Congress

House rejects attempt to revive OTA

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The House voted yet again to keep the Office of Technology Assessment -- a legislative branch agency that once offered advice on scientific and technical matters to lawmakers -- unfunded.

The House rejected an attempt May 1 to resuscitate the Office of Technology Assessment, the legislative branch agency that once offered advice on scientific and technical matters to lawmakers but has been shuttered for almost 20 years.

An amendment to the fiscal 2015 legislative branch spending bill by retiring New Jersey Democrat Rush D. Holt, the only physicist in Congress, to provide $2.5 million to restart the OTA failed on a vote of 164-248.

The OTA funding would have been offset by an equivalent cut to the House Historic Buildings Revitalization Trust Fund.

Officially, the OTA still exists, as the law that created it was never repealed. "It still exists on paper, it just hasn't been funded," Holt told Federal News Radio this week. "They turned out the lights almost 20 years ago now."

Various attempts to fund the OTA, which was created in 1972, have failed over the years, including one led by Holt in 2011.

In its roughly two decades of existence, the agency produced more than 750 studies on topics ranging from the national security implications of technology transfer to workplace automation to the effects of rapid technological change on various groups.

About the Author

John Bicknell is a former executive editor of FCW, and the author of America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation.

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