The Office of Technology Assessment Reconsidered
Several weeks ago, I responded to Darlene the Science Cheerleader's call to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). Today I got a comment from Nate Hafer at the Federation of American Scientists, which maintains the OTA's report archive, asking to again highlight the site. I have not problem with that. Mr. Hafer also called my attention to the video by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) in favor of reinstating this office.
I had no objection to any of Congressman Holt's comments; they seemed perfectly reasonable. But if concerned citizens like me are going to call for OTA's reinstatement, I think it is time for Mr. Hafer, Darlene, et al., to lay their cards on the table. Before OTA is reborn I would want to know the following:
- How, exactly, would a revived OTA would function?
- How big would it be?
- Who would participate?
- More importantly (from my semi-mistrustful point of view) who DECIDES who gets to participate?
- What would the new OTA charter look like?
- What steps would be taken to prevent the real or perceived irrelevance of the agency?
- What provisions will be made to ensure that OTA remains a "lean and mean," think tank type of organization?
- In short, what will OTA supporters do to assure budget hawks that the agency deserves to be reborn when there is already a call to decrease the deficit, balance the budget, and eliminate a great deal of waste elsewhere in the federal government?
I spend my days fighting for one of the most neglected agencies in the government, NASA. I could see some wiseacre saying, "Well, we can take OTA's funding out of NASA's research and development budget," or somesuch thing. Not impossible, at any rate.
On a similar and more positive note, I saw recently that the National Science Foundation has put in a budget of $6.85 billion for 2009, a 14 percent increase--and might get it. Jeez, a 14 percent increase in NASA's budget (nearly $3 billion!), spread appropriately among the five directorates, would be enough to make up for damages from Katrina, plug some funding holes in Constellation, AND provide healthy increases for science and aeronautics! Of course, I don't get to decide how NASA's budget is divvied up, more's the pity. Still, the NSF budget increase is a sign that the government GETS IT when it comes to the need for increased science funding. Progress, of a sort, which Bush most likely won't get credit for in certain circles, but so it goes.