribute to a renewed technology assessment capability within the legislative branch, in addition to its more traditional response to congressionally mandated requests for assistance. Such a mechanism provides the GAO a degree of access to the National Academies' considerable network of technical expertise. If needed, the Academies would also be willing to conduct similar studies commissioned by GAO to aid in responding to important Congressional requests.
The Former Office of Technology Assessment
By comparison with and in contrast to the NRC study process, the former Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) study process used an authoritative committee of volunteers as an advisory panel rather than assuming authorship of the study itself, which was produced by professional staff. As with NRC reports, OTA reports were also subject to a rigorous peer review. On the one hand, this approach permitted easier regulation of the role of the committee, particular if achieving a consensus in a broad controversial area was unlikely, but, on the other hand, such a practice also sacrificed the authoritativeness of the volunteer experts as authors of the report, an important feature of the NRC process.
Because the former OTA panels were advisory, and not the report's authors, the necessity of reaching a consensus was seldom an issue. Indeed, OTA was prohibited in its enabling legislation from making recommendations, so the panel was created to try to collect the views of all important stakeholders rather than to try to produce consensus recommendations (although consensus findings and conclusions were provided and viewed as important by requesting Congressional committees). Instead, the OTA project teams sought to analyze and articulate the consequences of alternative courses of action and elaborate on the context of a problem without coming to consensus recommendations on a specific course of action, which would be difficult anyway with a diverse group with points of view that prevented consensus on many controversial issues.
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If required to come to a consensus set of recommendations, even if it were permitted under the enabling legislation, the former OTA model would likely be unworkable for controversial subjects with many opposing points of view. Nonetheless, the type of study undertaken by the former OTA was an important input to Congressional deliberation and it has not yet been reproduced in the Legislative Branch agencies or elsewhere, including the National Academies. The Academies could carry out such studies but that would require some changes in its study procedures for such studies as indicated above.
The National Academies have enjoyed a longstanding and effective working relationship with Congress on even the most contentious issues. There are, no doubt, many characteristics of that relationship that could be improved, both to perform the traditional NRC role more effectively and to provide some opportunities to expand that role.
The gaps I mentioned earlier in the mechanisms for providing useful, relevant, informed, independent, authoritative and timely advice on the science and technology issues to the Congress are becoming more and more noticeable. There are certainly a variety of options for filling these gaps, some of which might involve the Academy and some that would not. Many of them are worthy of serious consideration and we in the National Academies look forward to playing a role in this very important area in whatever mechanism develops. Thank you again for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today and I look forward to addressing any questions the Committee might have.
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BIOGRAPHY FOR PETER D. BLAIR
Peter Blair joined the National Research Council's (NRC) Division for Engineering and Physical Sciences as its first Executive Director in 2001, responsible for the NRC's portfolio in defense, energy and environmental systems, information and telecommunications, physics, astronomy, mathematics and operations research, aeronautics and space science and engineering, materials, manufacturing and engineering design, and civil engineering infrastructure.
Prior to his appointment at the NRC, from 19962001, Dr. Blair was Executive Director of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society and publisher of American Scientist magazine, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Public Policy Analysis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
From 19831996 Dr. Blair served in several capacities at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), concluding as Assistant Director of the agency and Director of the Industry, Commerce and International Security Division where he was responsible for the agency's research programs on energy, transportation, infrastructure, international security, space, industry, commerce, and telecommunications. He received the OTA's distinguished service award in 1991.
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Prior to his government service, Dr. Blair served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania with appointments in the graduate groups of energy management, regional science, and public policy and was a co-founder of Technecon, Inc., a Philadelphia engineering-economic consulting firm specializing in investment decision analysis of energy projects and in developing, financing, and managing independent power generation projects.
Dr. Blair holds a B.S. in engineering from Swarthmore College, an M.S.E. in systems engineering and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in energy management and policy from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author or co-author of three books and over a hundred technical articles in areas of electric power systems engineering, energy and environmental policy, computer modeling of energy systems, regional science and input-output analysis, and commercialization of new technology.
Chairman BOEHLERT. And thank you for sharing the wisdom of one of the most beloved Yankees.
STATEMENT OF DR. CATHERINE T. HUNT, PRESIDENTELECT, AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY; LEADER FOR TECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIPS, ROHM AND HAAS COMPANY
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. HUNT. Chairman Boehlert, Ranking Member Gordon, and distinguished Members of the Committee.
Good morning. My name is Dr. Catherine Hunt, and I am pleased to address you this morning on behalf of the more than 158,000 members of the American Chemical Society, the largest professional society in the world, or I should say, the largest scientific society in the world. I am the 2007 President of the Society, and I am also a technology manager at the Rohm and Haas Company, an $8 billion specialty materials company, where I build and champion technology partnerships across industry, academia, and national labs.
In this age of lightning fast technological advancement, and potentially massive information overload, it is increasingly important that Congress have a reliable, credible, and unbiased source of scientific and technical advice to help sort through complex and often conflicting data.
Take this glass of water, for example. It looks perfectly clean and pure, but as an analytical chemist, I can tell you that there are trace chemicals and minerals in this water that we couldn't detect even five years ago. Today's analytical technologies can take us down to the part per quadrillion level. That is part per quadrillion. That would be one inch in the distance it would take you to travel to Mars round trip 168 times. So, are these substances bad or good? Should they be banned or enhanced? Any such decision should be based on sound technical assessment.
In essence, the flow of scientific and technical information to Congress from any source should be subject to critical measures. In other words, I would like to hear everyone say: Is this accurate? Is it complete? Is it current? And most importantly, is it reliable? To be useful, it is critical, and you have heard this morning, that this information be available in a timely manner, and that it be easily used and understood by those with and also without extensive scientific and technological background.
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Since ACS was founded in 1876, the effective dissemination of reliable information and advice has been one of the Society's central tenets. In fact, ACS was chartered by Congress in 1937 to share scientific knowledge with a broad constituency, including Congress and the executive branch.
Since the elimination of the Office of Technology Assessment in 1995, Members of Congress have had to rely more heavily on their personal staffs, and on the relatively small number of expert professional staff that populate committees like yours. Also since 1995, the ACS has hosted 109 Science & the Congress program briefings on Capitol Hill, seeking to present unbiased information on technical and public policy subjects. Congressional staff tell us that these briefings provide balance of views and information that is what I need to know and when I need to know it.
To meet its needs for S&T assessments, Congress clearly should continue to use outside experts, including the National Academies, to provide nonpartisan analysis of large scale, complex issues. However, these experts cannot meet all of Congress's frequent and extensive needs.
Congress does also tap into the expertise at the Congressional Research Services and the GAO, as you have already heard this morning. But again, these support agencies are not currently structured to perform all of the analysis required by legislators.
So, in summary, ACS, the American Chemical Society, believes that Congress should consider establishing an in-house science and technology unit, a properly structured unit, and what do I mean by properly? I think it should have several qualities. It should be bipartisan. It should be sufficiently staffed to furnish complete analyses. It should have strong links to outside experts, to facilitate collecting a broad selection of inputs, and it should be staffed with professionals who are especially skilled, and I can tell you these are skills I look for in my staff to do technology assessment at Rohm and Haas, that they can look at the pros and cons of an issue, that they can look at the strengths and weaknesses, that they can identify opportunities and threats. And refining this input that they collect broadly into potential policy options for Congressional use.
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It should consider leveraging current science and technology fellowships that we have heard about this morning. These have been funded by outside groups. And sponsor new fellowships to supplement the standing capabilities. I think it should also consider using existing models. I like to learn from the past, and to learn from what works in other places, if it can work for you. Looking at openness and peer review, that is what allows the National Academies and think tanks and others to assemble world class science and technology reports.
So, in closing, a new science and technology unit should be equally effective in performing two sometimes contradictory functions. First, assembling world-class science and technology assessments, and second, providing information to Congress in a form and manner that facilitates your making sound policy decisions.
So, with that, I would like to thank you for allowing me to come and present our views on this important topic, and I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Hunt follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF CATHERINE T. HUNT
Chairman Boehlert, Ranking Member Gordon, and distinguished Members of the Committee:
Good Morning. My name is Dr. Catherine Hunt.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am pleased to address you this morning on behalf of the more than 158,000 chemical professionals (chemists, engineers, educators and entrepreneurs) of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the largest scientific society in the world. I am the 2007 President of the Society and I'm also a technology manager with Rohm and Haas, an $8 billion specialty materials company, where I manage technology partnerships with the public and private sectors.
Today's hearing explores how Congress receives and analyzes the scientific and technological information that it requires to evaluate legislation, and how those information-gathering processes might be improved. As technology increasingly drives our nation's economy, security, and quality of life, the list of policy issues that demand sound science and engineering understanding is rapidly expanding in size and complexity. Over the past month, the House has held hearings on topics ranging from energy to climate change, from cyber security to voting standardsall of which contain a strong element of science and that might have benefited from additional technological assessment. In fact, I don't believe that there is a Congressional Committee that does not in some manner deal with science and technology issueseven though it may not be obvious at first blush. For instance, if we consider water quality and supply, the Agriculture Committee is concerned about water conservation, the Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over drinking water, the Transportation Committee handles clean water, this committee has oversight of water-related research and the International Relations Committee needs to understand technologies that impact potable water resources in the Middle East.
Sometimes information received by these committees, though popularly accepted and reported as fact, ultimately turns out to be unreliable, or worse yetfalse. I think we would all agree that legislative action taken on the basis of this type of information would be regrettable and potentially damaging. Sometimes public opinion can drive policy, but as important as public opinion and media reports are, we mustn't allow these to push a rush to judgment without a careful evaluation of the facts. This is where I think it becomes increasingly important that Congress have a reliable, credible and unbiased source for scientific and technical assessment to help it sort through complex and often conflicting data.
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Take this glass of water as an example. It looks perfectly clean and pureand it probably is. But given the new advances in chemical detection technology, I'd venture to say that we could find numerous trace chemicals and minerals in this glass that five years ago would have been impossible to detect. Today's analytical technology takes us down to the part per quadrillion levela part per quadrillion is equal to one inch in the distance you must travel to make 168 roundtrips to Mars. But would we, or should we, legislate an immediate ban on the materials found in this glass of water just because we could detect them? In this example, I would suggest that information about the presence of these substances in and of itself should not be the basis for legislating a ban on the material, but rather such a decision should be based on an assessment of what impact, or potential impact, might these materials have on the health of the drinkerif any.
It is well known that the demands and expectations on Congress continue to increase. Ease and reliability of electronic communications has resulted in Congress being bombarded on a daily basis with hundreds of thousands of e-mails, faxes, and phone calls from interest groups, trade associations, scientific societies, and interested citizens and constituents. This constant river of communication is sorted, categorized, and assimilated by Members of Congress and their staffs to identify that most valuable of treasures in Washingtonreliable information.
Since its founding in 1876, ACS has viewed the effective dissemination of reliable information and advice as one of its central functions. In fact, ACS was chartered by Congress in 1937 to share scientific knowledge with a broad constituency, including the Congress and the Executive branch. In truth, sharing scientific information is fundamental to scientific and technical societies and associations. Collectively, they provide a direct source of information and analysis via testimony and letters, face-to-face meetings and consultations, formal and informal communications, and other types of interactions.
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These organizations also organize educational and informational briefings for members and staff on a wide variety of science and technology issues. Since 1995, the ACS Science & the Congress program has hosted 109 briefings on Capitol Hill that seek to provide balanced and unbiased first-hand information from subject-matter experts on a wide range of technical and public policy subjects. The feedback we have received from these briefings, which are well attended, is that they provide a balance of views and an educational overview for congressional staff who are generally seeking such information on a just-in-time, tell-me-what-I-need-to-know basis.
Many other stakeholders in the legislative process utilize the same tools and seek to provide similar services, including think tanks, universities, federal agencies, trade associations, and companies. Most of these groups place great emphasis on their own credibility before Congress and thus strive to be regarded as honest brokers of reliable information. However, to some extent, most of these outside sources of information have a vested interest in the outcome of your deliberations.
The flow of scientific and technical information to Congress from any source should be subjected to critical measures: Is it accurate? Is it complete? It is current? And, most importantly, is it reliable? To be able to use this information, it is also important that it be available in a timely manner and in a way that it is easily used by those without backgrounds in science and technology.
To meet its need for science and technology assessments, Congress clearly should continue to use outside experts, including the National Academies, to scope, integrate, and provide non-partisan analysis of large-scale complex issues involving science and technology. However, these experts cannot meet all of Congress' frequent and extensive needs, and ACS believes that Congress should have greater access to assessments on a wider range of subjects than outside organizations are capable of providing.
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Since the elimination of the Office of Technology Assessment in 1995, Congress has functioned without an impartial internal unit that can frame complex issues, provide comprehensive and balanced insights and analysis, and set out policy options on science and engineering issues. Members of Congress have had to rely more heavily on their personal staffs and on the relatively small number of expert professional staff that populate committees like yours to perform this critical function. Congress also taps the professional expertise at the Library of Congress Congressional Research Services (CRS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Many experts believe that these congressional support agencies are not currently structured and staffed to perform all of the in-depth, unbiased scientific and technical analyses required by legislators. Congress should consider establishing an in-house science and technology unit that supplements their capabilities and provides timely, thorough assessments for decisions on issues involving a wide range of science, engineering, and technology. This unit could be housed in CRS, GAO, or stand alone as a congressional support agency.
What would such a unit look like? A properly structured, in-house unit should have sufficient staff to furnish complete analyses. It also should rely significantly on outside experts to refine their input for congressional use. Its operations should be economical and efficient in order to provide a regular stream of timely advice to Congress. The new science and technology assessment unit might also consider leveraging current science and technology fellowships funded by outside groups, and sponsor new fellowships to supplement its standing capabilities. By placing scientists and engineers in various legislative offices and committees, the new unit would be more relevant and approachable to all congressional members and staff.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To be effective, a new science and technology assessment unit must be equally effective in two sometimes contradictory functions(1) assembling world-class scientific and technology assessments and (2) providing information to Congress in a form and manner that facilitates your making policy decisions. In the former area, the unit should use the existing models, including openness and peer review, that allow the National Academies, academics, and think tanks to assemble world-class science and technology reports. While I am not an expert on the latter challenge, I would observe that you are in the best position to determine how the unit should be organized to most effectively operate in your unique environment and meet your needs.
