I believe that the best argument made by Eggers and O’Leary in If We Can Put a Man on the Moon was the need for lawmakers to consider how their proposals will be implemented when the programs are passed to the agencies. I was thinking about this when I was visiting the Woodrow Wilson Center’s electronic archives for the (now defunct) Office of Technology Assessment.
For those not familiar with OTA, it was an agency that performed deep technical analysis of current science and technology topics. Founded in 1972, it produced reports on the impact of the supersonic transports, how to best prepare citizens for disasters, and the benefits of early childhood health programs. OTA provided objective and succinct guidance to Congress on technology issues until it was shut down in 1995. The science community has continually called for OTA’s reestablishment and in 2008, GAO was tasked with producing technical assessment reports.
This year, the Woodrow Wilson Center argued [PDF] for creating a network of nonpartisan organizations to provide objective technical assessments (Expert & Citizen Assessment of Science & Technology – ECAST Network). This is a great idea but I think it should be taken one step further: a nonpartisan network of scholars and practitioners to provide analysis and strategies for implementing major legislation.
Now, your first response is probably that we already have more than enough organizations that provide detailed advice on how to implement almost every bill before Congress. Very true but the problem with their advice is that it is often politically-motivated and rarely deals with the realities of how the agencies will make the programs work effectively and efficiently. Also, I’ve yet to see these proposals consider how their strategies will impact other program and government operations as a whole.
We have a unique community of practitioners and scholars from all levels of American government here on GovLoop. I envision developing some type of online structure that could tap into the expertise and practical knowledge that this community possesses and channel it into implementation strategies for such topics like health care, emergency preparedness, and similar topics. We already have tools for collecting ideas, judging those ideas, and crowdsourcing innovations and best practices.
I’m just tossing this idea out there to see if anyone would be interested in discussing it further. I have a few concepts for next steps but I really want to just start the dialogue. This could also serve as a general conversation on creating virtual agencies and better citizen engagement through crowdsourcing (like Beth Noveck’s concepts in Wiki Government).