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Statement of Daniel P. Mulhollan
Committee on Appropriations
June 26, 2001
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to personally present for your consideration the fiscal year 2002 budget request for the Congressional Research Service.
The rise of technology and the Information Age have fundamentally changed the way Congress works, from the nature of the public policy issues you debate, to the ways in which you conduct your work each day to the methods you and your staff use to communicate both within and outside of Capitol Hill.
There are new issues before you. Technology is impacting virtually every public policy area that you consider. From privacy rights to taxation, you consider technology issues that are complex, interdisciplinary, highly specialized, rapidly changing, difficult to master expeditiously, and increasingly sophisticated. The 1074h Congress is demonstrating continued intense interest in policy issues arising from the production and use of information technology. Members of the 106 Congress introduced hundreds of information technology bills and virtually every committee considered legislation related to some aspect of information technology. This is in marked contrast to over four years ago when Members of the 104th Congress introduced only several dozen information technology bills.
Your day to day work has changed as well. You and your staff operate in an environment of intense immediacy. You need information today-tomorrow, next week, next month are too late. Given this environment, you have turned to technologies that will provide you with information as quickly and efficiently as possible. You expect to access information 24 hours a day, seven days a week from wherever you are, be it in your Capitol Hill offices, at home, in your districts, or overseas as a member of a congressional delegation. You and your staff have less time to read through books
for facts, figures, and targeted information that you can download, manipulate, and pass along.
E-mail and the Internet have also revolutionized the way you communicate among yourselves, with your staff, with your constituents, and with the hundreds of groups and organizations that you rely upon for information and insights, including CRS. This trend is particularly evident in your staff, who are increasingly technically savvy. For them (some have dubbed the e-generation) the ease and immediacy of e-mail is more conducive to their work style than voice mail and “phone tag”.
The research and analytical work we do in CRS to support your legislative responsibilities has also been changing. The complexity and inter-relatedness of many of the issues facing Congress require CRS staff to be able to work together on issues and share data and information. As research is shifting from a primarily paper-based world to a digitally-dominated universe, research methods are evolving. The nature of CRS research is changing: from individual research to team and Service-wide research; from a single discipline perspective to integrated, multi-disciplinary perspectives; from individual data and information owners to groups who own and share their research; from main-frame dominant applications to network-dependent applications; and from paper and microfiche to the Internet, the Web, and multi-media.
What do these changes mean? They mean as Congress changes, so too must CRS. When Congress re-constituted CRS in the early 1970's, it did so with a vision of us as an extension of their own personal and committee staffs - a shared pool of staff that could work seamlessly alongside Members and staff to support the legislative work of the nation.
We take seriously our statutory obligation to each Member and committee of Congress to provide you with the best analyses and information this country has to offer, and to do so in ways that meet your legislative needs and time frames.
You expect CRS to keep pace with you, and your staff, in addressing information technology policy issues and in integrating new technologies into our work. Just as you are grappling with policy implications of complicated technology issues, so too do you expect CRS to be analyzing and studying these issues. Just as you are communicating through e-mail, so too do you expect CRS to communicate through e-mail. Just as you are utilizing web pages to gather and disseminate legislative information, so too do you expect CRS to have a strong web presence. And just as you and your staff go “on-line” to retrieve data and information directly from other sources, so too do you expect CRS to provide comprehensive access to data and analyses that you need.
Given these observations, the bottom line for CRS is simple: if we cannot align our analytic, information and technology resources to work in the same way that you work, then we risk failing to meet our statutory obligations.
