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vide the subcommittee your views on this legislation and any ideas you have on an alternative to this issue.
Answer. As I indicated in my written testimony before your Subcommittee, we believe that S. 1578 raises significant issues, both for the Congress and for CRS, which you and your colleagues may wish to consider before you decide to change the policy governing the dissemination of our products. I should emphasize that CRS has no position on this issue, for this decision clearly rests with the Congress. However, it is my responsibility to inform you of possible unintended consequences or implications of such a change in policy. For more detailed information on this matter, I would refer you to the materials which I submitted for the record with my statement concerning the history of congressional action on this issue, the legal and constitutional issues involved, the estimated cost of implementing this legislation, as well as the more general question of Members' potential liability for disseminating material over the Internet.
Implications for Member-Constituent Relations. First and foremost, I am concerned that this proposal threatens the important relationship that Members have with their constituents. Historically, constituents have gone to Members of Congress when they have questions about legislation. The wholesale direct dissemination of CRS products to the public would bypass this longstanding relationship by denying constituents the benefit of their Members' additional insights, party viewpoints, or regional perspectives on CRS analyses.
Consequences for CRS Operations. In addition to these direct impacts on Members, CRS believes that wholesale direct dissemination of CRS products would have serious consequences for the Service itself, requiring us to divert scarce resources away from our statutory mission. Our analysts inevitably would have to shift the focus of much of their work away from the direct needs of the Congress to address the much more diffused and varied perspectives and interests of the public. In order to meet the immediate demands of a pressed congressional calendar, CRS authors often provide minimal context and background in their analyses, assuming the congressional reader's knowledge of the various stages of the legislative process, the distinctions between authorizing and appropriating decisions, and similar matters. Were CRS authors to broaden the coverage and scope of their products to meet the needs of an expanded, non-congressional audience, they would do so at the expense of refined, concise analysis targeting the needs of Members and staff working directly in the legislative arena.
Another consequence of wholesale dissemination is that much of the efficiency envisioned in our business plan to deliver services in an electronic environment would be lost. We have designed our Home Page to make our reports, issue briefs, and services readily available and to present them in a format that can be customized by each congressional client, allowing the user to draw from it that information of greatest value, modify it, and easily explore related topics both within CRS and through links to outside sources. Having a second CRS Web site directly available to the public, which cannot take advantage of such links will require us to establish two vehicles of service, and, given limited resources, will diminish our effectiveness in meeting your legislative needs.
Legal Issues.-Additionally, S. 1578 and its companion House bill raise significant
plementing this legislation. With the caveat that some of these “costs" are dif-
Second, additional costs can be expected to handle the anticipated, and indeed
inevitable, large increase in direct contacts between CRS and the general pub
lic resulting from wholesale direct dissemination. -Third, we anticipate that the heightened public profile of our reports and
issue briefs will lead to an increased demand for the paper copy of CRS prod
ucts in the form of Member requests to CRS on behalf of their constituents. -Finally, Members themselves, concerned that our products will be circulated far more extensively than in the past, would likely
place many more requests for tailored, confidential memoranda in order to afford themselves the opportunity to reflect upon and consider questions emerging from legislative proposals before having to respond to public inquiries. Confidential memoranda designed for a single client, which cannot be released to other Members without the requestor's consent, are far more expensive on a per-unit basis than products which can be available (either electronically or in hard copy) to all
interested congressional offices. Alternatives.-We believe that greater public access to CRS products could be obtained under the current policy of selective congressional dissemination, without encountering many of the costs, legal issues and institutional difficulties attendant upon legislation such as S. 1578.
Under present guidelines, congressional offices serve as the disseminators of CRS products to the public. During fiscal year 1997, CRS sent almost 750,000 copies of our Reports and Issue Briefs to congressional offices. We believe that a significant proportion of these were used in responding to constituent inquiries, including specific requests for our products as well as general inquiries on various topics.
Moreover, current technology now enables Members and committees to make appropriate CRS products available to constituents in electronic format through their respective congressional home pages. We learned from a recent informal survey that all 100 senators, 350 House Members, and 44 committees now have their own Web sites, evidence that there is ample capacity to make our materials widely available to the public on a selective basis within current policy guidelines.
To assist in achieving this objective, CRS is prepared to assist our oversight committees in working with Member offices and committees in identifying those of our products which would be suitable for placement on their Web sites. CRS can also provide advice on the technical aspects of transferring CRS documents to congressional web sites. Finally, CRS is available to advise congressional offices of any possible issues of legal liability which might arise from the dissemination of any materials over the Internet. A final point is that this
alternative does not present several of the issues and concerns raised by S. 1578. To summarize briefly: -Since Members themselves would continue to make our products available, their
direct relationship with constituents would not be affected. Continuation of a policy of selective dissemination would limit direct dissemination to products appropriate for such treatment, thereby reducing the need for
major changes in the content and focus of our materials. -Eliminating the requirement for a Web site maintained by CRS, and preserving
a policy of selective congressional dissemination, make it less likely that the confidentiality of our products under the speech or debate clause would be suc
cessfully challenged. -Retention of current policy eliminates the costs associated with maintaining a
separate CRS public web site, and lessens the likelihood that Members would request many more confidential memoranda.
vide the subcommittee your views or alternative to this issue.
