What to Know in Washington: Congress’ Think Tank Seeks New Chief

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The next head of Congress’ in-house research group will have to overcome a long list of technology and morale issues that have plagued the service for years.

The Congressional Research Service’s issues have impeded its ability to provide prompt and accessible information to lawmakers, union leaders and past employees say. But the June 30 departure of director Mary Mazanec could signal a long-awaited period of change.

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
The US Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Mazanec’s decision to step down came after a series of House hearings this spring revealed bipartisan criticism of the nonpartisan think tank, which produces thousands of reports each year that help inform legislation and keep lawmakers up to date on emerging or hyper-specific issues. In April, Republicans on the House Administration Subcommittee on Modernization slammed Mazanec for unresolved technology issues and high attrition.

Repeated employee complaints culminated in an eight-page letter from the CRS employee union to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden last month. CRS is part of the Library of Congress. The union criticized a senior leadership team that they said “has moved forward with policies that seem to be at odds with the Service’s mission.”

Additionally, former employees say CRS’s technology woes made their jobs more difficult, citing years of sclerotic conference and video calls, an outdated website without a mobile version, and slow Wi-Fi connections in the office. Congress provided $20 million for modernization starting in 2018, but in an April hearing, Mazanec was unable to account for specific uses for the money, nor how much remained. The agency’s overall budget totaled $133.6 million for fiscal 2023.

Robert Newlen, former deputy librarian of Congress, will serve as acting CRS director after Mazanec’s departure. Mazanec will remain at the Library of Congress in an advisory role. A permanent director will be selected by Hayden after a “wide-ranging search,” the Library wrote in an email to Bloomberg Government. Read the full story from Amelia Davidson.


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To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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