The Congressional Research Service gained a new Director this week, but it has recently lost several of its most experienced and accomplished analysts.
Librarian of Congress James Billington appointed Mary B. Mazanec to be the new CRS Director of the Congressional Research Service. She has been serving as acting Director since the retirement of her predecessor, Daniel Mulhollan, last April.
“Dr. Mazanec has advanced degrees in law and medicine and brings a breadth of experience that will be valuable in leading CRS and ensuring that CRS continues to provide comprehensive and objective research and analysis that meets the needs of Members and staff,” the Librarian said in a December 5 news release.
But with the departure of numerous senior staff, CRS is also experiencing deeper changes that will leave it with diminished capacity to provide original analysis and insight to Congress and other would-be consumers.
The CRS Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade division lost one intelligence policy analyst, Alfred Cumming, earlier this year. Another, Richard Best, is retiring. “Those positions will not be filled for the foreseeable future,” according to a CRS official. Two other positions in the Asia section are also not going to be filled, the official said, due to budget constraints.
Last month, CRS Specialist Frederick M. Kaiser, author of hundreds of studies on government secrecy, congressional oversight and related issues, retired after more than three decades at CRS. His expertise and his institutional memory could not be easily replaced even if there were a will and a budget to do so. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) paid tribute to Mr. Kaiser this week in the Congressional Record.
Bruce Bartlett, a conservative libertarian who is a former congressional staffer and Reagan Administration official, contended recently that congressional support agencies — such as CBO, GAO, CRS and, earlier, OTA — had been deliberately targeted by some Republican leaders. As centers of nonpartisan analysis and evaluation, he said, these agencies are perceived by some as an obstacle to ideological control of congressional debate that must be weakened or eliminated. (“Gingrich and the Destruction of Congressional Expertise,” New York Times Economix blog, November 29, 2011.)
“It is essential that Congress not cripple what is left of its in-house expertise,” he wrote.