Comparative Table of Parliamentary TA Institutions
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE
GAO has been providing information and support
to the U.S. Congress since 1921. Initially focused on reviewing government
expenditures, GAO’s role has since expanded and now includes efforts to improve
accountability within the federal government by evaluating government programmes
and alerting policymakers and the public to emerging problems. At the request
of congressional appropriators, GAO began a technology assessments pilot programme
in 2001 in order to provide the U.S. Congress with science and technology
advice similar to that provided by the U.S. Office of Technology
Assessment (OTA), which operated from 1972 to 1995. In 2008, the U.S. Congress
asked GAO asked to continue conducting technology assessments as a permanent programme.
GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency in
the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government – that is, it works for
the U.S. Congress. Often called the »congressional watchdog«, GAO investigates
how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars and helps improve the
performance of the federal government. GAO provides Congress with timely
information that is objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, non-ideological, fair,
and balanced. All types of work at GAO are conducted under strict professional
standards of review and referencing, and all facts and analyses in GAO work are
thoroughly checked for accuracy. Types of GAO work include:
- Technology assessments that provide
a thorough and balanced analysis of primary, secondary, indirect, and delayed
consequences or impacts of a technological innovation on society, the
environment, or the economy;
- Performance audits that evaluate how
well government programmes and policies are working, and which may contain
recommendations for executive branch agencies to act upon;
- Financial audits that provide an
independent assessment of whether an entity’s reported financial information
(e.g. financial condition, results, and use of resources) are presented fairly
in accordance with recognized criteria;
- Legal decisions and opinions, such
as deciding bid protests.
ORGANISATION AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Center for Science, Technology, and Engineering (CSTE), which has
conducted GAO´s seven technology assessments, is located within GAO´s
Applied Research and Methods (ARM) team. CSTE is jointly directed by
GAO´s Chief Scientist (Dr. Timothy M. Persons) and Chief Technologist
(Dr. Nabajyoti Barkakati), and in addition to conducting technology
assessments, the center conducts or supports GAO´s performance audits
that relate to science and technical issues and provides other S&T
support to GAO as needed. While GAO has a total staff count of
approximately 3,000 individuals, as of January 2012, the total staff
count within CSTE was 40 technical analysts across a spectrum of
disciplines, ranging from physical sciences (physics, chemistry, and
geology), engineering, computer sciences, and operations research
sciences (cost engineering, earned value management, and schedule risk
analysis). When conducting technology assessments, CSTE augments its
capabilities by utilizing other analysts in GAO, including individuals
with specialized professional knowledge within ARM, such as economists,
social scientists, statisticians, methodologists, and data analysts.
GAO initiates work (including technology assessments) in one of three ways (in order of the priority of the work):
- Congressional mandates;
- Letter of request from senior congressional leaders or a chairman
or ranking member of a congressional committee or subcommittee;
- Individual member requests, with additional consideration given to requests from members who are on a committee of jurisdiction.
GAO also initiates work under the authority of the head of GAO (the
Comptroller General of the United States) to invest in significant
current or emerging issues that may affect the nation´s future and
address issues of broad interest to the Congress.
When a request for a technology assessment is received or
developed through one of these three mechanisms, GAO may begin work on
it if staff resources are available and the topic is sufficiently
distinct from other work already in progress.
WORK PROCEDURES AND METHODSOnce the decision to begin work on
a technology assessment is made, the director of the assessment (the
Chief Scientist or Chief Technologist) assembles a multi-disciplinary
team appropriate for the topic. At this time, a production schedule is
developed by the team that includes estimates for job design, data
collection, message development, report drafting, report reviews, and
report issuance. This schedule reflects GAO´s responsiveness to
legislative timelines; our report production is designed to enable
issuance within 12 months of job initiation, allowing the reports to be
timely and useful to the Congress to support legislative issues,
congressional hearings, or testimonies.
GAO technology assessments conducted by CSTE use methodology
and data collection techniques that can consist of literature reviews;
interviews and document requests from federal agencies, academia,
industry, and other stakeholders; the use of groups of experts
assembled for GAO through a contract with the U.S. National Academies;
workshops, surveys, and focus groups; and analysis of the collected
data. Process controls include extensive indexing and referencing of
collected information that provide assurance that GAO findings,
conclusions, and recommendations are supported. Draft reports undergo
extensive review, both internal and external to GAO; internal
stakeholders throughout GAO provide input for technology assessments
through all phases of work and review the final product. GAO can use
external experts, such as groups of experts assembled by the National
Academies, to review the technology assessment draft report.
Furthermore, federal agencies that GAO gathered information from have
the opportunity to review the draft report and provide comments that
are incorporated in the final report.
TOPICSThe range of topics GAO could potentially address for
the Congress is quite broad-requests for GAO work can come from any of
the 41 active committees and 181 sub-committees within the U.S.
Congress which reflect the full range of activities of the U.S.
Government. Therefore GAO could be asked to conduct technology
assessment work on topics ranging from energy and climate change,
biomedical and health, national and homeland security, transportation
and infrastructure, and information security concerns, among others.
To date, GAO technology assessments have addressed topics
ranging from biometrics to explosives detection to climate engineering.
A full list of publicly releasable technology assessment conducted by
GAO can be found at www.gao.gov/browse/collection/Technology_Assessment
GAO work, including technology assessments, is primarily written to
respond to the legal mandate or congressional request that initiated
the work. However, GAO reports are also issued to other relevant
committees and members of Congress, and in keeping with its mission of
accountability, the GAO customarily posts as many of its products as
possible on the www.gao.gov website for public consumption and use.
COMMUNICATION AND PUBLICATIONS
Technology assessments conducted by GAO to date have resulted in written products (www.gao.gov/browse/collection/Technology_Assessment).
These reports may also contain online-only multimedia components, such
as videos/animations or podcasts (for example, the interactive features
and additional materials at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-71). GAO may also prepare other products, such as congressional testimony, upon request from the U.S. Congress.
GAO´s technology assessment products are designed to provide balanced,
objective, fact-based assessments of technologies in the context of
federal programmes and/or public policy issues. Furthermore, in addition
to GAO´s broad investigative and audit authorities, technology
assessments conducted by GAO can further support the oversight,
insight, and foresight functions of the U.S. Congress. For example,
technology assessments can provide valuable information to support
Congress as it develops policy and allocates funding, particularly in
the context of strategic foresight.
THE WAY AHEADAfter receiving direction to establish a
permanent technology assessment function, GAO drafted an operational
concept memorandum for conducting technology assessments in 2008. GAO
is currently reviewing and optimizing its technology assessment
procedures and methodologies. Production of technology assessments is
likely to remain constant at up to two reports per year, due to current
demand and staffing restrictions. Communication with potential
congressional requestors is continuing and follows established GAO
protocols for interacting with Congress.
441 G St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20548
Chief Scientist Dr. Timothy M. Persons (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chief Technologist Dr. Nabajyoti Barkakati (email@example.com)
Center for Science, Technology, and Engineering
202 512 6412
Fax: +1 202 512 3938
© EPTA, provided by ITA; version 19 Oct 2012