Thank you for this opportunity to present our views on this important topic. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
BIOGRAPHY FOR CATHERINE T. HUNT
Education and Employment
Dr. Catherine ''Katie'' T. Hunt is Leader, Technology Partnerships for Rohm and Haas Company, where she builds collaborations between the company, academia, government agencies, and private foundations. Since creating the unit in 2002, she has helped secure multi-million dollar grants from federal agencies to improve collaboration across all sectors of the chemical enterprise. In 2002, Dr. Hunt acted as a member of the steering committee for the ''Nanomaterials and the Chemical Industry Roadmap Workshop,'' a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE/EERE), the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), and the Chemical Industry Vision 2020 Technology Partnership. As a result of this workshop, Dr. Hunt co-authored the Chemical Industry R&D Roadmap for Nanomaterials by Design: From Fundamentals to Function.
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Dr. Hunt began her career in industry with Rohm and Haas Company in 1984 after completing an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at Yale University. Since then, Dr. Hunt has held a variety of positions at every level of the company from Senior Scientist in Analytical Research (1984) to Philadelphia Plant Laboratory Manager (1991) to Director of Worldwide Analytical and Computational Competency Network and Technology Development (1998). She was named to her current position in 2002.
Dr. Hunt holds an A.B. in Chemistry (Cum Laude) from Smith College, Northampton, MA, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Davis. She has authored 13 papers, one book chapter on Metallothionein.
Professional Organization Leadership
Dr. Hunt is the 2006 President-Elect for the American Chemical Society. She will serve as President in 2007 and as a member of the Board of Directors from 20062008. She has been a member of the society since 1977. She is also an active member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Union on Pure and Applied Chemistry, and Sigma Xi. Dr. Hunt serves on the Board of Directors of the Council for Chemistry Research and was a participant in the Vision 2020 Industry Group.
Over her professional career Dr. Hunt has received many awards including being a member of the Women in Science Delegation to Cuba (2001); Best Paper Award from INDA, Association of Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (1997); Rohm and Haas Company, S.J. Talucci Quality Award (1996); and NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship (19821984).
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American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit, member-governed organization that consists of more than 159,000 individual members at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry and chemical engineering. The organization provides a broad range of opportunities for peer interaction and career development, for a wide range of professional and scientific interests. As the world's largest scientific society and in keeping with its congressional charter, ACS advances the chemical enterprise, increases public understanding of chemistry, and brings its expertise to bear on state and national matters.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, Dr. Hunt. And let the Chair note for the record that the glass Dr. Hunt used in her illustration is half full.
You know, Dr. Blair gave an example of the kind of study that he thinks Congress is not getting, and although he noted that the Academy might be able to fill the gap. Could the rest of you on the panel describe a kind of study, a specific example, that Congress doesn't receive now, because we lack a mechanism to do so, and then, could you tell me what you think would be the preferred mechanism to get the information to Congress?
That is a tough question. Who wants to go first? Dr. Peha?
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Dr. PEHA. Well, one issue I have been following, both inspired and horrified by 9/11, is communication systems for first responders, firefighters, police, National Guard. There have been hearings on this topic in a variety of committees, on both the House and Senate side, where I have seen people come in and say here is the little piece of the problem that I see, and here is the incremental change that would help me deal with it. And that is great, but that doesn't allow you to look at the whole problem, and one of the reasons we are in the mess we are in is because the problem has been fragmented so many ways, with each organization looking at its little piece. And another problem is that sometimes, incremental change isn't the way to go, and
Chairman BOEHLERT. How would you address that particular one?
Dr. PEHA. I thinkI mean, a study that came in and said here are a variety of options, and some of them are incremental, and some of them are, you know, some of them are to do nothing, some of them are to beef up this and to beef up that. Others are to look at more fundamental kinds of change. In this case, I in particular think that we have to stop looking at municipally-led systems, tens of thousands of them, and start looking at broad regional and national systems.
And to study the technical, economic, organizational impact, you would need some other kind of organization to look at something that broad, and to compare it to the other incremental approaches.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, would the Academy be able to fill that gap, or would you create a new vehicle, and
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Dr. PEHA. I think theI mean, the Academy has also looked at parts of this. They also, because, you knowPeter and I were talking about this exactly before, they have to bring together people who will come to consensus, and they have been looking at all the neat little technologies that they could use incrementally to advance what people are doing. But to look at something radically different, it is very difficult for the Academy to do.
And you know, you could look at something radically different and say it is the wrong idea, but to come along and say here is a very different choice. Here is what would happen if the Department of Homeland Security took the lead, instead of city governments. That would have to come from somewhere else.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Do you have an idea where that somewhere might be?
Dr. PEHA. Well
Chairman BOEHLERT. Should we resurrect OTA, for example? Did that pass your four
Dr. PEHA. Yeah. At the moment, frankly, Carnegie Mellon University is trying to look at this, but we are too far removed. I would like to see some organization that answers directly to Congress, that ishas staff that are, you know, that answer only to Congress. They may do some of the work themselves. They may farm it out topieces of it out to consultants, as Congressman Rohrabacher suggested, but ultimately, they would put those pieces together. They would negotiate with Congress what they are supposed to do, and they would present it to Congress when they are done.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. Thanks. Dr. Teich, do you have an observation you would share with us?
Dr. TEICH. Well, I canI could say what he said, that I like, but I thinkpick a different area, pick energy conservation, for example. That is an area in which there are a huge number of existing studies. There are a wide range of views on how to accomplish it, but we are very far from having a systems point of view on that, and of implementing programs on a sufficient scale to accomplish what we need to accomplish, I think.
So, what Congress needs is some kind of mechanism that will synthesize the knowledge, and will give it ownership of a set of ideas that will satisfy the diverse needs that conflict in thisin that kind of an arena, the various companies that have a vested interest, the other organizations. And to take the scientific data out of all that, and put it in a framework that Congress can look at and can use.
Chairman BOEHLERT. With all due respect, in that particular example you are using, energy conservation, we are not short on getting good science up here. We just don't want to accept it. We ignore it.
Dr. TEICH. Well, I am
Chairman BOEHLERT. You know, we like to say we are for scientific consensus, until the scientific consensus leads to a politically inconvenient conclusion. Then we want to go to Plan B.
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Dr. TEICH. Right.
Chairman BOEHLERT. The sciencesfor example, one of my pet causes, CAFE standards. We have got off the shelf technology, don't have to launch a new research program, off the shelf technology that could be employed that would save us, you know, millions of barrels of oil at a time when we are so dependent on foreign source oil. Pretty logical, but you have people questioning the science. Notscientists questioning the science, you have policy-makers, so the problem, the frustration I have is that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink sort of thing. And we have got the good science there, in this area particularly, and we ignore it, because it is not politically convenient to address the good science in a meaningful way. But
Dr. TEICH. I guess that was the point I was trying to make, and perhaps not as well as I would have liked, but Congress needs an institution that will help it to drink in this case.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, but once again, you getthe institution, whether it is a reconstituted OTA or any other sort of think tank, objective, impartial, independent, adequately funded. You can have, you know, hordes of people withspending tens of millions of dollars, but when they present something to Congress, Congress has to make policy decisions, and not science decisions. All the science is there to prove the point, but so many people ignore it, unfortunately.
Dr. Blair, you are going to answer your own question?
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Dr. BLAIR. Yeah, if you don't mind.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Well, that is fine.
Dr. BLAIR. I would like to offer an example that may illustrate the gap I described. I mentioned in my written testimony, but I didn't describe in detail, I think, an example of the kind of gap I am talking about.
Out in California right now, we are in the middle of rolling blackouts in some parts of the electric power system, and there is a lot going on in the electric power industry right now, and where the future is headed.
