Government Basics

library of congress

The Library of Congress Reading Room. Credit: Mike Shoup.

Working With Congress offers an overview of how the government is organized to address issues with scientific relevance. Below are links to the major House and Senate committees and executive offices with science and technology jurisdiction. For basic information on the process and organization of the U.S. government, visit the Library of Congress’s resource on How Our Laws are Made.

Senate S&T Committees
House S&T Committees
Executive S&T Offices
Federal S&T Agencies

 

Senate S&T Committees

Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
S&T Jurisdiction: Agricultural economics, research and engineering; agricultural extension services and experiment stations; agricultural production; forestry and logging; and nutrition and health.

Chairman: Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Ranking Member: Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Appropriations
S&T Jurisdiction: Funds all federal departments and agencies.

Chairman: Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI)
Ranking Member: Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Armed Services
S&T Jurisdiction: Department of Defense and military R&D.

Chairman: Carl Levin (D-MI)
Ranking Member: John McCain (R-AZ)

Commerce, Science & Transportation
S&T Jurisdiction: Nonmilitary aeronautical and space sciences; oceans; coastal issues; weather and atmospheric activities; science, engineering, and technology R&D and policy; regulation of consumer products; transportation; and standards and measurement.

Chairman: Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Ranking Member: Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

Energy & Natural Resources
S&T Jurisdiction: Energy production, regulation, conservation and policy; nuclear waste management; public lands; and energy R&D.

Chairman: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Ranking Member: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Environment & Public Works
S&T Jurisdiction: Environmental policy, environmental R&D, fisheries and wildlife, solid waste disposal and recycling, water resources, pollution, infrastructure, and nonmilitary environmental regulation.

Chairman: Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Ranking Member: James Inhofe (R-OK)

Finance
S&T Jurisdiction: drug safety and shortages, HHS budget priorities, energy, aging and medical research, perscription drug policy.

Chairman: Max Baucus (D-MT)
Ranking Member: Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Foreign Relations
S&T Jurisdiction: Relations of the United States with foreign nations; foreign economic, military, technical and humanitarian assistance; international aspects of nuclear energy, including nuclear transfer policy; oceans; international environmental and scientific affairs.

Chairman: John Kerry (D-MA)
Ranking Member: Richard Lugar (R-IN)

Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
S&T Jurisdiction: Education, labor, public health, occupational health and safety, and biomedical R&D.

Chairman: Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Ranking Member: Michael Enzi (R-WY)

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
S&T Jurisdiction: Census and collection of economic and social statistics; management and organization of nuclear export policy; national security.

Chairman: Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT)
Ranking Member: Susan Collins (R-ME)

Judiciary
S&T Jurisdiction: Department of Justice oversight and authorizations; revision and codification of the statutes of the United States; civil liberties; patents, copyrights, and trademarks; and protection of trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies.

Chairman: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Ranking Member: Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

 

House S&T Committees

Agriculture
S&T Jurisdiction: Protection of species in forest reserves, industrial chemistry, experimental stations, agriculture education, soil and water conservation, entomology, nutrition, forestry, and forest reserves.

Chairman: Frank Lucas (R-OK)
Ranking Member: Collin Peterson (D-MN)

Appropriations
S&T Jurisdiction: Funds all federal departments and agencies.

Chairman: Hal Rogers (R-KY)
Ranking Member: Norm Dicks (D-WA)

Armed Services
S&T Jurisdiction: Department of Defense; scientific research and development in support of the armed services; military R&D.

Chairman: Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Ranking Member: Adam Smith (D-WA)

Education and the Workforce
S&T Jurisdiction: Education, labor, vocational and job training, school nutritional programs, and occupational health and safety.

Chairman: John Kline (R-MN)
Ranking Member: George Miller (D-CA)

Energy and Commerce
S&T Jurisdiction: Biomedical R&D, public health and health facilities, consumer protection, food and drug safety, energy resources and conservation, interstate and foreign telecommunications, and environmental regulations.

Chairman: Fred Upton (R-MI)
Ranking Member: Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Foreign Affairs
S&T Jurisdiction: Relations of the United States with foreign nations; export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; and international education.

Chairman: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Ranking Member: Howard Berman (D-CA)

Homeland Security
S&T Jurisdiction: Department of Homeland Security, R&D related to protection of the homeland, cybersecurity.

Chairman: Peter King (R-NY)
Ranking Member: Bennie Thompson (D-MS)

Judiciary
S&T Jurisdiction: Patents, copyrights, and trademarks; medical malpractice and product liability; revision and codification of the statutes of the United States.

Chairman: Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Ranking Member: John Conyers (D-MI)

Natural Resources
S&T Jurisdiction: Forest reserves and national parks; geological survey; mineral resources; water resources; irrigation and reclamation; conservation of petroleum, radium and other resources; mining schools; wildlife resources; public lands; and marine science and research.

Chairman: Doc Hastings (R-WA)
Ranking Member: Edward Markey (D-MA)

Oversight and Government Reform
S&T Jurisdiction: government procurement process, federal personnel systems, the Postal Service, government grants, federal workforce policies, data security standards.

Chairman: Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Ranking Member: Elijah Cummings (D-MD)

Science, Space and Technology
S&T Jurisdiction: Scientific R&D, National Institutes of Science and Technology, NASA, National Science Foundation, National Weather Service, science scholarships, national laboratories, information technology, university research policy, science education, energy, natural resources, and international technology transfer.

Chairman: Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Ranking Member: Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Transportation and Infrastructure
S&T Jurisdiction: Flood control and improvement of rivers and harbors, pollution of navigable waters, hazardous materials, public works for the benefit of navigation, water power, emergency management, transportation, and roads and road safety.

