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Document of the Day: Senator Edward Kennedy on OTA, December 31, 1974

Today’s document of the day (available here) is a press release and memo sent to members of the Technology Assessment Board (TAB) on December 31, 1974. Senator Kennedy’s term as Chairman of the TAB was coming to a close and he used this document to “share his thoughts with (the TAB) about what we have accomplished thus far, and what still needs to be done.”

The memo continues as follows:

Congress needs its own source of unbiased technical expertise, and OTA is an institutional innovation to meet that need. But even more than a technical or institutional experiment, OTA is an experiment in how to make democracy work.

It is not just a matter of whether Congress can utilize technical information and advice. The crucial point is whether Congress can do so in the full glare of public scrutiny–and with the full participation of the varied public groups that have a stake in the outcome of the decisions.

Later on in the memo Sen. Kennedy mentions the topics OTA decided to examine:

-How should we allocate our resources to energy R&D?

-How economical is solar energy for the generation of electric power?

-What are the economic, social, and environmental impacts of drilling for offshore oil and gas? Of the use of deep water ports?

-How can we strengthen the technology of our fisheries industry?

-How can we strengthen overall food technology systems? What is the impact of the energy shortage on fertilizers and food production?

-How can we assure the nation adequate supplies of materials resources?

-What is the impact of automated mass transit technology–not only on movement of people and goods, but on jobs and the economy in general?

-How can we use our high technology products to strengthen America’s international competitive position?

This document is the first in a series of material from the OTA library. You can also find today’s document here on the OTA library page. Check back regularly as we add to this section of the site.

Document of the Day: OTA newsletters

We’re continuing to highlight new documents that we’ve received for the archive. Slowly but surely, we’re turning them into PDF documents and getting the material online. Today we have a collection of nine OTA newsletters. According to the first newsletter:

In response to an expressed need to be better informed about goings-on within the Office, we present to you Volume 1, Number 1 of the “OTA NEWSLETTER”

At this early stage, we intend to publish the Newsletter in two parts. Part one will feature business-related matters and may later be distributed to select audiences outside OTA. The second part will contain matters of an in-house nature.

To see at all nine editions of the OTA Newsletter click here.

OTA memories

Hidden among the many, many documents related to OTA we’ve received are some real treasures. Today we have photos of some old OTA coffee mugs. Does anyone else have old OTA memorabilia that we could photograph and add to the site? Yours truly is featured in the final shot.

Document of the day: losses from friendly fire can be reduced

The Office of Technology Assessment, like any successful organization, used regular self-evaluation to ensure that Congress got the most out of OTA reports. In response to suggestions from members of Congress and Hill staff, OTA created report briefs. These two to four page documents summarized the main points of a full report in simple, direct language. Today’s document is one of those report briefs, “The tragic loss of life from ‘friendly fire’ can be reduced”. It beings as follows:

The disturbing incidents of ‘friendly fire’ deaths suffered by the United States and its allies in the Persian Gulf War focused new attention on an old problem. U.S. forces shooting at their own units caused 24 percent of U.S. combat deaths in the war. The fraction of losses due to friendly fire, or fratricide, seemed extraordinarily high and caused considerable public concern and international friction. The OTA report, Who Goes There: Friend or Foe?, explores the causes of friendly fire and some of the remedies that might be found in new technology, training, and doctrine.

Click here to read the full 1993 OTA report, “Who goes there: friend or foe?”

More report briefs will be posted on this page in the coming days.

Document of the Day: OTA releases survey results on genetic tests and health insurance

When we launched the OTA archive a few weeks ago we promised that new material not previously available to the public would be added to the archive. Today we’re happy to announce that some of this material is now available. Click here to read a copy of the press advisory that accompanied the release of this 1992 OTA report, “Genetic Tests and Health Insurance: Results of a Survey.”

The press release says:

The ongoing project to map human genes will almost certainly expand the number of DNA-based tests for genetic disorders by an order of magnitude over the next decade. How health insurers view such tests will affect their use, says the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).
An OTA background paper issued today describes the results from a 1991 OTA survey of U.S. health insurers’ attitudes toward genetic tests and genetic information – both their attitudes towards genetic information in making determinations of insurability and how they might reimburse consumers for genetic tests.

This press advisory is one of eight newly available documents released in the summer and fall of 1992. Click here to check them out. We’d be happy to collect and scan similar documents if anyone has them.

Nonprofit leader sees high-tech innovation as economic driver

By Marilyn Geewax | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | August 17, 2008

This business article appeared over the weekend and features the economic ideas of Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Mr. Atkinson worked for OTA in the early 1990s.