We at the Academies are very well suited to look at, for example, producing an authoritative set of recommendations for making the power system more secure and reliable in the wake of blackouts and the threat of terrorist attacks. In fact, we are doing that study right now for the Department of Homeland Security. However, we are not looking at, for example, a way in which the electric power system might evolve over the next decade with the pressures of increasing competition, how it has worked or not worked in different parts of the country, how the role of technology is affecting our ability to install new generation in different parts of the country, the social, economic, political, and other dimensions where it is almost impossible to achieve a consensus, but it is important for Congress to have the context of those issues laid out in a way that helps inform the debate, in a realistic way, which is very important.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman BOEHLERT. What would you suggestwhat would be the vehicle to carry that forward?
Dr. BLAIR. Well, I laid out a few of the options in thein my testimony, that I suppose the Academies could evolve in that direction. We are currently not now constituted to do that very well, because as Al mentioned, we are designed to come to scientific consensus on committees, come up with consensus findings and recommendations. That would be almost impossible in this kind of an argument.
So, having a body that could do this, directly tuned to the needs of Congress, is important. It could happen in a variety of ways, anywhere from resurrecting the function that was provided by the former Office of Technology Assessment, to perhaps modifications in some of the existing Congressional agencies, to perhaps even adapting some mechanisms outside the Congress, but directly reportable in Congress.
Chairman BOEHLERT. I have far exceeded my time, but Dr. Hunt, do you have something special you would like to offer?
Dr. HUNT. What I would say is, the way I like to approach this in industry is to put out a grand challenge, or in any case, something where you look and say, how could that possibly happen? Like, let us cut gas prices by a factor of ten, or a factor of a hundred, or let us just go non-petroleum. What would it take to do that?
And the reason you start with something like that is it makes you think out of the box. It makes you come up with solutions you might not be able to come up with looking at standard reports. And where I would say this would take you would be to look at energy policy, right. If we had an energy policy that looked at short-term, long-term, mid-term types of capabilities, and I think there are a lot of reports out there, as you have said, there is a lot of information. How do you assimilate that together and put forward an energy policy that will truly decrease our dependence on foreign oil?
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And it takes what we call at work institutional fortitude, right, there are things andthat are not politically acceptable, but the question is, can we focus with the end in mind, and develop a place where there is an independent body that can provide choices.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. I apologize to my colleagues. I went way over my time limit.
Mr. GORDON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It was a good area of inquiry.
I am one that thinks that Congress needs additional nonpartisan, independent scientific information. I think it will help us make better decisions, and I think it will help us use the taxpayer's dollars more wisely. And so, let usI want to get more specific than sort of the wide-ranging discussion we have had so far.
There are some that think that after the November elections, that the Congressional horse might be more willing to drink, and if that occurs, then let us again be more specific. One approach would be, OTA is already authorized. It is just not funded. And so, my question would be what are the pros and cons of properly funding and staffing OTA to accomplish the goals that we had been talking earlier, and I will let each witness try to succinctly give us an opinion on that.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And why don't we do it in reverse order this time.
Dr. HUNT. So, I thinksometimes, I think that it is important to change the name of something, so that indeed, you don't go back to what you had before, but that you look at what the qualities are that you want in the future.
And I think that you heard a lot of summary of that here this morning that I think you would want to go back to. It needs to be bipartisan. What you are
Mr. GORDON. Yeah, but Imy sincere question is
Dr. HUNT. Okay.
Mr. GORDON.is what are the pros and cons of appropriately funding OTA? It is already authorized. What are the pros and cons of doing OTA?
Dr. HUNT. Okay. I would say one of the pros is, it would be expeditious, okay. It would be something you could do and put in place quickly. What I think one of the cons would be is that you would want to make sure you construct it, not just revive it as it was, but construct it to address any issues you felt that were not appropriate, or not satisfactory.
So, if timeliness is important, you need a process that will direct timeliness. If choice of projects is importantam I going down the road you
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GORDON. Not really, but we will go to Dr. Blair.
Dr. HUNT. Okay.
Mr. GORDON. Let us see if he can get down there.
Dr. BLAIR. Well, this may be context, but I have either the distinction or the misfortune of being the one who literally turned the lights out at OTA, and handed the keys over to the Architect of the Capitol, and I think that, as I think back, at the time of OTA's closing, and what OTA would look like now, I think it would be a very different place.
A lot has happened in those 10 years. The way in which people communicate with Congress, the day-to-day operations, perhaps theat the time OTA was closed, the ability to react more nimbly, to provide interim results to major assessments, to interact more with the broad individual membership of Congress, in addition to the committees. All of these are things that were sort of on the table at the time, but in the flurry of the decade ago, didn't have time to mature.
So, on one hand, yes, the pros are that the function exists. It could be started up again, but I think it would have to be a different place. The function is quite clear, and I think OTA could do it. Perhaps some of the other experiments that are going on, such as the enhancement of the GAO technology assessment experiment, or perhaps, the idea of building a function like this within the Congressional Research Service. But there are cultural changes that would be necessary there in order to really appeal to this function we have been talking about.
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Mr. GORDON. Well, you are starting from scratch.
Dr. BLAIR. Yes.
Mr. GORDON. So, it is not a matter of having, I don't think, those liabilities.
Dr. BLAIR. Right.
Mr. GORDON. In terms of updating it, you can trade in your manual typewriters for computers, and you can also recognize you are dealing in a different age.
Let us see, Dr. Teich.
Dr. TEICH. Well, I think the pro is obvious, and has been identified by my colleagues, which is that it would be the easiest route legislatively, since you would not need to pass new authorizing legislation to establish it.
I think one of the cons is the legacy ofwhich may not be such a major consideration at this point, since I think many of the people who were involved in the decision on OTA are no longer in the Congress, and a lot of others have, perhaps, forgotten that the issue existed. But I think that is also one of the problems, which isthat needs to be addressed in creating a new function, and I don't know what you call it, and I don't have a formula for establishing it, but too many people in the Congress, too many Members, I think, didn't really care. It wasn't that important to them. It didn't serve them sufficiently, and I think that somehow, a new function has to be created that would serve the Congress more broadly than OTA did.
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OTA tried. It didn't have the resources, I think. It never established the kind of presence in the Congress that made it indispensable. It needs to have that kind of presence. It needs to have a connection to a wide range of committees, and to a wide range of Members.
Mr. GORDON. I think to some extent, it was the victim of a drive-by shooting in '95. There was an interest to take a scalp, and it was a handy scalp. Do you want to finish up, and then we will move on?
Dr. PEHA. I agree with everything that is said. If it would be easy, and if that method is used of creating an organization, it would have to be understood that it is not reviving OTA. It is creating a new organization in that shell, that would look different, and learning the lessons of OTA.
But let me put this in the context of the alternative. The alternative is to create this function, or to establish this functionality in an existing organization, like GAO, Library of Congress, or CBO. That has advantages, in that you can share resources, particularly if you are establishing something that is initially not all that large, as large as OTA was in the earlier days. Establishing something in a new organization would have the disadvantage that you have a dissimilar existing mission, and you would have to protect the new activity from the old, it would, you know, it would have to have different processes. It would have to have staff with different skills, and you would have to make sure that there was sufficient independence in this new piece.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Or one other option, you create a standalone agency that looks, that, you know, with new authorization, that is whatever the new thing is.
Mr. GORDON. Okay. Thank you, and let me just suggest to all of the think tank folks, you know, that are here. This would be a good area to be thinking about. And that, I think, at least this committee would welcome recommendations, thoughtful papers, on how to set this operation up.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. The ever patient and always persistent Mr. Rohrabacher.