Changes Made by CRS to Adjust I would not be coming to you if we did not need help. Since I became Director in 1994, I have insisted that CRS' annual budget requests reflect the continuing fiscal constraints on Legislative Branch appropriations and the daunting task facing this Subcommittee in allocating scarce resources among many pressing needs. CRS has worked hard within exceedingly tight appropriations to not only maintain the quality of our work for the Congress but also to improve it. I believe we have done remarkably well given that funding for staff has been reduced by more than 117 positions, approximately fourteen percent, over the last nine years. This decrease is a result of our failure to obtain full funding for all ongoing mandatory expenditures. These circumstances have posed significant challenges to CRS and we have had to adjust our resources internally to accommodate them. Specifically, over the last several years:
We have shifted resources to meet the most urgent legislative needs of Congress
for Members; partnered with schools of public policy for needed research; and
utilized volunteers and fellows to help build important research capacities. These internal adjustments have been necessary, but they have not been easy. We have been forced to make Hobson choices regarding the allocation of our budget and staffing resources-choices that have pitted our analytic capacity against our information technology capacity. For example, in response to the impending retirement of nearly halfofour staff by 2006, we have devoted significant resources to shoring up our analytic capacity. We have regularly updated our risk assessment staff survey, and continue to use this assessment in making all staff resource allocation decisions.
We are grateful for the support you provided to our succession initiative which enabled us to fill fifteen entry level analyst positions. In addition, we devoted forty-one positions from the base for these succession efforts. I'm pleased to report that we have been very successful
we have experienced a retention rate of ninety-two percent for staff hired under this initiative.
Because recruitment and retention are so critical to future success in ensuring the continuation of high quality services to the Congress, we have been thinking about ways that student loan forgiveness might help us attract and retain good candidates for public service. We have been working with the Library on a draft regulation, and are pleased that other government agencies are now beginning to design and implement such programs. We note that in recent budget requests our sister agencies, CBO and GAO, have also discussed the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff, and have identified the value of such student loan forgiveness programs to help in attracting good candidates. Weurge the committee to include the Congressional Research Service in any Legislative Branch funding initiatives to ensure that the Congress itself, and its policy support agencies, can replenish their staffs with highly qualified and talented people who see public service as a good
The Need to Build Technical Capacities Because we have had to focus resources on ensuring succession, we have been unable to build the technical capacity we need. This has forced our analysts and managers to explore and develop technology initiatives on their own as add-ons to their regular jobs. However, the Congress needs our analytic staff to devote their time developing and delivering original analysis, not learning how to be computer programmers or data administrators.
We can no longer “make do” with home grown technology entrepreneurs. It is clear that we are beginning to lag behind in providing analytic support for information and technology policy issues and in integrating information technology efficiencies and capacities into our work.
We are falling short in assisting you in critical new subject areas; in working with you in an integrated, secure, and robust technology-based environment that allows us to provide you with the analysis and information you need, where and when you need it; and in providing the technical tools that our researchers need - not “bells and whistles” but essential “nuts and bolts”-- to perform their work for the Congress. We must take action now or we will fall even further behind. That is what this budget request is all about. Our current resources are not enough to meet the new and increasing demands of policy making. We can no longer adjust our work environment to meet congressional needs. We must overhaul what we do and how we do it.
Budget Request Our fiscal 2002 request is $81.1 million; this is an increase of $7.71 million over fiscal 2001, Approximately $4.22 million of this increase is needed to maintain our current services by funding mandatory cost-of-living and other pay and inflation increases on current operations. The balance, $3.49 million, is needed to (1) acquire capacity to better analyze complex information and technology policy issues and (2) equip ourselves with the leadership and technical staff, skills and tools necessary to address serious and significant gaps in the capacity to analyze complex technology policy issues, to conduct collaborative research, and to apply technology to work and communication
Expert Staff CRS does not have adequate staff expertise to provide high-level analysis on sophisticated information and technology policy issues. Nor can we "home-grow” this expertise. Policy areas such as cyber terrorism requires significantly different spheres of understanding than are needed for dealing with most traditional forms of terrorism. Privacy issues and potential solutions in a marketdrive, internet setting are radically different than issues surrounding government information as addressed in the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Freedom of Information Act.
We are asking for $580,000 to hire the five senior analysts who will provide high level