Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS Reports) in the United States
American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the Congressional Research Service, a “think tank” that provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events. Yet, these reports are not made available to the public in a way that they can be easily obtained. Open CRS provides citizens access to Congressional Research Service Reports that are already in the public domain.
Congressional Research Service Reports do not become public until a member of Congress releases the report. A number of libraries and non-profit organizations have sought to collect as many of the released reports as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no systematic way to obtain all Congressional Research Service Reports. Because of this, not all reports appear on internet. We believe that it would be far preferable for Congress to make available to the public all Congressional Research Service Reports.
Congressional Research Service (CRS)
The Congressional Research Service strongly believes that its sole purpose is to directly serve Congress and not the public. The Congressional Research Service attempts to make available to the public reports that it creates as something other than its statutory authority to communicate with and for Congress. Some free websites disagree. They are not asking the Congressional Research Service to disclose anything, they only seek to have Congress disclose (at the discretion on individual representatives) communications between the Congressional Research Service and Congress that are not classified or confidential in nature. This should not create any more work for the Congressional Research Service or force employees of the Congressional Research Service to communicate with anyone other than Congress.
The Congressional Research Service (see also the entry of the Library of Congress in this legal Encyclopedia) provides comprehensive research and analysis on all legislative and oversight issues of interest to Congress. The Congressional Research Service assists Congress by responding to specific questions and by preparing reports on legislative topics in anticipation of questions and emerging issues. The Congressional Research Service works with Members, committees, and congressional staff to identify and clarify policy problems and assess the implications of proposed policy alternatives. The Congressional Research Service experts play a role in every stage of the legislative process.
Areas of Research
The Congressional Research Service employs more than 400 policy analysts, attorneys and information professionals across a variety of disciplines in five research divisions. The breadth and depth of this expertise — from law, economics and foreign affairs to defense and homeland security, public administration, education, health care, immigration, energy, environmental protection, science and technology — enables the Congressional Research Service quickly to mobilize flexible groups that provide integrated analyses of complex issues facing the Congress.
The research divisions are:
- American Law: its work addresses all legal questions that arise in a legislative context or are otherwise of interest to Congress. Some issues relate to the institutional prerogatives of Congress under the Constitution. Other questions involve constitutional and legal principles of statutory analysis that cross legislative policy areas, such as federalism, commerce powers and individual rights. ALD also focuses on the intricacies of legal precedent and statutory construction as they relate to business, crime, the environment, civil rights, international law and other issues. CRS is an arm of Congress. Its reports and memoranda, while not legally binding, are used by Members and committees of Congress in their legislative deliberations and decision making.
- Government and Finance: it work focuses on the organization, structure, operations and management of Congress and its support agencies, the executive the judicial branches; the congressional budget and appropriations process, the legislative process and congressional history; and issues related to homeland security and emergency management, community development, elections and American federalism. Among the financial issues covered are banking, financial institutions, insurance and securities, taxation, public finance, fiscal and monetary policy, the public debt, the interaction of taxes with interest rates, and such economic indicators as gross domestic product, inflation and savings.
- Resources, Science and Industry: it focuses on issues and policy developments concerning the nation’s natural resources and environmental management, scientific advances and technology applications, and industry and infrastructure. Resources work includes public lands and other natural resources issues; environment; agriculture, food and fisheries; and energy and minerals. Science coverage includes civilian and military research and development issues, information and telecommunications, space, earth sciences and general science and technology. Support on industry and infrastructure issues includes transportation, public works and critical infrastructure; industrial market structure and regulation, and sector-specific industry analysis.
- Domestic Social Policy: works includes analyses of domestic policy and social program issues. These include education, labor and worker safety; health-care insurance and financing; health services and research; aging policy studies; Social Security, pensions and disability insurance; immigration, homeland security, domestic intelligence and criminal justice; and welfare, nutrition and housing programs.
- Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade: work emphasizes analyses of security, political and economic developments at a global level as well as in every region of the world. Experts examine political, economic, and security relations between the United States and other nations; development and foreign assistance; human rights; international organizations; and transnational issues such as terrorism, refugees, crime, human rights and nonproliferation. National security analysis includes a focus on national security and defense strategy; the U.S. defense budget; U.S. military operations around the world; weapons systems; intelligence; pay, benefits, and social issues in the military; and military facilities at home and overseas. Trade analysts assess global economic issues, including trade agreements, exports, imports, tariffs, and international financial questions.
The Knowledge Services Group within the Congressional Research Service provides research support services to the policy experts in each of the five above divisions. It consists of information professionals who partner with CRS analysts and attorneys in providing authoritative and reliable information research and policy analysis to Congress. KSG also provides geospatial information system (GIS) support in CRS. Clustered together by policy area, information professionals align their work directly to the CRS analytical divisions. They write descriptive products and contribute to analytical products in policy research areas, advise analysts and Congress in finding solutions for their information needs, make recommendations for incorporating new research strategies into their work and design customized Web pages. Information professionals create collaborative platforms for staff to share information and documents and help manage projects. Staff evaluate, acquire and maintain state-of-the-art resource materials and collections for CRS staff and work with the analytical divisions in ensuring the currentness and accuracy of products, databases and spreadsheets. Information professionals also respond directly to information requests from Congress, and teach congressional clients how to perform information research.
Obtaining Congressional Research Service Reports from House or Senate representatives
Assuming the citezens know what report they would like, obtaining a Congressional Research Service Report from their representative should be as simple as calling the local or DC office of their representative and requesting the report.
Surprisingly, there in no a list available of reports. Just as there a list available reports are not made directly available to the public, it does not make a list of reports that are available.