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Thank you very much.
This is one drive-by shooter to the other. Let me note, there is some, you know, although we do recognize that drive-by shooters are bad people, but some people need shooting, you know. I will just have to tell you this, and frankly, when we were trying to get control of Federal spending, this Office jumped out at us as something that needed our attention, it needed to be put in our sights.
Ilet me put it this way. What I hear today is the assumption that having something like the OTA reestablished is going to beit is going to be an objective organization, and it has got to be, you know, all of these great words that are coming up to describe another layer of bureaucracy, and a buffer between us and the scientific world. You are assuming that this is going to be a very positive element, that now we put in place. I don't know what makes youis there any scientific reason to assume that putting in this new layer of government between us and the scientific community will yield positive things? I don't think so. I mean, every time I have heard about hiring new government employees, and puttingand letting them be your, you know, one who is going to put it all together and describe to us what is good and what is bad, it has turned out bad.
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Let me just note that what we need is not an organization that will serve as a conduit for which everybody has to come to us through. We need competing sources of information. That is what we need, and unfortunately, at some of our own hearings, we don't have both sides. I mean, I think the most important thing that we can do is have people in the scientific community representing both sides of any issue, here, debating it in front of us, and recognizing that no matter how many people speak about what their authority is, there is disagreement among people even in the scientific community about which direction to go on certain issues, on most issues, I might add.
I remember when cyclamates, when I was a kidRemember cyclamates?were banned. By the way, they were never banned in Canada, let me note that. But we banned them, and we had terrific scientific information, the entire scientific community eliminated the billions of dollars that our soft drink companies had invested in cyclamates, and we eliminated them, and of course, 15 years later, we found out no, well, we were wrong. Sorry. Cyclamates really don't cause the cancer we thought they would, and of course, in the meantime, we got an obesity problem springing from soft drinks that are being consumed by people without cyclamates. So, anyway, there arewhat we needed to hear perhaps, back then, was a competing view on cyclamates, rather than just having one scientific buffer between us.
Finally, let me note, Mr. Chairman, the fellowship programs that have been mentioned today, the AAAS fellowship program, I would like to commend the AAAS, and I would like to make sure that we all know that there are wonderful, wonderful sources for Congress right now that I take advantage of. I have had a AAAS Fellow with my office for the last 15 years, and they have all been superior. They have really contributed greatly to my effectiveness and my efficiency and my understanding of various issues, as well as broadening the amount of sources of information that I have.
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These are the ways that we should go. We should be encouraging universities and people to be available to us on a contractual basis, and fast turnaround, rather than well, we will tell you in ten years turnaround. Let us hear an assessment, and have someone who can go through the scientific assessment of what has already been researched, and get back to us with a report in two months, rather than two years. These are the type of things we need. We certainly don't need another buffer between us and the scientific community.
And with that, I would justanything you would like to disagree with, or say you agree with, go right ahead.
Dr. PEHA. I would agree that you don't need a buffer between Congress and the scientific community, and that, I think, is the last thing this organization ought to do. If you want to go out and reach out to
Mr. ROHRABACHER. Even though it may evolve into that.
Dr. PEHA. This should simply be another information source, a more objective information source than many that you will get that will help you reach out to those other sources.
Dr. TEICH. Yeah, I wouldfirst of all, I want to thank you for your vote of confidence in the fellows program, both the things that you said, Mr. Rohrabacher, as well as
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROHRABACHER. Well, thank you. We thank you.
Dr. TEICH. Well
Mr. ROHRABACHER. You have done a terrific job.
Dr. TEICH. Weit is a two way street. We benefit from the ability to assist you, I think, and we are pleased that you are appreciative of the assistance that we have provided, as Mr. Boehlert said, thesome of themany of the Fellows go back to their careers in their universities and other institutions, and serve as points of contact between the policy-makers and the scientific community, and I think it is a very valuable thing to see happening.
And I think that same kind of thing can be created, if it is done right in an institution, such as the one we have been talking about, and I am not talking about reestablishing an OTA, but I am suggesting that some kind of institution does not have to be a buffer or layer or an insulating mechanism. It can be a semi-permeable membrane, if you want to use a scientific analogy. It can be something which transmits information in both directions, and that is the thing, that is the kind of thing I would like to see.
I would add that I think we have plenty of competing sources of information, and I think that is part of the problem.
Dr. BLAIR. Let me give you a California example. It is a buyer's market for houses in California right now. As a metaphor, if you are a buyer coming to look at houses, you can rely on the advice of the realtor, or his friends next door, or many others, but if they really would like to have an objective, independent view, they hire a house inspector to look at the quality of all of theto be able to dig in the muck and see all of the things that are going on in that house before they buy it.
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What you need is a house inspector. You need an organization that can provide this sorting out of all the conflicting pieces of advice, and do it in a way that is trusted to you, to you Members of Congress. And that is my California metaphor.
Dr. HUNT. So, I guess my industrial metaphor would be that when you have something important to do, and in this technology-driven society, I would say technology assessments would be what we would call mission critical, and that would be something that you don't outsource, your mission critical work. You certainly collect outside information, but you have that house inspector that is chartered to get you that information, to synthesize that information, and to present you with the options in the way that you can trust.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much, and thank the gentleman. Ms. Matsui.
Ms. MATSUI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank the panel for being here today.
I have only been on the Committee for about three months, so I am one of those who can look at it as a newcomer, in essence. And I wasn't here 10 years ago at the demise of OTA, but as you have also said, a lot has happened in ten years, and I think one of you indicated that Members, perhaps, then didn't care about the area of OTA.
Today, however, as I think every single one of you has said, science and technology affects every part of our lives. We brought up last week stem cells, climate, energy. Everything is involved in this, so it is not just relegated in a sense, as being a part of just the Science Committee. So, every committee in Congress can benefit by whatever entity we are talking about here. I also believe that we have a lot of information, almost too much information. Ten years ago, we were barely using email, and today, they are just blasting us all the time. We thought we had problems with fax machines, but that was nothing compared to email today.
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And honestly, every single one of us probably has some sort of a personal scientific type of question, whether it be medical or whatever, and usually, the first thing you do is go to the Internet to try to figure it out, and you realize oh, boy, this is not the way to do it. And I think to a certain degree, for all of us here, we would like to be able to manage the information in a way which is independent, accurate, and timely, and I think all those things have to be factored in. I even believe that my very committed and very passionate California colleague would also like to see that, too.
We are all so very busy, and if it would be great for all of us, every single one of us in our districts havewe are from California, obviously, here. We have an energy crisis. We know that. It is 109 in Sacramento, and it is too hot, and gases are too expensive, and all that. So, science touches us everywhere. So, every single one of us has a need for some information, and we just can't go to the Internet. We can't just kind of look into the books, or go to the Academies. That is too much information. So, we need something of the caliber that we are trying to figure out here.
Now, is it possible, as we are talking about, to restructure this OTA, rename it, and come up with a different type ofthe same mission, but perhaps more relevant to today. Because my feeling is, is that you brought up net neutrality. I mean, those of us here, I have a little bit of knowledge of it, but I didn't think that it was what was portrayed, and either, you know, you see the advertisements or hear it, and it is not quite what I thought it was going to be.
So, therefore, there is a real need, but it is a need, as my colleague says, this needs to be information that has to be given to us very quickly, and most of the time, we hear from the people who come to see us with their particular advocacies.
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So, I am trying to figure out, is there a way to do this, so that we have adequate, accurate information. Maybe there is a system set up where there are hot issues that you can deal with, and other types of issues that are more lengthy and study. Can we do that in a manner which can address some of the concerns that Mr. Rohrabacher has, and that I would have, as far as independent, accurate information? I like to hear debates, but you know, you can get tired after a while, and you don't come back with that much information. I would like to have somebody give me good information.
So, each of you, could you respond to that?
Dr. TEICH. Well, I think you have identified the problem very succinctly, and I would answer in response to your basic question that yes, it is possible to do this. I don't think we are going to decide exactly how right here and right now, but I think what is necessary initially is a recognition, and a recognition among a majority of Members, that it is necessary to have this kind of function.
And then, I think the kind of information that you need that will help you establish this in an effective way can be generated through additional hearings, through staff studies, through outside contributions, but a variety, there are a variety of mechanisms that will assist you in developing this. But first of all, you need to recognize that it needs to be done.
Dr. BLAIR. In thinking back ten years ago, as I mentioned earlier, the centralized organization in the Congress would probably be a very different place now. But one of the things that struck me at that time, and even now, perhaps more, even more current, is an ability to collaborate among the Congressional support agencies. For example, CRS is very good at the off-the-shelf kind of analysis, the ability to give you the very quick answer. The former OTA was designed for the comprehensive, large scale assessments. There is a lot of room in between those two extremes. And is there an ability to network the organizations in the Congress, like the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Budget Office, CRS, and perhaps a new function that resembles the function of the old OTA, to provide a whole that is more than just the sum of the parts, to be able to react to that network of activities?
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And actually in my paper, I talk a little about some of the experiments that are going on now. For example, the GAO experiment, where partnering with outside organizations, as well, for example, the Academies now have a relationship with the Government Accountability Office, to use our Rolodex to get experts to come in and convene and provide meetings of experts, to help inform GAO investigations. So, an ability to combine the strengths of multiple organizations has benefit, I think, for having a whole that is greater than just the sum of the parts.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Mr. BARTLETT. Thank you very much.
For the past 18 months or so, I have been involved in a dialogue on energy in this country, and a lot of people are now engaged in that dialogue, a lot of very bright people, and sometimes, equally ignorant people are engaged in that dialogue.
And we have a number of questions of fact for which we need answers, and I have two questions to ask you, and I will mention a few of those. I would like to know are these the kind of things that we could reasonably expect an OTA-like organization to give us answers to? And after that, where should we go now?
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of these is the amount of fissionable, the uranium that remains in the world. If we are going to move to light water reactors, how much fissionable uranium remains in the world? I get widely divergent answers to this, like 15 years and 100 years. Where are we?
The energy profit ratio of ethanol. Some believe that more fossil fuel energy goes into producing ethanol than we get out of ethanol. Clearly, if we are going to have a debate on where we go, we need to have an answer to this. To whom do we turn for that answer?
If there is a positive energy profit ratio for ethanol, is it reasonable that we could displace a meaningful amount of our gasoline with ethanol? Brazil now has no foreign oil imports. Of course, Brazil is not the United States. They get their ethanol from sugar cane, which they grow largely with hand labor, and they don't have very many cars and so forth.
If it is true, as I am told, that 13 percent of our corn could displace two percent of our gasoline, and if you had to grow corn using the energy from corn, with a reasonable energy profit ratio, if we doubled our corn crop, one calculation says you would have to double our corn crop and use it all for ethanol, just to displace 10 percent of our gasolineof how much of our biomass can we rob from our topsoil, and still have topsoil? What is the potential? To whom should we go for an answer?
USGS is using what I think is an interesting, if not bizarre use of statistics, where they take the 50 percent probability, and call it the mean, and using that, they project that we will find as much more oil in the world as all the oil that now remains in the world. Professor LaPierre says that that is just implausible. That just can't happen. But our Energy Information Administration uses this bizarre use of statistics by USGS to tell us thatnot to worry about energy, because it just goes up and up into the wild blue yonder, and theyfor the foreseeable future, they have energy going up and up when oil is $75 a barrel today.
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How much energy goes into producing the oil from the tar sands in Alberta? I am told that they may use more energy from natural gas than they get out of the tar sands. Okay, from a dollar profit ratio, the gas is stranded, but at the end of the day, that may be really dumb use of that energy in that gas. We had an experiment by Shell Oil Company in getting oil out of our oil shales in the West. They freeze a big vessel, then they cook it inside that for a year or so, and then, they pump for a year or so. What is the energy profit ratio there? And I have a lot of trouble believing that it is really a positive energy profit ratio.
And then, another consideration. Maybe we will move to nuclear. You build a nuclear power plant, it takes a lot of fossil fuel energy. For how many years do you have to operate the nuclear power plant before you get any net energy out of it? How many years do you operate it before you get back the energy you put into building the plant?
Now, are these the kinds of questions that an OTA type of organization could answer for us, and absent that, where can we go now for answers to these questions, because we can't have a reasonable dialogue until we agree on these facts, and there is no agreement.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Now, there is a test. Who wants to go first?
Dr. BLAIR. Well, I can take a crack at some of that. I think many of the dimensions of what you citein fact, let me say that my staff, our staff at the Academies, who have been talking with you, Mr. Bartlett, about energy problems, have been very inspired by a lot of the discussions they have had with you. And I think that many of the issues you describe are issues where a consensus group of experts from, say, the Academies could provide important insights onto questions of, let us say, fact.
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But some of them that you described are moving in the direction of choices, and issues that would require tradeoffs in understanding and the like, and it would be more difficult, as I think I mentioned earlier, for the Academies to come to consensus on those kinds of tradeoffs.
For example, one of the energy issues you didn't mention waswell, you did, sort ofon fuel economy of automobiles and gasoline, and there are dimensions of that where, you know, you might raise the issue of whether or nothow far off are plug-in hybrids, or how quickly can the auto industry turn over its fleet to a new generation of vehicles. We can certainly identify the technical potential, but identifying the policy tradeoffs, and how to get there, whether you adopt CAFE standards or fuel taxes, or all kinds of other policy mechanisms
Mr. BARTLETT. Yeah, both of those, thank you.
Dr. BLAIR. those are much more subjective and policy rich discussions, but they are very complicated, and very intimately related to the technology. So, many of the issues you described, where the debate hinges on the interface between policy and technology are more in this, the kind of organization we have been talking about.
If you would like to talk specifically about cellulosic ethanol versus grain-based ethanol, and switchgrass, and all of that, I would be happy to do that with you at some point, but there is plenty of room in there for both approaches that we have been talking about.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you very much. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. GREEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you and the Ranking Member for hosting this most valuable hearing.
I would like to share a brief vignette that is not true, before I make my inquiry. The story is told of a person who receives information from messengers, and he tells the messengers: ''I want your most truthful, your most honest, your unbiased opinion.'' And the first messenger gives an opinion, and the recipient immediately shoots him. Then he says to the next messenger: ''I want your most honest, your most truthful, and your most unbiased opinion.'' The next messenger says ''I agree with you.'' And he says ''But how can you agree with me? You haven't heard my opinion.'' And the messenger says ''I don't need to know your opinion to know that I agree with you.''
