I’ll confess, before I came to Washington this summer I had never been inside the Library of Congress. I knew what the Library was and had a general idea of what went on there, but I had never set foot inside of the Jefferson Building. As for the Congressional Research Service (CRS) I knew of their reports (I had used several of them for reference), and that CRS is affiliated with the Library, but I had no idea about the true size and scope of the superb work done by the dedicated professionals inside the service.
Housed in the Madison Building (directly across the street from the much better known Jefferson Building), the Congressional Research Service is charged with providing bipartisan research and analysis for the policy questions most salient to our nation’s legislators. While at CRS, I worked in the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade division with a focus on issues of Department of Defense (DoD) manpower policy. This afforded me the opportunity to observe how our Congress funds efforts to man, train, and equip the world’s largest governmental organization. Over my time with CRS I was able to assist with answering specific queries from members of congress as well as conducting original research in support of the production of long form reports that provided in-depth analysis of issues related to DoD manpower policy.
In addition to analyzing substantive policy issues, I was also able to observe how Congress introduces, debates, amends, and passes legislation. Contrary to some media characterizations, there actually is quite a bit going on in Congress as legislation moves throughout the respective committees and sub-committees. Seeing Representatives and Senators debate legislation, and question experts during hearings, provided incredible context to the legislative process.
I am incredibly grateful to the Carlucci family for the opportunity to increase my understanding of a critical component of public policy and to the Congressional Research Service for affording me the opportunity to see the inner workings of the legislative process.
And if you find yourself with some extra time in Washington, make sure you stop by the Jefferson Building. The Library of Congress is truly one of the gems of our nation’s capital.