Chairman: John Mica (R-FL)
Ranking Member: Nick Rahall (D-WV)

 

Executive S&T Offices

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
The mission of the OMB is to help the President in carrying out his constitutional and statutory duties by acting as the implementation and enforcement arm of the executive office. The OMB provides analysis and advice on a broad range of topics, and oversees the implementation of policy across all agencies.

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans and programs of the Federal Government. To that end, it advises the President and others within the Executive Office of the President on the impacts of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. OSTP also leads an interagency effort to develop and implement sound science and technology policies and budgets and works with the private sector to ensure federal investments in science and technology contribute to economic prosperity, environmental quality and national security. OSTP also builds partnerships among federal, state and local governments; other countries; and the scientific community.

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
PCAST was originally established by President George Bush in 1990 to enable the President to receive advice from the academic community and the private sector on technology, scientific research priorities and STEM education. Since its creation, PCAST has expanded and currently consists of 24 members, including the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The council members —appointed by the President—are drawn from industry, education and research institutions, and other nongovernmental organizations.

National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)
The National Science and Technology Council was established by Executive Order on November 23, 1993. This Cabinet-level Council is the principal means within the executive branch to coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the federal research and development enterprise.

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues
The Council consists of leading scientists, doctors, ethicists, social scientists, lawyers and theologians. The Council considers a range of bioethical matters connected with specific biomedical and technological activities, such as embryo and stem cell research, assisted reproduction, cloning, uses of knowledge and techniques derived from human genetics or the neurosciences, and end-of-life issues. The Council also studies broader ethical and social issues, such as the protection of human subjects in research and the appropriate uses of biomedical technologies.

Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
The Council on Environmental Quality coordinates federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives. CEQ was established within the Executive Office of the President by Congress as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and additional responsibilities were provided by the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970.

Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP)
The Office of National AIDS Policy is part of the White House Domestic Policy Council and is tasked with coordinating the continuing efforts of the government to reduce the number of HIV infections across the United States. The Office emphasizes prevention through wide-ranging education initiatives and helps to coordinate the care and treatment of citizens with HIV/AIDS.

National Security Council (NSC)
The National Security Council is the President’s principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. The Council advises and assists the President on national security and foreign policy issues. The Council also serves as the President’s principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies.

Federal S&T Agencies

Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The Department of Agriculture works on issues related to food, farming and natural resources, as well as the communities and industries that depend on them. They also address issues of food access, rural development, health and hunger both in the United States and abroad.

Department of Energy (DOE)
The Department of Energy’s mission is to foster a secure and reliable energy system that is environmentally and economically sustainable, to be a responsible steward of the Nation’s nuclear weapons, and to support the United States’ continued leadership in science and technology.

Department of Commerce (DOC)
The Department of Commerce promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and improved living standards by working in partnership with business, universities, communities and workers to promote U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace. DOC also strives to keep America competitive in science, technology and information, and to ensure sustainable economic opportunities for the future through natural resource management and protection.

Department of Defense (DOD)
The Department of Defense provides the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of the United States.

Department of the Interior (DOI)
The Department of the Interior encourages and provides for the appropriate management, preservation, and operation of public lands and natural resources for use and conservation both now and in the future. Toward this goal, the Department carries out scientific research and investigations for the sound development, use and protection of natural resources. The DOI also carries out trust responsibilities of the U.S. Government with respect to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Department of Transportation (DOT)
The Department of Transportation works to create and support a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system throughout the United States that meets national needs and enhances the quality of life of the American people.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
EPA’s purpose is to ensure that all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work. EPA works to ensure that environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry and international trade.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA’s mission is to advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the Earth, the solar system and the universe. NASA also seeks to advance human exploration, use and development of space and to research, develop, verify and transfer advanced aeronautics and space technologies.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The mission of the NIH is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward this by conducting research in its own laboratories and supporting the research of non-federal scientists in universities, medical schools, hospitals and research institutions throughout the country and abroad. NIH also assists in the training of research investigators and promotes communication of medical information.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
NIST seeks to strengthen the U.S. economy and improve quality of life by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards. NIST also works to provide U.S. industry with the world’s best technical infrastructure and return the best possible value to the economy and society.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA’s role is to predict environmental changes, protect life and property, provide decision makers with reliable scientific information, and foster global environmental stewardship.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
The National Science Foundation is an independent U.S. government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through programs that invest in research and education projects in science and engineering.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The Department of Health and Human Services is the U.S. government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. HHS represents almost a quarter of all federal outlays, and administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined. The HHS Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than 1 billion claims per year. Medicare and Medicaid together provide health care insurance for one in four Americans.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services. It works to protect public health and safety through communicating health information and supporting projects to control and prevent health problems among all citizens.

Department of Education (DOEd)
The Department of Education has jurisdiction over education issues, particularly education quality and equal access. DOEd establishes federal financial aid policies, collects data on U.S. schools, and sets education standards.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The FDA, an agency within HHS, is responsible for the safety and regulation of food and drugs in the United States. This includes sanitation, vaccinations, medical devices, electronic products, cosmetics, dietary supplements, product labelling, tobacco, and public health issues.

Department of State
The Department of State is responsible for international relations of the United States. This includes issues of international business and commerce, as well as cooperation and information exchanges across borders on issues such as pollution control, nuclear affairs, communicable diseases, humanitarian crises, and narcotics trafficking.

Department of Justice
The mission of the Department of Justice is to enforce the law, ensure public safety against both foreign and domestic threats, prevent and control crime, and ensure impartial adminstration of justice for all citizens.

Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
The mission of the VA is to protect and defend the interests of US veterans by providing services such as health care, vocational training, and family support for those who have served in the armed forces.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
The DHS is responsible for protecting the U.S. from threats of all kinds. This includes issues of aviation, border security, emergency response systems, and cybersecurity.