Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

The struggle between objectivity vs. neutrality continues at the Congressional Research Service

Recently, leadership of the Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress were presented with a memorandum. It expressed concern that the agencies’ analysts, attorneys, and reference experts were being muzzled a bit.

“We are concerned that CRS risks falling short of its mission if it holds back the independent analysis that Congress has directed us to provide. Sparking our concern, CRS has appeared to avoid reaching conclusions in some topic areas with high potential for political controversy. In some such topic areas, CRS operates as a neutral compiler of facts and opinions, with little of the expert analysis, appraisal, and evaluation of their credibility that Congress requires. CRS also seems to have avoided a few topics or facets of topics almost entirely. Yet these risk-avoidant strategies, while certainly understandable, could in fact increase other risks such as under-utilizing CRS’s valuable personnel; contributing to polarization; and, ironically, inviting a perception of partisan bias. Perhaps worse, given the mission of CRS, is the risk of a slow slide into irrelevance.”

(Disclosure: I was shown the memorandum and signed it.)

This debate is not a new one at the agency….(Read more)

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