The last time a federal agency was completely scrapped (instead of being moved, repackaged, merged) was in 1995, during Gingrich’s GOP-controlled Congress:
The Office of Technology Assessment, established in 1972 to provide nonpartisan scientific studies of policy decisions, ceased to exist in 1995 when the Republican-controlled Congress voted to defund it. Seeking budget cuts across federal agencies, supportive lawmakers argued that they also needed to trim Capitol Hill spending.
Defunding the office “made Congress dumb — on purpose” writes Lorelei Kelly, director of the New Strategic Security Initiative, who believes the move, pushed by Gingrich, is contributing to the recent logjam on Capitol Hill.
Fifteen years after Congress voted to defund the OTA “the effects of a severely depleted institutional memory are showing up,” Kelly writes today for the Huffington Post. “Last August’s debt ceiling debacle is one example.”
“The legislative knowledge gap is especially debilitating for issues that require context, forecasting and expert judgment,” Kelly adds later. “This is a significant problem in the modern world, where Congressional actions have global implications, but members fail to connect the dots.”
Writing today for the New York Times, Bruce Bartlett, a longtime aide to Republican presidents and lawmakers, also bemoans the loss of OTA, noting that the amount of money saved “was trivial even in terms of Congress’s budget.”
“Mr. Gingrich’s real purpose was to centralize power in the speaker’s office, which was staffed with young right-wing zealots who followed his orders without question,” Bartlett writes. “Lacking the staff resources to challenge Mr. Gingrich, the committees could offer no resistance and his agenda was simply rubber-stamped.”