Oregon Member of Congress Wants to Trash Reports

May 20, 2014

In the name of oversight, Congress demands thousands of reports each year from hundreds of federal agencies. But at least one Oregon member of Congress thinks it's silly to waste money on reports that are often never read, much less acted upon.

Democratic Representative Suzanne Bonamici estimates that Congress demands more than 4-thousand written reports each year from 466 federal agencies and non-profit groups - reports that take up many hours of staff time, not to mention thousands of tons of pulpwood. And she said many of them are a sheer waste of time and resources. One report, for example, covers a ban on importation of toys or other items made of cat or dog fur. Congress demanded the information in a 2000 law.

Of the seven committees which still get copies of the dog and cat fur report, not one finds it useful.
So why bother?

Bonamici has introduced a bill, a short one, written on only two sheets of paper, which would sunset commissioned reports after five years. For a report to survive past that time, Congress would have to explicitly exempt it from the sunset provision.

Lawmakers tend to require studies from federal agencies in the name of accountability - or to use the newest buzz word - transparency. But Bonamici said many of them, perhaps most, are never used and wind up simply taking up shelf or computer space.

She said that reports can help lawmakers and other government officials make decisions and hold agencies accountable, but the cost and time associated with unnecessary reports has grown out of control.