An Exploratory Analysis of Trends in Text Data from Congressional Oversight Hearings

by Marek N. Posard, Hilary Reininger, Christian Johnson

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The U.S. Congress exercises oversight over federal agencies (including the U.S. Department of Defense) through various committees. Trends in what is said in these committees could signal the emergence of salient issues for policymakers. For example, if members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) talk about diversity in the military over several years, then it might suggest that diversity-related issues are becoming more salient. This trend could be a signal for policymakers at various levels within the Pentagon to prepare for questions from Congress about these issues.

To this end, RAND researchers developed a workflow that draws on various tools for acquiring and organizing large volumes of data from HASC and SASC. In this Perspective, they describe a proof of concept for how to acquire and begin analyzing text data for policy analysis. One could use this workflow to develop a more sophisticated toolkit for analyzing congressional text data.

This Perspective was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This publication is part of the RAND Corporation Perspective series. RAND Perspectives present expert insights on timely policy issues. All RAND Perspectives undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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