Public Administration ETDs

Publication Date



On October 13, 1972 President Richard Nixon signed into law the Technology Assessment Act. That act established an Office of Technology Assessment to aid Congress in identifying and considering the effects of technological programs and proposals. The need for such an office grew out of Congress' recognition both of the critical impact of technology on the natural and social environment, and of the failure of Federal agencies and the traditional mechanisms of Congress to provide the legislative branch with the information necessary to make informed judgments on technological issues. The subject of technology assessment for Congress holds considerable interest for the student of public science policy and administration. The current study has its roots in the various views, expectations, and hopes that have been expressed in connection with the new technology assessment function. The area selected for examination includes the Technology Assessment Act, its legislative history, and other considerations bearing on the likely course of the act's implementation and the resultant impact and significance of the assessment function. A three-stepped effort is employed. The first step is a review of the legislative history of the Technology Assessment Act and the general debate on technology assessment. The second step is a review of the literature on decision-making in Congress, focusing on sources of information on the relationship of congressional decision making to the power structure of Congress. The third step is an analysis of the findings of the preceding reviews, directed to the likely impact of technology assessment on congressional decision making and public science policy. The study leads to the following major conclusions:

1. The Technology Assessment Office will likely limit itself, at least initially, to acting as a research facility to generate information for the use of Congress and will avoid the appearance of reaching for any broader participation in the legislative process.

2. This fairly limited span of activity will prevent the office from having any very significant impact on congressional decision making and public science policy in the near term.

3. If technological issues continue to represent a major part of the business of Congress and if the assessment office can provide to Congress the information it needs to develop and support its decisions in this area, the prospects are excellent for the office to grow to a position of influence in a matter of a few years. The long-term impact of the office on the decision-making process will depend largely on the skill, integrity, and political astuteness of its Director and Board.

Degree Name

Public Administration

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Public Administration

First Committee Member (Chair)

Albert H. Rosenthal

Second Committee Member

Gerald Joseph Boyle

Third Committee Member

Donald Winston Smithburg



Document Type