July 27, 2023

Reps. Takano, Casten, Foster, Beyer, and Sen. Luján Work to Modernize Technology Access and Knowledge in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, Reps. Mark Takano (D-CA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Don Beyer (D-VA), and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) reintroduced the Office of Technology Assessment Improvement and Enhancement Act. This bill will strengthen the existing authorization for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) by structuring the office to be more responsive and accessible to Members’ needs.

For more than twenty years, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), an independent, bipartisan agency set up to provide information on technology and its potential impacts, supported Congress in its lawmaking activities until it was defunded in 1995. As Congress considers the use of technologies such as AI, facial recognition, quantum computing, and emerging energy storage and generation in both the private and public sectors, it is increasingly important that Members of Congress have access to unbiased assessments of what is on the horizon. A one pager on the bill can be found here. The House bill text can be found here.

“The American public has felt the consequences as Congress's slow action on technology regulation including on data privacy and cryptocurrency. Now, generative artificial intelligence has emerged with the potential to significantly change the way we work and live. It is this type of exploding technology that requires an Office of Technology Assessment to provide unbiased and scientific assessments for Members of Congress and their staff,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “It is imperative that we revive the OTA in order to legislate proactively and meet the technological advances of the future.”

“Each of us who serve in Congress brings a unique perspective and expertise which informs how we serve our constituents,” said Rep. Sean Casten. “I am confident in my ability to evaluate energy technologies and their impact on our economy and environment, but I cannot claim expertise on cybersecurity or gene-drive technologies. The Office of Technology Assessment Improvement and Enhancement Act helps fill in those knowledge gaps, ensuring we focus on funding truly revolutionary technologies that prepare us to tackle the challenges of the future.”

"For years, Congress has not been adequately prepared to engage with complex technical issues that are increasingly important to the legislation we consider. From social media's role in our elections to how emerging technologies like AI and biotechnology will shape our future, it's never been more important for Members of Congress to have access to forward-looking, non-partisan technical expertise and advice. That's why I'm proud to help lead the effort to revive the OTA and bring Congress into the 21st Century," said Rep. Bill Foster.

 “I strongly support this bill to restore and bolster a key source of technological expertise for Congress,” said Rep. Beyer. “This office would provide technical support to Congress across partisan divides on new technologies, in an environment that is growing ever more digitally complex. I hope we can regain this excellent resource through this bill.”

“Historically, the Office of Technology Assessment has been a vital, bipartisan resource that has provided critical technological information to Members of Congress and our staff. After being closed for nearly 30 years, Congress has lacked a major tool to help navigate the challenges of emerging technologies,” said Senator Luján. “As the power of technologies like Artificial Intelligence increases, lawmakers must be equipped with the knowledge needed to protect the American people. That’s why this legislation will relaunch the OTA to help deepen Congress’ knowledge and expertise on technologies of the future.”