Now, here is my question. What impact does closing an agency have on the opinions of those that remain behind? When we shut down one agency that gives us information, we have others that take up the task. Are they impacted by the knowledge that we can cease to fund you, and you will cease to exist? Does that color, in any way, the opinions of those left behind? And I am asking this in a sort of rhetorical sense, I guess, because we really are dealing with a question here of how do we have, or give those experts, a comfort level such that they can truthfully give honest opinions, and not assume that there may be some consequences associated with those opinions that may not be entirely positive?
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How do we structure the process, the agency and the process, the methodology by which we acquire the intelligence, such that we getthat what we are seeking, because people understand that they will still be around after they give us opinions that we don't necessarily like?
Anyone want to comment on that? We haveyes. Thank you.
Dr. HUNT. Well, I think anywe learn at an early age that actions speak louder than words, and that if you do something, and there are negative consequences, we learn to modify those behaviors, or sometimes, even restrict those responses.
Now, what you find in some of the best scientists, however, are those people that stick to their guns and have the courage of their convictions, because they truly believe in reporting the science or the data, or the information that they collect as they see it. And I think what we have to do is, we have to do two things. We have to continue to work with those scientists, and we also have to continue to have open minds about information, even when we get it, when it isn't what we want to hear, right.
And so there is really, those are the soft side of relationship skills that thisthat we have to work with. One other place we look at that is with funding of science and technology, and if you look at funding going away from the physical sciences, it is difficult to bring students into that realm. But you can also look at that as your opportunity, because if you know that putting the funding there brings the students there, then you know how to make that change. And I am not saying that throwing money at something is the way to make that change, but as you said, by being consistent with your actions, and having your actions follow your words is, I think, the solution to that.
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Mr. GREEN. Yes, sir.
Dr. PEHA. This clearly is a problem. Actually, I mentioned a couple of things in my testimony I will expand on. First of all, I think Congress always has to have the ability to defund something that isn't working, but if it takes them a while, then any one particular study that, you know, they won't get shot on the first answer. It will take multiple answers, and one way to do that is to make staff decisions, budget decisions, hiring decisions not annual but longer term than that.
And that still doesn't help if there is a systematic problem, if the organization is always hitting the same group of powerful people who are unhappy. I think if that is happening, it may be that there is a real problem with the organization, or it may be, very likely, a problem with the choices of topics they are looking at, which is why the Congressional oversight is so important, the method of oversight, and particularly, the method of choosing which studies to conduct has to be done in a way that majority and minority and everyone in Congress feels that their issues are being represented, maybe not in every report, but overall, in the long term.
Mr. GREEN. Mr. Chairman, I yield back. Thank you.
Chairman BOEHLERT. Thank you so much. Mr. Holt.
Mr. HOLT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As a guest here on the dais, I think I would like to allow all of the Members of the Committee to ask questions if they want, before I take my time.
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Chairman BOEHLERT. How gallant of you. Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, that will allow me just to be able to thank Mr. Holt for his enormous leadership on this issue, and to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Ehlers for your valiant effort back in 1995. I was a baby Congressperson, and on this Science Committee, and obviously, now can look back and see the enormous damage that has occurred with the elimination of the OTA.
Dr. Blair, I am going to start with you, as I reminisce about other agencies, such as the GAO, the Congressional Budget Office, and Congressional Research Service. All of them are poised as effective tools to make Congress the real implementator of the will of the people, a knowledge implementator of the will of the people, meaning that as we address questions, fiscal responsibility, understanding the nuances of space exploration, or the nuances of homeland security, or again, trying to make sure that we handle the people's dollars effectively, that we have the arm of research.
Here we are now with an authorized, as I am informed, OTA, but a nonfunded OTA, and in the 11 years since 1995, the world has simply changed. It has changed after 9/11. It has changed as we have a raging debate on immigration, and the issue is technology, technology, technology. And therefore, our guidepost is missing. We just heard Dr. Bartlett speak eloquently about energy, and coming from the oil capital of the world, I am not afraid of the discussion on alternative fuels, because the companies were wise enough to change their name some years ago, they are energy companies. And I have tried to convince them that they will be as prosperous no matter what energy science we attempt to use.
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Someone who has had firsthand experience, I believe, with the OTA, and maybe others would comment as well. How much are we diminished because we don't have a corralling entity that can assess, as Congressman Daddario, I think, in his original vision, when formerwell, when Mr. Lindbergh came and began to talk about the Earth and ecology, and wanted to be concerned about someone assessing that potential clash, how diminished, how lacking, how much are we undermined because we don't have an agency that is capturing for us either the most innovative technology, or ordering it for the Congress, as these various new either innovations or failed innovations are coming to the forefront? And if you would, give your most honest answer of the restoration of the funding for this as an answer to its present hiatus.
Dr. BLAIR. Well, let me say first that I think that there was a hope when OTA was closed that other agencies in the Congressional complex would be able to fill the gap, and to a limited extent, some experiments are ongoing that may, that are attempting to address that. I think they will get
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Being very polite, Dr. Blair.
Dr. BLAIR. I believe that the gap is a large one, and it continues to this day, and thesome function needs to be re-injected into the Congressional infrastructure in order to fill that gap. I think we have all expressed that view today.
I do think that a resurrected OTA, as I think I mentioned in response to a thing earlier, a question earlier, would have to be a different place. There would be many different features to it to respond to some of the criticism and shortcomings that happened earlier, and it would have to network, I think, better with the other agencies of Congress to keep pace with the times.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Anyone else?
Dr. TEICH. Yeah.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Are we suffering as Americans because of the lack of existence of some entity?
Dr. TEICH. Well, you know, you are asking, what you are asking is kind of an alternative history of the last eleven years, and I happen to enjoy reading alternative history, but I am not very good at writing it, I am afraid. So, I can't honestly say, except to suppose, based on thewhat I know about what OTA did during its tenure, that we would be better off today had it continued to exist, and I think it would have been interesting.
If OTA existed throughout most of its life in a Congress that was controlled in both Houses, for most of the time, by the Democrats, it would be very interesting to see how it would have functioned, and what studies it would have undertaken under Republican leadership over the last eleven years.
So, I think itI can't answer your question, but I can say it certainly appears to me that it wouldthat we have lost something by its absence.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Did you want to answer? All right. Thank you so very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BARTLETT. [Presiding] Thank the lady very much. Dr. Holt.
Mr. HOLT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased with the existence of this hearing, and the progress of this hearing, and I thank the Committee for allowing me to take part in it.
You know, science and technology shouldn't be looked to to provide the answer of what is right. So, you knowand there certainly are occasionsMr. Rohrabacher mentioned cyclamateswhere, in retrospect, science has evolved to different conclusions. That does not mean that we have nothing to learn from science and technology. It does not mean that all bets are off, that they have nothing to tell us, and we should wing it with respect to what faces us.
OTA did not present conclusions. In fact, they were scrupulous about that. They laid out a range of choices, including the constraints that were presented by science and technology, and some people took that to mean conclusions. Now, one of the famous examples, of course, was the idea of a global missile defense, where the OTA pointed out that some of the desired or claimed properties of that were unattainable from a scientific and engineering point of view. That was taken to be a conclusion, when really, it was just, I think, a fairly objective look at the constraints placed by science.
I certainly think that, in answer to Mr. Bartlett's questions about the supply of uranium and the energy yield of ethanol, and all of those other things, if OTA had existed over the past 10 years, we could have expected studies, a study or studies, that would have laid out the range, and assigned some weight to our uncertainties about the range in the supply of uranium, or the energy yields of ethanol, and so forth.
