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Friday, May 12, 2023

CRS Troubles

A number of posts have discussed congressional capacity. The Congressional Resarch Service is especially important in this regard.

Kevin Kosar at The Hill:
Congress calls upon CRS frequently. In 2021, for example, the think tank provided 265 in-person briefings, 2,729 confidential memoranda, 24,044 telephone responses and 34,844 email responses. The agency also wrote 1,073 reports for Congress and 13,348 bill summaries, which the Hill and the public read on

While it is indubitable that CRS employees are doing a fine job, the agency itself has had troubles for more than a decade.

In 2019, Congress took a close look at flagging staff morale and employee frustration with CRS’s leadership. The Committee on House Administration (CHA) made clear that it wanted CRS leadership to right the ship. That did not happen. A survey of CRS staff last year revealed sky-high displeasure with CRS’s front office. So, the CHA’s Subcommittee on Modernization recently held another oversight hearing to get to the bottom of things. (Disclosure: I testified at this hearing.)

Chairwoman Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) grilled CRS director, Dr. Mary Mazanec, over a bungled $20 million technology project that has left CRS staff writing reports and memoranda with a buggy version of Microsoft Word 2016. The committee also heard that staff service to Congress was suffering due to patchy Wi-Fi in their offices, Zoom accounts that shut down after 40 minutes of use and difficulty in getting technical support.