Like Congressional Research Service reports? Sorry.
In what is being characterized by subordinates as an act of
"managerial dementia," the Director of the Congressional
Research Service this week prohibited all public distribution of
CRS products without prior approval from senior agency
"I have concluded that prior approval should now be required at
the division or office level before products are distributed to
members of the public," wrote CRS Director Daniel P. Mullohan in
a memo to all CRS staff. "This policy is effective
While CRS has long refused (with Congressional concurrence) to
make its electronic database of reports available to the public
online, it has still been possible for members of the press,
other researchers, and other government officials to request
specific reports from the congressional support agency.
But now, "to avoid inconsistencies and to increase
accountability, CRS policy requires prior approval at the
division level before products can be disseminated to
non-congressionals," Director Mullohan wrote.
The new policy demonstrates that "this is an organization in
freefall," according to one CRS analyst. "We are now indeed
working for Captain Queeg."
"We're all sort of shaking," another CRS staffer told Secrecy
News. "I can't do my work."
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't talk to someone in
another agency, another organization, or someone else outside of
Congress and we share information," the staffer said. "Now I
can't do that?"
A copy of the March 20 memorandum from Director Mullohan,
entitled "Distribution of CRS Products to Non-Congressionals,"
was obtained by Secrecy News and is available here:
It was also reported by Elizabeth Williamson in the Washington
None of the CRS personnel contacted by Secrecy News was able to explain exactly what propmpted CRS Director Mulhollan to issue the policy memorandum this week.
While other parts of government strive to eliminate unnecessary
obstacles to information sharing, the new CRS policy may be seen as an experiment in what happens when barriers to information sharing are arbitrarily increased. It probably won't be good.
With some frequency, CRS analysts contact FAS with requests for
information or documents. (A recent CRS report on Chinese naval modernization reprinted a large excerpt of an analysis of
Chinese submarine patrols by FAS analyst Hans Kristensen.) We
haven't been shy about requesting information or documents in
return. And both sides seem to have benefitted.
"More important, Congress has benefitted," a staffer said. But
now such working relationships may be jeopardized.
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