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Well, I noticed that the panels, the panelists have been very judicious, I guess I would say, careful, even cautious in making recommendations to us for what we should do in our plight. I have suggested that what we need is something that is permanent, and therefore, not ad hoc, not something that has to gear up each time a study is commissioned, that it be professional, in other words, it would consist of professionals in this permanent, full-time staff that command the respect of the S&T community, and also, in the sense, professional, meaning that it would be scrupulously nonpartisan. And I would argue that, by the way, that OTA probably would not have behaved any differently under Republican leadership than Democratic leadership because the advisory board was scrupulously bipartisan. That we need something that would be in-house, and by that, I mean it would speak our language, it would understand our processes. It would lay out things, the choices before us in a way that is relevant, legislatively relevant.
And also, something that hasn't been discussed this morning, something that would be part of the life of the Hill. When you have got 100, more or less, professionals who are mingling with the staff, are here and there day in and day out, it elevates the debate. Even if they have not yet completed their result, their report, even if they have not and never will come up with a policy conclusion to help us in our job, they are part of the life of the Hill.
So, you know, when Harry Truman said he longed for a one-armed economist, who wouldn't say on the one hand and on the other hand, let me ask you to raise only one hand, and say do you agree that we need something as I have just described, that is permanent, professional, in-house, in order to provide what we need?
Dr. BLAIR. Can I
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Dr. TEICH. Yes.
Dr. BLAIR. Can I elaborate on
Dr. TEICH. I am sorry.
Dr. BLAIR. Please.
Dr. TEICH. And I think I would add, as you implied, bipartisan, as well.
Mr. HOLT. Well, in fact, when I say professional, thatI mean both commanding the respect of the S&T community, and scrupulously nonpartisan or bipartisan.
Dr. BLAIR. One aspect of what you describe, I would like to elaborate a little bit more on, which harkens back to the OTA days, but also could be possible in other venues as well, and that is this notion of a shared staff. The idea that in the course of an assessmentI remember vividly the one we were doing on increased competition in the electric power industry at the timethat constant interaction throughout the course of the assessment with Congressional staff was very important to help the committees of jurisdiction and interest in really understanding all of the information that was coming before those committees at the time.
And they build up a body of expertise, a current, comprehensive body of expertise that could be called upon in the course of those kinds of deliberations. So, that is a resource that is often not cited in the kind of organization we are talking about, but this notion of a shared staff is a particularly important one, I think.
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Mr. EHLERS. [Presiding] Any other comments? I didn't see any right hands go up.
Dr. PEHA. I think that we need something that is permanent. We need something that is professional, and we need at least a piece of this to be in-house. I also think in the last decade, everybody else in the world has learned how to move workflows around a lot better than we used to, and we could perhaps make better use of universities and think tanks and others things than we used to, but everything should flow through something that is in-house.
Mr. EHLERS. Dr. Hunt, did you have anything to add?
Dr. HUNT. I agree. I say yes. This is what we need, and we need the scientists to be nonpartisan.
Mr. EHLERS. Thank you. I would just comment.
Mr. HOLT. So, I would suggest, Mr. Chairman, we could call it this permanent, professional, in-house organization, we could call it TAO, OTA, or we could call it, if we wanted to feel our oats, OATS, the Office of Assessment of Technology and Science.
Mr. EHLERS. I see that you have given this some thought. Well, I feel like the Terminator, because I walked in the door, and someone said could youcan you chair it and terminate the hearing? I don't know if everyone else gave up. I apologize. I had to leave for another urgent meeting, which went far too long, and I lost my temper. But other than that, I am back here. I will not ask any questions, because I missed most of the testimony.
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Ijust a couple of observations. First a quick one. Being professional does not ensure bipartisan. I am a professional, and I am a Republican. And Mr. Holt is a professional, and is a Democrat, or professes to be. It takes more than that to guarantee
Mr. HOLT. It is nice to see the physics caucus on the dais.
Mr. EHLERS. Yes. Well, we have a bipartisan physics caucus. And so, being bipartisan means you have a balance of views represented, and Ithere areI was here when OTA was killed, and as far as I can discernand I opposed thatas far I can discern, their two items were lack of rapidity in replying and, secondly, the Republicans had a feeling that the Democrats used it to their own advantage, which would not be too surprising, because they had been in power the entire time it existed. In a sense, if we are going to do anything, we have to overcome that perception, because the perception is still there. It is not as strong as it was, but the perception is still there.
We have made do, not particularly well, but not particularly badly, either, by getting our rapid advice from CRS and our long-term advice from the National Academies, which is not all bad. But if we are to have something in-house, we have to be aware of the history, and design a program that assures that we do not have the faults, real or perceived, of the predecessor.
And I have talked to Dr. Holt about this a number of times, also Congressman Amo Houghton, when he was here. He was an avid fan of it, and he and I had joined in trying to stop the slaughter, when it was killed. But it was killed, and we have to face that, and we have to come up with something that is a new, improved model, and that really has some advantages. I think there are huge advantages to having such an organization. It is not self-evident, however, to nonscientists, non-technical people.
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Another solution, of course, would be to give the Science Committee jurisdiction over everything in this august body that relates to science, which would decimate a few other committees, and who would not willingly give up jurisdiction. But that would be an improvement, too, because I think we in this committee tend to handle things rather professionally, and reasonably, most of the time bipartisanly.
So, with those comments, I will say more power to Mr. Holt and others who are working on this. But I think the difficult problem, two difficult problems. One is designing a system that is going to work well. Second, even more difficult problem, is selling it to the Congress, and I think it is going to take a lot of combined work on all those who are interested, both inside and outside the Congress, to make that come about.
With that, I am pleased to thank you for your input. You have been very helpful to us in the things you have said and the background from which you say them. And I thank Mr. Holt for repetitively raising this issue. He is much younger than I, and therefore, he will probably survive in this atmosphere much longer than I do, and so, I am going to leave the task on his shoulders. And I will be in a supporting role as much as I can.
With that, I am pleased to declare the hearing adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:12 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
(Footnote 1 return)
OTA was created by the Technology Assessment Act of 1972 (P.L. 92484).
(Footnote 2 return)
Using Biometrics for Border Security, Report GAO03174, is available on-line at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03174.pdf.
(Footnote 3 return)
Cyber Security for Critical Infrastructure Protection, Report GAO04321, is available on-line at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04321.pdf.
(Footnote 4 return)
Morgan and Peha, 103.
(Footnote 5 return)
Fitch, Brad and Nicole Griffin, Communicating With Congress: How Capitol Hill Is Coping With the Surge in Citizen Advocacy, Congressional Management Foundation, 2005.
(Footnote 6 return)
Arnold, R. Douglas, ''The Local Roots of Domestic Policy,'' in Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (eds.), The New Congress (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1981), pp. 250287.
(Footnote 7 return)
Davidson, Roger H. and Walter J. Oleszek, Congress and Its Members, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1990).
(Footnote 8 return)
Kelly, Henry et al., Flying Blind: The Rise, Fall and Possible Resurrection of Science Policy Advice in the United States, Federation of American Scientists, 2004.
(Footnote 9 return)
von Hippel, Frank and Joel Primack, The Politics of Technology: Activities and Responsibilities of Scientists in the Direction of Technology (Stanford, 1970)
(Footnote 10 return)
Forthcoming in Proceedings of the Symposium on Quality Control and Assurance in Scientific Advice to Policy, Working Group on ''Scientific Advice to Policy in Democracy,'' Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science & Humanities, Berlin, Germany, January 12, 2006.