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Technological capabilities will determine, in large part, whether America leads or follows other economically and scientifically powerful nations in the decades following the end of the Cold War. With 20 years' experience, OTA has the proven ability to assist Congress's deliberations on the Nation's vision of the future and to help link the science and technology enterprise to accomplishment of national goals.
The foremost goal of citizens and elected officials appears to be restoring the resilience and competitiveness of the U.S. economy. OTA studies such as Competing Economies: America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim, U.S. - Mexico Trade: Pulling Together or Apart, and After the Cold War. Living with Lower Defense Spending help put the Nation's economic problems in perspective and provide important technological guidance and options for policy makers. The 103rd Congress will undoubtedly pursue legislation to ensure improvements in the quality of life and human health. OTA's assessments on education, e.g., Technologies for Adult Literacy, and health, e.g., Does Health Insurance Make a Difference? and Special Care Units for People with Alzheimer's and Other Dementias, establish a factual basis and broad context for the debates. As Congress addresses the critical goals of personal, national, and international security, OTA's studies ranging from Police Body Armor Standards and Testing to Building Future Security: Strategies for Restructuring the Defense Technology and Industrial Base will provide essential grounding in basic technical knowledge and opportunities. Improved environmental quality and sustainable use of natural resources will likely remain high on Congress's agenda. The breadth and depth of OTA's publications in this area -- Green Products By Design: Choices for a Cleaner Environment, Trade and Environment: Conflicts and Opportunities, Building Energy Efficiency, Forest Service Planning: Accommodating Uses, Producing Outputs, and Sustaining Ecosystems, and A New Technological Era for American Agriculture to name just a few -- reflect committees' requests to OTA to develop analyses and options that can serve as a common resource to all of the Congress as its tries to resolve these issues.
OTA's work in FY 1994 will continue to reflect the explicit needs of the committees of jurisdiction. The bipartisan, bicameral Technology Assessment Board (TAB) will guide OTA's work with committees and shape the agency's agenda through the assessment proposal approval process. OTA serves as a shared resource for Congress, providing nonpartisan analysis of scientific and technological issues -- issues intrinsic to all important policy decisions -- in a cost effective way.
During FY 1992, OTA delivered 52 publications to Congress, including assessment reports, background papers, and administrative documents (see p. 71). As of September 30, 1992, 42 TAB-approved studies and 17 special responses were in progress. As an integral part of carrying out assessments, OTA also provided expert advice, briefings, testimony, and results of OTA assessments matched to the specific needs of the requesting committees and the congressional agenda (see p. 111).
OTA reports represent comprehensive synthesis and analysis on some of the most controversial and costly issues faced by Congress, covering, for example, maintaining a strong defense in the aftermath of the Cold War, developing global standards for high technology equipment, the research and development agenda of the pharmaceutical industry, and U.S. vulnerability to oil import disruptions. These studies directly reflect the expressed needs and priorities of committees of the House and Senate. During the year, OTA served over 80 different committees and subcommittees of both houses, typically in response to bipartisan requests.
Relation of Work to Legislative Activities
OTA's role is neither to promote nor to discourage the development or the application of any particular technology or legislation, but rather to help Congress determine whether or when some form of Federal government participation may make sense. OTA identifies and clarifies options; exposes misleading, unsupportable, or incorrect information; and works to raise the level of understanding in the debate about expensive and controversial technical issues.
In each section on accomplishments in OTA's divisions, we identify some activities during fiscal year 1992 that illustrate the link between OTA's work and specific congressional activity. Please see the following pages for this information:
OTA works closely with members of TAB and the Appropriations Committees to maintain the authority of TAB to set the agenda of the agency and the best use of OTA's limited resources for the whole Congress. Because demand for OTA's assistance exceeds the resources made available to the agency, some committees attempt to initiate studies through new legislation rather than request studies through the Board (as was contemplated in OTA's enabling legislation). Mandates are strongly discouraged as a mechanism to obtain OTA's help, and potential mandates are often avoided when we are able to work with the interested parties prior to passage of legislation into law.
More than 60 bills containing mandates for OTA were introduced in the 102d Congress. OTA's work with the committees prevented all but seven mandates from being enacted, and two of the enacted mandates acknowledge the need for TAB approval before resources are devoted to the mandated activity. The five enacted mandates that do not recognize TAB's authority are:
Defense Department Appropriations for FY 1992
This law requires DoD to work with OTA in conducting an examination of Israeli antiterrorism technologies. This consultative effort is expected to require only minimal resources.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993
This law requires OTA to conduct a study to determine the effect of regulations issued by DoD on payment of costs of contractors for independent research and development and for bids and proposals. The regulations were to be issued by April 1, 1992, and OTA's study is due no later than December 1, 1995. This effort would require significant FY 1994 resources.
