Congress is tasked with finding legislative solutions to some of our greatest societal challenges, many of which are greatly impacted by new and emerging technologies. Yet, with the rapid rate of technological innovation and change, creating timely, forward looking public policy has never been more challenging. Congress needs a dedicated, independent technology research and assessment office — one that can answer key questions around technology’s impact on society, and do so at the pace of technological change.
A modern Technology Assessment Office (TAO) can be an invaluable resource for Congress by acting as a conduit for technical expertise to flow between its offices, federal agencies, and external stakeholders. Not simply a resurrection of the old Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a TAO needs to be accessible, diverse, and agile in order to provide non-partisan foresight into policy-relevant technology issues that industry or academia may either consider a low priority or may have vested interest in providing biased information.
The reality is that Congressional members and staff lack their own cadre of technical experts who can conduct independent research, coordinate existing federal agency research efforts, and leverage the expertise of external stakeholders. A TAO should be able to do all of that in service of its mission to respond to requests in a timely fashion that allows the information to be used in the same Congressional session. Without that support, Congress stands no chance of addressing its pacing problem and its policymaking efforts will fall further behind new technological changes.