How much does the United States Congress spend on technology and digital media?
It is a devilishly simple question, but I have yet to find a clear answer after nearly seven years working in and around the legislative branch. Finding the answer is a critical early step, however, in building an efficient, effective Congress that can fulfill its responsibilities in the 21st Century. That is something in which all Americans have a stake.
Does Congress spend the proper amount on technology? Is that money being spent on the correct technology products, vendors, and services? These are far more important questions that grow more pressing each day — constituent mail volume rose 548% between 2002-2010, while office resources to deal with it have been slashed 21% since 2011, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
This is the new normal. Yet without accurate spending information, you are stuck guessing as to the best way to deal with this new reality, whether you work on or off Capitol Hill. Moreover, those outside Congress who care about improving the legislative branch – as we do at The OpenGov Foundation – can only provide the right support at the right time to the right people in Congress if we know how and where to help.
Fortunately, groundbreaking work done by the Congressional Management Foundation, the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute, the Congressional Data Coalition, the Sunlight Foundation, and others has supplied some critical pieces of the puzzle. The following is inspired by them and their vital research. If you want to build off my work, you can find source data, crunched numbers, and methodology at the end of this post.
Right now, discussions are underway on and off Capitol Hill about what direction Congress should take with technology, data and staff. No one has the answer, but there are many amazing people in and around Congress working together towards one; it is my hope that this initial analysis will contribute to these efforts.Continue Reading