The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was established to examine issues involving new or expanding technologies, to assess their impacts, to analyze alternative policies to avert crises, and for scientific expertise to match that of the executive branch. Studies making significant contributions in areas of concern to Congress have dealt with offshore energy systems, solar energy, automatic train control, and the Computed Tomography Scanner. Some tasks undertaken by OTA could have been performed more appropriately by other legislative agencies. The Technology Assessment Advisory Council, in advising on priorities, urged OTA to consider this factor as well as whether related assessments were being performed by executive agencies. To strengthen OTA: (1) the Congressional Board should generate clearer guidelines for the OTA role and concentrate on general oversight and policy; (2) staff should be appointed by the Director; (3) joint meetings should be held with a majority of Council members and the Board; (4) statutory members of the Council, who are heads of other legislative agencies should be authorized to appoint delegates in their absence; and (5) consideration should be given to OTA assessment of defense technologies.
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