Climate Science Watch and the Government Accountability Project have joined with 88 other organizations to call for the restoration and funding of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.  OTA produced 750 reports on a wide range of complex scientific and technological issues before it was de-funded in 1995 in the “Contract with America” period of Newt Gingrich’s ascendancy as Speaker of the House.

Letter and and full list of signers here.  See full text of letter below.

The OTA Legacy website at Princeton University has links to the OTA reports and other historical material. 

Also: the Office of Technology Assessment Archive on the Federation of American Scientists website. 

Written testimony on restoring the Office of Technology Assessment, by Francesca T. Grifo, Union of Concerned Scientists, Before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing on 2011 Appropriations, February 24, 2010.

OTA produced early reports (accessible on the archive sites) that analyzed in detail issues of climate change mitigation and adaptive preparedness, including:

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

Congress should have paid more attention to and acted on the issues developed in these reports, instead of zeroing-out funding for the messenger and evading coming to grips with the climate change problem for the next 15 years.

Full text of the letter:

Ninety Diverse Organizations Support Restoring the OTA

May 7, 2010

Dear Representative:

As public health, scientist, labor, public interest, environmental, faith-based, civil liberties, hospital, and transparency organizations that believe good government depends on access to reliable and independent scientific and technological advice, we are writing to urge you to include funding for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in the legislative branch appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2011.

The public health, national security, and environmental challenges that face our nation can be met only if members of Congress are able to make fully-informed decisions. With the rise of the Internet, more information is available than ever before—yet it is difficult if not impossible to separate facts from agenda-driven spin. Congress needs an independent body of experts to offer guidance on issues directly related to public health and safety, national security, the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, and how innovation and competitiveness can create viable American jobs.

For 23 years, the OTA provided trustworthy, non-partisan information on scientific and technological issues from Alzheimer’s disease to acid rain. Despite its good work, OTA was the victim of budget cuts in 1995, a move that saved the government a little more than $20 million annually. Since then, the government has spent billions on new technologies that have not worked as promised.

Revitalizing the OTA would enable members of Congress to more fully understand the advantages and implications of the science and technologies in which they are asked to invest.

The OTA was never abolished, just stripped of its funding. We urge you to restore its funding to ensure Congress has adequate guidance on emerging science and technology issues.