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Congressional Research Service

CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a branch of the library of congress that provides objective, nonpartisan research, analysis, and information to assist Congress in its legislative, oversight, and representative functions. U.S. senators and representatives, and their staffs consult the CRS for timely and accurate information regarding major issues and policies. The CRS researches and advises on questions and concerns related to many subject areas. It is organized into six interdisciplinary research divisions: American Law; Domestic Social Policy; Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade; Government and Finance; Information Research; and Resources, Science and Industry. Each division is organized into smaller sections, which focus on specific areas of public policy. The work of these divisions is supported by five offices: Congressional Affairs and Counselor to the Director; Finance and Administration; Information Resources Management; Legislative Information; and Workforce Development.

The CRS is made up of two reference divisions: the Congressional Reference Division and the Library Services Division. These provide reference, bibliographic, and other information services using advanced methods of computerized searching.

The CRS conducts a host of other support activities for Congress. It develops specialized reading lists for members of Congress and their staffs. It operates the Library of Congress's automated legislative information systems, including digests of all public bills and briefing papers on major legislative issues. It also attempts to anticipate congressional research needs, and it develops seminars that allow members of Congress, their staffs, CRS researchers, and outside experts to exchange ideas on timely issues. The CRS has produced programs on the congressional cable television system, and it provides language service support and translations for members of Congress.

The CRS is governed by a director, a deputy director, and a management team. The highest-level researchers are called senior specialists. They are often nationally and internationally recognized experts in their field of study. CRS offices include Special Programs, Operations, Policy, and Research Coordination.

The Congressional Research Service evolved from the Legislative Reference Service, which was created by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (codified as amended at Act of Aug. 2, 1946, ch. 753, 60 Stat. 812), and the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (codified as amended at Act of Oct. 26, 1970, Pub. L. No. 91-510, 84 Stat. 1140). In the beginning of the twenty-first century, the CRS experienced tremendous growth as Congress sought to respond to the increasing scope and complexity of public policy issues. Specifically, the service expanded its website to enhance on-line research. In 2001, over 540,000 users accessed the CRS site to obtain reports and briefs. The CRS anticipates expanding web services as Congress demands 24-hour access to its research data.

further readings

Congressional Research Service. 2001 Annual Report. Available online at <www.loc.gov/crsinfo/whatscrs.html#report> (accessed May 20, 2003).

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