· Education Amendments of 1992
This law requires the Secretary of Education to consult with OTA in conducting a study which will provide an assessment of the information currently collected on graduate education and will identify what additional information should be generated to guide the Department of Education in defining and executing its role in the support of graduate education. This consultative effort will require minor funding in FY 1994.
Export Enhancement Act of 1992
This law establishes the John Heinz Competitive Excellence Award and requires
resources in FY 1993 and FY 1994. As noted on page 2 the activity represents a potential drain of $339,000 in FY 1993 and FY 1994 on OTA's ability to initiate new work.
Alzheimer's Disease Research, Training, and Education Amendments of 1992
This law extends OTA's requirement (first established by P.L. 99-660) to appoint members to the Advisory Panel on Alzheimer's Disease and make annual reports on the Panel's activities. This activity has been approved and will not require significant FY 1994 resources.
Continuing Mandated Functions
OTA's study on Intercity Bus Access for Individuals With Disabilities, mandated by P.L. 101-336, the American for Disabilities Act, is expected to be delivered to TAB in March 1993. It will have cost over $450,000 over fiscal years 1992 and 1993.
OTA continues to monitor veterans studies: P.L. 96-151 requires OTA to monitor and evaluate certain studies by the Department of Veterans Affairs; P.L. 98-160 requires OTA to monitor certain Federal research activities with regard to veterans exposed to atomic radiation; P.L, 99-272 requires OTA to monitor certain Federal research activities related to women veterans.
OTA continues to appoint the members of the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission (ProPAC) and the Physician Payment Review Commission (PhysPRC). ProPAC is an independent advisory committee mandated under the "Social Security Amendments of 1983" (P.L. 98-21. Section 601) that reform the Medicare program payment method. The law requires the OTA Director to select the Commission members. The first Commissioners were appointed in 1983. Six Commissioners' terms expired in March 1992, and the Director made four reappointments and two new appointments.
PhysPRC is also an independent advisory committee and was mandated by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-272). PhysPRC's purpose is to advise Congress and the Executive Branch on possible ways of reforming physician payment under the Medicare program. The law requires the OTA Director to select the Commission members. Initial appointments to the 13-member Commission were made in 1986, for terms ranging from one to three years. In April of 1992, the Director reappointed three Commissioners and appointed two new Commissioners.
In carrying out OTA's mission as a shared resource of the committees of the Congress, our staff cooperate and interact extensively with congressional members and staff and with the staffs of other Federal agencies, the private sector, and institutions around the world. This extensive networking serves to avoid duplication and to increase Congress's analytical resource base as it enables OTA to utilize the most up-to-date information available. In particular, OTA and the three other congressional support agencies have adopted processes that ensure fuller utilization of each other's expertise -- in administrative as well as substantive areas. Senior staff from OTA, CRS, CBO, and GAO meet regularly to discuss topics on which each agency works, such as trade, education, health care, energy, agriculture, environment, transportation, and defense, in order to eliminate duplication and ensure that resources are devoted to each facet of an issue. A few recent examples of OTA networking that resulted in notable benefits to the Federal, State, and local government include:
GAO is using OTA's assessment of the defense industrial base in its assessment of multiproduct production. In addition, OTA staff are periodically requested to review GAO's strategic plans for examining Air Force and other defense programs.
OTA's companion projects, After the Cold War and Building Future Security, have helped GAO staff with background information on issues of military base closure, military conversion in Eastern Europe, and a federal clearinghouse for state and local governments.
Based on research done for After the Cold War, OTA staff have helped CBO staff develop research
methods for measuring the location of defense spending.
OTA conducted a symposium on testing and assessment for GAO's human resources/education staff. OTA's 1992 report, Outpatient Immunosuppressive Drugs under Medicare, was used by CBO to help cost out a bill introduced in Congress on the topic.
CRS, GAO, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Office of the
GAO and CBO have provided budget data to OTA for its analysis of Earth Observation Systems, and
Based on the OTA reports Making Things Better, Competing Economies, and Serious Reduction of
Based on the report Competing Economies, OTA staff have provided background material to the
The National Institute on Disability Research and Rehabilitation used OTA's 1982 report on
OTA staff met with officials of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to discuss OTA's study of DNA patenting and its role in fulfilling U.S. commitments in the issue area. As a result, rather than conduct its own study, OSTP is encouraging international institutions to cooperate with OTA's study.
The National Research Council (NRC) specifically undertook studies of automotive fuel economy and
The Department of Defense used OTA's study of the defense industrial base in developing their
Two OTA reports, Redesigning Defense and Building Future Security, have become textbooks at the
Officials responsible for development of standards for body armor in Canada and the United Kingdom
NASA's Earth Observing Systems program is carefully weighing one of the cost-reducing options
outlined in OTA's background paper, Affordable Spacecraft: flying instruments individually (or in small
An OTA staffer member chaired an Expert Panel convened by an Interagency Task Force on
The data analysis model from OTA's report, Safe Skies, was used as one guide in reorganizing FAA's