Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade: Key Issues for the 109th Congress

The 109th Congress will likely address a number of pressing foreign affairs, defense and trade issues. This report identifies the issues most likely to be taken up in the first session, and provides information and analysis to support Congress in shaping U.S. policy on these key issues. The report also provides lists of selected CRS products that provide more detailed analysis. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress has increasingly been confronted with issues relating to the war on terrorism and homeland security. Congress will likely be particularly interested in the cost and progress of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including reconstruction efforts, the ongoing war against terrorism in other parts of the world, Middle East stability and peace initiatives, Asian security, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Each of these topics receives particular attention in this report. In addition to identifying key foreign policy challenges affecting U.S. interests around the globe, this report also describes the various means, both legislative and oversight, by which Congress will likely shape U.S. policy. Major decisions relating to foreign economic and security programs are discussed in the context of authorization legislation, and annual appropriation and supplemental appropriation requests, including ongoing military operations, reconstruction efforts, global health programs, and global counter-terrorism activities. The report also examines how U.S. relations with countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Africa may affect U.S. interests such as counterterrorism, non-proliferation, and counter-narcotic programs. It identifies possible flash points -- the Korean Peninsula, Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts -- that may arise during the year. Defense issues will likely be topics of considerable interest in the 109th Congress, including providing the proper level of funding for current military operations, guiding Department of Defense "transformation" initiatives, setting priorities on major weapons systems, and determining the proper size of military forces. Other defense issues covered include base realignment and closure and overseas basing requirements, special operations forces, ballistic missile defense, military personnel issues, and defense business operations. The 109th Congress likely will be faced with an extensive trade agenda which will include the possible renewal of the President's trade promotion authority and consideration of bilateral free trade agreements with Bahrain, the nations of the Central American Common Market, and the Dominican Republic, as well as the monitoring of ongoing free trade negotiations with a number of other nations. Other trade issues covered in the report include World Trade Organization related legislation, the end of textile and apparel quotas, trade deficit concerns, and efforts to rewrite and reauthorize the Export Administration Act. This report will not be updated.