Answer. As I indicated in my writ lieve that S. 1578 raises significa which you and your colleagues ma the policy governing the dissemir CRS has no position on this issue However, it is my responsibility t or implications of such a change matter, I would refer you to the my statement concerning the hi and constitutional issues involv tion, as well as the more gene seminating material over the I
Implications for Member-Co cerned that this proposal thr with their constituents. Histo when they have questions a CRS products to the public constituents the benefit of regional perspectives on CJ
Consequences for CRS ( bers, CRS believes that v serious consequences for away from our statutor focus of much of their the much more diffuser to meet the immediat often provide minima gressional reader's } distinctions betweer Were CRS authors needs of an expany of refined, concise rectly in the legis
Another conse visioned in our be lost. We he services readi' by each cong greatest val through lin to the pub) two vehic) in meetir
Legal legal is questi sump' CRS the
rate CRS Web site av
IENT OF RICKY SILBERMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR tor BENNETT. Our final witness of the day is Ms. Ricky Sila, the Executive Director of the Office of Compliance. We you for your patience. It has been kind of a long morning. note, Ms. Silberman, that you are proposing a reduction of cent from your fiscal year 1998 level. That always comes as asant surprise. And we commend you for adjusting your reito reflect actual needs. • will be happy to hear from you. 3. SILBERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. ; this time I would like to also introduce two of our statutory ointees, who have been here before, and also we have a new ieral Counsel whom I would like you to meet. Pam Talkin, our puty Executive Director for the Senate, you are all familiar with; i Stephens, our Deputy Executive Director for the House; and ry Green is the new General Counsel. And we are delighted to ve him on board and to have the benefit of his 27 years in this :ld. And then, Beth Brown, who works very closely with this com.ittee, is our Administrative Officer.
I am pleased to present our 1999 budget request of $2.286 milcon, the 7-percent decrease, which you noticed, from our fiscal year 1998 appropriations. Senator BENNETT. We always notice decreases. Ms. SILBERMAN. Well, we tried. As you know, Congress established the Office of Compliance in 1995. And as a new institution, with neither track record nor even direct model, our first two budget requests were necessarily based on guesstimates. And we did them kind of holding our breath. Happily, we are now able to rely on 2 years' experience with the actual workload and, more importantly, on our analysis and evaluation of what it takes to get the job done efficiently and effectively.
I would call to your attention the two reports for calendar years 1996 and 1997, on employee use of the office, which are attached to the submission. These reports are required by the Congress under 301(h) of the act. And they demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the counseling and mediation process which congress provided legislative branch employees in the CAA.
COUNSELING AND MEDIATION PROCESSES In this process, our counselors are always available to give informal advice and information to both employees and employing offices on the procedures of the office and the rights and protections and responsibilities under the act. It is important to note that if an employee goes further in the process and files a formal request for counseling, which is what actually begins the process, these counselors then evaluate the alleged violation, advise the employee
of his or her rights and responsibilities under the CAA, and attempt to facilitate the early resolution of disputes, which is such an important feature of the act.
The fact that the vast majority of employees who contact our office do not initiate formal proceedings is, I believe, testimony to the effectiveness of the counselors' work.
The mediation program has proved similarly effective and efficient. Early on, we decided that the mediation function was best outsourced to recognized, experienced, independent mediators upon whom we could call on an as-needed basis. The mediations which have taken place under that system have a very high rate of settlement. But one of the things that I wanted to bring to your attention is that we can always do better. And to that end, we have identified several factors which we believe create the most favorable climate and environment for settlement.
for instance, we have found that mediation works best when the decisionmakers in employing offices actively participate in all mediating sessions. In this way, the mediator works with the employee and employing office in finding ways to resolve the dispute short of adjudication or litigation. We are, therefore, looking at how to ensure that decisionmakers are present at all mediation sessions conducted under the auspices of the Office of Compliance.
A Senate employee actually said it best in a letter which she wrote the office earlier this year. She wrote, and I quote, that the Office of Compliance counselor had saved her life and sanity. Because of the efforts of our office, she said, her employer had participated in the mediation. The dispute was resolved. And she remains happily and productively on the job.
Mr. Chairman, we have resolved scores of cases. And each case represents the realization of the promise of the CAA. And I can think of no better illustration of the good work of this office.
Before closing, I just want to reiterate the caveat that has been included in each of the office's three budget submissions. Our projections are based on present workload. And that present workload is based on what the CAA has given us to do in terms of the Congress. The instrumentalities have come on on a serial basis. The 1999 budget request takes into account that the Library of Congress and the General Accounting Office are presently covered only under certain provisions of the CAA.
However, the reason I bring this up is that a question has been raised as to whether employees of these instrumentalities have not only the substantive rights conferred under the CAA but also procedural rights, which would mean that we would receive their charges. We have issued a notice of proposed rulemaking so that interested parties can comment on the question.
Whatever the outcome of that rulemaking, should Congress decide-and the Congress is the one that is going to have to do itthat the GAO, the GPO, and/or the Library should fall under the purview of the office more comprehensively than they do at present, we probably will need additional staff and funding. And we will be coming to you at that point.