Update on CRS Annual Reports

On Halloween we posted a spooky story on the disappearance of CRS’s Annual Reports. The annual reports to Congress explain what the agency has been doing the past year — and what it plans to do — and, for our purposes, contain some useful statistical data that we want for a report we are writing on how usage of CRS’s services have changed over time. The reports contain other information, such the priorities for the components inside CRS, management’s focus, and a list of all CRS reports issued that year.

The thing is, we were able to find CRS’s Annual Reports from 1971-1980, and from 1995 to present, but a huge tranche of the reports were missing. The October blogpost details everywhere that we (unsuccessfully) looked, including our efforts to go through unofficial and semi-official channels to obtain copies. Finally, we submitted this public records request to the Library on August 8, 2019. This Friday would have marked six months since our request. (Six months for documents that likely were originally publicly available, at least at the time of submission!)

We reached out again to the Library this week through official and unofficial channels to ask why we hadn’t received any response. Yesterday, the Library responded. It tried to email us the responsive files, but its email system automatically stripped the attachments because they were too large. Nonetheless, today the Library was able to share the files to us through a drop-box like system, and we’ve received them and published them online here.

Accordingly, we now have all reports from 1971-2018; as the Legislative Reference was reorganized into the Congressional Research Service in 1970, that means we have all the modern annual reports.

A quick scan suggest the annual reports show how the agency has grown and matured during the 1980s and 1990s. There are some redactions inside the newly-received reports. It’s odd because the reports we have from the 1970s were not redacted at all, and the later reports were not redacted except for the omission of the list of CRS report sissued during the prior years (which itself is odd). It seems the redactions may be focused on identifying particular individuals and projects, but we’re not entirely sure.

We cannot imagine it was fun for the public records office to review the reports, but we appreciate their efforts to respond to the requests, even if it took far longer than we had hoped.