by Lorelei Kelly

It Once Housed One of the World’s Premier Scientific Advisory Bodies, But Congress Now Struggles with an Antiquated System of Collecting and Sorting an Overload of Information

Washington, DC – The U.S. Congress, in its present dysfunctional state, cannot serve the needs of American democracy today due to a lack of bipartisan expertise, understaffing and outdated methods of handling an overwhelming amount of information, according to a first-of-its-kind report released today by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Avoiding the “fiscal cliff” is just the latest among many complicated policy problems faced by legislators. The “new” Congress is set to inherit many major policy decisions that require nuance, genuine deliberation and expert judgment. But the report, Congress’ Wicked Problem: Seeking Knowledge Inside the Information Tsunami— based on dozens of congressional staff interviews — shows policymakers and their small staffs are forced to sort a tsunami of incoming communication with an increasingly archaic system.

“The absence of basic modern knowledge management is holding us back,” said report author and OTI Research Fellow Lorelei Kelly. “Congress is the most powerful legislature in the world, and it lacks the wherewithal to compete on substance in today’s 24-hour news cycle. It needs more bipartisan expertise and a modern and more inclusive approach to policymaking.”

Congress wasn’t always lacking in these areas — in fact, less than 20 years ago it operated one of the world’s premier scientific advisory bodies. The report explains how Congress went from maintaining an extensive network of shared experts to where it is today.

The report recommends that Congress use technology to become more successful and efficient. It also states that non-governmental sources of trusted and reliable expertise without a financial conflict of interest are critical players to step in and fill the information gap.

Read the full report, “Congress’ Wicked Problem: Seeking Knowledge Inside the Information Tsunami.”

Read an opinion piece by Lorelei Kelly in Reuters today.

To interview our experts about the report, please contact Clara Hogan.

This report is the first in a series that will examine open government trends on Capitol Hill and around the world.

About the New America Foundation
New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

About the Open Technology Institute
The Open Technology Institute formulates policy and regulatory reforms to support open architectures and open-source innovations and facilitates the development and implementation of open technologies and communications networks.