CRS, Library of Congress feeling the sting of budget cuts
Tightening budgets at legislative branch agencies are putting a squeeze on the workforce that could impact their ability to fulfill their missions, said officials who testified April 18 before the House Administration oversight subcommittee.
"We have kept our heads above water," Maria Pallante, register of copyrights at the Library of Congress's copyright office, said in a weary tone.
The office has kept the backlog of registrations at bay despite "a 22.7 percent reduction over the last couple of years" and a loss of about 10 percent of its workforce, said Pallante. David Mao, law librarian at the Law Library of Congress said their problems have come from retaining staff. When someone does leave, Mao said their positions will go unfilled.
The Congressional Research Service is operating at its lowest staff level in more than 3 decades, said CRS Director Mary Mazanec. As of March 31, 2012 CRS had 618 employees, a decline of 53 full time employees in the last 2 years, she said.
Mazanec said CRS is adjusting by asking employees to broaden their portfolios and take on new issues. But it does take time to get up to speed on those issues. She said she's fairly sure CRS can continue to provide the quality reporting to Congress with a diminished staff, but added a caveat.
"It really depends on the issues that we are being asked to work on. And as the issues get more and more complex, we may need additional analytical capacity, or we may need to hire people that have specific expertise that we need," said Mazanec.
It's more important than ever that CRS is using its resources wisely, said Mazanec. But, unfortunately, collecting information has become difficult, she also said.
"In a month's period, approximately two to four times we have difficulty getting information from executive branch agencies," said Mazanec.
"They either refuse to provide us with the information or they give us incomplete or out of date information. Or, they will ask us who the information is for and how it's going to be used. And we feel that by revealing that to them that would breach our value of confidentiality."
- visit the hearing page (prepared testimony and archived webcast)