The government has had difficulty getting independent, reliable technical assessments about the plausibility, cost and benefits of advanced technology before Congress and agencies commit to spending. It has always struggled when buying new technology, which is why Congress created the Office of Technology Assessment in 1972. For two decades, scientists and engineers in that office helped sort out technical truths from wishful thinking in project proposals. But the office was killed in 1995 in an effort to streamline federal programs.
Since then, as government spending on new technology rose to record levels, the primary technical advisers to federal officials often have been the contractors themselves. Billions of dollars have been wasted on failed, flawed or speculative projects.
We need to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment.