Intelligence and National Security

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Cybersecurity: Selected Issues for the 115th Congress

Cybersecurity has been gaining attention as a national issue for the past decade. During this time, the country has witnessed cyber incidents affecting both public and private sector systems and data. These incidents have included attacks in which data was stolen, altered, or access to it was disrupted or denied. The frequency of these attacks, and their effects on the U.S. economy, national security, and people’s lives have driven cybersecurity issues to the forefront of congressional policy conversations. This report provides an overview of selected cybersecurity concepts and a...

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations

Venezuela is in the midst of a political crisis under the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Narrowly elected to a six-year term in 2013 following the death of populist President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), Maduro is deeply unpopular. Nevertheless, he has used the courts, security forces, and electoral council to repress and divide the opposition, grouped in the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition.

From March through July 2017, protesters called for President Maduro to release political prisoners, respect the MUD-led...

Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

The Sultanate of Oman has been a strategic ally of the United States since 1980, when it became the first of the Persian Gulf states to sign a formal accord permitting the U.S. military to use its facilities. Oman has hosted U.S. forces during every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since then, and it is a partner in U.S. efforts to counter regional terrorism and related threats. Oman’s ties to the United States are unlikely to loosen if its ailing leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said, leaves the scene in the near term. He underwent cancer treatment abroad for nearly a year...

Defense Primer: A Guide for New Members

CRS has developed a series of short primers to give Members of Congress an overview of key aspects of the Department of Defense and how Congress exercises authority over it. A consolidated list of these primers is contained in this report, along with links to each document

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Joint Resolution Seeks to End U.S. Support for Saudi-led Coalition Military Operations in Yemen

In February 2018, Senators Sanders, Lee, and Murphy introduced S.J.Res. 54, a joint resolution that would direct the President to remove U.S. forces from “hostilities in or affecting” Yemen (except for those U.S. forces engaged in counterterrorism operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces). Since March 2015, the U.S. military has supported military operations in Yemen by a coalition of countries led by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The coalition operations, including airstrikes, have supported a broader campaign to reinstate the internationally recognized government of...

Iraq: In Brief

Iraq’s government declared military victory against the terrorist insurgents of the Islamic State group (IS, aka ISIS/ISIL) in December 2017, and Iraqis are shifting their attention toward recovery and the country’s political future. Security conditions have improved but remain fluid, and daunting resettlement, reconstruction, and reform needs occupy citizens and decisionmakers. National legislative elections are scheduled for May 2018, and campaigning reflects issues stemming from the 2014-2017 conflict with the Islamic State as well as a range of preexisting internal disputes and...

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 115th Congress

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to implement trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover areas such as U.S. trade negotiations, U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries, international institutions focused on trade, tariff and nontariff barriers, worker dislocation due to trade liberalization, enforcement of trade laws and trade agreement commitments,...

Guns, Excise Taxes, Wildlife Restoration, and the National Firearms Act

Federal taxes on firearms and ammunition are collected through different methods and used for different purposes, depending on the nature of the firearms. Some tax receipts are used for wildlife restoration and for hunter education and safety, for example, whereas others are deposited into the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury. The assessment of these taxes and the uses of generated revenues are routinely of interest to many in Congress.

In general, taxes on the manufacture of firearms (including pistols and revolvers as well as rifles and other long guns) and ammunition are collected as...

Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy In Brief

Afghanistan has been a central U.S. foreign policy concern since 2001, when the United States, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led a military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored and supported Al Qaeda. In the intervening 16 years, the United States has suffered more than 2,000 casualties in Afghanistan (including 14 in 2017) and has spent more than $120 billion for reconstruction there. In that time, an elected Afghan government has replaced the Taliban, and nearly every measure of human development has improved, although future...

Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

The State of Qatar has employed its ample financial resources to exert significant regional influence and avoid domination by Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the alliance of six Gulf monarchies called the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman). Qatar has intervened in several regional conflicts, including in Syria and Libya, and has engaged with both Sunni Islamist and Iran-backed Shiite groups in Lebanon, Sudan, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Qatar has maintained consistent dialogue with Iran while also supporting...

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party authoritarian state with a poor record on human rights. Current President Raúl Castro succeeded his long-ruling brother Fidel Castro in 2006, and he is expected to step down in April 2018. Most observers see First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel as the “heir apparent” as president, although Raúl likely will continue in his position as first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party. Under Raúl, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes over the past decade, but critics maintain that the government has not taken enough action to foster...

The Budget Control Act: Frequently Asked Questions

When there is concern with deficit or debt levels, Congress will sometimes implement budget enforcement mechanisms to mandate specific budgetary policies or fiscal outcomes. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25), which was signed into law on August 2, 2011, includes several such mechanisms.

The BCA as amended has three main components that currently affect the annual budget. One component imposes annual statutory discretionary spending limits for defense and nondefense spending. A second component requires annual reductions to the initial discretionary spending limits...

Defense Spending Under an Interim Continuing Resolution: In Brief

This report provides a basic overview of interim continuing resolutions (CRs) and highlights some specific issues pertaining to operations of the Department of Defense (DOD) under a CR.

As with regular appropriations bills, Congress can draft a CR to provide funding in many different ways. Under current practice, a CR is an appropriation that provides either interim or full-year funding by referencing a set of established funding levels for the projects and activities that it funds (or covers). Such funding may be provided for a period of days, weeks, or months and may be extended through...

The European Union: Questions and Answers

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among sovereign countries. The EU is the latest stage in a process of integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to foster interdependence and make another war in Europe unthinkable. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and has helped to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity throughout the European continent.

The EU has been built through a series of binding...

Iran Sanctions

The multilateral nuclear accord (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) provides Iran broad relief from U.S., U.N., and multilateral sanctions on Iran’s civilian economic sectors, including U.S. secondary sanctions (sanctions on foreign firms that do business with Iran). On January 16, 2016, upon the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certification that Iran had complied with the stipulated nuclear dismantlement commitments, U.S. Administration waivers of relevant sanctions laws took effect, relevant executive orders (E.O.s) were revoked, and corresponding U.N. and EU...

Appropriations: CRS Experts

Agriculture appropriations; Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations; Department of Defense appropriations, Energy and Water appropriations; Financial Services and General Provisions Government-wide appropriations; Departments of Homeland Security appropriations; Department of Interior, Environment appropriations; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations, Legislative Branch appropriations; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations, Department of State, Foreign Operations appropriations, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations.

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

An uprising against Bahrain’s Al Khalifa ruling family that began on February 14, 2011, has diminished in intensity, but incarceration of dissident leaders, opposition boycotts of elections, and periodic small demonstrations continue. The mostly Shiite opposition to the Sunni-minority-led regime has not achieved its goal of establishing a constitutional monarchy, but the unrest has compelled the ruling family to undertake modest reforms. The mainstream opposition uses peaceful forms of dissent, but small factions, possibly backed by Iran, reportedly are stockpiling increasingly...

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons

Recent debates about U.S. nuclear weapons have questioned what role weapons with shorter ranges and lower yields can play in addressing emerging threats in Europe and Asia. These weapons, often referred to as nonstrategic nuclear weapons, have not been limited by past U.S.-Russian arms control agreements, although some analysts argue such limits would be of value, particularly in addressing Russia’s greater numbers of these types of weapons. Others have argued that the United States should expand its deployments of these weapons, in both Europe and Asia, to address new risks of war...

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2018 Budget and Appropriations

The 115th Congress is considering FY2018 funding levels for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS). President Donald J. Trump submitted his FY2018 budget request to Congress on May 23, 2017. The request seeks $40.25 billion (-30% compared with FY2017 enacted) for SFOPS, including Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. Of this total, $13.20 billion (-27% compared with FY2017 enacted) would be for the Department of State Operations and related programs. For Foreign Operations, the FY2018 request includes $27.05 billion (-31% compared with FY2017...

Iran: Politics, Human Rights, and U.S. Policy

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the United States and Iran have been broadly at odds. During the 1980s and 1990s, U.S. officials identified Iran’s support for militant Middle East groups as the primary threat posed by Iran to U.S. interests and allies. Iran’s nuclear program took precedence in U.S. policy after 2002 as the potential for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon increased. Beginning in 2010, the United States orchestrated broad international economic pressure on Iran to persuade it to agree to strict limits on the program—pressure that contributed to the June 2013...

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides an overview of the key issues for Congress related to Egypt and U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.

Historically, Egypt has been an important country for U.S. national security interests based on its geography, demography, and diplomatic posture. The United States has provided significant military and economic assistance to Egypt since the late 1970s. Successive U.S. Administrations have justified aid to Egypt as an investment in regional stability, built primarily on long-running cooperation with the Egyptian military and on sustaining the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty....

Kuwait: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Kuwait remains pivotal to U.S. efforts to secure the Persian Gulf region because of its consistent cooperation with U.S. strategy and operations in the region, and its strategic location in the northern Gulf. Kuwait and the United States have a formal Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), under which the United States maintains over 13,000 military personnel in country and prepositioned military equipment in Kuwait to project power in the region. Only Germany, Japan, and South Korea host more U.S. troops than does Kuwait.

Kuwait usually acts in concert not only with the United States but...

Al Qaeda and U.S. Policy: Middle East and Africa

After a more than a decade and a half of combating Al Qaeda (AQ) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States faces a diverse array of threats from Al Qaeda affiliates in the Middle East and Africa. While senior Al Qaeda figures reportedly remain based in Pakistan, the network includes a number of affiliates across the Middle East and Africa including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Al Shabaab. Al Qaeda also retains a small but possibly growing presence in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have stated that Al Qaeda still maintains a...

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. After more than 20 hearings, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26. Both houses of the Russian parliament—the Duma and Federation Council—approved the treaty in late January 2011, and it entered into force on February 5, 2011, after Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification. Reductions were to be implemented by February 5, 2018, a goal met by both parties.

New START provides the parties with 7 years...

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act: History, Impact, and Issues

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) culminated years of effort by state and local government officials and business interests to control, if not eliminate, the imposition of unfunded intergovernmental and private-sector federal mandates. Advocates argued the statute was needed to forestall federal legislation and regulations that imposed obligations on state and local governments or businesses that resulted in higher costs and inefficiencies. Opponents argued that federal mandates may be necessary to achieve national objectives in areas where voluntary action by state and local...

U.S. Security Assistance and Security Cooperation Programs: Overview of Funding Trends

Since FY2006, the United States government has provided more than $200 billion for programs providing security assistance and security cooperation to foreign countries. The Departments of State (DOS) and Defense (DOD) are the primary U.S. government agencies involved in providing security sector assistance and related support to foreign governments, militaries, and international organizations and groups.

Congress has authorized security assistance programs through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA, P.L. 87-195) and the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA, P.L. 90-629), as amended....

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities challenge governments, businesses, and individuals worldwide. Attacks have been initiated against individuals, corporations, and countries. Targets have included government networks, companies, and political organizations, depending upon whether the attacker was seeking military intelligence, conducting diplomatic or industrial espionage, engaging in cybercrime, or intimidating political activists. In addition, national borders mean little or nothing to cyberattackers, and attributing an attack to a specific location can be difficult, which may make responding...

The U.S. Export Control System and the Export Control Reform Initiative

Difficulty with striking an appropriate balance between national security and export competitiveness has made the subject of export controls controversial for decades. Through the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and other authorities, the United States restricts the export of defense items or munitions; dual-use goods and technology; certain nuclear materials and technology; and items that would assist in the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or the missile technology used to deliver them. U.S. export...

The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a significant U.S. partner in Gulf security for more than two decades, helping to address multiple regional threats, and benefitting from long-standing and extensive defense cooperation with the United States. About 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at UAE military facilities, hosted there under a 1994 U.S.-UAE defense cooperation agreement (DCA) that remains in effect by mutual agreement. The UAE was the first Gulf state to order the most sophisticated missile defense system sold by the United States (the THAAD), demonstrating support for...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2018

President Trump’s budget request for FY2018 includes $117.697 billion for research and development (R&D). This represents a $30.605 billion (20.6%) decrease from the FY2016 actual level of $148.302 billion (FY2017 enacted levels were not available at the time of publication). Adjusted for inflation, the President’s FY2018 R&D request represents a constant dollar decrease of 23.6% from the FY2016 actual level.

However, in 2016 the Office of Management and Budget changed the definition used for “development” to “experimental development.” This new definition was used in calculating R&D in...

DNA Testing in Criminal Justice: Background, Current Law, and Grants

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is the fundamental building block for an individual’s entire genetic makeup. DNA is a powerful tool for law enforcement investigations because each person’s DNA is different from that of every other individual (except for identical twins). DNA can be extracted from a number of sources, such as hair, bone, teeth, saliva, and blood. As early as the 1980s, states began enacting laws that required the collection of DNA samples from offenders convicted of certain sexual and other violent crimes. The samples are analyzed and their profiles entered into state...

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies

Iran’s national security policy is the product of many, and sometimes competing, factors: the ideology of Iran’s Islamic revolution; Iranian leaders’ perception of threats to the regime and to the country; long-standing Iranian national interests; and the interaction of the Iranian regime’s various factions and constituencies.

Iran seeks to ensure that U.S. or other efforts to invade or intimidate it or to change its regime cannot succeed.

Iran has sought to take advantage of opportunities of regional conflicts overturn a power structure in the Middle East that Iran asserts favors the...

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is an interagency body comprised of nine Cabinet members, two ex officio members, and other members as appointed by the President, that assists the President in overseeing the national security aspects of foreign direct investment in the U.S. economy. While the group often operated in relative obscurity, the perceived change in the nation’s national security and economic concerns following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the proposed acquisition of commercial operations at six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World in...

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses in Short

As a general rule, federal judges must impose a minimum term of imprisonment upon defendants convicted of various controlled substance (drug) offenses and drug-related offenses. The severity of those sentences depends primarily upon the nature and amount of the drugs involved, the defendant’s prior criminal record, any resulting injuries or death, and in the case of the related firearms offenses, the manner in which the firearm was used.

The drug offenses reside principally in the Controlled Substances Act or the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. The drug-related firearms...

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing of Federal Drug Offenses

As a general rule, federal judges must impose a minimum term of imprisonment upon defendants convicted of various controlled substance (drug) offenses and drug-related offenses. The severity of those sentences depends primarily upon the nature and amount of the drugs involved, the defendant’s prior criminal record, any resulting injuries or death, and in the case of the related firearms offenses, the manner in which the firearm was used.

The drug offenses reside principally in the Controlled Substances Act or the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. The drug-related firearms...

Budget Enforcement Procedures: The Senate Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) Rule

The Senate pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, rule generally requires that any legislation projected to increase direct spending or reduce revenues must also include equivalent amounts of direct spending cuts, revenue increases, or a combination of the two so that the legislation does not increase the on-budget deficit in the current fiscal year, the budget year, a six-year period, or an 11-year period (the latter two periods beginning with the current fiscal year). Without such offsetting provisions, the legislation would require the support of at least 60 Senators to waive the rule and be...

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

Libya’s political transition has been disrupted by armed non-state groups and threatened by the indecision and infighting of interim leaders. After an armed uprising ended the 40-plus-year rule of Muammar al Qadhafi in late 2011, interim authorities proved unable to form a stable government, address pressing security issues, reshape the country’s public finances, or create a viable framework for post-conflict justice and reconciliation.

Elections for legislative bodies and a constitutional drafting assembly were held and transparently administered in 2012 and 2014, but were marred by...

Kosovo: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia), the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community, and the active presence of the United States in the region referred to as the Western Balkans, provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to pursue reform and adopt Western values. During this time, Slovenia (2004) and Croatia (2013) joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania (2009), also joined the North...

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. The United States held the two-year, rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council from April 24, 2015, to May 11, 2017.

Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These...

Serbia: Background and U.S. Relations

Following the conflicts in the late 1990s in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the prospect of membership in the Euro-Atlantic community and the active presence of the United States in the Western Balkan region provided a level of stability that allowed most of the countries of the region to pursue reform and adopt Western values. During this time, Slovenia and Croatia joined the European Union (EU). These countries, along with Albania, also joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member on June 3, 2017. Other nations of the Balkans are at...

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Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget, as amended on May 24, 2017, requests the procurement of nine new ships, including one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carrier, two Virginia-class attack submarines, two DDG-51 class destroyers, two Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), one TAO-205 class oiler, and one towing, salvage, and rescue ship.

On December...

Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress

CVN-78, CVN-79, CVN-80, and CVN-81 are the first four ships in the Navy’s new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs).

CVN-78 was procured in FY2008. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget estimates the ship’s procurement cost at $12,907.0 million (i.e., about $12.9 billion) in then-year dollars. The ship received advance procurement funding in FY2001-FY2007 and was fully funded in FY2008-FY2011 using congressionally authorized four-year incremental funding. To help cover cost growth on the ship, the ship received an additional $1,374.9 million in...

The Purple Heart: Background and Issues for Congress

The Purple Heart is one of the oldest and most recognized American military medals, awarded to servicemembers who were killed or wounded by enemy action. The conflicts of the last decade have greatly increased the number of Purple Hearts awarded to servicemembers.

Events over the past few years have spurred debate on the eligibility criteria for the Purple Heart. Shootings on U.S. soil and medical conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have prompted changes to the eligibility requirements for the Purple Heart. Some critics believe that...

Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Plant and Plutonium Disposition: Management and Policy Issues

The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) in South Carolina has been a key component of the current U.S. strategy for disposing of surplus weapons plutonium from the Cold War. Disposition of surplus plutonium is required by a 1998 agreement, amended in 2010, between the United States and the Russian Federation. Each country agreed to convert 34 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium to a form that could not be returned to nuclear weapons, to begin in 2018. Russia suspended its participation in the agreement in October 2016 due to what it called “hostile actions” by the...

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

The United States, partner countries, and the Afghan government are attempting to reverse recent gains made by the resilient Taliban-led insurgency since the December 2014 transition to a smaller international mission consisting primarily of training and advising the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The Afghan government has come under increasing domestic criticism not only for failing to prevent insurgent gains but also for its internal divisions that have spurred the establishment of new political opposition coalitions. In September 2014, the United States...

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is a key issue in U.S. defense planning and budgeting.

China has been steadily building a modern and powerful navy since the early to mid-1990s. China’s navy has become a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.

Observers view China’s improving naval capabilities as...

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense—Issues for Congress

World events in recent years have led observers, particularly since late 2013, to conclude that the international security environment in recent years has undergone a shift from the post-Cold War era that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, also sometimes known as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power), to a new and different situation that features, among other things, renewed great power competition with China and Russia and challenges by these two countries and others to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.

A...

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs

Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who have worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some...

Taylor Force Act: Palestinian Terrorism-Related Payments and U.S. Aid

Some Members of Congress have increased their scrutiny of the Palestinian practice of providing payments to some Palestinians (and/or their families) who have been imprisoned for or accused of terrorism by Israel. Critics have asserted that because money is fungible, any aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority (PA) could indirectly support such payments. Congress may consider legislation—most of the bills are known as the Taylor Force Act—that could supersede existing provisions on the subject in annual appropriations legislation. The impact that the legislation could have on...

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress

China’s actions for asserting and defending its maritime territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims in the East China (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS) have heightened concerns among observers that China may be seeking to dominate or gain control of its near-seas region, meaning the ECS, the SCS, and the Yellow Sea. Chinese domination over or control of this region could substantially affect U.S. strategic, political, and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.

China is a party to multiple territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS, including, in particular,...

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy has been procuring Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class Aegis destroyers since FY1985. The two DDG-51s requested for procurement in FY2018 are to be the 78th and 79th ships in the class.

DDG-51s procured in FY2013-FY2017 were procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract. As part of its FY2018 budget submission, the Navy is requesting authority to use another MYP contract to procure DDG-51s in FY2018-FY2022. The Navy plans to shift in FY2016 or FY2017 to a new variant of the DDG-51, called the Flight III DDG-51, that is to incorporate a new and more capable radar called the Air...

Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

As part of its FY2018 budget submission, the Navy has initiated a new program, called the FFG(X) program, to build a new class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). The Navy wants to procure the first FFG(X) in FY2020, the second in FY2021, and the remaining 18 at a rate of two per year in FY2022-FY2030. Given current Navy force-structure goals, the Navy wants to procure a notional total of 20 FFG(X)s. The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $143.5 million in research and development funding for the program.

U.S. Navy frigates are smaller, less capable, and less expensive to procure and...

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines since FY1998. The two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2018 are to be the 27th and 28th boats in the class. The 10 Virginia-class boats programmed for procurement in FY2014-FY2018 (two per year for five years) are being procured under a multiyear-procurement (MYP) contract.

The Navy estimates the combined procurement cost of the two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2018 at $5,532.7 million, or an average of $2,766.4 million each. The boats have received a total of...

Navy John Lewis (TAO-205) Class Oiler Shipbuilding Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler shipbuilding program, previously known as the TAO(X) program, is a program to build a new class of 20 fleet oilers for the Navy. The primary role of Navy fleet oilers is to transfer fuel to Navy surface ships that are operating at sea, so as to extend the operating endurance of these surface ships and their embarked aircraft. The first ship in the TAO-205 program was funded in FY2016 at a cost of $674.2 million and is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in November 2020.

As part of its proposed FY2018 budget, the Navy is requesting the procurement of...

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program is a program to procure a total of about 32 relatively inexpensive surface combatants equipped with modular mission packages. The first LCS was procured in FY2005, and a total of 29 have been procured through FY2017.

For FY2018, the Navy is requesting the procurement of the 30th and 31st LCSs. The Navy’s FY2018 five-year shipbuilding plan includes a 32nd LCS in FY2019. Starting in FY2020, the Navy wants to shift from procuring LCSs to procuring a new guided-missile frigate called the FFG(X). The design of the FFG(X) is to be based on either the...

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress

In the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Navy has carried out a variety of irregular warfare (IW) and counterterrorism (CT) activities. Among the most readily visible of these were operations carried out by Navy sailors serving ashore in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and the May 1-2, 2011, U.S. military operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden.

During these years, the Navy took certain actions intended to improve its IW capabilities. For example, the Navy established the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) informally in October...

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress

The Navy is currently developing three potential new weapons that could improve the ability of its surface ships to defend themselves against enemy missiles—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the hypervelocity projectile (HVP).

Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution. Rarely has the Navy...

Lebanon

Since having its boundaries drawn by France after the First World War, Lebanon has struggled to define its national identity. Unlike other countries in the region, its population included Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shia Muslim communities of roughly comparable size, and with competing visions for the country. Seeking to avoid sectarian conflict, Lebanese leaders created a confessional system that allocated power among the country’s religious sects according to their percentage of the population. The system was based on Lebanon’s last official census, which was conducted in 1932.

As...

Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress

The United States and Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December 1987. Negotiations on this treaty were the result of a “dual-track” decision taken by NATO in 1979. At that time, in response to concerns about the Soviet Union’s deployment of new intermediate-range nuclear missiles, NATO agreed both to accept deployment of new U.S. intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles and to support U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Soviet Union to limit these missiles. In the INF Treaty, the United States and Soviet Union agreed that they would ban all...

Nuclear Negotiations with North Korea: In Brief

Some analysts have suggested that, in response to the accelerated pace of North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs and its continued threats against the United States and U.S. allies, the United States might engage in an aggressive negotiation strategy. Since the early 1990s, successive U.S. Presidents have faced the question of whether to negotiate with the North Korean government to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear program and ambitions. Questions for policymakers include the utility, timing, scope, and goals of diplomatic talks with Pyongyang.

The United States has engaged in four...

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects

When federal agencies and programs lack funding after the expiration of full-year or interim appropriations, the agencies and programs experience a funding gap. If funding does not resume in time to continue government operations, then, under the Antideficiency Act, an agency must cease operations, except in certain situations when law authorizes continued activity. The criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected are complex.

Failure of the President and Congress to reach agreement on full-year or interim funding measures occasionally has...

Colombia’s Changing Approach to Drug Policy

Colombia is one of the largest producers of cocaine globally, and it also produces heroin bound for the United States. Counternarcotics policy has long been a key component of the U.S.-Colombian relationship, which some analysts have described as “driven by drugs.” In recent years, Colombia revised its approach to counternarcotics policy, which may have implications for the U.S.-Colombian relationship going forward. On September 13, 2017, President Trump cited the recent spike in Colombia’s cocaine production as the reason he was reserving the option to decertify Colombia as a cooperating...

Funding Gaps and Government Shutdowns: CRS Experts

Contacting CRS Subject Matter Experts

In the event of a funding gap, the potential impacts of a government shutdown would depend on a program’s or agency’s specific circumstances and, furthermore, how relevant law is interpreted. Table 1 provides names and contact information for CRS subject matter experts on policy concerns and legal issues relating to funding gaps and the processes and effects that may be associated with a government shutdown. Policy areas that are identified in Table 1 include

agencies and programs funded by specific regular appropriations bills;

cross-cutting shutdown...

Egypt: Terrorist Attack in the Sinai Peninsula

Background

Terrorists based in the Sinai Peninsula have been waging an insurgency against the Egyptian government for more than six years. While the terrorist landscape in Egypt is evolving and encompasses several groups, Sinai Province (SP) is known as the most lethal. Since its affiliation with the Islamic State in 2014, SP has attacked the Egyptian military continually, targeted Coptic Christian individuals and places of worship, and occasionally fired rockets into Israel. In October 2015, SP targeted Russian tourists departing the Sinai by allegedly planting a bomb aboard Metrojet...

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global influence through its administration of the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s. In recent years, shared concerns over Sunni Islamist extremist terrorism and Iranian government policies have provided some renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation. Political upheaval and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa have created new challenges, and...

Cybersecurity: State, Local, and International Authoritative Reports and Resources

Much is written by and about state, local, and international government efforts to address cybersecurity policy issues. This report and the CRS reports listed below link to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. It includes resources and studies from government agencies (federal, state, local, and international), think tanks, academic institutions, news organizations, and other sources. These sources are listed in reverse chronological order, with an emphasis on materials published in the past several years.

This report is intended to serve as a starting...

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources

Critical infrastructure is defined in the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56, §1016(e)) as “systems and assets, physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health and safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Presidential Decision Directive 63, or PDD-63, identified activities whose critical infrastructures should be protected: information and communications; banking and finance; water supply; aviation, highways, mass transit,...

Iraq: Background and U.S. Policy

The 115th Congress and the Trump Administration are considering options for U.S. engagement with Iraq as Iraqis look beyond the immediate security challenges posed by their intense three-year battle with the insurgent terrorists of the Islamic State organization (IS, aka ISIL/ISIS). While Iraq’s military victory over Islamic State forces is now virtually complete, Iraq’s underlying political and economic challenges are daunting and cooperation among the forces arrayed to defeat IS extremists has already begun to fray. The future of volunteer Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the terms...

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism—Legislative Parameters: In Brief

Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are identified by the U.S. government as countries with governments that support acts of international terrorism. While it is the President’s authority to designate, and remove from designation, terrorist states, Congress has some legislative authority to weigh in as the reviews proceed. In recent years, other foreign policy and national security decisions have butted up against the designation: to delist Cuba in the course of normalizing other aspects of the bilateral relationship; to enter into a multilateral agreement involving Iran’s nuclear weapons...

Australia: Background and U.S. Relations

The Commonwealth of Australia and the United States enjoy a close alliance relationship. Australia shares many cultural traditions and values with the United States and has been a treaty ally since the signing of the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) Treaty in 1951. Australia made major contributions to the allied cause in the First and Second World Wars, and the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Australia is also a close intelligence partner through the “Five Eyes” group of nations. U.S. Marines are conducting rotational deployments in northern Australia. This...

Monuments and Memorials Authorized Under the Commemorative Works Act in the District of Columbia: Current Development of In-Progress and Lapsed Works

Under the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) of 1986, Congress may authorize commemorative works to be placed in the District of Columbia or its environs. Once a commemorative work has been authorized, Congress continues to be responsible for statutorily designating a memorial site location.

This report provides a status update on 12 in-progress memorials and 4 memorials with lapsed authorizations. For each monument or memorial, the report provides a rationale for the work as expressed in the Congressional Record or a House or Senate committee report; its statutory authority; the group or...

Congressional Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Legislative Considerations

Congressional advisory commissions are formal groups established to provide independent advice; make recommendations for changes in public policy; study or investigate a particular problem, issue, or event; or perform a duty. While no legal definition exists for what constitutes a “congressional commission,” in this report a congressional commission is defined as a multi-member independent entity that (1) is established by Congress, (2) exists temporarily, (3) serves in an advisory capacity, (4) is appointed in part or whole by Members of Congress, and (5) reports to Congress. These five...

Statute of Limitation in Federal Criminal Cases: An Overview

A statute of limitations dictates the time period within which a legal proceeding must begin. The purpose of a statute of limitations in a criminal case is to ensure the prompt prosecution of criminal charges and thereby spare the accused of the burden of having to defend against stale charges after memories may have faded or evidence is lost.

There is no statute of limitations for federal crimes punishable by death, nor for certain federal crimes of terrorism, nor for certain federal sex offenses. Prosecution for most other federal crimes must begin within five years of the commitment of...

Colombia: Background and U.S. Relations

Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, with roughly 49 million inhabitants. A key U.S. ally in the region, Colombia endured an internal armed conflict for half a century. Drug trafficking has fueled the violence by funding both left-wing and right-wing armed groups. In the late 1990s, some analysts feared Colombia—threatened by a multisided, violent conflict—would become a failed state. The Colombian government defied those predictions, however, through an evolving security strategy known as Plan Colombia. Originally designed as a six-year program, Plan Colombia...

Cybersecurity: Cybercrime and National Security Authoritative Reports and Resources

As online attacks grow in volume and sophistication, the United States is expanding its cybersecurity efforts. Cybercriminals continue to develop new ways to ensnare victims, whereas nation-state hackers compromise companies, government agencies, and businesses to create espionage networks and steal information. Threats come from both criminals and hostile countries, especially China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

Much is written on this topic, and this CRS report directs the reader to authoritative sources that address many of the most prominent issues. The annotated descriptions of...

Resolutions of Inquiry: An Analysis of Their Use in the House, 1947-2017

A resolution of inquiry is a simple resolution making a direct request or demand of the President or the head of an executive department to furnish the House with specific factual information in the Administration’s possession. Under the rules and precedents of the House of Representatives, such resolutions, if properly drafted, are given a privileged parliamentary status. This means that, under certain circumstances, a resolution of inquiry can be brought to the House floor for consideration even if the committee to which it was referred has not reported it and the majority party...

FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act

This report discusses the FY2018 defense budget request and provides a summary of congressional action on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The annual NDAA authorizes appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) and defense-related nuclear energy programs of the Department of Energy and typically includes provisions affecting DOD policies or organization. Unlike an appropriations bill, the NDAA does not provide budget authority for government activities.

The Trump Administration’s FY2018 budget request, released on May 23, 2017, included a total...

The Rohingya Crises in Bangladesh and Burma

A series of interrelated humanitarian crises, stemming from more than 600,000 ethnic Rohingya who have fled Burma into neighboring Bangladesh in less than 10 weeks, pose challenges for the Trump Administration and Congress on how best to respond.

The flight of refugees came following attacks on security outposts in Burma’s Rakhine State, reportedly by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an armed organization claiming it is defending the rights of the region’s predominately Muslim Rohingya minority, and an allegedly excessive military response by Burma’s military. Some of the...

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy

A refugee is a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year.

For FY2018, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 45,000. The FY2018 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (19,000), East...

The North Korean Nuclear Challenge: Military Options and Issues for Congress

North Korea’s apparently successful July 2017 tests of its intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, along with the possibility that North Korea (DPRK) may have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, have led analysts and policymakers to conclude that the window for preventing the DPRK from acquiring a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States is closing. These events appear to have fundamentally altered U.S. perceptions of the threat the Kim Jong-un regime poses to the continental United States and the international community, and escalated the standoff on the...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 114th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted by law to the President alone, or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 350 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 114th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

Information for each department is presented in tables. The tables include full-time positions confirmed by the Senate, pay...

Taiwan: Issues for Congress

Taiwan, which officially calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), is an island democracy of 23 million people located across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China. It is the United States’ tenth-largest trading partner. Since January 1, 1979, the U.S. relationship with Taiwan has been unofficial, a consequence of the Carter Administration’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and break formal diplomatic ties with self-ruled Taiwan, over which the PRC claims sovereignty. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA, P.L. 96-8; 22 U.S.C. 3301 et seq.),...

Niger: Frequently Asked Questions About the October 2017 Attack on U.S. Soldiers

A deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Niger and their local counterparts on October 4, 2017, has prompted many questions from Members of Congress about the incident. It has also highlighted a range of broader issues for Congress pertaining to oversight and authorization of U.S. military deployments, evolving U.S. global counterterrorism activities and strategy, interagency security assistance and cooperation efforts, and U.S. engagement with countries historically considered peripheral to core U.S. national security interests. This report provides background information in response to the...

Iran Nuclear Agreement

On July 14, 2015, Iran and the six powers that negotiated with Iran about its nuclear program since 2006 (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—collectively known as the P5+1) finalized a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA required constraints that seek to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program can be used for purely peaceful purposes in exchange for a broad lifting of U.S., European Union (EU), and United Nations (U.N.) sanctions on Iran. The agreement replaced a Joint Plan of Action (JPA) interim nuclear accord in effect from 2014 to...

Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal

Management of civilian radioactive waste has posed difficult issues for Congress since the beginning of the nuclear power industry in the 1950s. Federal policy is based on the premise that nuclear waste can be disposed of safely, but proposed storage and disposal facilities have frequently been challenged on safety, health, and environmental grounds. Although civilian radioactive waste encompasses a wide range of materials, most of the current debate focuses on highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants. The United States currently has no disposal facility for spent nuclear...

U.S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress

The overall U.S. role in the world since the end of World War II in 1945 (i.e., over the past 70 years) is generally described as one of global leadership and significant engagement in international affairs. A key aim of that role has been to promote and defend the open international order that the United States, with the support of its allies, created in the years after World War II. In addition to promoting and defending the open international order, the overall U.S. role is generally described as having been one of promoting freedom, democracy, and human rights, while criticizing and...

Bangladesh and Bangladesh-U.S. Relations

Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) is a Muslim-majority nation in South Asia, bordering India, Burma, and the Bay of Bengal. It is the world’s eighth most populous country with nearly 160 million people living in a land area about the size of Iowa. It is an economically poor nation, and it suffers from high levels of corruption. In recent years, its democratic system has faced an array of challenges, including political violence, weak governance, poverty, demographic and environmental strains, and Islamist militancy. The United States has a long-standing and supportive relationship with...

The Palestinians: Background and U.S. Relations

This report covers current issues in U.S.-Palestinian relations. It also contains an overview of Palestinian society and politics, along with descriptions of key Palestinian individuals and groups —chiefly the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah, Hamas (a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), and the Palestinian refugee population. The “Palestinian question” is important not only to Palestinians, Israelis, and their Arab state neighbors, but to many countries and nonstate actors in the region and around the world—including the United...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2017

This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past U.S. military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted. The listing often contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments, especially U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with...

Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy

This report analyzes state-to-state arms sales in the Middle East with a particular focus on U.S. transfers, as authorized and reviewed by Congress. The information in this report, including sales data, is drawn from a number of official and unofficial open sources.

Arms sales are an important tool that states can use to exercise their influence. The Middle East has long been a key driver of the global trade in weapons, disproportionately so when accounting for population. Some states in this heavily-militarized and contested region are major arms purchasers, empowered by partnerships with...

U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts

Many wars or conflicts in U.S. history have federally designated “periods of war,” dates marking their beginning and ending. These dates are important for qualification for certain veterans’ pension or disability benefits. Confusion can occur because beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” in many nonofficial sources are often different from those given in treaties and other official sources of information, and armistice dates can be confused with termination dates. This report lists the beginning and ending dates for “periods of war” found in Title 38 of the Code of Federal...

Overview of Continuing Appropriations for FY2018 (P.L. 115-56)

This report provides an analysis of the continuing appropriations provisions for FY2018 in Division D of H.R. 601. The measure also included separate divisions that establish a program to provide foreign assistance concerning basic education (Division A—Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act), supplemental appropriations for disaster relief requirements for FY2017 (Division B), and a temporary suspension of the public debt limit (Division C). On September 8, 2017, the President signed H.R. 601 into law (P.L. 115-56).

Division D of H.R. 601 was termed a “continuing...

Tanzania: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

Tanzania is an East African country comprising a union of Tanganyika, the mainland territory, and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago. The United States has long considered Tanzania a partner in economic development and, increasingly, in regional security efforts. With nearly 54 million people, Tanzania is one of the largest countries in Africa by population and is endowed with substantial natural resource wealth and agricultural potential. Over the past decade, it has experienced robust economic growth based largely on favorably high gold prices and tourism; growth has averaged nearly...

Congress’s Power Over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein

Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. Notably, it empowers federal courts to hear “cases” and “controversies.” The Constitution further creates a federal judiciary with significant independence, providing federal judges with life tenure and prohibiting diminutions of judges’ salaries. But the Framers also granted Congress the power to regulate the federal courts in numerous ways. For instance, Article III authorizes Congress to determine what classes of “cases” and “controversies” inferior courts have jurisdiction to review....

State Department Special Envoy, Representative, and Coordinator Positions: Background and Congressional Actions

The 115th Congress has expressed interest in monitoring the use of special envoys, representatives, and coordinator positions by the Department of State, as well as any changes to their status. Special, temporary diplomatic appointments originated during the presidency of George Washington, and the number of special representatives has expanded and contracted since then. Tabulating the precise number of these positions is difficult, however, because some special positions have fallen into disuse over time and were never officially eliminated.

Administration Action on Special Positions

It...

The Alien Tort Statute (ATS): A Primer

Passed by the First Congress as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) has been described as a provision “unlike any other in American law” and “unknown to any other legal system in the world.” In its current form, the complete text of the statute provides: “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” While just one sentence, the ATS has been the subject of intense interest in recent decades, as it has evolved from a little-known...

U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement: Prospects and Issues for Congress

Prospects for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the United Kingdom (UK) are of increasing interest for both sides. In a national referendum held on June 23, 2016, a majority of British voters supported the UK exiting the European Union (EU), a process known as “Brexit.” The Brexit referendum has prompted calls from some Members of Congress and the Trump Administration to launch U.S.-UK FTA negotiations, though other Members have moderated their support with calls to ensure that such negotiations do not constrain the promotion of broader transatlantic...

Small Business: Access to Capital and Job Creation

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) administers several programs to support small businesses, including loan guaranty and venture capital programs to enhance small business access to capital; contracting programs to increase small business opportunities in federal contracting; direct loan programs for businesses, homeowners, and renters to assist their recovery from natural disasters; and small business management and technical assistance training programs to assist business formation and expansion. Congressional interest in these programs has increased in recent years, primarily...

Paraguay: In Brief

Paraguay is a South American country wedged between Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil. It is about the size of California but has a population of less than 7 million. The country is known for its rather homogenous culture—a mix of Latin and Guarani influences, with 90% of the population speaking Guarani, a pre-Columbian language, in addition to Spanish. The Paraguayan economy is one of the most agriculturally dependent in the hemisphere and is largely shaped by the country’s production of cattle, soybeans, and other crops. In 2016, Paraguay grew by 4.1%; it is projected to sustain about 4.3%...

Stafford Act Declarations 1953-2016: Trends, Analyses, and Implications for Congress

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President to issue declarations that provide states, tribes, and localities with a range of federal assistance in response to natural and man-made incidents. Since 1953 the frequency of declarations has increased. For example, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 1960 to 1969 was roughly 18.6 per year. In contrast, the average number of major disaster declarations issued from 2000 to 2009 was 57.1 per year. The highest number was declared in 2011, with 97 major disaster...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Departmental Management and Operations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the first title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, the Office of the Under Secretary for Management, the DHS headquarters consolidation project, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Analysis and Operations, and the Office of Inspector General for the department....

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Transitional Reinsurance Program

Section 1341 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended) establishes a transitional reinsurance program that is designed to provide payment to non-grandfathered, non-group market health plans (also known as individual market health plans) that enroll high-risk enrollees for 2014 through 2016. Under the program, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) collects reinsurance contributions from health insurers and from third-party administrators on behalf of group health plans. The Secretary then uses those contributions to make...

Budget Actions in 2017

The Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, but does not dictate how Congress must fulfill this constitutional duty. Congress has, therefore, developed certain types of budgetary legislation, along with rules and practices that govern its content and consideration. This set of budgetary legislation, rules, and practices is often referred to as the congressional budget process.

There is no prescribed congressional budget process that must be strictly followed each year, and Congress does not always consider budgetary measures in a linear or predictable pattern. Such...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bills include funding for more than two dozen independent agencies in addition to the larger entities in the bill (Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the District of Columbia, and the judiciary). Among these are Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration (GSA), National...

Justice Department’s Role in Cyber Incident Response

Criminals and other malicious actors increasingly rely on the Internet and rapidly evolving technology to further their operations. In cyberspace, criminals can compromise financial assets, hacktivists can flood websites with traffic—effectively shutting them down, and spies can steal intellectual property and government secrets. When such cyber incidents occur, a number of questions arise, including how the federal government will react and which agencies will respond.

The Obama Administration, through Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-41, outlined how the government responds to...

State, Foreign Operations Appropriations: A Guide to Component Accounts

The State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations legislation provides annual funding for almost all of the international affairs programs generally considered as part of the 150 International Affairs Budget Function (the major exception being food assistance). The legislation has also served as a vehicle for Congress to place conditions on the expenditure of those funds, and express its views regarding certain foreign policy issues.

This report briefly discusses the legislation generally and then provides a short description of the various funding accounts as they appear...

Russia: Background and U.S. Policy

Over the last five years, Congress and the executive branch have closely monitored and responded to new developments in Russian policy. These developments include the following: increasingly authoritarian governance since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidential post in 2012; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine; violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; Moscow’s intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al Asad’s government; increased military activity in Europe; and cyber-related influence...

Domestic Terrorism: An Overview

The emphasis of counterterrorism policy in the United States since Al Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) has been on jihadist terrorism. However, in the last decade, domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements—have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country. Not all of these criminals have been prosecuted under federal terrorism statutes, which does not imply that domestic terrorists are taken any less seriously than other terrorists.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)...

Cuba Sanctions: Legislative Restrictions Limiting the Normalization of Relations

U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba date back to the early 1960s when the Cuban government under Fidel Castro began to build a repressive communist dictatorship and aligned with the Soviet Union. The trade embargo was first imposed in 1962 under the authority of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trading with the Enemy Act and soon broadened to include a prohibition on most financial transactions with Cuba. In 1963, the Department of the Treasury issued the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR); they remain the main body of embargo regulations today, and have been amended many times...

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: Selected Examples and Congressional Responses

Questions about the personal security and safety of Members of Congress and their staffs are of enduring concern for the House, Senate, and the United States Capitol Police (USCP). Broader interest in the media and among the public arises in the aftermath of incidents such as the June 14, 2017, attack on at least 17 Members of Congress, several staff, USCP officers, and members of the public in Alexandria, Virginia. In that incident, a Member was critically wounded, and others were injured during a shooting that occurred as Members were practicing for an annual congressional baseball...

Sifting Domestic Terrorism from Hate Crime and Homegrown Violent Extremism

In light of the violence related to protests in Charlottesville, VA, on August 12, 2017, policymakers may be interested in how the concepts of domestic terrorism, hate crime, and homegrown violent extremism compare with one another. They are fairly distinct ideas that federal law enforcement agencies use to categorize key types of criminals whose illegal activities are at least partly ideologically motivated. Specifically, these terms may be part of public discussion regarding a widely reported incident involving James Alex Fields, who according to witnesses drove his car into a group of...

Gun Control: FY2017 Appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Other Initiatives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to firearms and explosives commerce. ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, and criminal cases involving the diversion of alcohol and tobacco from legal channels of commerce. As an agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF is funded through an annual appropriation in the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act. For FY2017, Congress has...

U.S.-South Korea Relations

Overview

South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea or ROK) is one of the United States’ most important strategic and economic partners in Asia. Since the early 1950s, the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty commits the United States to help South Korea defend itself. Approximately 28,500 U.S. troops are based in the ROK, which is included under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” Washington and Seoul cooperate in addressing the challenges posed by North Korea. The two countries’ economies are joined by the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). South Korea is the United States’...

North Korean Cyber Capabilities: In Brief

As North Korea has accelerated its missile and nuclear programs in spite of international sanctions, Congress and the Trump Administration have elevated North Korea to a top U.S. foreign policy priority. Legislation such as the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-122), and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council have focused on North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile programs and human rights abuses. According to some experts, another threat is emerging from North Korea: an ambitious and well-resourced cyber program. North...

Executive Branch Reorganization

The federal bureaucracy of the present day is the product of more than two centuries of legislative and administrative actions by successive generations of elected and appointed officials. As such, the diverse organizations and processes of the federal government are a consequence of the influence and decisions of thousands of officials with differing viewpoints about the role of government and diverse policy preferences. The federal bureaucracy’s organizational arrangements are also reflective of ongoing competition between Congress and the President to influence the behavior of agencies....

Bail: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

This is an overview of the federal law of bail. Bail is the release of an individual following his arrest upon his promise—secured or unsecured; conditioned or unconditioned—to appear at subsequent judicial criminal proceedings. An accused may be denied bail if he is unable to satisfy the conditions set for his release. He may also be denied bail if the committing judge or magistrate concludes that no amount of security or any set of conditions will suffice to ensure public safety or the individual’s later appearance in court.

The federal bail statute layers the committing judge’s or...

Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process

This report reviews the process and procedures that currently apply to congressional consideration of foreign arms sales proposed by the President. This includes consideration of proposals to sell major defense equipment, defense articles and services, or the retransfer to third-party states of such military items. Under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), Congress must be formally notified 30 calendar days before the Administration can take the final steps to conclude a government-to-government foreign military sale of major defense equipment valued at $14 million or...

The Peace Corps: Current Issues

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns in all corners of the globe. As of the end of September 2016, about 7,213 volunteers were serving in 65 nations.

In 2017, the 115th Congress may consider the President’s annual funding request for the Peace Corps, changes to the Peace Corps authorization legislation, and related issues.

On May 23, 2017, the Trump Administration issued its FY2018 budget request, including $398.2 million for...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 115th Congress

This report examines human rights conditions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and policy options for Congress. The PRC government under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and State President Xi Jinping has implemented a clampdown on political dissent, civil society, human rights activists and lawyers, and the religious, cultural, and linguistic practices of Tibetans and Uyghurs. Other major human rights violations in China include the practice of incommunicado detention, torture of persons in custody, censorship of the Internet, and restrictions on the...

The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress

Major changes have occurred in campaign finance policy since 2002, when Congress substantially amended campaign finance law via the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). The Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United and a related lower-court decision, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, arguably represent the most fundamental changes to campaign finance law in decades. Citizens United lifted a previous ban on corporate (and union) independent expenditures advocating election or defeat of candidates. SpeechNow permitted unlimited contributions supporting such expenditures and facilitated the advent...

Overview of U.S. Sanctions Regimes on Russia

Background

On December 29, 2016, President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for malicious cyber activity. These were the latest in a series of U.S. sanctions regimes that have been imposed on Russia over the last several years in response to activities that are state-sponsored or allegedly conducted by government officials. In addition, a number of Russian individuals and entities are subject to sanctions for terrorism, transnational crime, and weapons proliferation.

The United States’ use of economic sanctions in furtherance of national security or foreign policy is implemented,...

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): In Brief

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The mission of the COPS program is to advance community policing in jurisdictions across the United States. The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-162) reauthorized the COPS program for FY2006-FY2009 and changed it from a multi-grant program to a single-grant program. Even though the COPS grant program is not currently authorized, Congress has continued to appropriate funding for...

U.S. Sanctions Relief for Sudan

The Trump Administration is expected to decide by July 12 whether to lift most of a 20-year-old sanctions regime against Sudan, continuing an Obama Administration strategy of conditional engagement with the country. By that date, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson must present an interagency report on Sudan’s compliance with benchmarks negotiated between the Obama Administration and the government of President Omar al Bashir. Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Successive...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2018 and Beyond

The federal budget is a central component of the congressional “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year, Congress and the President engage in a number of practices that influence short- and long-run revenue and expenditure trends. This report offers context for the current budget debate and tracks legislative events related to the federal budget.

In recent years, policies enacted to decrease spending along with a stronger economy have led to reduced budget deficits. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) implemented several measures intended to reduce the deficit from FY2012...

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond

Ten years after the Mexican government launched an aggressive, military-led campaign against drug trafficking and organized crime, violent crime continues to threaten citizen security and governance in parts of Mexico, including in cities along the U.S. southwest border. Organized crime-related violence in Mexico declined from 2011 to 2014 but rose in 2015 and again in 2016. Analysts estimate that the violence may have claimed more than 109,000 lives since December 2006. High-profile cases—particularly the enforced disappearance and murder of 43 students in Guerrero in September 2014—have...

A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the 110th Congress

One of the majority party’s prerogatives is writing House rules and using its numbers to effect the chamber’s rules on the day a new House convenes. Because all Members of the House stand for election every two years, the Members-elect constitute a new House that must adopt rules at the convening of each Congress. Although a new House largely adopts the chamber rules that existed in the previous Congress, it also adopts changes to those rules. Institutional and political developments during the preceding Congress inform rules changes that a party continuing in the majority might make....

Defense: FY2017 Budget Request, Authorization, and Appropriations

This report discusses the Obama Administration’s FY2017 defense budget request and provides a summary of congressional action on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 (S. 2943/P.L. 114-328), and the FY2017 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 244/P.L. 115-31).

In February 2016, the Obama Administration requested $523.9 billion to cover the FY2017 discretionary base budget of the Department of Defense (DOD) and $58.8 billion in discretionary funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The OCO budget category generally includes funding related to the incremental cost...

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends

Although juvenile justice has always been administered by the states, the federal government has played a role in this area through the administration of grant programs. Congress has influenced juvenile justice by funding grant programs administered by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA; P.L. 93-415), enacted in 1974, was the first comprehensive juvenile justice legislation passed by Congress. The JJDPA authorized a series of grant programs designed to support state...

India-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

India will soon be the world’s most populous country, home to about one of every six people. Many factors combine to infuse India’s government and people with “great power” aspirations: the Asian giant’s rich civilization and history, expanding strategic horizons, energetic global and international engagement, critical geography (with more than 9,000 total miles of land borders, many of them disputed) astride vital sea and energy lanes, major economy (at times the world’s fastest growing) with a rising middle class and an attendant boost in defense and power projection capabilities...

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations

Argentina, a South American country with a population of almost 44 million, has had a vibrant democratic tradition since its military relinquished power in 1983. Current President Mauricio Macri—the leader of the center-right Republican Proposal and the candidate of the Let’s Change coalition representing center-right and center-left parties—won the 2015 presidential race. He succeeded two-term President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, from the center-left faction of the Peronist party known as the Front for Victory, who in turn had succeeded her husband, Néstor Kirchner, in 2007. Macri’s...

Defining Readiness: Background and Issues for Congress

Many defense observers and government officials, including some Members of Congress, are concerned that the U.S. military faces a readiness crisis. The Department of Defense has used readiness as a central justification for its FY2017 and FY2018 funding requests. Yet what makes the U.S. military ready is debated.

This report explains how differing uses of the term readiness cloud the debate on whether a readiness crisis exists and, if so, what funding effort would best address it.

CRS has identified two principal uses of the term readiness. One, readiness is used in a broad sense to...

Energy and Water Development Appropriations for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation: In Brief

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) nonproliferation and national security programs provide technical capabilities to support U.S. efforts to “prevent, counter, respond” to the proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide, including by both states and non-state actors. These programs are administered by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency established within DOE in 2000. NNSA is responsible for maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, providing nuclear fuel to the Navy, nuclear and radiological emergency response, and nonproliferation. NNSA...

European Security and Islamist Terrorism

The June 3, 2017, attack in London—in which 8 people were killed and nearly 50 injured—was the third terrorist incident in the United Kingdom in the past few months. Five people were killed outside the UK parliament in March in a similar car and knife attack, and in May, a suicide bomber killed 22 people and wounded 116 at a music concert in Manchester. These incidents are among a string of terrorist attacks in Europe connected to or inspired by violent Islamist extremism, with many since 2014 linked to the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS or ISIL). (For more information, see CRS In...

Discretionary Budget Authority by Subfunction: An Overview

This report provides a graphical overview of historical trends in discretionary budget authority (BA) from FY1977 through FY2016, preliminary estimates for FY2017 spending, and the levels reflecting the President’s proposals for FY2018 through FY2022 using data from the FY2018 budget submission released on May 23, 2017. This report, by illustrating trends in broad budgetary categories, provides a starting point for discussions about fiscal priorities. Other CRS products analyze spending trends in specific functional areas. Functional categories (e.g., national defense, agriculture, etc.)...

Treasury Department Appropriations, FY2017

At its most basic level of organization, the Treasury Department is a collection of departmental offices and operating bureaus. The bureaus as a whole typically account for 95% of Treasury’s budget and workforce. Most bureaus and offices are funded through annual appropriations.

Treasury appropriations are distributed among 12 accounts in FY2017: (1) Departmental Offices (DO), (2) Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI), (3) Cybersecurity Enhancement Account (CEA), (4) Department-wide Systems and Capital Investments Program (DSCIP), (5) Office of Inspector General (OIG), (6)...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2017

President Obama’s budget request for FY2017 included $152.333 billion for research and development (R&D), an increase of $6.195 billion (4.2%) over the estimated FY2016 enacted R&D funding level of $146.138 billion.

Funding for R&D is concentrated in a few departments and agencies. Under President Obama’s FY2017 budget request, seven federal agencies would have received 95.6% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (47.8%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (21.5%) accounting for nearly 70% of all federal R&D funding.

In dollars, the largest increases in...

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) authorizes the President to issue two types of declarations that could potentially provide federal assistance to states and localities in response to a terrorist attack: a “major disaster declaration” or an “emergency declaration.” Major disaster declarations authorize a wide range of federal assistance to states, local governments, tribal nations, individuals and households, and certain nonprofit organizations to recover from a catastrophic event. Major disaster declarations also make Small Business...

The Crime Victims Fund: Federal Support for Victims of Crime

In 1984, the Crime Victims Fund (CVF, or the Fund) was established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA, P.L. 98-473) to provide funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Since 1984, VOCA has been amended several times to support additional victim-related activities. These amendments established within the CVF (1) discretionary grants for private organizations, (2) the Federal Victim Notification System, (3) funding for victim assistance staff within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, (4) funding for the Children’s Justice Act...

State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: FY2017 Budget and Appropriations

On May 5, 2017, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, into law (P.L. 115-31). The law sets funding for the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) at $57.53 billion for the FY2017 full-year. This level represents an increase of 8.8% above the estimated FY2016 funding level, all due to a 40% increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds.

More than a year ago, on February 9, 2016, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its original FY2017 budget request for SFOPS totaling $52.78 billion (-0.1% compared with the...

The Islamic State and U.S. Policy

The Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL/ISIS, or the Arabic acronym Da’esh) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, has affiliates in several other countries, has attracted a network of global supporters, and disrupts international security with its campaigns of violence and terrorism. A U.S.-led coalition military campaign against the Islamic State organization in Iraq and Syria has evolved since 2014, reducing the area controlled by the group considerably and eliminating thousands of its...

Science and Technology Issues in the 115th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spur scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The constantly changing nature and ubiquity of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement directly by funding and performing research and development and...

U.S. Restrictions on Relations with Burma

Major changes in Burma’s political situation since 2008 have raised issues for Congress concerning the appropriateness of U.S. restrictions on relations with Burma (Myanmar). These issues include whether Congress should reexamine U.S. policy toward Burma in general, what criteria are appropriate for analyzing the current situation in Burma, and whether it should make adjustments to current U.S. restrictions on relations with Burma.

On October 7, 2016, former President Obama revoked several executive orders pertaining to sanctions on Burma, and waived restrictions required by Section 5(b)...

Additional Troops for Afghanistan? Considerations for Congress

The Trump Administration is reportedly considering proposals to deploy additional ground forces to Afghanistan and somewhat broaden their mission. These forces would likely be part of the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), the ongoing NATO mission to train and support Afghan security forces. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 9, 2017, General John Nicholson, Commander U.S. Forces–Afghanistan, noted based on a mission review that he had adequate forces for the U.S. counterterrorism mission but there was “a shortfall of a few thousand troops” for RSM if a...

Malaysia: Background and U.S. Relations

Malaysia, an ethnically diverse majority Muslim nation in Southeast Asia, has long been a partner in U.S. security and economic initiatives in the region, although political sensitivities in Malaysia have constrained both sides from forging deeper ties. Bilateral relations have improved over the past decade. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who came to power in 2009, made relations with the United States a priority early in his administration. More recently he has moved to deepen trade and economic ties with China. Congress has shown interest in a variety of issues in U.S.-Malaysia relations...

The Protection of Classified Information: The Legal Framework

This report provides an overview of the relationship between executive and legislative authority over national security information. It summarizes the current laws that form the legal framework protecting classified information, including current executive orders and some agency regulations pertaining to the handling of unauthorized disclosures of classified information by government officers and employees. The report also summarizes criminal laws that pertain specifically to the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, as well as civil and administrative penalties. Finally, the...

Fact Sheet: FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) DOD Reform Proposals

This fact sheet offers Members a side-by-side comparison of key Department of Defense (DOD) reform proposals that were considered during the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act debates, along with proposals that were eventually enacted. As such, it includes key provisions incorporated in H.R. 4909, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reported by the House Armed Services Committee on May 4, 2016 (H.Rept. 114-537); S. 2943, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act reported by the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 18, 2016 (S.Rept. 114-255); and S. 2943, the...

Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations

The crux of a presidential transition is the transfer of executive power from the incumbent to the President-elect. Yet the transition process encompasses a host of activities, beginning with pre-election planning and continuing through inauguration day. The process ensures that the federal government provides resources to presidential candidates’ transition teams, and, eventually, the President-elect’s team; and includes close coordination between the outgoing and incoming Administrations. The Presidential Transition Act (PTA) of 1963, as amended, established formal mechanisms to...

Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure

Congress’s contempt power is the means by which Congress responds to certain acts that in its view obstruct the legislative process. Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance, to punish the contemnor, and/or to remove the obstruction. Although arguably any action that directly obstructs the effort of Congress to exercise its constitutional powers may constitute a contempt, in recent times the contempt power has most often been employed in response to non-compliance with a duly issued congressional subpoena—whether in the form of a refusal to appear before a committee for purposes of...

Selected Homeland Security Issues in the 115th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue among policymakers, including those in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations,...

Terrorism in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is home to more than 625 million people and around 15% of the world’s Muslim population. The region has faced the threat of terrorism for decades, but threats in Southeast Asia have never been considered as great as threats in some other regions. However, the rise of the Islamic State poses new, heightened challenges for Southeast Asian governments and for U.S. policy towards the region.

Southeast Asia has numerous dynamic economies and three Muslim-majority states, including the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, which also is the world’s third largest...

Presidential Appointee Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation and Committees Handling Nominations

As part of the process of making an appointment to an advice and consent position, the President submits a nomination to the Senate. Most nominations are referred to the appropriate Senate committee or committees on the day they are received. Such referrals are guided by Senate Rule XXV, which establishes the subject matter under the purview of each committee and directs that “all proposed legislation, messages, petitions, memorials, and other matters relating primarily to [those] subjects” be referred to that committee. Precedents set by prior referrals, standing orders, and unanimous...

France’s 2017 Presidential Election: In Brief

French voters will elect France’s next president in a runoff election scheduled for May 7, 2017. They will choose between the top two finishers of the presidential election’s first round, held on April 23—Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Moving Forward) political movement and Marine Le Pen of the far-right, nationalist Front National (National Front).

The presidential campaign has exposed apparent wide-scale public dissatisfaction both with the presidency of outgoing President François Hollande and, more broadly, with a French political establishment perceived by many as...

The National Security Council: Background and Issues for Congress

On April 4, 2017, the Trump Administration issued National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM)-4: Organization of the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and Subcommittees. NSPM-4 details how the executive branch intends to manage and coordinate national and homeland security issues among relevant departments and agencies. This NSPM augments an earlier articulation from the Trump Administration regarding the management of national security matters, as expressed in NSPM-2, which was issued on January 28, 2017.

This report offers a brief historical overview of the...

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

Iran’s nuclear program began during the 1950s. The United States has expressed concern since the mid-1970s that Tehran might develop nuclear weapons. Iran’s construction of gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facilities is currently the main source of proliferation concern. Gas centrifuges can produce both low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used in nuclear power reactors, and weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU), which is one of the two types of fissile material used in nuclear weapons.

The United States has assessed that Tehran has technological and industrial capacity to...

Law Enforcement Using and Disclosing Technology Vulnerabilities

There has been increased discussion about law enforcement legally “hacking” and accessing certain information about or on devices or servers. Law enforcement has explored various avenues to discover and exploit vulnerabilities in technology so it may attempt to uncover information relevant to a case that might otherwise be inaccessible. For instance, as people have adopted tools to conceal their physical locations and anonymize their online activities, law enforcement reports that it has become more difficult to locate bad actors and attribute certain malicious activity to specific...

Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations

The notorious drug trafficking kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is now imprisoned in the United States awaiting trial, following the Mexican government’s decision to extradite him to the United States on January 19, 2017, the day before President Trump took office. Guzmán is charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conducting drug-related crimes as the purported leader of the Mexican criminal syndicate commonly known as the Sinaloa cartel. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) maintains that the Sinaloa cartel has the widest reach into U.S. cities of any...

Gun Control: Federal Law and Legislative Action in the 114th Congress

In the 114th Congress, the Senate debated several gun proposals following two high-fatality mass shootings in December 2015 and June 2016. After both shootings, Senate debate coalesced around the following issues:

Should the Attorney General be given the authority to deny firearms (and explosives) transfers to persons she determines to be “dangerous terrorists”?

Should federal background check requirements be expanded to include intrastate firearms transfers among private, unlicensed persons?

Should grants be provided or withheld to encourage state, local, municipal, tribal, and...

Gun Control, Mental Incompetency, and Social Security Administration Final Rule

On February 2, 2017, the House of Representatives passed a Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution (H.J.Res. 40) to overturn a final rule promulgated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding implementation of firearms restrictions for certain persons. On February 16, 2017, the Senate passed H.J.Res. 40 without any amendments. On February 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed this resolution into law (P.L. 115-8). This enacted joint resolution vacates the SSA final rule. It also bars the SSA from promulgating any future rule that would be “substantially the same” as...

Gun Control, Veterans Benefits, and Mental Incompetency Determinations

On March 16, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act (H.R. 1181) by a roll call vote (240-175). Under H.R. 1181, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) would be prohibited from determining any beneficiary for whom a fiduciary is appointed, because he or she “lacks the capacity to contract or handle his or her own affairs,” as “adjudicated as a mental defective” for the purposes of gun control, unless a magistrate or judicial authority also rules that the beneficiary is a danger to himself or herself or others.

Pursuant to the Brady Handgun...

The Trump Administration’s March 2017 Defense Budget Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions

On March 16, 2017, the Trump Administration released two defense budget proposals—a proposal for national defense (budget function 050) discretionary spending for fiscal year (FY) 2018 as part of the Administration’s Budget Blueprint for federal spending, and a detailed request for additional FY0217 funding for Department of Defense (DOD) military activities.

For FY2017, the Administration is seeking $30 billion for DOD military activities (budget subfunction 051) in addition to the amounts requested by the Obama Administration. Of this amount, $24.9 billion is slated for base budget...

FY2017 Defense Appropriations Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of H.R. 5293, S. 3000, and H.R. 1301

This Fact Sheet summarizes selected highlights of the FY2017 Defense Appropriations Act passed by the House, in the 114th Congress, on June 16, 2016 (H.R. 5293), the version reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 26, 2016 (S. 3000), and a third version agreed to March 2, 2017 by House and Senate negotiators.

Although the March 2017 legislation was introduced in the 115th Congress as a new bill, it is -- for practical purposes – equivalent to the product of an informal conference committee on the two earlier versions. The Senate did not complete action on the Senate...

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice

This report discusses and assesses the War Powers Resolution and its application since enactment in 1973, providing detailed background on various cases in which it was used, as well as cases in which issues of its applicability were raised. It will be revised biannually.

In the post-Cold War world, Presidents have continued to commit U.S. Armed Forces into potential hostilities, sometimes without a specific authorization from Congress. Thus the War Powers Resolution and its purposes continue to be a potential subject of controversy. On June 7, 1995, the House defeated, by a vote of...

The Financial Action Task Force: An Overview

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, or the 9/11 Commission, recommended that tracking terrorist financing “must remain front and center in U.S. counterterrorism efforts” (see The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, July, 2004. p. 382). As part of these efforts, the United States plays a leading role in the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). The independent, intergovernmental policymaking body was established by the 1989 G-7 Summit...

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues, Challenges, and U.S. Responses

The 115th Congress and the Trump Administration are reviewing existing U.S. policies and programs in sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth, “Africa”) as they establish their budgetary and policy priorities toward the region while also responding to emerging crises. Africa-specific policy questions did not feature prominently in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and the views of the Trump Administration on many U.S.-Africa policy issues remain unspecified. The Obama Administration’s Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa identified its policy priorities as strengthening democratic institutions;...

The Decennial Census: Issues for 2020

The U.S. Constitution—Article I, Section 2, clause 3, as modified by Section 2 of the 14th Amendment—requires a population census every 10 years for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. Decennial census data are used, too, for within-state redistricting and in certain formulas for distributing more than $450 billion annually in federal funds to states and localities. Census counts also are the foundation for estimates of current population size between censuses and projections of future size. Businesses, nonprofit organizations, researchers, and all levels of government are...

Dark Web

The layers of the Internet go far beyond the surface content that many can easily access in their daily searches. The other content is that of the Deep Web, content that has not been indexed by traditional search engines such as Google. The furthest corners of the Deep Web, segments known as the Dark Web, contain content that has been intentionally concealed. The Dark Web may be used for legitimate purposes as well as to conceal criminal or otherwise malicious activities. It is the exploitation of the Dark Web for illegal practices that has garnered the interest of officials and policy...

The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward

Under federal law, the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana are illegal, except for the purposes of sanctioned research. States, however, have established a range of laws and policies regarding marijuana’s medical and recreational use. Most states have deviated from an across-the-board prohibition of marijuana, and it is now more so the rule than the exception that states have laws and policies allowing for some cultivation, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana—all of which are contrary to the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of March 2017, nearly...

U.S. Secret Service: Selected Issues and Executive and Congressional Responses

Since 1865, the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) has investigated counterfeiting, and since 1901, at the request of congressional leadership, the Service has provided full-time presidential protection.

The USSS has two primary purposes which are criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities include financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. The protection mission covers the President, Vice President, their families, and...

Federal Building and Facility Security: Frequently Asked Questions

The security of federal government buildings and facilities affects not only the daily operations of the federal government but also the health, well-being, and safety of federal employees and the public. Federal building and facility security is decentralized and disparate in approach, as numerous federal entities are involved and some buildings or facilities are occupied by multiple federal agencies. The federal government is tasked with securing over 446,000 buildings or facilities daily.

The September 2001 terrorist attacks, the September 2013 Washington Navy Yard shootings, and the...

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), finalized in December 2013, is the newest international trade agreement in the World Trade Organization (WTO), having entered into force on February 22, 2017, when two-thirds of WTO members, including the United States, ratified the multilateral agreement. Congress has an interest in the TFA since it may affect U.S. trade flows, the U.S. economy, and international capacity building efforts.

Trade facilitation measures aim to simplify and streamline international trade procedures to allow the easier flow of trade across borders and thereby reduce the...

Anti-Money Laundering: An Overview for Congress

Anti-money laundering (AML) refers to efforts to prevent criminal exploitation of financial systems to conceal the location, ownership, source, nature, or control of illicit proceeds. Despite the existence of long-standing domestic regulatory and enforcement mechanisms, as well as international commitments and guidance on best practices, policymakers remain challenged to identify and address policy gaps and new laundering methods that criminals exploit. According to United Nations estimates recognized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, criminals in the United States generate some $300...

The European Union: Current Challenges and Future Prospects

The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which member states have pooled sovereignty in certain policy areas and harmonized laws on a wide range of economic and political issues. The EU is the latest stage in a process of European integration begun after World War II, initially by six Western European countries, to promote peace, security, and economic development. The EU currently consists of 28 member states, including the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

EU members share a customs union; a single market in which goods, services, people, and capital...

Filling Advice and Consent Positions at the Outset of Recent Administrations, 1981-2009

The length of the appointment processes during presidential transitions has been of concern to observers for more than 30 years. The process is likely to develop a bottleneck during this time due to the large number of candidates who must be selected, vetted, and, in the case of positions filled through appointment by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate (PAS positions), considered by that body.

The appointment process has three stages: selection and vetting, nomination and Senate consideration, and presidential appointment. Congress has taken steps to accelerate...

A New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State: Issues and Current Proposals

Since the United States embarked on a strategy to counter the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) in 2014, some Members of Congress have raised concerns about the President’s underlying authority to engage in anti-IS military operations. In the 114th Congress, both houses of Congress took steps to revisit the possibility of considering legislation to provide authority for the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State. Interest has continued into the first session of the 115th Congress and with the start of the Trump Administration.

In 2014, the armed offensive of the...

Child Welfare: Oversight of Psychotropic Medication for Children in Foster Care

Children in foster care are children that the state has removed from their homes and placed in another setting designed to provide round-the-clock care (e.g., foster family home, group home, child care institution). The large majority of children enter foster care because of neglect or abuse at the hands of their parents. Maltreatment by a caregiver is often traumatic for children, and may lead to children having challenges regulating their emotions and interpreting cues and communication from others, among other problem behaviors. Children in foster care are more likely to have mental...

Withdrawal from International Agreements: Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The legal procedure through which the United States withdraws from treaties and other international agreements has been the subject of long-standing debate between the legislative and executive branches. Recently, questions concerning the role of Congress in the withdrawal process have arisen in response to statements made by President Donald J. Trump that he may consider withdrawing the United States from certain high-profile international commitments. This report outlines the legal framework for withdrawal from international agreements under domestic and international law, and it...

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs)

The executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” issued on January 27, 2017, includes provisions to generally suspend the entry into the United States of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders from seven countries. These provisions have raised questions about the Iraqi and Afghan special immigrant visa (SIV) programs, which enable certain individuals who have worked for the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States. Iraq is among the seven countries referenced in the executive...

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status

The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that through FY2016 Congress has appropriated $1.6 trillion for DOD war-related activities since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. When combined with an estimated $123.2 billion in related State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations, the DOD, Department of State (DOS), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have received an estimated $1.7 trillion for activities and operations in support of the broad U.S. government response to the 9/11 attacks.

Funding for these activities has been largely provided through...

The 2015 National Security Strategy: Authorities, Changes, Issues for Congress

The Obama Administration released a new National Security Strategy (NSS) on February 6, 2015. It was the second NSS document to be published by the Administration; the first was published in May 2010. The 2015 document states that its purpose is to “set out the principles and priorities to guide the use of American power and influence in the world.” The NSS is a congressionally mandated document, originating in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-433, §603/50 U.S.C §3043).

The 2015 NSS emphasizes the role of U.S. leadership; the words “lead,”...

National Special Security Events: Fact Sheet

Major federal government or public events that are considered to be nationally significant may be designated by the President—or his representative, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security—as National Special Security Events (NSSEs). These events include presidential inaugurations, presidential nominating conventions, major sporting events, and major international meetings. The U.S. Secret Service was designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for National Special Security Events by P.L. 106-544, December...

Encryption and the “Going Dark” Debate

Changing technology presents opportunities and challenges for U.S. law enforcement. Some technological advances have arguably opened a treasure trove of information for investigators and analysts; others have presented unique hurdles. While some feel that law enforcement now has more information available to them than ever before, others contend that law enforcement is “going dark” as their investigative capabilities are outpaced by the speed of technological change. These hurdles for law enforcement include strong, end-to-end (or what law enforcement has sometimes called “warrant-proof”)...

Abortion and Family Planning-Related Provisions in U.S. Foreign Assistance Law and Policy

This report details legislation and policies that restrict or place requirements on U.S. funding of abortion or family planning activities abroad. The level and extent of federal funding for these activities is an ongoing and controversial issue in U.S. foreign assistance and will likely continue to be a point of contention during the 115th Congress.

These issues have been debated for over four decades in the context of a broader domestic abortion controversy that began with the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which holds that the Constitution protects a woman’s decision to...

Venezuela: Issues for Congress, 2013-2016

Although historically the United States had close relations with Venezuela, a major oil supplier, friction in bilateral relations increased under the leftist, populist government of President Hugo Chávez (1999-2013), who died in 2013 after battling cancer. After Chávez’s death, Venezuela held presidential elections in which acting President Nicolás Maduro narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), with the opposition alleging significant irregularities. In 2014, the Maduro government violently suppressed protests and imprisoned a major...

Cuba: Issues and Actions in the 114th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. In 2013, Raúl began his second and final five-year term, which is scheduled to end in February 2018, when he would be 86 years of age. Castro has implemented a number of market-oriented economic policy changes over the past several years. An April 2016 Cuban Communist Party congress endorsed the current gradual pace of Cuban economic reform. Few observers expect...

Introducing a Senate Bill or Resolution

Authoring and introducing legislation is fundamental to the task of representing voters as a U.S. Senator. Part of what makes the American political process unique is that it affords all Senators an ability to propose their own ideas for chamber consideration. By comparison, most other democratic governments around the world rely on an executive official, often called a premier, chancellor, or prime minister, to originate and submit policy proposals for discussion and enactment by the legislature. Legislators serving in other countries generally lack the power to initiate legislative...

Inauguration Security: Operations, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress

Every four years, on January 20, the President-elect is sworn in as President of the United States. Presidential inauguration ceremonies are unique public events in the District of Columbia. The inauguration ceremonies are public and, like the President’s State of the Union address, they are events in which a significant proportion of the American political leadership is in attendance. Consequently, the inauguration is designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE) by the Department of Homeland Security. NSSEs are events that require significant security, in part because of the...

U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress

Special Operations Forces (SOF) play a significant role in U.S. military operations and, in recent years, have been given greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has about 70,000 Active Duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel from all four services and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians assigned to its headquarters, its four Service component commands, and eight sub-unified commands.

In 2013, based on a request from USSOCOM (with the concurrence of Geographic and Functional Combatant...

Statutory Restrictions on the Position of Secretary of Defense: Issues for Congress

The proposed nomination of General (Ret.) James Mattis, United States Marine Corps (hereinafter referred to as “General Mattis”), who retired from the military in 2013, to be Secretary of Defense requires both houses of Congress to consider whether and how to suspend—or remove—a provision contained in Title 10 U.S.C. §113 that states,

A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

This provision was originally contained in the 1947 National Security Act (P.L. 80-253),...

Sri Lanka: Background, Reform, Reconciliation, and Geopolitical Context

Sri Lanka is a nation of geopolitical importance despite its relatively small size. Strategically positioned near key maritime sea lanes that transit the Indian Ocean and link Asia with Europe and Africa, Sri Lanka’s external orientation, in particular its ties to China, are of great interest to nearby India. Some observers view China’s involvement in the Sri Lankan port at Hanbantota to be part of Beijing’s strategy to secure sea lanes through the Indian Ocean.

United States-Sri Lanka relations are expanding significantly, creating new opportunities for Congress to play a role in shaping...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues and Actions in the 114th Congress

U.S. Interests and Policy

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, based on diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There was substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region during the first six years of the Obama...

Overview of Further Continuing Appropriations for FY2017 (H.R. 2028)

This report is an analysis of the provisions in H.R. 2028, which provides further continuing appropriations for FY2017 through April 28, 2017. The measure also included appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year for Overseas Contingency Operations in the Security Assistance Appropriations Act (Division B). On December 10, 2016, the President signed H.R. 2028 into law (P.L. 114-254).

Division A of H.R. 2028 was termed a “continuing resolution” (CR) because it provided temporary authority for federal agencies and programs to continue spending in FY2017 in the same manner as a...

Colombia’s Peace Process Through 2016

In August 2012, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the government was engaged in exploratory peace talks with the violent leftist insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a bid to resolve a nearly 50-year internal armed conflict. The secret, initial dialogue between the Santos government and the FARC’s leadership led to the opening of formal peace talks with the FARC—the oldest, largest, and best-financed guerrilla organization in Latin America. Formal talks began in Oslo, Norway, in October 2012 and then, as planned, moved to Havana, Cuba,...

The Role of State Approving Agencies in the Administration of GI Bill Benefits

State Approving Agencies (SAAs) play an important role in the administration of GI Bill® benefits. GI Bill benefits provide educational assistance payments to eligible veterans and servicemembers and their families enrolled in approved programs of education. The SAA role is intended to ensure that veterans and other GI Bill participants have access to a range of high-quality education and training programs at which to use their GI Bill benefits. In FY2017, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) is estimated to distribute over $14 billion in GI Bill benefits to over 1 million eligible...

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation: Background and Legislative Issues

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a wholly owned U.S. government corporation, is referred to as the U.S. development finance institution (DFI). It provides political risk insurance, project and investment funds financing, and other services to promote U.S. direct investment in developing countries and emerging economies that will have a development impact. It operates under the foreign policy guidance of the Secretary of State. OPIC’s governing legislation is the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (22 U.S.C. §2191 et seq.).

Congress periodically has extended...

DHS Appropriations FY2017: Research and Development, Training, and Services

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2017. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the fourth title of the homeland security appropriations bill—in past years, this has comprised U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Science and Technology Directorate, and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). In FY2017, the Administration proposed moving the Domestic Nuclear Detection office into a new Chemical,...

Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015

This report provides Congress with official, unclassified, quantitative data on conventional arms transfers to developing nations by the United States and foreign countries for the preceding eight calendar years for use in its policy oversight functions. All agreement and delivery data in this report for the United States are government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) transactions. Similar data are provided on worldwide conventional arms transfers by all government suppliers, but the principal focus is the level of arms transfers by major weapons supplying governments to nations...

Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4909, S. 2943)

This Fact Sheet summarizes selected highlights of the conference agreement on the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The conference report (H.Rept. 114-840), filed in the House on November 30, 2016, is a result of negotiations between the House and Senate on House-passed H.R. 4909 and Senate-passed S. 2943. The agreement authorizes $611.2 billion in discretionary funding for defense activities within the jurisdictions of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, including $523.7 billion in base discretionary funding for the Department of Defense, $67.8 billion for...

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians in apparent support of (1) promoting the prevention or mitigation of terrorism against Israel; (2) fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that may aid Israeli-Palestinian...

Latin America: Terrorism Issues

Compared to other parts of the world, the potential threat emanating from terrorism is low in most countries in Latin America. Most terrorist acts occur in the Andean region of South America, committed by two Colombian guerrilla groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN)—and one Peruvian guerrilla group, the Shining Path (SL). All three of these groups have been designated by the U.S. State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). The FARC, however, has been engaged in peace negotiations with the Colombian government since...

The National Space Council

According to press reports, the Trump Administration may reestablish the National Space Council, a coordinating body in the Executive Office of the President that was last active in 1993. The National Space Council was established in 1989 “to provide a coordinated process for developing a national space policy and strategy and for monitoring its implementation.” It was chaired by the Vice President and included the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Commerce, and Transportation, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the President’s Chief of Staff, the Assistant to the...

Creating a Federal Advisory Committee in the Executive Branch

Federal advisory committees provide a formal forum for members of the public to provide advice and recommendations to the federal government on issues ranging from how to support trade goals of small and minority-owned businesses to which drugs best treat arthritis pain. Many of the roughly 1,000 federal advisory committees that operate at any given time are required to operate pursuant to the open meetings, records access, and reporting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Advisory committees are established for a number of reasons. These reasons often include...

Terrorist Material Support: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. §2339A and §2339B

The material support statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§2339A and 2339B, have been among the most frequently prosecuted federal anti-terrorism statutes. Section 2339A outlaws:

(1) whoever (2) [knowingly] (3)(a) attempting to, (b) conspiring to, or (c) actually (4)(a) providing material support or resources, or (b) concealing or disguising (i) the nature, (ii) location, (iii) source, or (iv) ownership of material support or resources (5) knowing or intending that they be used (a) in preparation for, (b) in carrying out, (c) in preparation for concealment of an escape from, or (d) in carrying out the...

Terrorist Material Support: A Sketch of 18 U.S.C. §2339A and §2339B

The material support statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§2339A and 2339B, have been among the most frequently prosecuted federal anti-terrorism statutes. Section 2339A outlaws:

(1) whoever (2) [knowingly] (3)(a) attempting to, (b) conspiring to, or (c) actually (4)(a) providing material support or resources, or (b) concealing or disguising (i) the nature, (ii) location, (iii) source, or (iv) ownership of material support or resources (5) knowing or intending that they be used (a) in preparation for, (b) in carrying out, (c) in preparation for concealment of an escape from, or (d) in carrying out the...

The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction

Congress annually considers several appropriations measures, which provide discretionary funding for numerous activities—for example, national defense, education, and homeland security—as well as general government operations. Congress has developed certain rules and practices for the consideration of appropriations measures, referred to as the congressional appropriations process. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of this process.

Appropriations measures are under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. In recent years these measures have...

“Regulatory Relief” for Banking: Selected Legislation in the 114th Congress

The 114th Congress is considering legislation to provide “regulatory relief” for banks. The need for this relief, some argue, results from new regulations introduced in response to vulnerabilities that were identified during the financial crisis that began in 2007. Some have contended that the increased regulatory burden—the cost associated with government regulation and its implementation—is resulting in significant costs that restrain economic growth and consumers’ access to credit. Others, however, believe the current regulatory structure strengthens financial stability and increases...

Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress

The Internet is often described as a “network of networks” because it is not a single physical entity, but hundreds of thousands of interconnected networks linking hundreds of millions of computers around the world. As such, the Internet is international, decentralized, and comprised of networks and infrastructure largely owned and operated by private sector entities. As the Internet grows and becomes more pervasive in all aspects of modern society, the question of how it should be governed becomes more pressing.

Currently, an important aspect of the Internet is governed by a private...

Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements

This report briefly outlines the history of the establishment of the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the first decade of the twentieth century, its changing relationship to the community around it, and its heightened importance with military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also explains in detail the legal status of the lease of the land on which the naval station stands, the statutory and treaty authorities granted to the President with regard to any potential closure of the naval station, and the second-order effects on such a closure that Cuba sanctions laws...

NATO’s Warsaw Summit: In Brief

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) 2016 summit was held in Warsaw, Poland, on July 8-9, 2016. The summit was the second meeting of the alliance’s 28 heads of state and government since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and began providing large-scale military support to separatist forces fighting in Ukraine. Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe more broadly have upended NATO’s post-Cold War transformation from a military alliance focused solely on deterring Russia to a globally oriented security organization. Over the last two years, NATO has taken major steps to...

Navy Force Structure: A Bigger Fleet? Background and Issues for Congress

Current Navy plans call for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 308 ships of certain types and numbers. Some observers have advocated increasing the Navy’s force-level goal to about 350 ships. The Navy is currently conducting a force structure assessment (FSA), and some observers anticipate that this FSA will lead to a new Navy force-level goal of more than 308 ships, although not necessarily 350 ships. The Navy’s actual size in recent years has generally been in the range of 270 to 290 ships.

Those who advocate increasing the planned size of the Navy to something more than 308 ships...

Intelligence Community Spending: Trends and Issues

This report examines Intelligence Community (IC) funding over the past several decades, with an emphasis on the period from 2007-2017—the period in which total national and military intelligence program (NIP and MIP) spending dollars have been publicly disclosed on an annual basis. Intelligence-related spending (such as the Homeland Security Intelligence Program) that does not fall within the NIP and MIP is outside the scope of this report.

Total intelligence spending is usually understood as the combination of (1) the National Intelligence Program (NIP), which covers the programs,...

Intelligence Community Programs, Management, and Enduring Issues

Congress’s and the American public’s ability to oversee and understand how intelligence dollars are spent is limited by the secrecy that surrounds the intelligence budget process. Yet, total spending on the Intelligence Community (IC) programs discussed in this report equates to approximately $70 billion dollars—roughly 10% of national defense spending. This report is designed to shed light on the IC budget—in terms of its programs, management, and enduring issues—using unclassified materials available in the public domain.

This report focuses those IC programs, grouped, for the most part,...

Internet Gambling: Policy Issues for Congress

Gambling, once widely outlawed, is now a regulated, taxed activity that is legal in some form—bingo, card games, slot machines, state-run lotteries, casinos, and even online—in all states except Hawaii and Utah. Like so many other industries, the gambling industry is being transformed by technology that has begun to shift patronage from casinos, bingo halls, or stores selling lottery tickets to desktop computers and tablets connected to the Internet and to mobile devices that may communicate by telephone or direct satellite links. According to one private estimate, annual revenue in the...

The Terrorist Screening Database and Preventing Terrorist Travel

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government developed a unified regimen to identify and list known or suspected terrorists. The regimen has received repeated congressional attention, and this report briefly discusses for congressional policymakers how the U.S. government fashions and uses the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) to achieve such an end. It also discusses how the federal government engages in two travel-related screening processes—visa screening and air passenger screening. Both processes involve subsets of the Terrorist Screening Database.

The...

Security Cooperation: Comparison of Proposed Provisions for the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

During the lame duck session, the 114th Congress is expected to consider various provisions in the annual defense authorization bill that address U.S. security sector cooperation. If enacted, the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could significantly alter the way in which the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) engages and partners with foreign security forces.

Policy Debate in Context

Successive U.S. Administrations have emphasized the importance of strengthening foreign military partnerships to achieve shared security goals. Over time, the legal authorities underpinning some...

Extraterritorial Application of American Criminal Law

Criminal law is usually territorial. It is a matter of the law of the place where it occurs. Nevertheless, a number of American criminal laws apply extraterritorially outside of the United States. Application is generally a question of legislative intent, express or implied. There are two exceptions. First, the statute must come within Congress’s constitutional authority to enact. Second, neither the statute nor its application may violate due process or any other constitutional prohibition.

Claims of implied extraterritoriality must overcome additional obstacles. Federal laws are presumed...

Unauthorized Aliens’ Access to Federal Benefits: Policy and Issues

Federal law bars aliens residing without authorization in the United States from most federal benefits; however, there is a widely held perception that many unauthorized aliens obtain such benefits. The degree to which unauthorized resident aliens should be accorded certain rights and privileges as a result of their residence in the United States, along with the duties owed by such aliens given their presence, remains the subject of debate in Congress. This report focuses on the policy and legislative debate surrounding unauthorized aliens’ access to federal public benefits.

Except for a...

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive U.S. Presidents and many Members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to close U.S.-Israel cooperation. Perceptions of shared democratic values and religious affinities have contributed to strong bilateral ties. The question of Israel’s security regularly influences U.S. policy considerations regarding the Middle East, and Congress provides active oversight of executive branch dealings with Israel and other actors in the region. Israel is a leading recipient of U.S. foreign aid and a frequent purchaser of major U.S....

Department of Homeland Security Preparedness Grants: A Summary and Issues

Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress increased focus on state and local homeland security assistance by, among other things, establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and authorizing DHS to administer federal homeland security grant programs. These homeland security grants have been administered by numerous DHS entities, and these grants have focused on such preparedness activities as assistance to states and localities to prepare and respond to terrorist attacks, securing critical infrastructure such as rail and ports, securing nonprofit...

Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 114th Congress

The Federal Reserve (Fed) is the subject of legislation being considered in the 114th Congress. These bills contain wide-ranging provisions that can be grouped into four broad categories:

Changes to Fed governance. Some proposals would change the Fed’s institutional structure. H.R. 22 (P.L. 114-94) reduced the dividend paid by the Fed to large commercial banks that hold stock in the Fed and permanently capped the Fed’s surplus at $10 billion. H.R. 3189 would permanently eliminate the Fed’s surplus. H.R. 26 (P.L. 114-1) required at least one nominee for the Fed’s board of governors to have...

North Korea: Legislative Basis for U.S. Economic Sanctions

U.S. economic sanctions imposed on North Korea are instigated by that country’s activities related to weapons proliferation, especially its tests since 2006 of nuclear weapons and missile technology; regional disruptions; terrorism; narcotics trafficking; undemocratic governance; and illicit activities in international markets, including money laundering, counterfeiting of goods and currency, and bulk cash smuggling. The sanctions have the following consequences for U.S.-North Korea relations:

Trade is limited to food, medicine, and other humanitarian-related goods, all of which require a...

Overview of Continuing Appropriations for FY2017 (H.R. 5325)

The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the continuing appropriations provisions for FY2017 in H.R. 5325. The measure also included provisions covering appropriations in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for all of FY2017 (Division A), as well as emergency funds to combat the Zika virus and provide relief for flood victims in Louisiana and other affected states (Division B). On September 29, 2016, the President signed H.R. 5325 into law (P.L. 114-223).

Division C of H.R. 5325 was termed a “continuing resolution” (CR) because measures to...

Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean

Countries in Latin America serve as source, transit, and destination countries for trafficking in persons (TIP). Victims are exploited within their own countries and trafficked to other countries in the region. Latin America is also a primary source region for people trafficked to the United States, including by transnational organized crime groups. In FY2015, Mexico was the primary country of origin for foreign trafficking victims certified as eligible to receive U.S. assistance. Recent victims identified in the United States also have originated in Brazil and Central America. Smaller...

Security Clearance Process: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

This report provides a primer on some of the fundamental aspects of the security clearance process, using a “Frequently Asked Questions” format.

A security clearance is a determination that an individual—whether a direct federal employee or a private contractor performing work for the government—is eligible for access to classified national security information. A security clearance alone does not grant an individual access to classified materials. Rather, a security clearance means that an individual is eligible for access. In order to gain access to specific classified materials, an...

Presidential Transition Act: Provisions and Funding

The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (PTA) authorizes funding for the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide suitable office space, staff compensation, and other services associated with the presidential transition process (3 U.S.C. §102 note). The act has been amended a number of times since 1963 in response to evolving understandings of the proper role of the government in the transition process. Since the 2008-2009 transition, the PTA has been amended twice. The Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-283) did so by authorizing additional support to...

Military Construction: FY2017 Appropriations

Military construction for active and reserve components of the Armed Forces, military family housing construction and operations, the U.S. contribution to the NATO Security Investment Program, military base closures and realignment actions, and the military housing privatization initiative will be funded through Title I and Title IV of the FY2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The act is associated with three separate bill numbers: H.R. 4974, S. 2806, and H.R. 2577.

For FY2017, the President requested $7.44 billion in new budget authority...

Extradition To and From the United States: Overview of the Law and Contemporary Treaties

“Extradition” is the formal surrender of a person by a State to another State for prosecution or punishment. Extradition to or from the United States is a creature of treaty. The United States has extradition treaties with over a hundred nations, although there are many countries with which it has no extradition treaty. International terrorism and drug trafficking have made extradition an increasingly important law enforcement tool. This is a brief overview of the adjustments made in recent treaties to accommodate American law enforcement interests, and then a nutshell overview of the...

Zika Response Funding: Request and Congressional Action

The second session of the 114th Congress has considered whether and how to provide funds to control the spread of the Zika virus throughout the Americas. Zika infection, which is primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes and sexual contact, has been linked to birth defects and other health concerns. Local transmission of the virus has occurred in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida.

On February 22, 2016, the Obama Administration requested more than $1.89 billion in supplemental funding for the Zika response, all of which it asked to be designated as an emergency...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 114th Congress

The House and the Senate have considered immigration measures on a variety of issues in the 114th Congress. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (P.L. 114-113) extends four immigration programs through September 30, 2016: the EB-5 immigrant investor Regional Center Pilot Program, the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system, the Conrad State program for foreign medical graduates, and the special immigrant religious worker program. P.L. 114-113 also contains provisions on the Visa Waiver Program and certain nonimmigrant visa categories.

Other enacted immigration-related...

The Advocacy of Terrorism on the Internet: Freedom of Speech Issues and the Material Support Statutes

The development of the Internet has revolutionized communications. It has never been easier to speak to wide audiences or to communicate with people that may be located more than half a world away from the speaker. However, like any neutral platform, the Internet can be used to many different ends, including illegal, offensive, or dangerous purposes. Terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (IS, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Al Shabaab, use the Internet to disseminate their ideology, to recruit new members, and to take credit for attacks around the world. In...

Leadership Succession in Uzbekistan

Background

On August 28, 2016, Uzbekistan announced its President, Islam Karimov, had been hospitalized, but officials gave few details about his condition. On September 2 after a week of conflicting reports, the government confirmed that Karimov had died and the following day a funeral was held in his hometown of Samarkand.

The 78-year-old Karimov served as Uzbekistan’s only President from the time of its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Prior to his death, his deteriorating health caused observers to speculate about the insular country’s process for choosing a new...

How Big Should the Army Be? Considerations for Congress

Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution vests Congress with broad powers over the Armed Forces, including the power "To raise and support Armies" and “To provide and maintain a Navy.” As such, the size of the Armed Forces is a topic of perennial congressional interest and debate. Congress annually sets minimum and maximum strength levels for the active components and maximum strength levels for the reserve components.

The House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 authorized differing levels for active duty personnel in each of the...

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments

A ban on all nuclear tests is the oldest item on the nuclear arms control agenda. Three treaties that entered into force between 1963 and 1990 limit, but do not ban, such tests. In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear explosions. In 1997, President Clinton sent the CTBT to the Senate, which rejected it in October 1999. In a speech in Prague in April 2009, President Obama said, “My administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” However,...

Gangs in Central America

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its main rival, the “18th Street” gang, continue to undermine citizen security and subvert government authority in parts of Central America. Gang-related violence has been particularly acute in El Salvador, Honduras, and urban areas in Guatemala, contributing to some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Congress has maintained an interest in the effects of gang-related crime and violence on governance, citizen security, and investment in Central America. Congress has examined the role that gang-related violence has played in fueling mixed migration...

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. Members of Congress regularly engage in oversight or legislative activities on the following subjects with respect to Turkey, among others: U.S.-Turkey military cooperation, including arms sales and aid; Turkey’s interactions with countries such as Armenia, Cyprus, and Israel; general Turkish domestic issues; concerns regarding Christians, Jews, and other religious minorities in Turkey; and bilateral trade....

Reforming the U.S. Postal Service: Background and Issues for Congress

This report provides background information on the responsibilities, financial challenges, and workforce issues facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Additionally, it covers the current strategies and initiatives under development by the USPS and discusses further options for postal reforms.

In FY2015, the USPS marked its ninth consecutive year of financial losses with a net loss of $5.1 billion. In addition, the USPS has reached its statutory debt limit of $15 billion. In recent years, the USPS has experienced growth in the package and shipping part of its business (known as Competitive...

Coalition Contributions to Countering the Islamic State

On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced the formation of a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately defeat” the Islamic State. Subsequently, 66 nations and partner organizations have agreed to participate, contributing either military forces or resources (or both) to the campaign. The military component of the counter-IS campaign is Operation Inherent Resolve, which has three primary elements: targeted special operations out of northern Iraq and northern Syria, airstrikes, and training and equipping of local forces. All of these activities are designed to empower Iraqis and...

Heroin Trafficking in the United States

Over the past several years, the nation has seen an uptick in the use and abuse of opioids—both prescription substances and non-prescription substances such as heroin. The estimated number of individuals who had used heroin was 914,000 in 2014. Further, about 586,000 individuals (0.2% of the 12 and older population) had a heroin use disorder in 2014. In addition to an increase in heroin use over the past several years, there has been a simultaneous increase in its availability in the United States. This has been fueled by a number of factors, including increased production and trafficking...

DOD Security Cooperation: An Overview of Authorities and Issues

Over the past decade, Congress has authorized the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a wide range of security cooperation programs. As the scope, pace, and cost of activities to train, equip, and otherwise support foreign security forces have increased, however, some policymakers believe that the DOD’s growing authority may undermine the State Department’s lead role in foreign assistance. To others, DOD’s expanded role is a necessary response to the perceived inadequacies of the existing legal regime through which Congress has authorized the State Department and DOD to provide security...

China: Economic Sanctions

United States-China relations, since 1969, when the process of normalization began under President Richard M. Nixon, have advanced to a point that relatively few restrictions affecting trade remain. This report summarizes the United States’ economic sanctions on China. The United States, in its relationship with China, limits U.S. foreign assistance and State Department programs; limits U.S. support for China’s requests for funding in the international banks; prohibits the exportation of defense articles and defense services to China; prohibits the importation of munitions and ammunition...

Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress

The Organization of American States (OAS) is the oldest multilateral regional organization in the world. It was founded in 1948 by the United States and 20 Latin American nations to serve as a forum for addressing issues of mutual concern. Over time, the organization expanded to include all 35 independent countries of the Western Hemisphere (though Cuba currently does not participate). The organization’s areas of focus have also shifted over time, evolving in accordance with the priorities of its member states. Today, the OAS concentrates on four broad objectives: democracy promotion,...

Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of the FY2017 Military Construction Appropriations Bills

This fact sheet summarizes selected highlights of the military construction and military family housing portions of the FY2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The act is associated with three separate bill numbers: H.R. 4974, S. 2806, and H.R. 2577.

Congressional action on FY2017 military construction appropriations legislation has been heavily influenced by the statutorily mandated discretionary spending caps established by P.L. 114-74, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). A significant issue before Congress is the extent to which...

The 2016 Olympic Games: Health, Security, Environmental, and Doping Issues

The 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 5-21, 2016, and will be followed by the Paralympic Games, September 7-18, 2016. Notably, these are the first games to be hosted by a South American city. Reportedly, 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will participate in the Olympics, including 555 athletes from the United States. Most Olympic events will take place in and around Rio de Janeiro. In addition to Rio de Janeiro, soccer matches will be held in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Manaus, São Paulo, and Salvador.

Host countries and cities often have to...

Overview of Funding Mechanisms in the Federal Budget Process, and Selected Examples

Every year, Congress considers numerous pieces of legislation that would create or modify federal government programs and activities. The variety of approaches used across the federal budget to fund these programs and activities involve different timelines for budgetary decisionmaking, and different processes (and committees) within Congress to make those decisions. How a particular funding mechanism is structured requires tradeoffs between the frequency of congressional review and the predictability of funding for the program. The purpose of this report is to explain these approaches,...

Federal Assistance for Victims of Terrorism or Mass Violence: In Brief

Following incidents of terrorism or mass violence in the United States, jurisdictions and individuals may be eligible to receive various types of victim assistance both directly from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and indirectly from DOJ through their respective state victim assistance agencies or other programs. While circumstances in some incidents may result in a jurisdiction’s eligibility for assistance from other federal departments, such as Department of Education grants awarded to Newtown Public School District in recovery efforts from the Newtown, CT, elementary school shooting,...

Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably consists of approximately 110-130 nuclear warheads, although it could have more. Islamabad is producing fissile material, adding to related production facilities, and deploying additional nuclear weapons and new types of delivery vehicles. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is widely regarded as designed to dissuade India from taking military action against Pakistan, but Islamabad’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, development of new types of nuclear weapons, and adoption of a doctrine called “full spectrum deterrence” have led some observers to express concern...

State Challenges to Federal Enforcement of Immigration Law: From the Mid-1990s to the Present

States and localities can have significant interest in the manner and extent to which federal officials enforce provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) regarding the exclusion and removal of unauthorized aliens. Depending upon the jurisdiction’s specific concerns, this interest can be expressed in various ways, from the adoption of “sanctuary” policies limiting the jurisdiction’s cooperation in federal enforcement efforts to the enactment of measures to deter unauthorized aliens from entering or remaining within the jurisdiction. In some cases, states or localities have...

Visa Waiver Program

The terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Belgium in March 2016, which were perpetrated mainly by French and Belgian citizens, have increased focus on the potential security risks posed by the visa waiver program (VWP). The VWP allows nationals from certain countries, many of which are in Europe, to enter the United States as temporary visitors (nonimmigrants) for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. Temporary visitors for business or pleasure from non-VWP countries must obtain a visa from Department of State (DOS) officers at a...

Terrorist Databases and the No Fly List: Procedural Due Process and Other Legal Issues

In order to protect national security, the government maintains various terrorist watchlists, including the “No Fly” list, which contains the names of individuals to be denied boarding on commercial airline flights. Travelers on the No Fly list are not permitted to board an American airline or any flight on a foreign air carrier that lands or departs from U.S. territory or flies over U.S. airspace. Some individuals have claimed that their alleged placement on the list was the result of an erroneous determination by the government that they posed a national security threat. In some cases,...

Public Trust and Law Enforcement—A Brief Discussion for Policymakers

Events over the past several years involving conflict between the police and citizens have generated interest in what role Congress could play in facilitating efforts to build trust between law enforcement and the people they serve while promoting effective crime reduction. This report provides a brief overview of the federal government’s role in police-community relations.

Despite what appears to be an apparent decreasing amount of trust between law enforcement and the public, Gallup poll data show that, overall, Americans are confident in the police; but, confidence in the police varies...

Iran-North Korea-Syria Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Cooperation

Congress has at times expressed concern regarding ballistic missile and nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria. This report focuses primarily on unclassified and declassified U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) assessments over the past two decades. These assessments indicate that

there is no evidence that Iran and North Korea have engaged in nuclear-related trade or cooperation with each other, although ballistic missile technology cooperation between the two is significant and meaningful, and

Syria has received ballistic missiles and related technology from North Korea and Iran...

Supplemental Appropriations for Zika Response: The FY2016 Conference Agreement in Brief

This report presents funding proposals for response to the Zika outbreak, including proposals in Division B of the conference report, and, where applicable, associated proposed rescissions, including those in Division D of the conference report.

Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa

The pace of high-profile terrorist attacks in Sub-Saharan Africa has intensified in recent years, and the death toll now rivals that of other regions where violent Islamist extremist groups are active. This report provides context for these trends, including a summary of sub-regional dynamics, factors affecting radicalization, and U.S. responses. It focuses primarily on Sunni Islamist terrorism, given the ideological underpinnings of the African groups currently designated by the U.S. State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Select issues for Congress are also explored....

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2016 Appropriations: Independent Agencies and General Provisions

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill funds more than two dozen independent agencies performing a wide range of functions, such as managing federal real property, regulating financial institutions, and delivering mail. These agencies include Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Election Assistance Commission (EAC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Election Commission (FEC), Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), General Services Administration...

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

In the midst of national concern over illicit drug use and abuse, prescription drug abuse has been described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an epidemic in the United States. Nearly all prescription drugs involved in overdoses are originally prescribed by a physician (rather than, for example, being stolen from pharmacies). Thus, attention has been directed toward preventing the diversion of prescription drugs after the prescriptions are dispensed.

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) maintain statewide electronic databases of prescriptions dispensed for...

U.S. Semiconductor Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Policy

Invented and pioneered in the United States shortly after World War II, semiconductors are the enabling technology of the information age. Because of semiconductors new industries have emerged and existing ones, such as aerospace and automotive, have been transformed. Semiconductors have contributed in powerful and unique ways to nearly all fields of science and engineering, and semiconductors’ economic and military importance has made the industry’s health a focus of congressional interest for nearly 70 years. In July 2015, Congress formed the Semiconductor Caucus, a group that seeks to...

Mass Shootings and Terrorism: CRS Products

On Sunday, June 12, 2016, approximately 50 people were killed (including the alleged assailant), and 53 more were injured in an attack on a nightclub in Orlando, FL, that catered to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The alleged assailant was armed with an AR-15-type assault rifle and a pistol. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has reported that these weapons were legally purchased in Florida. During the assault on the nightclub, the alleged assailant reportedly called 911 to pledge allegiance to ISIS. The assailant was killed by...

Trade-Based Money Laundering: Overview and Policy Issues

Trade-based money laundering (TBML) involves the exploitation of the international trade system for the purpose of transferring value and obscuring the true origins of illicit wealth. TBML schemes vary in complexity but typically involve misrepresentation of the price, quantity, or quality of imports or exports. Financial institutions may wittingly or unwittingly be implicated in TBML schemes when such institutions are used to settle, facilitate, or finance international trade transactions (e.g., through the processing of wire transfers, provision of trade finance, and issuance of letters...

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism

This insight provides a brief overview of Stafford Act declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (hereinafter the Stafford Act—42 U.S.C. 5721 et seq.) and the types of assistance they could authorize in response to terrorist incidents. This report also provides examples of Stafford Act declarations that have been issued for previous terrorist attacks.

Overview

The Stafford Act authorizes the President to issue two types of declarations that could provide federal assistance to states and localities in response to a terrorist attack: a “major...

Orlando Nightclub Mass Shooting: Gun Checks and Terrorist Watchlists

On June 12, 2016, an armed assailant killed 49 people and wounded over 50 others in an Orlando, FL, nightclub. After a three-hour standoff with police, the assailant was killed by police. It is unknown at this time whether any of the victims may have been killed in the crossfire between the police and the assailant during a hostage rescue operation. The deceased assailant was armed with a 5.56 caliber Sig Sauer rifle and a 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol.

Assailant’s Gun Check

The alleged assailant, 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, acquired these firearms from a federally licensed gun...

The Orlando Mass Shooting: CRS Experts

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The Terrorist Screening Database: Background Information

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the Bureau) has acknowledged that it had been investigating the shooter who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016. The gunman has been identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard in Florida who was born in New York. Reportedly, Mateen was watchlisted while under FBI investigation. This report provides background information on the watchlisting process.

The Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB, commonly referred to as the Terrorist Watchlist) lies at the heart of federal efforts to identify and share information about...

Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy

Foreign assistance is a fundamental component of the international affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. On the basis of national security, commercial, and humanitarian rationales, U.S. assistance flows through many federal agencies and supports myriad objectives, including promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance, expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in conflictive regions, countering terrorism, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and curbing illicit drug production and...

The Islamic State’s Acolytes and the Challenges They Pose to U.S. Law Enforcement

Analysis of publicly available information on homegrown violent jihadist activity in the United States since September 11, 2001, suggests that the Islamic State (IS) and its acolytes may pose broad challenges to domestic law enforcement and homeland security efforts. Homegrown IS-inspired plots can be broken into three rough categories based on the goals of the individuals involved. The first two focus on foreign fighters, the last on people willing to do harm in the United States:

The Departed—Americans, often described as foreign fighters, who plan to leave or have left the United...

Canada-U.S. Relations

Relations between the United States and Canada have generally been cordial. Bound together by a common 5,500 mile border—“the longest undefended border in the world”—as well as shared democratic traditions, the two countries are also increasingly integrated economically through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The two North American countries continue to cooperate widely on international security and political issues, both bilaterally and through numerous international organizations. Canada’s foreign and defense policies are usually in harmony with those of the United...

India-U.S. Relations and the Visit of Prime Minister Modi

Introduction

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is in Washington, DC, this week for a “working visit” that will include addressing Congress, the first such address by an Indian leader since 2005. House Speaker Paul Ryan invited Modi so Congress could “hear from the elected leader of the world’s most populous democracy on how our two nations can work together to promote our shared values and to increase prosperity.” For some, the event completes a “political rehabilitation” of a foreign leader who had been denied a U.S. visa over concerns...

The EMV Chip Card Transition: Background, Status, and Issues for Congress

Consumer financial card fraud due to data breaches of card information is an ongoing problem in the United States. The majority of breaches are carried out against point-of-sale (POS) systems, and are facilitated by what many consider to be the weak link in the U.S. retail sales payment process: the continued use of magnetic stripe cards (also referred to as stripe-and-signature cards). These cards are still what most U.S. consumers think of when referring to financial cards.

In much of the rest of the world, cards that provide a much higher level of security for conducting sales...

Goldwater-Nichols at 30: Defense Reform and Issues for Congress

Thirty years after its enactment, Congress has undertaken a review of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act (GNA) as well as the broader organization and structure of the contemporary Department of Defense (DOD) more broadly. Most observers agree that in principle a comprehensive review of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation is warranted at this juncture. Further, a broad consensus appears to exist among observers that DOD must become considerably more agile while retaining its strength in order to enable the United States to meet a variety of critical emerging...

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S. 524): Comparison of Senate- and House-Passed Versions

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA; S. 524) aims to address the problem of opioid addiction in the United States. It passed the Senate (S. 524 ES) on March 10, 2016, and it passed the House with an amendment in the nature of a substitute (S. 524 EAH) on May 13, 2016. The two versions of the bill differ substantially. The scope of the differences may be illustrated by their structures: The Senate bill has 28 sections organized in 8 titles, whereas the House bill has 69 sections organized in 18 titles. This report discusses selected differences and similarities...

Security Assistance and Cooperation: Shared Responsibility of the Departments of State and Defense

The Department of State and the Department of Defense (DOD) have long shared responsibility for U.S. assistance to train, equip, and otherwise engage with foreign military and other security forces. The legal framework for such assistance emerged soon after World War II, when Congress charged the Secretary of State with responsibility for overseeing and providing general direction for military and other security assistance programs and the Secretary of Defense with responsibility for administering such programs. Over the years, congressional directives and executive actions have modified,...

Unaccompanied Alien Children: CRS Experts

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The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Options for Congress

Since the early 1980s, there has been a historically unprecedented increase in the federal prison population. The total number of inmates under the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) jurisdiction increased from approximately 25,000 in FY1980 to over 205,000 in FY2015. Between FY1980 and FY2013, the federal prison population increased, on average, by approximately 5,900 inmates annually. However, the number of inmates in the federal prison system has decreased from FY2013 to FY2015.

Some of the growth is attributable to changes in federal criminal justice policy during the previous three decades....

U.S.-EU Data Privacy: From Safe Harbor to Privacy Shield

Both the United States and the European Union (EU) maintain that they are committed to upholding individual privacy rights and ensuring the protection of personal data. Nevertheless, data privacy and protection issues have long been sticking points in U.S.-EU economic and security relations, in part because of differences in U.S. and EU data privacy approaches and legal regimes. In the late 1990s, the United States and the EU negotiated the Safe Harbor Agreement of 2000 to allow U.S. companies and organizations to meet EU data protection requirements and permit the legal transfer of...

In Re Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001: Claims Against Saudi Defendants Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA)

Practical and legal hurdles, including the difficulty of locating hidden Al Qaeda members and the infeasibility of enforcing judgments in terrorism cases, hinder victims’ attempts to establish liability in U.S. courts against, and recover financially from, those they argue are directly responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks. Instead, victims have sued numerous individuals and entities with only indirect ties to the attacks, including defendants who allegedly provided monetary support to Al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001. Within the consolidated case In re Terrorist Attacks...

National Security Space Launch at a Crossroads

The United States is in the midst of making significant changes in how best to pursue an acquisition strategy that would ensure continued access to space for national security missions. The current strategy for the EELV (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) program dates from the 1990s and has since been revised a few times. The program has been dogged by perennial concerns over cost and competition. Those same concerns are a major impetus for change today.

The EELV program stands at a crossroads today. Factors that prompted the initial EELV effort in 1994 are once again manifest—significant...

Federal Prison Industries: Background, Debate, Legislative History, and Policy Options

The Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI), is a government-owned corporation that employs offenders incarcerated in correctional facilities under the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The FPI manufactures products and provides services that are sold to executive agencies in the federal government. The FPI was created to serve as a means for managing, training, and rehabilitating inmates in the federal prison system through employment in one of its industries.

The FPI is intended to be economically self-sustaining and it does not receive funding through congressional appropriations. In...

Remittances: Background and Issues for Congress

This report focuses on remittances, transfers of money and capital sent by migrants and foreign immigrant communities to their home country. At over $432 billion in 2015, remittances sent home by international migrants to developing countries are larger than official development assistance (ODA) and more stable than private capital flows to these countries.

The United States is the largest destination for international migrants and by far the largest source of global remittances. The World Bank estimates $56.3 billion in official remittance outflows from the United States in 2014. As the...

Funding of Presidential Nominating Conventions: An Overview

During the 113th Congress, legislation (H.R. 2019) became law (P.L. 113-94) eliminating Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF) funding for convention operations. The 2012 Democratic and Republican convention committees each received grants, financed with public funds, of approximately $18.2 million (for a total of approximately $36.5 million, as rounded). Barring a change in the status quo, the 2016 presidential nominating conventions will, therefore, be the first since the 1976 election cycle not supported with public funds.

Changes in PECF funding for convention operations do not...

Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress

Synthetic drugs, as opposed to natural drugs, are chemically produced in a laboratory. Their chemical structure can be either identical to or different from naturally occurring drugs, and their effects are designed to mimic or even enhance those of natural drugs. When produced clandestinely, they are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use. Designer drugs are a form of synthetic drugs. They contain slightly modified molecular structures of illegal or controlled substances, and they are modified in order to circumvent existing drug laws. While...

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Security, Enforcement and Investigations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2016. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the second title of the homeland security appropriations bill—Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the U.S. Secret Service (USSS). Collectively, Congress has labeled these components in recent years as “Security, Enforcement, and Investigations.”

The report provides...

Majority, Concurring, and Dissenting Opinions Authored by Judge Merrick Garland

On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016. Judge Garland was appointed to the D.C. Circuit in April 1997, and since February 2013 has served as the circuit court’s Chief Judge, an administrative position that rotates among the active judges on the circuit. To assist Members and committees of Congress and their staff in their ongoing research into Judge Garland’s approach to the...

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015: Adjustments to the Budget Control Act of 2011

The Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 (BBA 2015; P.L. 114-74) includes a number of provisions that alter the budget parameters established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25). These provisions (1) increase the discretionary spending caps for FY2016 and FY2017; (2) extend automatic direct spending reductions to FY2025; (3) establish non-binding targets for spending designated for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT) services; (4) change limits to budget authority adjustment for certain program integrity activities from FY2017 to FY2021; and...

Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation

A trade secret is confidential, commercially valuable information that provides a company with a competitive advantage, such as customer lists, methods of production, marketing strategies, pricing information, and chemical formulae. (Well-known examples of trade secrets include the formula for Coca-Cola, the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the algorithm used by Google’s search engine.) To succeed in the global marketplace, U.S. firms depend upon their trade secrets, which increasingly are becoming their most valuable intangible assets.

However, U.S. companies annually suffer...

The Islamic State’s Acolytes and the Challenges They Pose to U.S. Law Enforcement

Analysis of publicly available information on homegrown violent jihadist activity in the United States since September 11, 2001, suggests that the Islamic State (IS) and its acolytes may pose broad challenges to domestic law enforcement and homeland security efforts. Homegrown IS-inspired plots can be broken into three rough categories based on the goals of the individuals involved. The first two focus on foreign fighters, the last on people willing to do harm in the United States:

The Departed—Americans, often described as foreign fighters, who plan to leave or have left the United...

Border Security: Immigration Enforcement Between Ports of Entry

Border enforcement is a core element of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to control unauthorized migration, with the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as the lead agency along most of the border. Border enforcement has been an ongoing subject of congressional interest since the 1970s, when unauthorized immigration to the United States first registered as a serious national problem; and border security has received additional attention in the years since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Since the 1990s, migration control at the border...

The Islamic State Woos Jihadists in Africa but Faces Competition

In March 2015, the Islamic State sought to publicize its expansion into sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting in its English-language magazine, Dabiq, the pledge of allegiance made that month by Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Nigeria-based Salafi-jihadist group Boko Haram (see CRS Report R43558, Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions, by Lauren Ploch Blanchard). The edition—“Sharia Alone Will Rule Africa”—described the alliance as a “new door” though which Muslims unable to travel to the Middle East might “migrate to the land of Islam” to wage jihad. Videos from other IS affiliates...

Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems: Issues for Congress

The current research and future deployment of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) is actively under discussion throughout the military, nongovernmental, and international communities. This discussion is focused, to various degrees, on the military advantage to be gained from current and future systems, the risks and potential benefits inherent in the research and deployment of autonomous weapon systems, and the ethics of their use. Restrictions, if any, in treaty and domestic law, as well as the specific rules governing procurement and use of LAWS by the military, will all rely to...

Export-Import Bank: Frequently Asked Questions

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank or the Bank), a wholly owned federal government corporation, is the official export credit agency (ECA) of the U.S. government. Its mission is to assist in financing and facilitating U.S. exports of goods and services to support U.S. employment. Ex-Im Bank operates under a renewable general statutory charter (Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended). In the 114th Congress, Ex-Im Bank’s charter was extended through September 30, 2019, by the Export-Import Bank Reform and Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Division E of P.L. 114-94, a...

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements

Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement U.S. national security strategy. Although some believe these tools do little to restrain the behavior of U.S. adversaries, while doing too much to restrain U.S. military forces and operations, many other analysts see them as an effective means to promote transparency, ease military planning, limit forces, and protect against uncertainty and surprise. Arms control and nonproliferation efforts have produced formal treaties and agreements, informal arrangements, and cooperative threat...

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions

Boko Haram, a violent Nigerian Islamist movement, has grown increasingly active and deadly in its attacks against state and civilian targets in recent years, drawing on narratives of religious exclusivism, victimization, and vengeance for state abuses to elicit sympathizers and recruits. The group’s April 2014 abduction of almost 300 schoolgirls drew particular international attention, including from the Obama Administration and Members of Congress. Boko Haram’s high death toll and its pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, aka ISIL or ISIS) in March 2015 have further raised the...

The U.S. Intelligence Community: Selected Cross-Cutting Issues

This report focuses on cross-cutting management issues that affect the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) ability to counter “pervasive and emerging threats” to the United States and balance resources both appropriately and wisely. As the IC’s senior manager, these issues ultimately fall within the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI’s) area of responsibility. The DNI is charged with integrating the community of intelligence agencies so that they operate effectively as one team.

There are no easy solutions to the challenges examined in this report. The IC’s efforts to demonstrate...

Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Expiring on December 15, 2019

Two amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) were enacted as part of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 206 of the USA PATRIOT Act amended FISA to permit multipoint, or “roving,” wiretaps by adding flexibility to the degree of specificity with which the location or facility subject to electronic surveillance under FISA must be identified. Section 215 enlarged the scope of materials that could be sought under FISA to include “any tangible thing.” It also lowered the standard required before a court order may be issued to compel their production.

A third amendment to FISA was...

Closing Space: Restrictions on Civil Society Around the World and U.S. Responses

Civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world are confronting ever stricter limitations on their ability to operate, a phenomenon often referred to “closing space” for civil society work. From restrictions on the types of funding they are allowed to receive to draconian registration requirements, the measures targeting CSOs are increasingly putting pressure on the entire civil society sector in certain countries. These restrictions are most commonly imposed by governments seeking to limit the influence of nongovernmental actors, though restrictions are also being imposed by a broad...

Additional U.S. Ground Troops to Counter the Islamic State? Five Questions

This report addresses common questions regarding Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR)--the military campaign to counter the Islamic State (IS)--which has three primary components: coordinated air strikes, training and equipping local security forces, and targeted special operations based out of northern Iraq.

President Obama's Historic Visit to Cuba

This report briefly discusses the details of President Obama's visit to Cuba. Before the trip, the White House set forth the goals of the visit, stating that the President would build on progress toward normalizing relations, including advancing commercial and people-to-people ties and expressing support for human rights.

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2017 and Beyond

The federal budget is a central component of the congressional “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year, Congress and the President engage in a number of practices that influence short- and long-run revenue and expenditure trends. This report offers context for the current budget debate, and tracks legislative events related to the federal budget as they occur.

In recent years, policies enacted to decrease spending, along with a stronger economy, have led to reduced budget deficits. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) implemented several measures intended to reduce the deficit...

The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress

China is building a modern and regionally powerful military with a limited but growing capability for conducting operations away from China’s immediate periphery. The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort is a central issue in U.S. defense planning and foreign policy. Congress’s decisions on this issue could affect U.S. defense strategy, budgets, plans, and programs, and the U.S. defense industrial base.

China has engaged in a sustained and broad effort over more than 25 years to transform its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),...

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Departmental Management and Operations

This report is part of a suite of reports that discuss appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2016. It specifically discusses appropriations for the components of DHS included in the first title of the homeland security appropriations bill—the Office of the Secretary and Executive Management, the Office of the Under Secretary for Management, the DHS headquarters consolidation project, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Analysis and Operations, and the Office of Inspector General for the department....

The March 2016 Nuclear Security Summit

This report discusses the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), a biennial summit which aims to focus global attention at the highest level of government on the threat of nuclear terrorism.

U.S. Immigration Policy: Chart Book of Key Trends

This report is a chart book of selected immigration trends. Key immigration issues that Congress has considered in recent years include increased border security and immigration enforcement, expanded employment eligibility verification, reforms to the system for legal temporary and permanent immigration, and options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country. The report offers snapshots of time series data, using the most complete and consistent time series currently available for each statistic. The key findings and elements germane to the data depicted are...

Wartime Detention Provisions in Recent Defense Authorization Legislation

In recent years, Congress has included provisions in annual defense authorization bills addressing issues related to detainees at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and, more broadly, the disposition of persons captured in the course of hostilities against Al Qaeda and associated forces. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 (2012 NDAA; P.L. 112-81) arguably constituted the most significant legislation informing wartime detention policy since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF; P.L. 107-40), which serves as the primary legal authority for...

Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

The U.S. government considers its relationship with Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of oil and its largest economy, to be among the most important on the continent. The country is Africa’s most populous, with more than 180 million people, roughly evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Nigeria, which transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, ranked until recently among the top suppliers of U.S. oil imports, and is a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid. It is an influential actor in African politics and a major troop contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions.

Nigeria is...

Iraq: Politics and Governance

Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic divisions—muted toward the end of the 2003-2011 U.S. military intervention in Iraq—are fueling a major challenge to Iraq’s stability and to U.S. policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East region. The resentment of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs toward the Shiite-dominated central government facilitated the capture in 2014 of nearly one-third of Iraqi territory by the Sunni Islamist extremist group called the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL, ISIS, or the Arabic acronym Da'esh). Iraq’s Kurds are separately embroiled in political, territorial, and economic disputes with...

The Internet of Things: CRS Experts

“Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to networks of objects that communicate with other objects and with computers through the Internet. “Things” may include virtually any object for which remote communication, data collection, or control might be useful, such as meters, vehicles, appliances, medical devices, electric grids, transportation infrastructure, manufacturing equipment, or building systems. Although the full extent and nature of the IoT’s impacts remain uncertain, economic analyses predict that it will contribute trillions of dollars to economic growth over the next decade. Sectors...

Encryption: Selected Legal Issues

In 2014, three of the biggest technology companies in the United States—Apple, Google, and Facebook—began encrypting their devices and communication platforms by default. These security practices renewed fears among government officials that technology is thwarting law enforcement access to vital data, a phenomenon the government refers to as “going dark.” The government, speaking largely through Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey, has suggested that it does not want to ban encryption technology, but instead wants Silicon Valley companies to provide a technological...

U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and the subsequent revelation of Al Qaeda cells in Europe gave new momentum to European Union (EU) initiatives to combat terrorism and improve police, judicial, and intelligence cooperation among its member states. Other deadly incidents in Europe, such as the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005, respectively, injected further urgency into strengthening EU counterterrorism capabilities. Among other steps, the EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a common list of terrorist groups, an EU arrest warrant,...

International Trade and Finance: Key Policy Issues for the 114th Congress, 2nd Session

The U.S. Constitution grants authority to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Congress exercises this authority in numerous ways, including through oversight of trade policy and consideration of legislation to approve trade agreements and authorize trade programs. Policy issues cover such areas as U.S. trade negotiations, U.S. trade and economic relations with specific regions and countries, international institutions focused on trade, tariff and nontariff barriers, worker dislocation due to trade liberalization, trade remedy laws, import and export policies, international...

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Negotiations

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) is a potential reciprocal free trade agreement (FTA) that the United States and the European Union (EU) are negotiating with each other. Formal negotiations commenced in July 2013. Both sides initially aimed to conclude the negotiations in two years, but more recently have updated their timeline and aim to conclude the T-TIP by the end of 2016. Twelve rounds of T-TIP negotiations have occurred to date.

The United States and EU seek to enhance market access and trade disciplines by addressing remaining transatlantic barriers to...

Federal Capital Offenses: An Overview of Substantive and Procedural Law

Murder is a federal capital offense if committed in any of more than 50 jurisdictional settings. The Constitution defines the circumstances under which the death penalty may be considered a sentencing option. With an eye to those constitutional boundaries, the Federal Death Penalty Act and related statutory provisions govern the procedures under which the death penalty may be imposed.

Some defendants are ineligible for the death penalty regardless of the crimes with which they are accused. Children and those incompetent to stand trial may not face the death penalty; pregnant women and the...

Court-Ordered Access to Smart Phones: In Brief

The tension between the benefits and challenges of encryption has been an issue for law enforcement and policymakers since the 1990s, and was reinvigorated in 2014 when companies like Apple and Google implemented automatic enhanced encryption on mobile devices and certain communications systems. Companies using such strong encryption do not maintain “back door” keys and, therefore, now cannot easily unlock, or decrypt, the devices—not even when presented with a valid legal order. Law enforcement concerns about the lack of back door keys were highlighted by the November and December 2015...

Prescription Drug Abuse

An estimated 6.5 million individuals currently abuse prescription drugs in the United States. Unlike policy on street drugs, federal policy on prescription drug abuse is complicated by the need to maintain access to prescription controlled substances (PCS) for legitimate medical use. The federal government has several roles in reducing prescription drug abuse.

Coordination. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) coordinates and tracks prescription drug abuse reduction efforts and funding of multiple federal agencies.

Regulation. The primary federal statutes governing...

Encryption and Evolving Technology: Implications for U.S. Law Enforcement Investigations

Because modern-day criminals are constantly developing new tools and techniques to facilitate their illicit activities, law enforcement is challenged with leveraging its tools and authorities to keep pace. For instance, interconnectivity and technological innovation have not only fostered international business and communication, they have also helped criminals carry out their operations. At times, these same technological advances have presented unique hurdles for law enforcement and officials charged with combating malicious actors.

Technology as a barrier for law enforcement is by no...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2016

President Obama’s budget request for FY2016 included $145.694 billion for research and development (R&D), an increase of $7.625 billion (5.5%) over the estimated FY2015 R&D funding level of $138.069 billion. The request represented the President’s R&D priorities.

Funding for R&D is concentrated in a few departments and agencies. Under President Obama’s FY2016 budget request, seven federal agencies would have received 95.6% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (DOD, 49.5%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS, 21.3%) accounting for more than 70% of...

Brazil: Background and U.S. Relations

The United States traditionally has enjoyed robust economic and political relations with Brazil, which is the fifth most populous country and ninth-largest economy in the world. Brazil is recognized by the Obama Administration as a “major global player” and an “indispensable partner” on issues ranging from international development to climate change. Administration officials have often highlighted Brazil’s status as a multicultural democracy, referring to the country as a natural partner that shares values and goals with the United States. Bilateral ties have been strained from time to...

Cybersecurity: CRS Experts

Concerns about information-system security and other aspects of cybersecurity are long-standing. The frequency, impact, and sophistication of cyberattacks and the growth of cybercrime and cyberespionage have added urgency to the concerns. Consensus has been growing that the policy framework for cybersecurity take into account the diversity and continuing evolution of the technology and threats—from spam to botnets to hacktivism, cyberterrorism, and cyberwar—and the increasing role of the Internet in the U.S. economy and the lives of citizens. Among the issues the 114th Congress is expected...

Renewed Crypto Wars?

This report briefly examines renewed tensions between tech companies and the government regarding encryption "back doors" and how quickly-advancing technologies could impact law enforcement investigations.

FY2016 Appropriations for the Department of Justice (DOJ)

The mission of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is to “enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” DOJ carries out its mission through the activities of agencies and bureaus such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Marshals Service; the...

National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA): Background and Issues for Congress

Title XVII of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (P.L. 113-291) established the National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) to conduct a comprehensive study of the structure of the Army. The NCFA reported its findings to Congress and the Administration on January 28, 2016, and made a number of recommendations that may or may not be acted upon.

Some have suggested the historical post-war practice of reducing defense budgets contributed to the perceived need for a commission to address proposed changes to the Army. The...

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): An Explanation

Recognizing the special burdens that members of the military may encounter trying to meet their financial obligations while serving their country, Congress passed the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) in 1940. The law was amended from time to time, ordinarily in response to military operations that required the activation of the Reserves. P.L. 108-189, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), was enacted on December 19, 2003, as a modernization and restatement of the protections contained in the SSCRA. Much like with the SSCRA, the SCRA has been amended since its initial...

Iran: U.S. Economic Sanctions and the Authority to Lift Restrictions

The United States has led the international community in imposing economic sanctions on Iran, in an effort to change the government of that country’s support of acts of international terrorism, poor human rights record, weapons and missile development and acquisition, role in regional instability, and development of a nuclear program.

This report identifies the legislative bases for sanctions imposed on Iran, and the nature of the authority to waive or lift those restrictions. It comprises two tables that present legislation and executive orders that are specific to Iran and its...

Federal Conspiracy Law: A Brief Overview

Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited conduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U.S.C....

Treasury Department Appropriations, FY2016

At its most basic level of organization, the Treasury Department is a collection of departmental offices and operating bureaus. The bureaus as a whole account for 95% of Treasury’s budget and workforce. Most bureaus and offices are funded through annual appropriations.

Treasury appropriations were distributed among 10 accounts in FY2015: (1) Departmental Offices (DO), (2) Departmentwide Systems and Capital Investments Program (DSCIP), (3) Office of Inspector General (OIG), (4) Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), (5) Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset...

North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation

North Korea has presented one of the most vexing and persistent problems in U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The United States has never had formal diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the official name for North Korea), although since 2000 contact at a lower level has ebbed and flowed. Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have occupied the past three U.S. administrations, even as some analysts anticipated a collapse of the isolated authoritarian regime. North Korea has been the recipient of over $1 billion in U.S. aid...

North Korea: A Comparison of S. 1747, S. 2144, and H.R. 757

This report compares S. 1747, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2015, as introduced in the Senate by Senator Menendez on July 9, 2015; S. 2144, the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2015, introduced in the Senate by Senator Gardner on October 6, 2015; and H.R. 757, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2015, introduced in the House by Representative Royce on February 5, 2015, and passed, as amended by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, by the House on January 12, 2016, by a vote of 418-2.

Intelligence Authorization Legislation for FY2014 and FY2015: Provisions, Status, Intelligence Community Framework

Two Intelligence Authorization Acts (IAAs) were passed in 2014. The IAA for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 (P.L. 113-126) was passed in July and an IAA for FY2015 (P.L. 113-293) was passed in December. This report examines selected provisions in the legislation and provides an intelligence community framework in the Appendix. Summary of Selected Legislative Provisions

Title IAA FY2014 (P.L. 113-126)IAA FY2015 (P.L. 113-293) I. Intelligence ActivitiesSection104 supports the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

III. General Matters Section 305 codifies provisions already in E.O....

Juvenile Justice Funding Trends

Although juvenile justice has always been administered by the states, Congress has had significant influence in the area through funding for grant programs administered by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, P.L. 93-415, was the first comprehensive juvenile justice legislation passed by Congress. Since 1974, the act has undergone several key amendments, including a significant reorganization enacted by P.L. 107-273 in 2002. The juvenile justice appropriation...

Perspectives on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

This report briefly summarizes what constituted Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs), provides background on their adoption and use, and discusses differing views on three questions that underpin discussion and debate of this topic.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2016 Budget and Appropriations

On February 2, 2015, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its budget request for FY2016. The request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) totals $54.08 billion, or a 4% increase from FY2015-estimated levels. Within that amount

$47.04 billion is requested for enduring or core funding and $7.05 billion is designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, excluding add-ons and rescissions;

$17.55 billion of the total request is for State Department Operations and related agencies (10.6% increase over FY2015 estimates);

$36.53 billion is for Foreign...

Using Data to Improve Defense Acquisitions: Background, Analysis, and Questions for Congress

Many analysts believe that data analysis is a critical element in making smart, informed, policy decisions and in managing government programs. Without data, there may not be an appropriate basis for making policy decisions, measuring or assessing the effectiveness of government programs, or providing transparency into government operations. Despite the importance of data, most observers believe that the Department of Defense (DOD), and other government agencies lag behind the private sector in effectively incorporating data analyses into decisionmaking. These analysts argue that by using...

Gun Control: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy and legal issues related to gun control. In the wake of mass shootings and other firearms-related violence, several gun control issues are often raised. They include improving and expanding background checks, further regulating certain semiautomatic firearms (“assault weapons” or “military-style” firearms) that accept detachable ammunition feeding devices (“magazines”), combating illegal gun trafficking, interstate concealed carry of handguns, and enacting or repealing appropriations limitations related...

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): FY2016 Appropriations

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to firearms and explosives commerce. ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, and criminal cases involving the diversion of alcohol and tobacco from legal channels of commerce. Congress funds the ATF through an annual appropriation in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, because it is a component of the Department of Justice (DOJ). For FY2016,...

The Budget Control Act of 2011 as Amended: Budgetary Effects

Following a lengthy debate over raising the debt limit, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) was signed into law by President Obama on August 2, 2011. In addition to including a mechanism to increase the debt limit, the BCA contained a variety of measures intended to reduce the budget deficit through spending restrictions. There are two main components to the spending reductions in the BCA: (1) discretionary spending caps that came into effect in FY2012 and (2) a $1.2 trillion automatic spending reduction process that was initially scheduled to come into effect on January 2,...

The Federal Election Commission: Overview and Selected Issues for Congress

More than 40 years ago, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and related amendments. Today, the FEC is responsible for administering disclosure of millions of campaign finance transactions; interpretation and civil enforcement of FECA and agency regulations; and administering the presidential public financing program.

Six presidentially appointed commissioners, who are subject to Senate advice and consent, head the FEC. No more than three members may be affiliated with the same political party. Congress arrived at...

The Federal Election Commission: Enforcement Process and Selected Issues for Congress

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is responsible for civil enforcement of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and other campaign finance statutes. Enforcement, one of the FEC’s principal functions, is perhaps the most controversial thing the agency does. Enforcement matters not only for encouraging compliance with law and regulation, but also for what it represents about the state of campaign finance policy overall. Some agency critics argue that modest fines, protracted processes, and deadlocked commission votes demonstrate that the FEC cannot effectively enforce campaign finance...

Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2007-2014

This report provides Congress with official, unclassified, quantitative data on conventional arms transfers to developing nations by the United States and foreign countries for the preceding eight calendar years for use in its policy oversight functions. All agreement and delivery data in this report for the United States are government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) transactions. Similar data are provided on worldwide conventional arms transfers by all government suppliers, but the principal focus is the level of arms transfers by major weapons supplying governments to nations...

What Is “Building Partner Capacity?” Issues for Congress

Since 2001, successive U.S. administrations have increasingly prioritized efforts to build foreign security forces—particularly in weak and failing states—arguing that doing so advances U.S. national security objectives. In turn, the Department of Defense (DOD) has invested billions of dollars in “Building Partner Capacity,” a term that refers to a broad set of missions, programs, activities, and authorities intended to improve the ability of other nations to achieve those security-oriented goals they share with the United States. As a consequence, these efforts and programs have been a...

Central America Regional Security Initiative: Background and Policy Issues for Congress

Central America faces significant security challenges. Criminal threats, fragile political and judicial systems, and social hardships such as poverty and unemployment contribute to widespread insecurity in the region. Consequently, improving security conditions in these countries is a difficult, multifaceted endeavor. Since U.S. drug demand contributes to regional security challenges and the consequences of citizen insecurity in Central America are potentially far-reaching—as demonstrated by the increasing number of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees arriving at the U.S. border—the...

Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015: Changes to Domestic Human Trafficking Policies

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA, S. 178/P.L. 114-22), an omnibus bill that primarily includes anti-human trafficking provisions, was signed into law on May 29, 2015. The bill received broad congressional support, passing the Senate unanimously on April 22, 2015, and the House nearly unanimously (420-3) on May 19, 2015. Through amendments in the House and the Senate, the law incorporates the same or similar provisions from 10 of the 12 bills on trafficking that passed the House in the first few weeks of the 114th Congress: H.R. 159, H.R. 181, H.R. 246, H.R. 285, H.R. 350,...

The K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa: In Brief

The K nonimmigrant visa category was created in 1970 through P.L. 91-225, which amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Within the K visa category, the K-1 visa is a visa for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens and the K-2 visa is a visa for the fiancé(e)’s children. Congress later enacted legislation to provide protections for fiancé(e)s, specifically creating requirements around the use of international marriage brokers, the disclosure of the U.S. petitioner’s criminal background, the provision of information to fiancé(e)s on their rights, and additional protections for minors.

A...

Spain and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief

The United States and Spain have extensive cultural ties and a mutually beneficial economic relationship, and the two countries cooperate closely on numerous diplomatic and security issues. Spain has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1982 and a member of the European Union (EU) since 1986.

Given its role as a close U.S. ally and partner, developments in Spain and its relations with the United States are of continuing interest to the U.S. Congress. This report provides an overview and assessment of some of the main dimensions of these topics.

Domestic...

The Islamic State—Frequently Asked Questions: Threats, Global Implications, and U.S. Policy Responses

In the wake of the deadly November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris, U.S. policymakers are faced with a wide range of strategy and operational considerations related to the activities of and threats emanating from the Islamic State (IS). A terrorist attack such as this prompts an examination of U.S. domestic security precautions; the role of allies and coalition partners; the appropriate military and diplomatic reactions; the safety and security of infrastructure and that of travelers; and numerous additional discrete issues that require the active involvement of dozens of federal,...

Congressional Action on FY2016 Appropriations Measures

This report provides information on the congressional consideration of the FY2016 regular appropriations bills and the FY2016 continuing resolution (CR). It also discusses the statutory and procedural budget enforcement framework for FY2016 appropriations. It will address the congressional consideration of FY2016 supplemental appropriations if any such consideration occurs.

For all types of appropriations measures, discretionary spending budget enforcement under the congressional budget process has two primary sources. The first is the discretionary spending limits that are derived from...

The Evolution of Cooperative Threat Reduction: Issues for Congress

The United States uses a number of policy tools to address the threat of attack using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. These include a set of financial and technical programs known, variously, as cooperative threat reduction (CTR) programs, nonproliferation assistance, or, global security engagement. Congress has supported these programs over the years, but has raised a number of questions about their implementation and their future direction.

Over the years, the CTR effort shifted from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union to a broader...

Paris Attacks and "Going Dark": Intelligence-Related Issues to Consider

This report discusses intelligence efforts on tracking numerous individuals involved in the deadly assault in Paris on November 13, 2015.

Chile: Background and U.S. Relations

Chile, located along the Pacific coast of South America, is a politically stable, upper-middle-income nation of 18 million people. In 2013, Michelle Bachelet and her center-left “New Majority” coalition won the presidency and sizeable majorities in both houses of the Chilean Congress after campaigning on a platform of ambitious reforms designed to reduce inequality and improve social mobility. Since her inauguration to a four-year term in March 2014, President Bachelet has signed into law significant changes to the tax, education, and electoral systems. She has also proposed a number of...

Immigration: Visa Security Policies

The November 13, 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris have refocused attention on U.S. visa issuance and national security screening procedures that undergird the admission of foreign nationals to the United States. The visa issuance process is widely recognized as an integral part of immigration control and border security. Foreign nationals (i.e., aliens) not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted. The foreign national must establish that he/she is qualified for the visa under one of the various...

France: Efforts to Counter Islamist Terrorism and the Islamic State

This report discusses the commitment of French government to counter Islamist terrorism as the chief security threat facing the country.

Homeland Security Investigations, a Directorate within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: In Brief

In June 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with law enforcement responsibilities, altered its structure. Among the changes, ICE created a directorate it named “Homeland Security Investigations” or HSI. HSI, one of the two primary operational directorates to emerge from ICE’s 2010 realignment, combined elements within ICE that focused on criminal investigation. The directorate was designed to pursue criminals and terrorists who “violate [U.S.] customs and immigration laws worldwide.” Criminal investigators working for...

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Comparison of H.R. 1560 (PCNA and NCPAA) and S. 754 (CISA)

Effective sharing of information in cybersecurity is generally considered an important tool for protecting information systems from unauthorized access. Five bills on such sharing have been introduced in the 114th Congress—H.R. 234, H.R. 1560, H.R. 1731, S. 456, and S. 754, and relevant provisions have appeared in other bills. The White House has also submitted a legislative proposal and issued an executive order on the topic.

H.R. 1560, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), and H.R. 1731, the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA), passed the House the week...

The Iran Hostages: Efforts to Obtain Compensation

Even today, after the passage of some three decades, the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage Crisis remains an event familiar to most Americans. Many might be unaware that the 52 American mostly military and diplomatic personnel held hostage in Tehran for 444 days continue to strive for significant compensation for their ordeal. The former hostages and their families did receive a number of benefits under various civil service laws, and each hostage received from the U.S. government a cash payment of $50 for each day held hostage. The hostages have never received any compensation from Iran through...

Federal Aid for Reconstruction of Houses of Worship: A Legal Analysis

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States, causing severe damage to the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions of the country. The resulting destruction led to major disaster declarations in 12 states and the District of Columbia, making those states eligible for certain federal supplemental assistance to aid in the recovery process. The damage resulting from Hurricane Sandy devastated a wide range of communities, and many individuals and organizations sought federal assistance for recovery, including churches, which, in turn, raised constitutional...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Middle East: Historical Background, Recent Trends, and the FY2016 Request

This report is an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to the Middle East and North Africa. It includes a review of the President’s FY2016 request for the region, a description of selected country programs, and an analysis of current foreign aid issues. We anticipate updating it annually.

Since 1946, the United States has provided an estimated total of between $282 billion to $292 billion (obligations in current dollars) in foreign assistance to the region. For FY2016, overall non-humanitarian bilateral aid requested for Middle East and North Africa countries amounts to $7.14 billion, or...

U.S.-China Cyber Agreement

During the state visit on September 24-25, 2015, President Xi Jinping of China and President Barack Obama reached a Cyber Agreement. This report briefly discusses that agreement.

Overview of the FY2016 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 719)

The purpose of this report is to provide an analysis of the FY2016 continuing appropriations in H.R. 719. None of the FY2016 regular appropriations bills were enacted by the start of the fiscal year (October 1, 2015). On September 30, 2015, H.R. 719, a continuing resolution (CR) for FY2016, was signed into law by the President (P.L. 114-53).

The CR for FY2016 covers all 12 regular appropriations bills by providing continuing budget authority for projects and activities funded in FY2015 by that fiscal year’s regular appropriations acts, with some exceptions. It includes both budget...

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, is a small, dispersed armed group active in remote areas of Central Africa. The LRA’s infliction of widespread human suffering and its potential threat to regional stability have drawn significant attention in recent years, including in Congress. Campaigns by U.S.-based advocacy groups have contributed to policymakers’ interest.

Since 2008, the United States has provided support to Ugandan-led military operations to capture or kill LRA commanders, which since 2012 have been integrated into an African Union (AU) “Regional Task Force”...

Zivotofsky v. Kerry: The Jerusalem Passport Case and Its Potential Implications for Congress’s Foreign Affairs Powers

The Supreme Court in its last term by a vote of 6-3 invalidated a statute passed by Congress touching on the status of Jerusalem, affirming the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision in Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State that the President’s power to recognize foreign sovereigns is exclusive and trumps Congress’s authority to regulate passports. The Court’s decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry (Zivotofsky II) represents the first time the Court has struck down a congressionally enacted law on the basis of a separation-of-powers infringement involving a matter of foreign affairs. At...

The FY2016 Continuing Resolution (H.R. 719)

This report discusses a resolution which would provide temporary funding to continue federal government operations through the beginning of the fiscal year, until annual appropriations acts could be enacted.

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 114th Congress

This report examines human rights issues in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including ongoing rights abuses, and legal developments. Major events of the past two years include a clampdown on political dissent and civil society and an escalation of violence in Xinjiang, which many experts attribute at least in part to repressive government policies. Some observers view the closing of the “Re-education Through Labor” penal system as a potentially positive development, although many PRC citizens still are subject to various forms of extra-legal detention. Other, ongoing human rights...

Expedited Procedures in the House: Variations Enacted into Law

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL30599 Summary Congress enacts expedited, or fast-track, procedures into law when it wants to increase the likelihood that one or both houses of Congress will vote in a timely way on a certain measure or kind of measure. These procedures are enacted as rule-making provisions of law pursuant to the constitutional power of each house to adopt its own rules. The house to which a set of expedited procedures applies may act unilaterally to waive, suspend, amend, or repeal them. Sets of expedited procedures, as they affect the House of...

Pope Francis and Selected Global Issues: Background for Papal Address to Congress

Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) assumed the papacy on March 13, 2013, following the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), who had served as pope since the death of St. Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtya) in 2005. The pope, respectfully referred to as “Your Holiness,” serves as head of the Holy See (diocese) of Rome and as the leader of the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Catholics. He is the first pope elected from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope (an order of priests founded by Ignatius Loyola), and the first pope in recent times who spent much of his...

Across-the-Board Rescissions in Appropriations Acts: Overview and Recent Practices

As the annual appropriations process draws to a close each fiscal year, Congress and the President must often come to an agreement not only on the level of funding for individual items or accounts but also with regard to the total amount of discretionary budget authority that will be provided for that fiscal year. If that agreed-upon amount requires a reduction in budget authority and sufficient reductions are not associated with individual programs, an alternative method to reduce that amount is an “across-the-board rescission.”

A rescission is a provision of law that cancels budget...

Intellectual Property Rights and International Trade

This report provides background on intellectual property rights (IPR) and discusses the role of U.S. international trade policy in enhancing IPR protection and enforcement abroad. IPR are legal rights granted by governments to encourage innovation and creative output by ensuring that creators reap the benefits of their inventions or works. They may take forms such as patents, trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, or geographical indications. Congress has constitutional responsibility for legislating and overseeing IPR and international trade policy. Responsibility for developing IPR...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2015 Appropriations

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44172 Summary The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. In its current form, it has existed since the 2007 reorganization of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. The House and Senate FSGG bills fund nearly the same agencies, with the exception of the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is...

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing: Federal Aggravated Identity Theft

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R42100 Summary Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for two years or by imprisonment for five years if it relates to a terrorism offense. At least thus far, the government has rarely prosecuted the five-year terrorism form of the offense. The two-year offense occurs when an individual knowingly possesses, uses, or transfers the means of identification of another person, without lawful authority to do so, during and in relation to one of more than 60 predicate federal felony offenses (18...

The Intelligence Community and Its Use of Contractors: Congressional Oversight Issues

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44157 Summary Contractors have been and are an integral part of the intelligence community’s (IC’s) total workforce (which also includes federal employees and military personnel). Yet questions have been raised regarding how they are used, and the size and cost of the contractor component. Of particular interest are core contract personnel, who provide direct technical, managerial, and administrative support to agency staff. Examples of these types of support are collection and operations, analysis and production, and enterprise...

Iran Nuclear Agreement: CRS Experts

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R44139 Summary Congress is currently in a period of formal review, being conducted on the basis of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (P.L. 114-17), of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) nuclear agreement concluded between Iran and six negotiating powers (“P5+1”) on July 14. The period for initial congressional review under the Act is to conclude on September 17. The agreement has raised a wide variety of questions in Congress. Issues include the specific terms of the deal; the implications for inspections, proliferation,...

Political Transition in Tunisia

Tunisia has taken key steps toward democracy since the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011, and has so far avoided the violent chaos and/or authoritarian resurrection seen in other “Arab Spring” countries. Tunisians adopted a new constitution in January 2014 and held national elections between October and December 2014, marking the completion of a four-year transitional period. A secularist party, Nidaa Tounes (“Tunisia’s Call”), won a plurality of seats in parliament, and its leader Béji Caïd Essebsi was elected president. The results reflect a decline in influence for the country’s main...

Iran Nuclear Agreement: Selected Issues for Congress

The nuclear agreement between Iran and six negotiating powers (“P5+1:” United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China), finalized on July 14, 2015, raises a wide variety of issues as Congress undertakes a formal review under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (P.L. 114-17). The Administration submitted the 150+ page text (including annexes) of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” (JCPOA) to Congress on July 19, 2015, and the period for congressional review under the act is to conclude on September 17. Should the agreement stand after review processes in Congress and in...

Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations

Thailand is a long-time military ally and a significant trade and economic partner for the United States. For many years, Thailand was seen as a model democracy in Southeast Asia, although this image, along with U.S.-Thai relations, has been complicated by deep political and economic instability in the wake of two military coups in the past nine years. The first, in 2006, displaced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a popular but polarizing figure who is currently living in exile. The second, in 2014, deposed an acting prime minister after Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted...

Mass Murder with Firearms: Incidents and Victims, 1999-2013

In the wake of tragedy in Newtown, CT, Congress defined “mass killings” as “3 or more killings in a single incident” (P.L. 112-265). Any consideration of new or existing gun laws that follows mass shootings is likely to generate requests for comprehensive data on the prevalence and deadliness of these incidents. Despite the pathos of mass shootings, only a handful of researchers and journalists have analyzed the principal source of homicide data in the United States—the Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)—to determine whether those...

National Security Letters in Foreign Intelligence Investigations: Legal Background

Five federal statutes authorize intelligence officials to request certain business record information in connection with national security investigations. The authority to issue these national security letters (NSL) is comparable to the authority to issue administrative subpoenas. The USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56) expanded the authority under the original four NSL statutes and created a fifth. Thereafter, the authority was reported to have been widely used. Then, a report by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (IG) found that in its use of expanded USA PATRIOT Act authority the...

The 2015 National Military Strategy: Background and Questions for Congress

This report discusses the National Military Strategy (NMS) that describes a global environment marked by increasing interdependence, complexity, and the diffusion of information and technologies across state boundaries.

The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate

The Senate may consider providing its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, or the Convention) during the 114th Congress. CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that specifically addresses the rights of women. It calls on States Parties to take measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas of life, including political participation, employment, education, healthcare, and family structure. CEDAW has been ratified or acceded to by 189 States...

U.S.-Kenya Relations: Current Political and Security Issues

The U.S. government views Kenya as a strategic partner and a key regional actor in East Africa, and as critical to regional counterterrorism efforts. Kenya has repeatedly been a target of terrorist attacks, and, as the deadly September 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping mall and subsequent attacks have underscored, terrorist threats in Kenya remain a serious concern. Heightened threats have led the U.S. government to reevaluate the size of its presence in the country, which hosts the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in Africa and one of four major U.N. offices worldwide.

Kenya’s military...

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID): Background, Operations, and Issues

This report provides background information on the institutional makeup and operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the leading international humanitarian and development arm of the U.S. government. The report then discusses in greater depth several aspects of the agency that might be of particular congressional interest.

In FY2015, USAID is responsible for more than $20 billion in appropriations, representing more than one-third of the International Affairs 150 budget function and more than half of total foreign assistance encompassed by the State, Foreign...

Cyber Intrusion into U.S. Office of Personnel Management: In Brief

On June 4, 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) revealed that a cyber intrusion had impacted its information technology systems and data, potentially compromising the personal information of about 4.2 million former and current federal employees. Later that month, OPM reported a separate cyber incident targeting OPM’s databases housing background investigation records. This breach is estimated to have compromised sensitive information of 21.5 million individuals.

Amid criticisms of how the agency managed its response to the intrusions and secured its information systems,...

Can Military Servicemembers Carry Firearms for Personal Protection on Duty?

This report briefly discusses the applicable law and policy regarding government-issued firearms for personal protection of servicemembers on duty.

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 113th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted by law to the President alone, or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 351 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 113th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

Information for each department is presented in tables. The tables include full-time positions confirmed by the Senate, pay...

Charleston, SC, Mass Shooter Might Have Been Denied a Handgun If Not for Possible Recordkeeping Oversights

This report briefly discusses the announcement by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey that the alleged assailant in the Charleston, SC, mass murder/shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church might have been prevented from acquiring a handgun if not for possible recordkeeping oversights on the part of the FBI and Columbia, SC, city police and county sheriff's departments.

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002: Background and Implementation

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA) is a core legislative measure guiding U.S. policy toward Tibet. Its stated purpose is “to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity.” Among other provisions, the TPA establishes in statute the State Department position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues and defines the Special Coordinator’s “central objective” as being “to promote substantive dialogue” between the government of the People’s Republic of China and Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, or his representatives. The Special...

Kazakhstan

District of Columbia: Issues in the 114th Congress

In the coming weeks and months the 114th Congress will debate a number of funding, governance, and constitutional issues affecting the District of Columbia, including budget and legislative autonomy, voting representation in the national legislature, federal appropriations, and congressionally supported education initiatives. In addition, Congress may consider measures intended to void or otherwise modify acts and initiatives approved by District citizens and their elected representatives. The mechanisms available to Congress in carrying out its oversight of District affairs include...

How the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Work: An Overview

Sentencing for all serious federal noncapital crimes begins with the federal Sentencing Guidelines. Congress establishes the maximum penalty and sometimes the minimum penalty for every federal crime by statute. In between, the Guidelines establish a series of escalating sentencing ranges based on the circumstances of the offense and the criminal record of the offender. The Guidelines do so using a score-keeping procedure. The Guidelines process involves:

I. Identification of the most appropriate Guidelines section for the crime(s) of conviction, based on the nature of the offense (the most...

Physical Security of the U.S. Power Grid: High-Voltage Transformer Substations

The U.S. electric power grid consists of over 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and hundreds of large transformer substations. High voltage (HV) transformer units make up less than 3% of U.S. transformers, but they carry 60%-70% of the nation’s electricity. Because they serve as vital nodes, HV transformers are critical to the nation’s electric grid. HV transformers are also the most vulnerable to damage from malicious acts.

For more than 10 years, the electric utility industry and government agencies have engaged in activities to secure HV transformers from physical attack...

Recruiting and Retention: An Overview of FY2013 and FY2014 Results for Active and Reserve Component Enlisted Personnel

Congress has historically been quite interested in recruiting and retention of personnel in the nation’s Armed Forces, since maintaining a fully manned and capable workforce is a key component of military readiness. This report provides a brief overview of the recruiting and retention results for Active and Reserve Component enlisted personnel during FY2013 and FY2014.

Recruiting and Retention Metrics

Recruiting performance for enlisted personnel is principally measured in terms of meeting quantity and quality goals. Quantity goals are based on the projected need for new personnel each...

U.S. Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Sustainment, Modernization, and Recapitalization: Background and Issues for Congress

Determining the future role of U.S. nuclear weapons within the U.S. national security strategy is currently a topic of much debate. Many senior leaders are determined to design a strategy that defines a new role for U.S. nuclear weapons and makes those weapons responsive and relevant in today’s global threat environment. The current U.S. nuclear enterprise consists of a triad of options: Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and long-range bombers. All three legs of the nuclear triad are aging, since they were largely built to counter...

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Trade Facilitation, Enforcement, and Security

International trade is a critical component of the U.S. economy, with U.S. merchandise imports amounting to $2.4 trillion and exports to $1.6 trillion in 2014. The efficient flow of legally traded goods in and out of the United States is thus a vital element of the country’s economic security.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the primary agency charged with monitoring, regulating, and facilitating the flow of goods through U.S. ports of entry (POEs). CBP’s policies are designed to (1) ensure the smooth flow of imported cargo...

South Carolina Church Shooting and Hate Crime in the United States

This report provides statistics on Hate Crimes in the United States, in the wake of the South Carolina Church Shooting on June 18, 2015.

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Comparison of H.R. 1560 and H.R. 1731 as Passed by the House

Effective sharing of information in cybersecurity is generally considered an important tool for protecting information systems and their contents from unauthorized access by cybercriminals and other adversaries. Five bills on such sharing have been introduced in the 114th Congress—H.R. 234, H.R. 1560, H.R. 1731, S. 456, and S. 754. The White House has also submitted a legislative proposal and issued an executive order on the topic.

In the House, H.R. 1560, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), was reported out of the Intelligence Committee. H.R. 1731, the National Cybersecurity...

Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of the FY2016 Defense Appropriations Bills (H.R. 2685 and S. 1558)

This fact sheet summarizes selected highlights of the version of the FY2016 Defense Appropriations Bill passed by the House on June 11, 2015 (H.R. 2685) and the version reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee the same day (S. 1558).

The United Kingdom: Background and Relations with the United States

Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress view the United Kingdom (UK) as the United States’ closest and most reliable ally. This perception stems from a combination of factors, including a sense of shared history, values, and culture, as well as extensive and long-established cooperation on a wide range of foreign policy and security issues. In the minds of many Americans, the UK’s strong role in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade reinforced an impression of closeness and solidarity.

2015 Election Result

The Conservative Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron, won...

Intelligence Authorization Legislation for FY2016: Selected Provisions

This report briefly highlights key provisions of H.R. 2596, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (IAA for FY2016), which provides guidance to, and authorizes appropriations for, components of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

Critical Infrastructures: Background, Policy, and Implementation

The nation’s health, wealth, and security rely on the production and distribution of certain goods and services. The array of physical assets, functions, and systems across which these goods and services move are called critical infrastructures (e.g., electricity, the power plants that generate it, and the electric grid upon which it is distributed).

The national security community has been concerned for some time about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to both physical and cyberattack. In May 1998, President Clinton released Presidential Decision Directive No. 63. The Directive...

Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources, by Topic

Cybersecurity Issues for the Bulk Power System

In the United States, it is generally taken for granted that the electricity needed to power the U.S. economy is available on demand and will always be available to power our machines and devices. However, in recent years, new threats have materialized as new vulnerabilities have come to light, and a number of major concerns have emerged about the resilience and security of the nation’s electric power system. In particular, the cybersecurity of the electricity grid has been a focus of recent efforts to protect the integrity of the electric power system.

The increasing frequency of cyber...

Train and Equip Program for Syria: Authorities, Funding, and Issues for Congress

In 2014, Congress for the first time provided the President with authority and funds to overtly train and lethally equip vetted members of the Syrian opposition for select purposes. These purposes include supporting U.S. efforts to combat the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria and setting the conditions for a negotiated settlement to Syria’s civil war. The FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, P.L. 113-291) and the FY2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235) provided that up to $500 million could be transferred from...

Department of Homeland Security: FY2015 Appropriations

This report analyzes the FY2015 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While this report makes note of many budgetary resources provided to DHS, its primary focus is on funding approved by Congress through the appropriations process.

The Administration requested $38.332 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2015, as part of an overall budget of $60.919 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps). The request amounted to a $0.938 billion, or 2.4%, decrease...

Congressional Power to Create Federal Courts: A Legal Overview

The U.S. Constitution established only one federal court—the U.S. Supreme Court. Beyond this, Article III of the Constitution left it to the discretion of Congress to “ordain and establish” lower federal courts to conduct the judicial business of the federal government. From the very first, Congress established a host of different federal tribunals to adjudicate a variety of legal disputes. The two central types of federal “courts”—courts established under Article III and those tribunals that are not—differ in many respects, including with regard to their personnel, purposes, and...

The Violence Against Women Act: Overview, Legislation, and Federal Funding

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been of ongoing interest to Congress since its enactment in 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The original act was intended to change attitudes toward domestic violence, foster awareness of domestic violence, improve services and provisions for victims, and revise the manner in which the criminal justice system responds to domestic violence and sex crimes. The legislation created new programs within the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) that aimed to reduce domestic violence and improve response to and recovery from domestic...

Sudan

Congress has played an active role in U.S. policy toward Sudan for more than three decades. Efforts to support an end to the country’s myriad conflicts and human rights abuses have dominated the agenda, as have counterterrorism concerns. When unified (1956-2011), Sudan was Africa’s largest nation by area, bordering nine countries and stretching from the northern borders of Kenya and Uganda to the southern borders of Egypt and Libya. Strategically located along the Nile River and the Red Sea, Sudan was historically described as a crossroads between the Arab world and Africa. Domestic and...

Sudan: an Overview

Stored Communications Act: Reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

In 1986, Congress enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to both protect the privacy of an individual’s electronic communications and provide the government with a means for accessing these communications and related records. Although passed at the infancy of the Internet, the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which is part of ECPA, has been interpreted over the years to cover the content of emails, private Facebook messages, YouTube videos, and so-called metadata, or non-content information, connected to our Internet transactions (e.g., websites visited, to/from and...

Selected Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 114th Congress

In 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, “homeland security” went from being a concept discussed among a relatively small cadre of policymakers and strategic thinkers to a broadly discussed issue in Congress. Debates over how to implement coordinated homeland security policy led to the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296) and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has continued under the leadership of different Administrations, Congresses, and in a shifting...

Government Collection of Private Information: Background and Issues Related to the USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization in Brief

This report discusses the legal background associated with the sunset of various provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and of subsequent related legislation.

Pakistan-U.S. Relations: Issues for the 114th Congress

Congress has taken keen interest in U.S. relations with Pakistan, especially as related to counterterrorism and U.S. foreign assistance. The terrorist attacks of September 2001 transformed U.S.-Pakistan relations virtually overnight. After more than a decade under broad U.S. sanctions for its nuclear proliferation activities, and later for a military coup, Pakistan became a key ally in U.S.-led efforts to combat Islamist militancy and extremism. Pakistan has been a leading recipient of U.S. assistance for nearly 15 years, having received more than $20 billion in economic, security, and...

Obama Library Likely Headed to Chicago's South Side

This report briefly discusses the proposed construction of President Barack Obama's presidential library in the South Side of Chicago.

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies: FY2015 Appropriations

The Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies appropriations bill provides funding for the planning, design, construction, alteration, and improvement of facilities used by active and reserve military components worldwide. It capitalizes military family housing and the U.S. share of the NATO Security Investment Program and finances the implementation of installation closures and realignments. It underwrites veterans benefit and health care programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provides for the creation and maintenance of U.S. cemeteries and...

The United Kingdom Election

This report briefly outlines the United Kingdom's recent election that was held on May 7, 2015 and resulted in a decisive victory for the Conservative Party.

The Federal Grand Jury

The federal grand jury exists to investigate crimes against the United States and to secure the constitutional right of grand jury indictment. Its responsibilities require broad powers.

As an arm of the U.S. District Court which summons it, upon whose process it relies, and which will receive any indictments it returns, the grand jury’s subject matter and geographical jurisdiction is that of the court to which it is attached.

As a general rule, the law is entitled to everyone’s evidence. Witnesses subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, therefore, will find little to excuse their...

Somalia

Ethiopia: An Overview

Tesla's Home Battery--An Electricity Storage Breakthrough?

Cost-effective electricity storage has long been a kind of "Holy Grail" for the electric power sector. This report briefly discusses potential innovations in electricity storage.

International Air Service Controversies: Frequently Asked Questions

“Open skies” agreements are a form of international civil air service agreement that facilitates international aviation in a deregulated environment. They eliminate government involvement in airline decisionmaking about international routes, capacity, and prices. Since 1992, the United States has reached 114 open skies agreements governing international air passenger and air freight services.

There are two ongoing controversies that are related to open skies agreements. One controversy involves some U.S. network airlines’ and labor unions’ opposition to the expansion of three fast-growing...

European Fighters in Syria and Iraq: Assessments, Responses, and Issues for the United States

The rising number of U.S. and European citizens traveling to fight with rebel and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq has emerged as a growing concern for U.S. and European leaders, including Members of Congress. Several deadly terrorist attacks in Europe over the past year—including the killing of 17 people in Paris in January 2015—have heightened the perception that these individuals could pose a serious security threat. Increasingly, terrorist suspects in Europe appear to have spent time with groups fighting in the Middle East, especially with the Islamic State organization (also known...

FY2016 Military Construction Appropriations: President's Request and House Markup Compared

This report briefly discusses the financing of military construction. Military construction is normally funded through Title I of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies appropriations bill and provides funding for the planning, design, construction, alteration, and improvement of facilities used by active and reserve military components worldwide.

Attribution in Cyberspace: Challenges for U.S. Law Enforcement

This report discusses criminal attribution in the cyber security realm.

2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force: Issues Concerning Its Continued Application

In response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, Congress enacted the Authorization for Use of Military Force (2001 AUMF; P.L. 107-40; 50 U.S.C. §1541 note) to authorize the use of military force against those who perpetrated or provided support for the attacks. Under the authority of the 2001 AUMF, U.S. Armed Forces have conducted military operations in Afghanistan since October 2001. As armed conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban progressed, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy evolved, U.S. use of military force has expanded outside Afghanistan to...

Islamic State Financing and U.S. Policy Approaches

Countering the financial resources of the Islamic State, which has seized significant territory in Iraq and Syria and threatened to conduct attacks against the United States and its citizens, has become a significant national security priority for policymakers, including Members of Congress. By undermining the financial strength of the group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, policymakers seek to reduce its capability to conduct terrorist attacks, as well as to ultimately “degrade and ultimately destroy” the group. This effort includes a comprehensive look at how the group generates...

Science and Technology Issues in the 114th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spur scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The constantly changing nature and ubiquity of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement directly by funding research and development and indirectly by creating...

Senegal

Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer

It has been three years since Congress enacted the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), calling for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or “drones,” into the national airspace by September 2015. During that time, the substantive legal privacy framework relating to UAS on the federal level has remained relatively static: Congress has enacted no law explicitly regulating the potential privacy impacts of drone flights, the courts have had no occasion to rule on the constitutionality of drone surveillance, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not...

Cyberwarfare and Cyberterrorism: In Brief

Recent incidents have highlighted the lack of consensus internationally on what defines a cyberattack, an act of war in cyberspace, or cyberterrorism. Cyberwar is typically conceptualized as state-on-state action equivalent to an armed attack or use of force in cyberspace that may trigger a military response with a proportional kinetic use of force. Cyberterrorism can be considered “the premeditated use of disruptive activities, or the threat thereof, against computers and/or networks, with the intention to cause harm or further social, ideological, religious, political or similar...

The Budget Control Act of 2011: Legislative Changes to the Law and Their Budgetary Effects

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R43411 Summary Following a lengthy debate over raising the debt limit, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA; P.L. 112-25) was signed into law by President Obama on August 2, 2011. In addition to including a mechanism to increase the debt limit, the BCA contained provisions intended to reduce the budget deficit through spending limits and reductions. The savings in the BCA are achieved mainly through two mechanisms: (1) statutory discretionary spending caps covering 10 years that came into effect in 2012 and (2) a requirement for an...

International Drug Control Policy: Background and U.S. Responses

The global illegal drug trade represents a multi-dimensional challenge that has implications for U.S. national interests as well as the international community. Common illegal drugs trafficked internationally include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. According to the U.S. intelligence community, international drug trafficking can undermine political and regional stability and bolster the role and capabilities of transnational criminal organizations in the drug trade. Key regions of concern include Latin America and Afghanistan, which are focal points in U.S. efforts to combat the...

FY2015 Funding to Counter Ebola and the Islamic State (IS)

In 2014, two major global threats—the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East—caused serious concern within the Obama Administration and among Members of Congress. In November 2014, the President requested a total of $11.7 billion for responding to the Ebola crisis and combatting the Islamic State.

On November 5, 2014, the President requested $6.18 billion in FY2015 emergency appropriations for Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of State and international assistance programs, and DOD to address the Ebola crisis domestically and overseas. The...

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Legal Challenges and Solutions

Over the course of the last year, a host of cyberattacks has been perpetrated on a number of high profile American companies. The high profile cyberattacks of 2014 and early 2015 appear to be indicative of a broader trend: the frequency and ferocity of cyberattacks are increasing, posing grave threats to the national interests of the United States. While considerable debate exists with regard to the best strategies for protecting America’s various cyber-systems and promoting cybersecurity, one point of general agreement amongst cyber-analysts is the perceived need for enhanced and timely...

Balancing Tourism against Terrorism: The Visa Waiver Program

This report briefly discusses Congress's concern that some foreign fighters might exploit the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to enter the United States and commit acts of terrorism. The VWP allows eligible visitors from 38 European nations and a few prosperous Asia-Pacific countries to enter the United States for short business or leisure stays without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad.

Nigeria's Boko Haram and the Islamic State

This report discusses the Nigerian Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, and their statement pledging loyalty to the leader of the Syria/Iraq-based Islamic State (IS/ISIL) organization and the implication for U.S. foreign policy and national security.

Congressional Action on FY2015 Appropriations Measures

The congressional appropriations process, which provides discretionary spending for federal government agencies, assumes the annual enactment of 12 regular appropriations bills prior to the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1). One or more continuing resolutions (CRs) may be enacted if all regular appropriations bills are not completed by that time. This report provides information on the budget enforcement framework for the consideration of FY2015 appropriations measures, the status of the FY2015 regular appropriations bills as of the beginning of the fiscal year, and the enactment of...

Nigeria’s 2015 Elections and the Boko Haram Crisis

In early February, the Nigerian government controversially delayed its scheduled elections by six weeks, to March 28, based on security concerns, drawing criticism from the political opposition and the Obama Administration, among others. The delay has heightened concerns about tensions around the polls and raised questions about alleged political interference in the electoral process. Two weeks prior to the delay, in late January, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Nigeria to stress U.S. views about the importance of the elections, and to extend condolences to the families of...

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2016 and Beyond

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov R43933 Summary The federal budget is central to Congress’s ability to exercise its “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year Congress and the President undertake a variety of steps intended to set levels of spending and revenue and to make policy decisions. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview and background on the current budget debate. This report will track legislative events related to the federal budget and will be updated as budgetary legislation moves through Congress. In recent years, policies enacted to restrain...

Information Warfare: The Role of Social Media in Conflict

This report briefly discusses the use if social media as a tool of information warfare. The ability to rapidly disseminate graphic images and ideas to shape the public narrative transforms social media into a strategic weapon in the hands of terrorists, insurgent groups, or governments engaged in conflict.

Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implements the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations, which regulate security at high-risk facilities possessing more than certain amounts of one or more chemicals of interest. Facilities possessing more than the specified amount must register with DHS through this program (a process known as the Top-Screen) and perform security-related activities. The DHS identifies a subset of high-risk chemical facilities from among those that register. These high-risk chemical facilities must submit a security vulnerability assessment,...

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action of November 20, 2014: Overview and Issues

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his Immigration Accountability Executive Action which would revise some U.S. immigration policies and initiate several programs, including a revised border security policy for the Southwest border; deferred action programs for some unauthorized aliens; revised interior enforcement priorities; changes to aid the entry of skilled workers; promoting immigrant integration and naturalization; and several other initiatives the President indicated would improve the U.S. immigration system. The most controversial among these provisions would grant...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2015 Appropriations

This report tracks and describes actions taken by the Administration and Congress to provide FY2015 appropriations for the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts. It also provides an overview of FY2014 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as a part of the annual appropriation for CJS.

The annual CJS appropriations act provides funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the science agencies, and several related agencies. Appropriations for the Department of Commerce include funding for agencies such as the Census Bureau; the U.S. Patent and...

U.S. Citizens Kidnapped by the Islamic State

This report briefly examines the kidnapping and killing of U.S. citizens by the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (IS).

Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides an overview and analysis of U.S.-Yemeni relations amidst evolving political change in Yemeni leadership, ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives in Yemen’s hinterlands, and international efforts to bolster the country’s stability despite an array of daunting socio-economic problems. Along with determining how best to counter terrorist threats emanating from Yemen, Congress and U.S. policy makers also may consider the priority level and resources that should be accorded to attempts to stabilize Yemen and to...

The Target and Other Financial Data Breaches: Frequently Asked Questions

In November and December of 2013, cybercriminals breached the data security of Target, one of the largest U.S. retail chains, stealing the personal and financial information of millions of customers. On December 19, 2013, Target confirmed that some 40 million credit and debit card account numbers had been stolen. On January 10, 2014, Target announced that personal information, including the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of up to 70 million customers, was also stolen during the data breach. A report by the Senate Committee on Commerce in March 2014 concluded that...

Mali: Transition from Conflict?

The United States and Europe: Current Issues

Due to extensive cooperation on a wide range of issues, the relationship between the United States and Europe is often called the transatlantic partnership. The two sides have many common values and concerns, and have grown increasingly interdependent in terms of security and prosperity. The transatlantic relationship and the main areas of U.S.-European cooperation and shared interest are likely to have continuing implications for U.S. policy during the 114th Congress. Members of Congress may have an interest in considering the dimensions and dynamics of current issues in U.S.-European...

Information Warfare: Cyberattacks on Sony

This report discusses information warfare, which includes information-related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries while protecting our own.

Energy and Water Development: FY2015 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), and the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and several other independent agencies.

President Obama’s FY2015 budget request for Energy and Water Development was released in March 2014. Including adjustments, the request totaled $34.26 billion, compared with a total of $34.13 billion appropriated for FY2014. The House approved the Energy and...

Issues in the Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The funding authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95), expires on September 30, 2015. In addition to setting spending levels, FAA authorization acts typically set policy on a wide range of issues related to civil aviation. This report considers topics that are likely to arise as the 114th Congress debates reauthorization.

Most FAA programs are financed through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), sometimes referred to as the Aviation Trust Fund. The financial health of the AATF, which is funded...

Defense: FY2015 Authorization and Appropriations

In contrast with the debate over the FY2014 defense budget, congressional action on the FY2015 Department of Defense (DOD) “base budget” (that is, the part of the budget not associated with operations in Afghanistan or other situations designated by the President as emergencies) was not complicated by disputes over the total amount at issue. For both the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the FY2015 Defense Appropriations Act, President Obama’s request, and versions of the legislation that were passed by the House, approved by the relevant Senate committees, and finally...

Sex Trafficking of Children in the United States: Overview and Issues for Congress

The trafficking of individuals within U.S borders is commonly referred to as domestic human trafficking, and it occurs in every state of the nation. One form of domestic human trafficking is sex trafficking. Research indicates that most victims of sex trafficking into and within the United States are women and children, and the victims include U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike. Recently, Congress has focused attention on domestic sex trafficking, including the prostitution of children, which is the focus of this report.

Federal law does not define sex trafficking per se. However, the...

Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Ports of Entry

About 362 million travelers (citizens and non-citizens) entered the United States in FY2013, including about 102 million air passengers and crew, 18 million sea passengers and crew, and 242 million land travelers. At the same time about 205,000 aliens were denied admission at ports of entry (POEs); and about 24,000 persons were arrested at POEs on criminal warrants.

Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for conducting immigration inspections at America’s 329 POEs. CBP’s primary...

National Security Letters: Proposals in the 113th Congress

A National Security Letter (NSL) is roughly comparable to an administrative subpoena. Various intelligence agencies use NSLs to demand certain customer information from communications providers, financial institutions, and consumer credit reporting agencies under the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the National Security Act, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Congress weighed several NSL amendments during the 113th Congress. The House passed one, H.R. 3361. The Senate failed to provide the three-fifths vote necessary for cloture on another, S....

Crime and Forfeiture

Forfeiture has long been an effective law enforcement tool. Congress and state legislatures have authorized its use for over 200 years. Every year, it redirects property worth billions of dollars from criminal to lawful uses. Forfeiture law has always been somewhat unique. By the close of the 20th century, however, legislative bodies, commentators, and the courts had begun to examine its eccentricities in greater detail because under some circumstances it could be not only harsh but unfair. The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), P.L. 106-185, 114 Stat. 202 (2000), was a product of...

North Korea: Back on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List?

From 1988 until 2008, the United States designated the government of North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Reagan Administration designated the DPRK after it was implicated in the 1987 bombing of a South Korean airliner, in which more than 100 people died. The George W. Bush Administration removed the designation from the DPRK in 2008, one of the measures the United States took in exchange for North Korea’s agreement to take steps to disable its nuclear program. As of early 2015, only the governments of Cuba,...

Terrorism Risk Insurance Legislation in the 114th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis

Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, insurance covering terrorism losses was normally included in commercial insurance policies without additional cost to the policyholders. Following the attacks, this ceased to be the case as insurers and reinsurers pulled back from offering terrorism coverage. Some feared that a lack of insurance against terrorism loss would have a wide economic impact, particularly because insurance coverage can be a significant factor in lending decisions.

Congress responded to the disruption in the insurance market by passing the Terrorism Risk...

Drug Offenses: Maximum Fines and Terms of Imprisonment for Violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act and Related Laws

This is a chart of the maximum fines and terms of imprisonment that may be imposed as a consequence of conviction for violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and other drug supply and drug demand related laws.

It lists the penalties for: heroin, cocaine, crack, PCP, LSD, marihuana (marijuana), amphetamine, methamphetamine, listed (precursor) chemicals, paraphernalia, date rape drugs, rave drugs, designer drugs, ecstasy, drug kingpins, as well as the other substances including narcotics and opiates assigned to Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule...

Insurance Agent Licensing: Overview and Background on Federal NARAB Legislation

The individual states have been the primary regulators of insurance in this country for the past 150 years. Congress specifically authorized the states’ role in the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act (15 U.S.C. §§1011-1015), and state primacy in insurance regulation has been recognized in more recent laws shaping the financial regulatory system, such as the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA; P.L. 106-102) and the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203). The system of multiple state regulators, however, has faced criticism over the years, with frequent focus on...

Post-9/11 Evolution of the United States' Defining of the Terrorist Threat from Al Qaeda

This report discusses the evolution on how the United States defines the terrorist threat since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2015 Budget and Appropriations

On December 16, 2014, Congress presented the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83), to the President, who signed it into law (P.L. 113-235) that same day. In Division J of that act, Congress appropriated $51.98 billion for the Department of State and Foreign Operations, including $9.26 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and $2.53 billion to address the Ebola crisis.

The annual State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill (also referred to here as “foreign affairs appropriations” or “foreign affairs funding”) is the...

Morocco: Current Issues

Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Morocco as an important regional ally, a partner in counterterrorism, and a free trade counterpart. Morocco receives substantial U.S. development aid, and bilateral trade and investment have increased following a 2006 Free Trade Agreement. Morocco also benefits from U.S. security assistance and military cooperation, and is a purchaser of U.S. defense articles, including F-16 jets. Some observers have placed greater emphasis on the U.S.-Morocco relationship amid regional turmoil and terrorist threats emanating from neighboring states in North...

Cybercrime: Conceptual Issues for Congress and U.S. Law Enforcement

Twenty-first century criminals increasingly rely on the Internet and advanced technologies to further their criminal operations. These criminals can easily leverage the Internet to carry out traditional crimes such as distributing illicit drugs and sex trafficking. In addition, they exploit the digital world to facilitate crimes that are often technology driven, including identity theft, payment card fraud, and intellectual property theft. Cybercrimes have economic, public health, and national security implications, among others. For over three decades, Congress has been concerned about...

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

The capacity, transparency, legitimacy, and cohesiveness of Afghan governance are crucial to Afghan stability as nearly all international forces exit Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The size and capability of the Afghan governing structure has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but the government remains rife with corruption and ethnic and political tensions among its major factions are ever present. Its recent elections have been marred by allegations of vast fraud and resulting post-election political crises.

Hamid Karzai, who served as president since...

Gun Control Legislation in the 113th Congress

The December 2012 Newtown, CT, tragedy, along with other mass shootings in Aurora, CO, and Tucson, AZ, restarted the national gun control debate in the 113th Congress. The Senate considered a range of legislative proposals, including several that President Barack Obama supported as part of his national gun violence reduction plan. The most salient of these proposals would have (1) required background checks for intrastate firearms transfers between unlicensed persons at gun shows and nearly any other venue, otherwise known as the “universal background checks” proposal; (2) increased...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 112th Congress

The President makes appointments to positions within the federal government, either using the authorities granted to the President alone or with the advice and consent of the Senate. There are some 349 full-time leadership positions in the 15 executive departments for which the Senate provides advice and consent. This report identifies all nominations submitted to the Senate during the 112th Congress for full-time positions in these 15 executive departments.

Information for each department is presented in tables. The tables include full-time positions confirmed by the Senate, pay levels...

U.S. Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits and Pension Funding Issues

Congress designed the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to be a self-supporting government agency. Since 1971, the agency has not relied upon annual appropriations to cover its operating costs. Rather, USPS has funded its operations mostly through the sales of postage and postal products and services.

Since FY2007, however, the agency has run more than $40 billion in deficits and has reached its statutory borrowing limit ($15 billion). The agency does receive an annual appropriation of approximately $90 million per year, which amounts to about 0.1% of USPS’s $65 billion operating budget.

USPS’s...

U.S.-Taiwan Relationship: Overview of Policy Issues

This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, provides an overview with analysis of the major issues in U.S. policy on Taiwan. Taiwan formally calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), tracing its political lineage to the ROC set up after the revolution in 1911 in China. The ROC government retreated to Taipei in 1949. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has maintained a non-diplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1979. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed policy in...

China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei

Despite broadly consistent statements, the U.S. “one China” policy concerning Taiwan remains somewhat ambiguous and subject to different interpretations. Apart from questions about what the policy entails, issues have arisen about whether U.S. Presidents have stated clear positions and have changed or should change policy, affecting U.S. interests in security and democracy. This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, analyzes the “one China” policy since U.S. Presidents began in 1971 to reach understandings with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Taiwan calls itself the...

U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress

This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses policy issues regarding military-to-military (mil-to-mil) contacts with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and records major contacts and crises since 1993. The United States suspended military contacts with China and imposed sanctions on arms sales in response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. In 1993, President Clinton reengaged with the top PRC leadership, including China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Renewed military exchanges with the PLA have not regained the closeness reached in the 1980s, when...

China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues

Congress has long been concerned about whether policy advances the U.S. interest in reducing the role of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and missiles that could deliver them. Recipients of PRC technology included Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran. This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses the security problem of China’s role in weapons proliferation and issues related to the U.S. policy response since the mid-1990s. China has taken some steps to mollify U.S. and other foreign concerns about its role in...

Cyber Operations in DOD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress

Cyberspace is defined by the Department of Defense as a global domain consisting of the interdependent networks of information technology infrastructures and resident data, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers. Attacks in cyberspace have seemingly been on the rise in recent years with a variety of participating actors and methods. As the United States has grown more reliant on information technology and networked critical infrastructure components, many questions arise about whether the nation is properly organized...

Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990

This report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses U.S. security assistance to Taiwan (calling itself Republic of China (ROC)), including policy issues for Congress and legislation. Congress has oversight of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), P.L. 96-8, which has governed arms sales to Taiwan since 1979, when the United States recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) instead of the ROC. The U.S.-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty terminated in 1979. Two other relevant parts of the “one China” policy are the August 17, 1982, U.S.-PRC Joint Communique and the “Six Assurances” to Taiwan....

Terrorism Risk Insurance Legislation in the 113th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis

Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, insurance covering terrorism losses was normally included in commercial insurance policies without additional cost to the policyholders. Following the attacks, this ceased to be the case as insurers and reinsurers pulled back from offering terrorism coverage. It was feared that a lack of insurance against terrorism loss would have a wider economic impact, particularly because insurance coverage can be a significant factor in lending decisions.

Congress responded to the disruption in the insurance market by passing the Terrorism Risk...

Cuba: U.S. Policy and Issues for the 113th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. In February 2013, Castro was reappointed to a second five-year term as President (until 2018, when he would be 86 years old), and selected 52-year old former Education Minister Miguel Díaz-Canel as his First Vice President, making him the official successor in the event that Castro cannot serve out his term. Raúl Castro has implemented a number of gradual economic...

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch Initiatives

The September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, prompted sustained congressional attention on the specific circumstances of the events in question, as well as broader questions regarding how U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities abroad are secured. Ensuring that the Department of State is better prepared for the possibility of similar attacks in the future has been a central congressional concern.

The Department of State undertook a number of measures in response to the attack, including immediate steps to bolster security at posts around the world; an...

The American Community Survey: Development, Implementation, and Issues for Congress

The American Community Survey (ACS), implemented nationwide in 2005 and 2006, is the U.S. Bureau of the Census’s (Census Bureau’s) replacement for the decennial census long form, which, from 1940 to 2000, gathered detailed socioeconomic and housing data from a representative population sample in conjunction with the once-a-decade count of all U.S. residents. Unlike the long form, with its approximately 17% sample of U.S. housing units in 2000, the ACS is a “rolling sample” or “continuous measurement” survey of about 295,000 housing units a month, totaling about 3.54 million a year (an...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, with diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political, and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration has focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There was substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region during the first six years of the Obama Administration, which pursued some of...

Presidential Advisers’ Testimony Before Congressional Committees: An Overview

Since the beginning of the federal government, Presidents have called upon executive branch officials to provide them with advice regarding matters of policy and administration. While Cabinet members were among the first to play such a role, the creation of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) in 1939 and the various agencies located within that structure resulted in a large increase in the number and variety of presidential advisers. All senior staff members of the White House Office and the leaders of the various EOP agencies and instrumentalities could be said to serve as...

Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Overview of Major Issues, Current Laws, and Proposed Legislation

For more than a decade, various experts have expressed increasing concerns about cybersecurity, in light of the growing frequency, impact, and sophistication of attacks on information systems in the United States and abroad. Consensus has also been building that the current legislative framework for cybersecurity might need to be revised.

The complex federal role in cybersecurity involves both securing federal systems and assisting in protecting nonfederal systems. Under current law, all federal agencies have cybersecurity responsibilities relating to their own systems, and many have...

Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 113th Congress

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has had statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes since the 109th Congress. The 113th Congress extended this authority through December 13, 2014, and has passed H.R. 4007, which provides new statutory authority. Congressional policy makers have debated the scope and details of reauthorization and continue to consider establishing an authority with longer duration. Some Members of Congress support an extension, either short- or long-term, of the existing authority. Other Members call for revision and more extensive...

The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11

With enactment of the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act on January 1, 2014 (H.R. 3547/P.L. 113-73), Congress has approved appropriations for the past 13 years of war that total $1.6 trillion for military operations, base support, weapons maintenance, training of Afghan and Iraq security forces, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the war operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.

Of this $1.6 trillion total, CRS estimates that the total is distributed as follows:

$686 billion (43%) for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) for Afghanistan and other...

Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206” Background and Issues for Congress

Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2006, as amended and regularly extended, provides the Secretary of Defense with authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes—counterterrorism and stability operations—and foreign security forces for counterterrorism operations. Section 1206 authority now extends through FY2017.

The conference version of the FY2015 NDAA somewhat modifies a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) proposal it its version of the FY2015 NDAA to codify this authority as permanent law under Title 10....

Army Active Component (AC)/Reserve Component (RC) Force Mix: Considerations and Options for Congress

The Army is composed of both an Active Component (AC) and a Reserve Component (RC). The AC consists of soldiers who are in the Army as their full-time occupation. The RC is composed primarily of soldiers who serve part-time but who can be ordered to full-time duty. The Army’s RC is made up of both the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the United States Army Reserve (USAR). AC/RC force mix refers to the distribution of units between the active and reserve components of the armed forces.

The congressional role in AC/RC force mix is most obvious in its authorization of end strengths for the...

Qatar: Background and U.S. Relations

Qatar, a small peninsular country in the Persian Gulf, emerged as a partner of the United States in the mid-1990s and currently serves as host to major U.S. military facilities. Qatar holds the third-largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, and is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Its small citizenry enjoys the world’s highest per capita income. Since the mid-1990s, Qatari leaders have overseen a course of major economic growth, increased diplomatic engagement, and limited political liberalization. The Qatari monarchy founded Al Jazeera, the first all-news Arabic...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 113th Congress

Immigration reform was an active legislative issue in the first session of the 113th Congress. The Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes provisions on border security, interior enforcement, employment eligibility verification and worksite enforcement, legalization of unauthorized aliens, immigrant visas, nonimmigrant visas, and humanitarian admissions. For its part, the House took a different approach to immigration reform. Rather than considering a single comprehensive...

Aiding, Abetting, and the Like: An Abbreviated Overview of 18 U.S.C. 2

Virtually every federal criminal statute has a hidden feature; primary offenders and even their most casual accomplices face equal punishment. This results from 18 U.S.C. 2, which visits the same consequences on anyone who orders or assists in the commission of a federal crime.

Aiding and abetting means assisting in the commission of someone else’s crime. Section 2(a) demands that the defendant embrace the crime of another and consciously do something to contribute to its success. An accomplice must know the offense is afoot if he is to intentionally contribute to its success. While a...

Aiding, Abetting, and the Like: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. 2

Virtually every federal criminal statute has a hidden feature; primary offenders and even their most casual accomplices face equal punishment. This results from 18 U.S.C. 2, which visits the same consequences on anyone who orders or assists in the commission of a federal crime.

Aiding and abetting means assisting in the commission of someone else’s crime. Section 2(a) demands that the defendant embrace the crime of another and consciously do something to contribute to its success. An accomplice must know the offense is afoot if he is to intentionally contribute to its success. While a...

Smartphone Data Encryption: A Renewed Boundary for Law Enforcement?

This report briefly examines new issues for law enforcement regarding data encryption and smartphones including cyber-criminals and Apple's new privacy policy that removes the back-doors that law enforcement used to be able to use to access user data.

Cybercrime: An Overview of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute and Related Federal Criminal Laws

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. 1030, outlaws conduct that victimizes computer systems. It is a cyber security law. It protects federal computers, bank computers, and computers connected to the Internet. It shields them from trespassing, threats, damage, espionage, and from being corruptly used as instruments of fraud. It is not a comprehensive provision, but instead it fills cracks and gaps in the protection afforded by other federal criminal laws. This is a brief sketch of CFAA and some of its federal statutory companions, including the amendments found in the Identity...

Federal and State Quarantine and Isolation Authority

In the wake of increasing fears about the spread of highly contagious diseases, federal, state, and local governments have become increasingly aware of the need for a comprehensive public health response to such events. An effective response could include the quarantine of persons exposed to infectious biological agents that are naturally occurring or released during a terrorist attack, the isolation of infected persons, and the quarantine of certain cities or neighborhoods.

The public health authority of the states derives from the police powers granted by their constitutions and reserved...

Western Sahara

Since the 1970s, Morocco and the independence-seeking Popular Front for the Liberation of Saqiat al Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) have vied, at times violently, for control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. In 1991, the United Nations (U.N.) arranged a cease-fire and proposed a settlement plan calling for a referendum to allow the people of the Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration into Morocco. A long deadlock on determining the electorate for a referendum ensued. (The number of Sahrawis, as the indigenous people of Western Sahara are known, is...

Mali: Current Issues

U.S. Military Action Against the Islamic State: Answers to Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Ongoing U.S. military operations against the Islamic State (which formerly referred to itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and is also commonly referred to as IS, ISIS, or ISIL) raise issues concerning the allocation of war powers between Congress and the President, including whether such operations have been (or are required to be) authorized by an act of Congress. In August 2014, President Obama ordered U.S. forces to commence airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq to assist the Iraqi government in combating the insurgent force, protect U.S. military and nonmilitary...

American Foreign Fighters and the Islamic State: Broad Challenges for Federal Law Enforcement

This report offers a framework for considering the challenges to domestic security posed by American fighters in the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (IS, previously referred to as ISIS or ISIL) and outlines some of the ways that U.S. law enforcement responds to such challenges.

U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress

U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation on nuclear energy and nonproliferation has grown in recent years along with closer bilateral economic, military, and diplomatic ties. In 2010, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding that Obama Administration officials said would be a “stepping stone” to a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. This agreement was signed by the two countries on May 6, 2014, and transmitted to Congress for review on May 8. The required congressional review period for this agreement was completed in early September, and the agreement will enter into force after an...

Judicial Activity Concerning Enemy Combatant Detainees: Major Court Rulings

As part of the conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the United States has captured and detained numerous persons believed to have been part of or associated with enemy forces. Over the years, federal courts have considered a multitude of petitions by or on behalf of suspected belligerents challenging aspects of U.S. detention policy. Although the Supreme Court has issued definitive rulings concerning several legal issues raised in the conflict with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, many others remain unresolved, with some the subject of ongoing litigation.

This report discusses major judicial...

NATO’s Wales Summit: Outcomes and Key Challenges

On September 4-5, the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) 28 member states met in Wales for the alliance’s 2014 summit. This was their first meeting since Russia began providing large-scale military support to separatist forces fighting in Ukraine, and their last before the planned completion by the end of 2014 of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, the longest and most ambitious operation in NATO history. As such, some analysts portrayed the summit as an opportunity to consider a possible strategic shift for NATO, away from the broad, “out of area” focus embodied by...

Aviation War Risk Insurance: Background and Options for Congress

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, coverage for such attacks, and for “war risks,” became difficult, if not impossible, for airlines to purchase from private insurers. In response, Congress passed expansions of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation War Risk Insurance Program. The amended statute (49 U.S.C. §44301 et seq) requires that the FAA offer war risk insurance to U.S. airlines with the premiums based on the cost of such coverage prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The federal coverage under the program is relatively expansive, with coverage provided...

Unlawfully Present Aliens, Driver’s Licenses, and Other State-Issued ID: Select Legal Issues

One aspect of the broader debate over aliens who are present in the United States in violation of federal immigration law has been their eligibility for driver’s licenses and other forms of state-issued identification documents (IDs). The issuance of driver’s licenses has historically been considered a state matter, and states have taken a variety of approaches. Some have barred the issuance of driver’s licenses and other state-issued ID to unlawfully present aliens; others permit their issuance; and yet others instead grant unlawfully present aliens Certificates for Driving (CFDs) or...

Mongolia: Issues for Congress

Mongolia is a sparsely populated young democracy in a remote part of Asia, sandwiched between two powerful large neighbors, China and Russia. It made its transition to democracy and free market reforms peacefully in 1990, after nearly 70 years as a Soviet satellite state. A quarter of a century later, the predominantly Tibetan Buddhist nation remains the only formerly Communist Asian nation to have embraced democracy. Congress has shown a strong interest in Mongolia since 1990, funding assistance programs, approving the transfer of excess defense articles, ratifying a bilateral investment...

Summary Report: FY2014 Supplemental Appropriations

On July 8, 2014, the Administration requested $4,346 million in FY2014 supplemental appropriations to address two issues: the surge in both unaccompanied and escorted children illegally crossing the southwest border, and a shortfall in federal funding to pay the costs of wildfires. The appropriations were requested to be designated as emergency funding, meaning the requested funds would not count against the discretionary budget caps for FY2014.

On July 23, 2014, the Senate introduced S. 2648, which includes $3,571 million in supplemental appropriations for the Administration’s requested...

FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program: Overview and Issues

Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM), as federal law and a program activity, began in 1997. Congress established a pilot program, within the Appropriations Act, which FEMA named Project Impact, to test the concept of investing prior to disasters to reduce the vulnerability of communities to future disasters. Several years later, P.L. 106-390, the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, authorized the PDM program in law as Section 203 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. However, unlike the rest of the Stafford Act which has a freestanding authorization, the PDM program...

Ethiopia: An Overview

Domestic Terrorism Appears to Be Reemerging as a Priority at the Department of Justice

This document examines an apparent shift in priorities at the Department of Justice (DOJ) towards a renewed focus on domestic terrorism with the reestablishment of its Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, which had been defunct for several years. The report considers why the shift in focus may be occurring and also briefly examines different types of domestic terror threats.

Border Security: CRS Experts

The following table lists the names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns related to border security. Policy areas identified include the following: Mission: scope, magnitude, relationship to departmental mission, functions and their interrelationships. Border surveillance: airports and air space; detection of nuclear and radiological materials; land borders; seaports and waterways. Immigration and foreign visitors: immigration; border “look out” systems; illegal entry; visa issuance and alien tracking. Transnational issues: border violence; foreign cooperation with...

Congressional Action on FY2014 Appropriations Measures

This report provides background and analysis on congressional action relating to the FY2014 appropriations process. The annual appropriations process currently anticipates that 12 regular appropriations bills will be enacted prior to the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1) to provide discretionary spending for federal government agencies. If all regular appropriations bills are not enacted by that time, one or more continuing resolutions (CRs) may be enacted to provide interim or full-year funds until regular appropriations are completed, or the fiscal year ends. During the fiscal...

The Military Commissions Act of 2009 (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues

On November 13, 2001, President Bush issued a Military Order (M.O.) pertaining to the detention, treatment, and trial of certain non-citizens in the war against terrorism. Military commissions pursuant to the M.O. began in November 2004 against four persons declared eligible for trial, but the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld invalidated the military commissions as improper under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To permit military commissions to go forward, Congress approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), conferring authority to promulgate rules that depart from...

U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Frequently Asked Questions and Background

This report provides information about the early August 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, and policy issues likely to be addressed by participants in the summit and other events being held in conjunction with it. In providing background on key U.S.-Africa policy issues, the report addresses: Africa’s development and economic challenges; U.S.-Africa trade, investment, and economic cooperation; U.S. aid to Africa; Governance, democracy, and human rights issues; and Peace and security issues, including selected U.S. responses. The summit is organized around the theme...

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe

Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

NATO has strongly condemned Russian actions in Ukraine and has taken steps aimed both at reassuring allies and...

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues

The United States maintains about 285 diplomatic facilities worldwide. Attacks on such facilities, and on U.S. diplomatic personnel, are not infrequent. The deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, along with attacks that week on U.S. embassies in Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen, drew renewed attention to the challenges facing U.S. diplomats abroad, as well as to the difficulty in balancing concerns for their security against the outreach required of their mission. Congress plays a key role in shaping the response...

Algeria: Current Issues

U.S.-Algeria ties are highly focused on counterterrorism cooperation and U.S. interest in Algeria’s oil and gas production. The Obama Administration has indicated a desire to deepen and broaden bilateral relations, including security assistance, while periodically urging greater political and economic openness. While both governments express appreciation for bilateral cooperation, U.S. officials may lack well-developed levers of influence in Algiers due to Algeria’s economic self-reliance and ties to non-Western strategic players such as Russia, along with Algerian leaders’ storied...

Terrorism Risk Insurance: Issue Analysis and Overview of Current Program

Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, coverage for losses from such attacks was normally included in general insurance policies without specific cost to the policyholders. Following the attacks, such coverage became very expensive if offered at all. Because insurance is required for a variety of transactions, it was feared that the absence of insurance against terrorism loss would have a wider economic impact. Terrorism insurance was largely unavailable for most of 2002, and some have argued that this adversely affected parts of the economy.

Congress responded to the...

Statutory Authority for the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): A Comparison of H.R. 4007 and P.L. 109-295, Section 550

The 109th Congress provided the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes through Section 550 of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007 (P.L. 109-295). This statutory authority contains a termination date, after which the statutory authority expires. The current termination date is October 4, 2014.

Subsequent Congresses have attempted to provide a new authorization for the current statutory authority, which DHS implements through the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). In the...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 111th Congress, 2009-2010

This report explains the process for filling positions to which the President makes appointments with the advice and consent of the Senate (also referred to as PAS positions). It also identifies, for the 111th Congress, all nominations to full-time positions requiring Senate confirmation in the 15 executive departments. It excludes appointments to regulatory boards and commissions and independent and other agencies, which are covered in other CRS reports.

The appointment process for advice and consent positions consists of three main stages. The first stage is selection, clearance, and...

The Federal Prison Industries: An Analysis of Sales, FY1993-FY2013

The Federal Prison Industries (FPI) is a government-owned corporation that employs offenders incarcerated in correctional facilities operated by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The FPI was created to serve as a means for managing, training, and rehabilitating inmates in the federal prison system through employment in one of its industries.

The FPI manufactures products and provides services that are primarily sold to executive agencies in the federal government. In the past, federal departments and agencies were required to purchase products from the...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2014 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill provides funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

Sudan: Issues for Congress

Panama: Background and U.S. Relations

The Central American nation of Panama has had five successive elected civilian governments since its return to democratic rule in 1989, and a sixth is scheduled to assume power on July 1, 2014 with the inauguration of current Vice President Juan Carlos Varela as President. Hailing from the center-right Panameñista Party, Varela won the May 4, 2014 presidential election with 39% of the vote in a three-candidate race. Significantly, Varela defeated the candidate of the ruling Democratic Change party of current President Ricardo Martinelli, who was constitutionally prohibited from running for...

The Project BioShield Act: Issues for the 113th Congress

In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. However, the government still lacks countermeasures against many of the CBRN terrorism agents determined by the government to pose the greatest threat. Congress is likely to consider whether modifications of these authorities or new authorities would help address remaining gaps.

The authority generally referred to...

Iraq Crisis: CRS Experts

The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on various policy concerns of interest to Congress relating to the ongoing crisis in Iraq. Policy areas identified include the conflict in Iraq, al Qaeda affiliates, embassy security, military operations, war powers, sanctions, energy security, humanitarian issues and displaced persons, issues in the Middle East region, the United Nations, and other international actors.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)

The Fourth Amendment Third-Party Doctrine

In the 1970s, the Supreme Court handed down Smith v. Maryland and United States v. Miller, two of the most important Fourth Amendment decisions of the 20th century. In these cases, the Court held that people are not entitled to an expectation of privacy in information they voluntarily provide to third parties. This legal proposition, known as the third-party doctrine, permits the government access to, as a matter of Fourth Amendment law, a vast amount of information about individuals, such as the websites they visit; who they have emailed; the phone numbers they dial; and their utility,...

Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border

Federally led law enforcement task forces and intelligence information sharing centers are ubiquitous in domestic policing. They are launched at the local, state, and national levels and respond to a variety of challenges such as violent crime, criminal gangs, terrorism, white-collar crime, public corruption, even intelligence sharing. This report focuses on those task forces and information sharing efforts that respond to federal counterdrug and counterterrorism priorities in the Southwest border region. More generally, the report also offers context for examining law enforcement...

Domestic Human Trafficking Legislation in the 113th Congress

Legislation aimed at preventing trafficking in persons (TIP) is unambiguously part of the legislative agenda of the 113th Congress. TIP is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary criminal activity and is of significant interest to the United States as a serious human rights concern. TIP is both an international and domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, as well as criminal law. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is the primary law that addresses human trafficking. Domestically, anti-TIP efforts provided...

Defense Acquisition Reform: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress

The Department of Defense (DOD) relies extensively on contractors to equip and support the U.S. military in peacetime and during military operations, obligating more than $300 billion on contracts in FY2013.

Congress and the executive branch have long been frustrated with waste, mismanagement, and fraud in defense acquisitions and have spent significant resources attempting to reform and improve the process. These frustrations have led to numerous efforts to improve defense acquisitions. Since the end of World War II, every Administration and virtually every Secretary of Defense has...

Mandatory Vaccinations: Precedent and Current Laws

Historically, the preservation of the public health has been the primary responsibility of state and local governments, and the authority to enact laws relevant to the protection of the public health derives from the state’s general police powers. With regard to communicable disease outbreaks, these powers may include the enactment of mandatory vaccination laws. This report provides an overview of the legal precedent for mandatory vaccination laws, and of state laws that require certain individuals or populations, including school-aged children and health care workers, to be vaccinated...

The European Parliament

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RS21998 Summary Between May 22 and May 25, 2014, the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) will hold elections for the next European Parliament (EP). The Parliament is a key EU institution that represents the citizens of the EU. It works closely with the two other main EU bodies, the European Commission (the EU’s executive) and the Council of the European Union (also known as the Council of Ministers, in which the national governments of the EU’s 28 member states are represented). Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) serve...

The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests—2014

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines maintain close ties stemming from the U.S. colonial period (1898-1946), the bilateral security alliance bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, and common strategic and economic interests. In the past decade, the Philippines has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign assistance in Southeast Asia, including both military and development aid. Many observers say that U.S. public and private support to the Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the central part of the country on November 8, 2013,...

Afghanistan: Drug Trafficking and the 2014 Transition

Afghanistan is the world’s primary source of opium poppy cultivation and opium and heroin production, as well as a major global source of cannabis (marijuana) and cannabis resin (hashish). Drug trafficking, a long-standing feature of Afghanistan’s post-Taliban political economy, is linked to corruption and insecurity, and provides a source of illicit finance for non-state armed groups. Based on recent production and trafficking trends, the drug problem in Afghanistan appears to be worsening—just as the U.S. government finalizes plans for its future relationship with the government of...

Select Committee on Benghazi: CRS Experts

The following table provides names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to the Select Committee on Benghazi (H.Res. 567). In addition to the policy expertise identified below, related CRS products include CRS Insight IN10055, House Select Committee Precedents and Procedures and H. Res. 567, Establishing a Select Committee on the 2012 Benghazi Attack, by Christopher M. Davis; CRS Insight IN10022, Diplomatic Security After Benghazi, by Alex Tiersky; CRS Report R43195, Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch...

South Africa: Politics, Economy, and U.S. Relations

South Africa is a multi-racial, majority black southern African country of nearly 52 million. It held its first universal suffrage elections in 1994, after a transition from white minority rule under apartheid, a system of state-enforced racial segregation and socioeconomic discrimination. South Africa entered a period of mourning in late 2013, upon the death of its first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela. He is viewed as the founding father of the countrys nonracial democratic system, the 20th anniversary of which was recently celebrated prior to national elections on May 7. South...

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purposes of exploitation is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary international criminal activity and is of significant interest to the United States and the international community as a serious human rights concern. TIP is both an international and a domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, and criminal law.

In general, the trafficking business feeds on conditions of vulnerability, such as youth, gender, poverty, ignorance, social exclusion, political instability, and ongoing...

Achievements of and Outlook for Sanctions on Iran

Most experts agree that the multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran since 2010 have contributed significantly to producing flexibility in Irans position on the scope of its nuclear program. There is similar agreement that the effect of sanctions on Irans foreign policyparticularly on its core interests in the Middle East regionand on its human rights practices, appear to have been minimal to date. In assessing effectiveness, however, it is difficult to separate the effect of sanctions from other variables such as Irans purported economic mismanagement, attitudes of the Iranian public, and...

Department of Homeland Security: FY2014 Appropriations

This report analyzes the FY2014 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested $39.0 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2014, as part of an overall budget of $60.0 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps). Net requested appropriations for major agencies within DHS were as follows: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $10,833 million; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), $4,997 million; Transportation Security...

Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications

From the Washington Administration to the present, Congress and the President have enacted 11 separate formal declarations of war against foreign nations in five different wars. Each declaration has been preceded by a presidential request either in writing or in person before a joint session of Congress. The reasons cited in justification for the requests have included armed attacks on United States territory or its citizens and threats to United States rights or interests as a sovereign nation.

Congress and the President have also enacted authorizations for the use of force rather than...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2014 Appropriations

On March 26, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6). The act provides a total of $60.638 billion for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). After rescissions and sequestration, the act provided a total of $57.936 billion for CJS, of which $7.510 billion was for the Department of Commerce, $25.830 billion was for the Department of Justice, $23.769 billion was for the science agencies, and $827.9 million was for the related agencies.

On April 10, 2013, President Obama submitted his FY2014 budget to...

Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy

Lebanons small geographic size and population belie the important role it has long played in the security, stability, and economy of the Levant and the broader Middle East. Congress and the executive branch have recognized Lebanons status as a venue for regional strategic competition and have engaged diplomatically, financially, and at times, militarily to influence events there. For most of its independent existence, Lebanon has been torn by periodic civil conflict and political battles between rival religious sects and ideological groups. External military intervention, occupation, and...

Global Security Contingency Fund: Summary and Issue Overview

The FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 112-81), Section 1207, created a new Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) as a four-year pilot project to be jointly administered and funded by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department. The purpose of the fund is to carry out security and counterterrorism training, and rule of law programs. (There also are three one-year transitional authorities for assistance to Africa and Yemen.) The GSCF is placed under the State Department budget. Although decisions are to be jointly made by the Secretaries of State and Defense, the...

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states ties with the West in part to end their dependence on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and because of concerns by Armenian Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro-Western leadership. Successive Administrations have supported U.S. private...

Foreign Assistance to North Korea

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program, a prospect that most analysts view as increasingly...

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by government-approved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics....

The Debate Over Selected Presidential Assistants and Advisors: Appointment, Accountability, and Congressional Oversight

A number of the appointments made by President Barack H. Obama to his Administration or by Cabinet secretaries to their departments have been referred to, especially by the news media, as “czars.” For some, the term is used to convey an appointee’s title (e.g., climate “czar”) in shorthand. For others, it is being used to convey a sense that power is being centralized in the White House or certain entities. When used in political science literature, the term generally refers to White House policy coordination or an intense focus by the appointee on an issue of great magnitude. Congress has...

Risk-Based Approaches to Airline Passenger Screening

Until recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had applied relatively uniform methods to screen airline passengers, focusing primarily on advances in screening technology to improve security and efficiency. TSA has recently shifted away from this approach, which assumes a uniform level of risk among all airline travelers, to one that focuses more intently on passengers thought to pose elevated security risks. Risk-based passenger screening includes a number of initiatives that fit within a broader framework addressing security risks, but specifically emphasizes the...

Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Introducing a Public Advocate

Recent revelations about the size and scope of government foreign surveillance efforts have prompted some to criticize the level of scrutiny that the courts—established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA)—currently provide with respect to the government’s applications to engage in such surveillance. In response to concerns that the ex parte nature of many of the proceedings before the FISA courts prevents an adequate review of the government’s legal positions, some have proposed establishing an office led by an attorney or “public advocate” who would represent...

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

This report discusses the current status of Central Asian states and U.S. policy, which has been aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism, proliferation, and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons.

Comparison of Rights in Military Commission Trials and Trials in Federal Criminal Court

The renewal of military commission proceedings against Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four others for their alleged involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks has focused renewed attention on the differences between trials in federal court and those conducted by military commission. The decision to try the defendants in military court required a reversal in policy by the Obama Administration, which had publicly announced in November 2009 its plans to transfer the five detainees from the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the United States to stand trial in the U.S. District Court...

U.S. Diplomatic Missions: Background and Issues on Chief of Mission (COM) Authority

“Chief of Mission,” or COM, is the title conferred on the principal officer in charge of each U.S. diplomatic mission to a foreign country, foreign territory, or international organization. Usually the term refers to the U.S. ambassadors who lead U.S. embassies abroad, but the term also is used for ambassadors who head other official U.S. missions and to other diplomatic personnel who may step in when no ambassador is present. Appointed by the President, each COM serves as the President’s personal representative, leading diplomatic efforts for a particular mission or in the country of...

Direct Overt U.S. Aid Appropriations for and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY2002-FY2015

This report provides data regarding the direct overt U.S. aid appropriations and military reimbursements to Pakistan.

Energy and Water Development: FY2014 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the Department of Energy (DOE), and several independent agencies.

FY2013 Energy and Water Development appropriations were considered in the context of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25), which established discretionary spending limits for FY2012-FY2021. On March 26, 2013, the President signed H.R. 933, the FY2013 Defense and Military Construction/VA, Full Year...

FY2014 Continuing Resolutions: Overview of Components

Four continuing resolutions (CRs) were enacted during the FY2014 appropriations process, to provide temporary funding until the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2014, was enacted on January 17, 2014 (P.L. 113-76).

The first two CRs were enacted before and during the FY2014 funding gap, which commenced on October 1, 2013, and terminated on October 17, 2013. Both of these were “narrow” CRs, in that they only funded certain prior year projects and activities. The first CR, the Pay Our Military Act (H.R. 3210; P.L. 113-39), was enacted on September 30, 2013. It provided funds for certain...

FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues

Military personnel issues typically generate significant interest from many Members of Congress and their staffs. Ongoing operations in Afghanistan, along with the operational role of the Reserve Components, further heighten interest in a wide range of military personnel policies and issues.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has selected a number of the military personnel issues considered in deliberations on the initial House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 and on the bill that was enacted and became law (P.L. 113-66). This report...

American Jihadist Terrorism: Combating a Complex Threat

This report describes homegrown violent jihadists and the plots and attacks that have occurred since 9/11. For this report, “homegrown” describes terrorist activity or plots perpetrated within the United States or abroad by American citizens, lawful permanent residents, or visitors radicalized largely within the United States. The term “jihadist” describes radicalized individuals using Islam as an ideological and/or religious justification for their belief in the establishment of a global caliphate, or jurisdiction governed by a Muslim civil and religious leader known as a caliph. The term...

Countering Violent Extremism in the United States

In August 2011, the Obama Administration announced its counter-radicalization strategy. It is devised to address the forces that influence some people living in the United States to acquire and hold radical or extremist beliefs that may eventually compel them to commit terrorism. This is the first such strategy for the federal government, which calls this effort “combating violent extremism” (CVE). Since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has prosecuted hundreds of individuals on terrorism charges. Unlike the necessarily secretive law enforcement and...

The Domestic Terrorist Threat: Background and Issues for Congress

The emphasis of counterterrorism policy in the United States since Al Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) has been on jihadist terrorism. However, in the last decade, domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from U.S.-based extremist ideologies and movements—have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country. Not all of these criminals have been prosecuted under terrorism statutes. This latter point is not meant to imply that domestic terrorists should be taken any less seriously than other terrorists.

The Department...

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the Bureau) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with counterterrorism investigations. Since the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks, the FBI has implemented a series of reforms intended to transform itself from a largely reactive law enforcement agency focused on investigations of criminal activity into a more proactive, agile, flexible, and intelligence-driven agency that can prevent acts of terrorism.

This report provides background information on key elements of the FBI terrorism investigative process based on publicly available...

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda): U.S. and International Response to Philippines Disaster

This report examines the impact of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the central Philippines on November 8, 2013, and the U.S. and international response. Haiyan was one of the strongest typhoons to strike land on record. Over a 16 hour period, the “super typhoon,” with a force equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane and sustained winds of up to 195 mph, directly swept through six provinces in the central Philippines. The disaster quickly created a humanitarian crisis. In some of the hardest hit areas, particularly in coastal communities in Leyte province and the southern tip of Eastern...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2014 Budget and Appropriations

On April 10, 2013, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its budget request for FY2014. The request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs totaled $51.84 billion, which was about 2% below the FY2013 post-sequester estimated funding level of $52.88 billion. Within the request, $3.81 billion was designated as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, which was 68% below FY2013-estimated OCO funding of $11.92 billion. Of the total request, $16.88 billion was for State Department Operations and related agencies, a 5.8% decline from the FY2013 funding estimate of...

The Social Security Number: Legal Developments Affecting Its Collection, Disclosure, and Confidentiality

While the social security number (SSN) was first introduced as a device for keeping track of contributions to the Social Security program, its use has been expanded by government entities and the private sector to keep track of many other government and private sector records. Use of the SSN as a federal government identifier was based on Executive Order 9397, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt. Beginning in the 1960s, federal agencies started adopting the SSN as a governmental identifier, and its use for keeping track of government records, on both the federal and state levels,...

Data Security and Credit Card Thefts: CRS Experts

Thefts of credit-card and other customer information from major retailers in the fall of 2013 have renewed concerns about the security of credit cards and the information systems that hold, process, and transmit data from them, as well as other financial and personal information of consumers. The impacts and growing sophistication of such data breaches, along with the broader growth of cybercrime, has added urgency to long-standing concerns about the security of electronic data. The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on data security, cybercrime, privacy,...

Algae’s Potential as a Transportation Biofuel

Congress continues to debate the federal role in biofuel research, biofuel tax incentives, and renewable fuel mandates. The debate touches on topics such as fuel imports and security, job creation, and environmental benefits, and is particularly significant for advanced biofuels, such as those produced by algae.

Congress established the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2), a mandate requiring that the national fuel supply contain a minimum amount of fuel produced from renewable biomass. The RFS2 is essentially composed of two biofuel mandates—one for unspecified biofuel, which is being met...

“Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview

Congressional interest in the laws and processes involved in conditioning U.S. assistance to foreign security forces on human rights grounds has grown in recent years, especially as U.S. Administrations have increased emphasis on expanding U.S. partnerships and building partnership capacity with foreign military and other security forces. Congress has played an especially prominent role in initiating, amending, supporting with resources, and overseeing implementation of long-standing laws on human rights provisions affecting U.S. security assistance.

First sponsored in the late 1990s by...

Federal Funding of Presidential Nominating Conventions: Overview and Policy Options

This report provides overview and analysis of two recurring questions surrounding the federal government’s role in financing presidential nominating conventions. First, how much public funding supports presidential nominating conventions? Second, what options exist for changing that amount if Congress chooses to do so? In the 113th Congress, the House passed legislation (H.R. 2019) to eliminate nonsecurity funding. The Committee on House Administration reported two other related bills (H.R. 94; H.R. 95). Other bills that would eliminate convention financing include H.R. 260, H.R. 1724,...

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on July 4, 2007, that Sochi, Russia, had been selected as the host city for the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics. The Olympic Games, which will be held February 7-23, 2014, are the first to be hosted by Russia as a successor state to the former Soviet Union. Reportedly, some 230 U.S. athletes out of approximately 2,900 from some 88 countries, and about 10,000 U.S. visitors, are expected in Sochi. Olympic events will take place at two main locations: a coastal cluster along the Black Sea and a mountain cluster in the...

Executive Order 13438: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq

On July 17, 2007, President Bush issued Executive Order 13438, Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. It is the latest in a series of executive orders based on the national emergency declared by President Bush with respect to “the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in that country, and the development of political, administrative and economic institutions in Iraq.” Regulations...

Detention of U.S. Persons as Enemy Belligerents

The detainee provisions passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012, P.L. 112-81, affirm that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), P.L. 107-40, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, authorizes the detention of persons captured in connection with hostilities. The act provides for the first time a statutory definition of covered persons whose detention is authorized pursuant to the AUMF. During debate of the provision, significant attention focused on the applicability of this detention authority to U.S. citizens and other persons...

Nonimmigrant Overstays: Brief Synthesis of the Issue

As Congress debates comprehensive immigration reform and its component parts of immigration control (i.e., border security and interior enforcement), legal reform (i.e., temporary and permanent admissions), and the resolution of unauthorized alien residents, concerns arise over the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify and remove temporary aliens on nonimmigrant visas who fail to depart after their visas expire. It is estimated that each year hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals overstay their nonimmigrant visas or enter the country illegally (with...

Identity Theft: Trends and Issues

In the current fiscal environment, policymakers are increasingly concerned with securing the economic health of the United States—including combating those crimes that threaten to undermine the nation’s financial stability. Identity theft is one such crime. In 2012, about 12.6 million Americans were reportedly victims of identity fraud, and the average identity fraud victim incurred a mean of $365 in costs as a result of the fraud. Identity theft is often committed to facilitate other crimes such as credit card fraud, document fraud, or employment fraud, which in turn can affect not only...

Defense: FY2014 Authorization and Appropriations

Congressional action on DOD’s FY2014 budget was hobbled by the prevailing uncertainty over the entire federal budget that dissipated only in mid-December, when Congress passed and the President signed H.J.Res. 59, which set binding caps on discretionary spending for defense and nondefense programs in FY2014. The bill’s defense cap, while about $31 billion below the amount requested for defense programs by President Obama, was more than $20 billion higher than the FY2014 defense cap that had been set by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

President Obama’s FY2014 base budget...

Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Control with Russia: Issues for Congress

In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama stated that the United States would “engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals.” These reductions could include limits on strategic, nonstrategic and nondeployed nuclear weapons. Yet, arms control negotiations between the United States and Russia have stalled, leading many observers to suggest that the United States reduce its nuclear forces unilaterally, or in parallel with Russia, without negotiating a new treaty. Many in Congress have expressed concerns about this possibility, both because they question the...

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, a time when the global economy was struggling to recover from the financial crisis and slow economic growth. The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organization in which the 34 member countries discuss and develop key policy recommendations that often serve as the basis for international standards and practices. In addition, the OECD members analyze economic and social policy and share expertise and exchanges with more than 70 developing and emerging economies. The 34 member...

War in Afghanistan: Campaign Progress, Political Strategy, and Issues for Congress

This is a critical time for U.S. efforts in the war in Afghanistan. U.S. military engagement beyond December 2014, when the current NATO mission ends, depends on the achievement of a U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), specifying the status of U.S. forces. Afghan President Hamid Karzai threw the BSA process into confusion by introducing new terms and conditions after a deal had been reached by negotiators. Even if a BSA is reached, U.S. decisions are still pending regarding the scope, scale, and timeline for any post-2014 U.S. force presence in Afghanistan. President Obama has...

Science and Technology Issues in the 113th Congress

Science and technology (S&T) have a pervasive influence over a wide range of issues confronting the nation. Public and private research and development spurs scientific and technological advancement. Such advances can drive economic growth, help address national priorities, and improve health and quality of life. The constantly changing nature and ubiquity of science and technology frequently create public policy issues of congressional interest.

The federal government supports scientific and technological advancement by directly funding research and development and indirectly by creating...

The Budget Control Act, Sequestration, and the Foreign Affairs Budget: Background and Possible Impacts

Congress has an interest in the cost and effectiveness of foreign affairs activities that promote U.S. interests overseas. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25), as amended by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240/H.R. 8, signed into law on January 2, 2013) required across-the-board reductions (sequestration) in most federal defense and nondefense discretionary programs, projects, and activities including those in foreign affairs for FY2013, and additional spending reductions each year through FY2021. These automatic cuts for FY2013 were ordered on March 1,...

The 2010 Decennial Census: Background and Issues

The 23rd decennial census of the U.S. population began on January 25, 2010, in Noorvik, AK, where the U.S. Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau) Director, among others, traveled by snowmobile and dogsled to enumerate the residents. Most households in the United States—about 120 million—received their census forms by mail in March, ahead of the official April 1 Census Day, and 74% of the households that received forms mailed them back. From May through July, the Census Bureau contacted about 47 million nonresponding households and on December 21, 2010, released the official state population...

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: FY2013 Appropriations

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Interior (DOI), except for the Bureau of Reclamation, and for agencies within other departmentsincluding the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and the Indian Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services. It also includes funding for arts and cultural agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous other entities.

Neither the House nor the Senate passed a regular appropriations bill for FY2013 for Interior, Environment, and...

Samantar v. Yousef: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and Foreign Officials

On June 1, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided unanimously in Samantar v. Yousef that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which governs the immunity of foreign states in U.S. courts, does not apply in suits against foreign officials. The ruling clarifies that officials of foreign governments, whether present or former, are not entitled to invoke the FSIA as a shield, unless the foreign state is the real party in interest in the case. Samantar’s particular facts involve the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA), but the ruling applies to all causes...

Turkmenistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

When Turkmenistan gained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the former republic’s president and head of the Turkmen Communist Party, Saparamurad Niyazov, retained power. He was reelected president in another uncontested race in 1992, and a referendum in 1994 extended his term until 2002. Before facing reelection, however, constitutional amendments approved in 1999 proclaimed him president for life. The country’s May 1992 constitution granted Niyazov overwhelming powers to rule by decree as head of state and government. According to several...

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2013

President Obama’s budget request for FY2013 included $140.820 billion for research and development (R&D), a $1.951 billion (1.4%) increase from the FY2012 estimated funding level of $138.869 billion. The FY2013 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-6), signed into law on March 26, 2013, provided year-long appropriations to all agencies for FY2013. The law included divisions incorporating five of the regular appropriations bills—Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies;...

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): A Legal Overview

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 guarantees parental access to student education records, while limiting the disclosure of those records to third parties. The act, sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment, was designed to address parents’ growing concerns over privacy and the belief that parents should have the right to learn about the information schools were using to make decisions concerning their children.

No substantial legislative changes have been made to FERPA since 2001, but in 2011, the Department of Education (ED) issued controversial new...

Child Labor in America: History, Policy, and Legislative Issues

The history of child labor in America is long and, in some cases, unsavory. It dates back to the founding of the United States. Historically, except for the privileged few, most children worked—either for their parents or for an outside employer. Through the years, however, child labor practices have changed. So have the benefits and risks associated with employment of children. In some respects, altered workplace technology has served to make work easier and less hazardous. At the same time, some processes and equipment have rendered the workplace more advanced and dangerous, especially...

The September 2013 Terrorist Attack in Kenya: In Brief

On September 21, 2013, masked gunmen attacked the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya taking hostages and killing at least 67 people. Almost 200 people, including at least five U.S. citizens, were wounded in the siege, which lasted four days. The attack is the most deadly terrorist incident in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. A Somali Islamist insurgent group, Al Shabaab, which has ties to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack. Al Qaeda and affiliated groups like Al Shabaab have had a presence in East Africa for almost 20...

Corporate Criminal Liability: An Overview of Federal Law

A corporation is criminally liable for the federal crimes its employees or agents commit in its interest. Corporate officers, employees, and agents are individually liable for the crimes they commit, for the crimes they conspire to commit, for the foreseeable crimes their coconspirators commit, for the crimes whose commission they aid and abet, and for the crimes whose perpetrators they assist after the fact.

The decision whether to prosecute a corporation rests with the Justice Department. Internal guidelines identify the factors that are to be weighed: the strength of the case against...

Introducing a Public Advocate into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's Courts: Select Legal Issues

This report explores government surveillance act and other difficult constitutional issues prompted by the idea of including a new adversary in established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) FISA court proceedings.

FY2014 Appropriations Lapse and the Department of Homeland Security: Impact and Legislation

Absent legislation providing appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2014, the Department implemented a shutdown furlough on October 1, 2013. Operations of different components were affected to varying degrees by the shutdown. While an estimated 31,295 employees were furloughed, roughly 85% of the department’s workforce continued with their duties that day, due to exceptions identified in current interpretations of law. Some DHS employees were recalled to work after the furloughs began on the basis of unanticipated needs (such as disaster preparedness activities)...

Improper Payments and Recovery Audits: Legislation, Implementation, and Analysis

As Congress searches for ways to generate savings, reduce the deficit, and fund federal programs, it has held hearings and passed legislation to prevent and recover improper payments. Improper payments—which exceeded $115 billion in FY2011—are payments made in an incorrect amount, payments that should not have been made at all, or payments made to an ineligible recipient or for an ineligible purpose. The total amount of improper payments may be even higher than reported because several agencies have yet to determine improper payment amounts for many programs, including some with billions...

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress

Syria has produced, stored, and weaponized chemical agents, but it remains dependent on foreign suppliers for chemical precursors. The regime of President Bashar al Asad possesses stocks of nerve (sarin, VX) and blister (mustard gas) agents, possibly weaponized into bombs, shells, and missiles. The government also has associated production facilities. Chemical weapons and their agents can deteriorate depending on age and quality; little is known from open sources about the current condition of the stockpile. Syria continues to attempt to procure new supplies of chemical weapons precursors,...

Tajikistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Tajikistan is a significant country in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location bordering China and Afghanistan and its ample water and other resources, but it faces ethnic and clan schisms, deep poverty, poor governance, and other severe challenges. Tajikistan was one of the poorest of the new states that gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The new country was soon plunged into a devastating civil conflict between competing regional and other interests that lasted until a peace settlement in 1997. Former state farm chairman...

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Appropriations for FY2013: Debate During the 112th Congress

Preceding the March 26, 2013, enactment of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6), during the 113th Congress, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (P.L. 112-175, H.J.Res. 117), enacted September 28, 2012, provided appropriations for federal departments and agencies—including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—funded under each of the regular appropriations bills through March 27, 2013. The continuing resolution provided funding generally at FY2012 levels with an across-the-board increase of 0.612% unless otherwise specified....

Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 113th Congress

With the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), many observers have made a fresh assessment of where America’s homeland security enterprise stands today. DHS is currently the third-largest department in the federal government, although it does not incorporate all of the homeland security functions at the federal level. The definition of homeland security remains unsettled, and questions about the effectiveness and efficiency of the department have been raised since it was first proposed. Evolution of America’s response to terrorist threats has...

Intelligence Spending and Appropriations: Issues for Congress

It is now publicly acknowledged that intelligence appropriations are a significant component of the federal budget, over $78 billion in FY2012 for both the national and military intelligence programs. Limited publicly available data suggest intelligence spending, measured in constant 2014 dollars, has roughly doubled since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and, before declines over the last three years, was almost double spending at its peak at the end of the Cold War. The recent disclosure by the Washington Post of details from the Administration’s FY2013 National Intelligence...

GSEs and the Government’s Role in Housing Finance: Issues for the 113th Congress

The federal government’s role in the mortgage market dates to the Depression and is considered by many to be substantial: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae (officially the Government National Mortgage Association, which is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development) together guarantee virtually all new mortgage-backed securities (MBS). With slightly less than $10 trillion in mortgages outstanding, the residential mortgage market is of central importance both to households and to lenders.

As government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have special...

Possible U.S. Intervention in Syria: Issues for Congress

Reports of a mass casualty chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus are reshaping the long-running and contentious debate over possible U.S. intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war. Obama Administration officials and some foreign governments report that on August 21, 2013, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Asad attacked opposition-controlled areas in the suburbs of the capital with chemical weapons, killing hundreds of civilians, including women and children. The Syrian government has denied the accusations categorically and blames the opposition for the attack. United...

Climate Change Science: Key Points

Though climate change science often is portrayed as controversial, broad scientific agreement exists on many points:

The Earth’s climate is warming and changing.

Human-related emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other pollutants have contributed to warming observed since the 1970s and, if continued, would tend to drive further warming, sea level rise, and other climate shifts.

Volcanoes, the Earth’s relationship to the Sun, solar cycles, and land cover change may be more influential on climate shifts than rising GHG concentrations on other time and geographic scales. Human-induced...

Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Statutes

Federal mandatory minimum sentencing statutes limit the discretion of a sentencing court to impose a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment or the death penalty. They have a long history and come in several varieties: the not-less-than, the flat sentence, and piggyback versions. Federal courts may refrain from imposing an otherwise required statutory mandatory minimum sentence when requested by the prosecution on the basis of substantial assistance toward the prosecution of others. First-time, low-level, non-violent offenders may be able to avoid the mandatory minimums under...

NSA Surveillance Leaks: Background and Issues for Congress

Recent attention concerning National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance pertains to unauthorized disclosures of two different intelligence collection programs. Since these programs were publicly disclosed over the course of two days in June, there has been confusion about what information is being collected and under which authorities the NSA is acting. This report clarifies the differences between the two programs and identifies potential issues that may help Members of Congress assess legislative proposals pertaining to NSA surveillance authorities.

The first program collects in bulk the...

Kyrgyzstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Kyrgyzstan is a small and poor Central Asian country that gained independence in 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The United States has been interested in helping Kyrgyzstan to enhance its sovereignty and territorial integrity, bolster economic reform and development, strengthen human rights, prevent weapons proliferation, and more effectively combat transnational terrorism and trafficking in persons and narcotics. Special attention long has been placed on bolstering civil society and democratization in what has appeared to be the most receptive—but still challenging—political...

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Appropriations for FY2013 in P.L. 113-6

Enacted March 26, 2013, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6), appropriated funding for the full fiscal year through September 30, 2013. Seven regular appropriations acts, including Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which funds EPA, are covered by the full-year continuing appropriations provided in Division F of P.L. 113-6. The final level of appropriations ultimately available to EPA and other federal departments and agencies in FY2013 includes the application of an across-the-board rescission required by P.L. 113-6 and the executive...

Possible Intervention in Syria: CRS Experts

The table below provides names and contact information for CRS experts on various policy concerns of interest to Congress relating to the prospect of international military responses to the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria. Policy areas identified include the conflict in Syria, chemical weapons, military operations, intelligence issues, war powers, the humanitarian response, issues in the Middle East region, the United Nations, other international actors, and other foreign policy instruments.

Uzbekistan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Uzbekistan gained independence at the end of 1991 with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The landlocked country is a potential Central Asian regional power by virtue of its population, the largest in the region, its substantial energy and other resources, and its location at the heart of regional trade and transport networks. The existing president, Islam Karimov, retained his post following the country’s independence, and was reelected in 2000 and 2007. He has pursued a policy of caution in economic and political reforms, and many observers have criticized Uzbekistan’s human rights...

Immigration Enforcement: Major Provisions in H.R. 2278, the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE Act)

Reforming the nation’s immigration laws has been the subject of significant legislative activity in the 113th Congress. In June, the Senate passed an omnibus immigration bill (S. 744) that addresses a broad array of issues, including immigration enforcement and border security, verification of aliens’ employment eligibility, the temporary and permanent admission of foreign nationals into the country, and the creation of mechanisms for some unauthorized aliens to acquire legal status. The House, in contrast, has focused legislative activity on a number of stand-alone bills that would reform...

Financing Natural Catastrophe Exposure: Issues and Options for Improving Risk Transfer Markets

This report opens with an examination of the current role of private insurers in managing disaster risk and their capacity and willingness to deal with the rising cost of financing recovery and reconstruction following natural disasters. The report then examines the current role of federal, state, and local governments in managing disaster risk.

Bangladesh: Political and Strategic Developments and U.S. Interests

Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) is an Islamic-majority nation in South Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, dominated by low-lying riparian zones. It is the world’s eighth-largest country in terms of population, with 164 million people housed in a land mass the size of Iowa. Roughly 80% of Bangladesh’s population lives on less than $2 per day. It suffers from high levels of corruption and, at times, a faltering democratic system that has been subject to pressure from the military, though the nation has an established reputation as a largely moderate and democratic majority Muslim...

National Security Strategy: Mandates, Execution to Date, and Issues for Congress

Strategy—together with decision-making, planning and execution, budgeting, and congressional oversight—is a critical component of U.S. government thinking and practice in the arena of national security. In theory, effective national security strategy-making can sharpen priorities and refine approaches; provide a single shared vision for all concerned agencies; clarify the roles and responsibilities of all concerned agencies so that they may more effectively plan and resource; offer a coherent baseline for congressional oversight; and communicate U.S. government intent to key audiences at...

Regulation of Fertilizers: Ammonium Nitrate and Anhydrous Ammonia

The explosion on April 17, 2013, at the West Fertilizer Company fertilizer distribution facility in West, TX, has led to questions about the oversight and regulation of agricultural fertilizer. Facilities holding chemicals must comply with regulations attempting to ensure occupational safety, environmental protection, and homeland security. In addition to federal regulation requiring reporting and planning for ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia, most state and some local governments have laws and regulations regarding the handling of either or both of these chemicals.

The West...

The U.S. Congress and the European Parliament: Evolving Transatlantic Legislative Cooperation

The United States and the European Union (EU) share an extensive, dynamic, and mutually beneficial political and economic partnership. A growing element of that relationship is the role that the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament (EP)—a key EU institution—have begun to play, including in areas ranging from foreign and economic policy to regulatory reform. Proponents of establishing closer relations between the U.S. Congress and the EP point to the Parliament’s growing influence as a result of the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty which increased the relative power of the EP within the EU, and...

International Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Threats and U.S. Policy

Global trade in illegal wildlife is a potentially vast illicit economy, estimated to be worth billions of dollars each year. Some of the most lucrative illicit wildlife commodities include elephant ivory, rhino horn, sturgeon caviar, and so-called “bushmeat.” Wildlife smuggling may pose a transnational security threat as well as an environmental one. Numerous sources indicate that some organized criminal syndicates, insurgent groups, and foreign military units may be involved in various aspects of international wildlife trafficking. Limited anecdotal evidence also indicates that some...

Kazakhstan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Kazakhstan is an important power in Central Asia by virtue of its geographic location, large territory, ample natural resources, and economic growth, but it faces ethnic, political, and other challenges to stability. Kazakhstan gained independence at the end of 1991 after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan’s president at the time, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was one of the top leaders of the former Soviet Union and was instrumental in forming the successor Commonwealth of Independent States. He has been reelected president of Kazakhstan several times and in June 2010 was...

Pakistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance

In the post-2001 era, the United States has viewed Pakistan as a key ally, especially in the context of counterterrorism and Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan has been among the leading recipients of U.S. foreign assistance both historically and in recent years, although assistance levels have fluctuated considerably over the decades of Pakistani independence. In the wake of 9/11, however, aid to Pakistan increased steadily. Since 1948, the United States has pledged more than $30 billion in direct aid, about half for military assistance, and more than two-thirds appropriated in the...

Horse Slaughter Prevention Bills and Issues

In 2006, two Texas plants and one in Illinois slaughtered nearly 105,000 horses for human food, mainly for European and Asian consumers. In 2007, court action effectively closed the Texas plants, and a ban in Illinois closed the plant in that state. However, U.S. horses continue to be shipped to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. Several states have explored opening horse slaughtering facilities, and Oklahoma enacted to lift the state’s 50-year-old ban on processing horsemeat. Animal welfare activists and advocates for horses have continued to press Congress for a federal ban. The Prevention...

Financial Services and General Government: FY2013 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill provides funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

Georgia [Republic]: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

The small Black Sea-bordering country of Georgia gained its independence at the end of 1991 with the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. The United States had an early interest in its fate, since the well-known former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, soon became its leader. Democratic and economic reforms faltered during his rule, however. New prospects for the country emerged after Shevardnadze was ousted in 2003 and the U.S.-educated Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president. Then-U.S. President George W. Bush visited Georgia in 2005, and praised the democratic and...

Department of Homeland Security: FY2013 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2013 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested $39.510 billion in adjusted net discretionary budget authority for DHS for FY2013, as part of an overall budget of $59.501 billion (including fees, trust funds, and other funding that is not appropriated or does not score against the budget caps). The request amounted to a $90 million, or 0.2%, decrease from the $39.600 billion enacted for FY2012 through the consolidated appropriations act (P.L. 112-74).

Congress did not enact final FY2013 appropriations legislation...

Senegal: Background and U.S. Relations

Successive U.S. Administrations have viewed Senegal as a democratic leader in Africa, an anchor of regional stability, and a partner in addressing development challenges and combating transnational security threats. Senegalese President Macky Sall met with President Barack Obama at the White House in March 2013, and President Obama is expected to visit Senegal in late June. A small, arid nation on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, Senegal has struggled with widespread poverty and a long-running, low-level separatist insurgency in its southern Casamance region. Still, the country’s democratic...

Human Rights in China and U.S. Policy: Issues for the 113th Congress

This report examines human rights issues in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), including ongoing rights abuses, legal reforms, and the development of civil society. Major events of the past year include the PRC leadership transition, the Wukan protests over land expropriation, the negotiations that allowed legal advocate Chen Guangcheng to leave China, and the Tibetan self-immolations. Ongoing human rights problems include excessive use of force by public security forces, unlawful detention, torture of detainees, arbitrary use of state security laws against political dissidents and...

Budget “Sequestration” and Selected Program Exemptions and Special Rules

“Sequestration” is a process of automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions under which budgetary resources are permanently canceled to enforce certain budget policy goals. It was first authorized by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (BBEDCA, Title II of P.L. 99-177, commonly known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act).

Sequestration is of current interest because it has been triggered as an enforcement tool under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25). Sequestration can also occur under the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (Statutory...

Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Congress

This report presents information on Senators, Representatives, and Delegates, including previous occupations and leadership positions (such as committee and subcommittee chairmanships), and the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. It also provides a list of Members' and Delegates' party affiliations, length and dates of service, and committee assignments. Also included in the report is a map showing the total number of Asian Pacific Americans and the states or territories they represent in the 113th Congress.

Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Foreign Policy Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of transnational security issues related to patterns of interaction among international terrorist and crime groups. In addition, the report discusses the U.S. government’s perception of and response to the threat. It concludes with an analysis of foreign policy options.

In recent years, the U.S. government has asserted that terrorism, insurgency, and crime interact in varied and significant ways, to the detriment of U.S. national security interests. Although unclassified anecdotal evidence largely serves as the basis for the current understanding of...

Peru: Overview of Political and Economic Conditions and Relations with the United States

This report provides an overview of Peru’s government and economy and a discussion of issues in relations between the United States and Peru.

Peru and the United States have a strong and cooperative relationship. Several issues in U.S.-Peru relations are likely to be considered in decisions by Congress and the Administration on future aid to and cooperation with Peru. The United States supports the strengthening of Peru’s democratic institutions, its respect for human rights, environmental protection, and counternarcotics efforts. A dominant theme in bilateral relations is the effort to...

Transfer and Reprogramming of Appropriations: An Overview of Authorities, Limitations, and Procedures

Enacted appropriations and other budgetary legislation may vary in the level of detail they provide regarding how agencies should spend the funds that have been provided. Even when the purpose of appropriations is specified in great detail, agencies may be provided with some flexibility to make budgetary adjustments throughout the fiscal year. These adjustments may be necessary due to changing or unforeseen circumstances. In some instances, agencies are provided with transfer authority (i.e., authority to shift funds from one appropriations or fund account to another). In addition,...

Closing the Guantanamo Detention Center: Legal Issues

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the President the authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those ... [who] planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” against the United States. Many persons subsequently captured during military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere were transferred to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for detention and possible prosecution. Although nearly 800 persons have been held at Guantanamo since early 2002, the...

Department of Defense’s Use of Contractors to Support Military Operations: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress

Throughout its history, the Department of Defense (DOD) has relied on contractors to support a wide range of military operations. Operations over the last thirty years have highlighted the critical role that contractors play in supporting U.S. troops—both in terms of the number of contractors and the type of work being performed. Over the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, and before that, in the Balkans, contractors accounted for 50% or more of the total military force.

Regardless of whether future operations are similar to-or significantly different from- those of the past decade most...

No-Fly Zones: Strategic, Operational, and Legal Considerations for Congress

In conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya, the United States has taken part in establishing and maintaining no-fly zones. As no-fly zones represent a significant commitment of U.S. forces, and may prove a precursor to other military actions, Congress may wish to consider issues surrounding the strategy, international authorization, congressional authorization, operations, and costs of establishing and maintaining no-fly zones.

The military strategy designed to support U.S. grand strategy, it has been suggested, might be based on these considerations: the operational-level military objectives...

Terrorist Watch List Screening and Background Checks for Firearms

The November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, TX, renewed interest in terrorist watchlist screening and background checks for firearms through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Pursuant to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (P.L. 103-159), in November 1998 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) activated NICS for the purposes of determining an individual’s firearms transfer and possession eligibility whenever a private person seeks to acquire a firearm from a federally licensed gun dealer. Prior to February 2004, however, the FBI did not conduct terrorist...

Nuclear Weapons R&D Organizations in Nine Nations

Seven nations—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—possess nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a nuclear explosive device in 2006, and announced that it had conducted a test in 2009 and another in 2013. Israel is widely thought to have nuclear weapons. As an aid to Congress in understanding nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and arms control matters, this report describes which agency is responsible for research and development (R&D) of nuclear weapons (i.e., nuclear explosive devices, as distinct from the bombers and missiles that deliver...

Naming Post Offices Through Legislation

Legislation naming post offices for persons has become a very common practice. During the 108th through 112th Congresses, almost 20% of all statutes enacted were post office naming acts.

This report describes how the practice of naming post offices through public law originated and how it is commonly done today. It also details the House and Senate committee policies for considering such legislation and the U.S. Postal Service’s procedures for implementing post office naming acts.

Unanimity of a state’s congressional delegation is required for the movement of naming bills to the floor of...

Energy and Water Development: FY2013 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the Department of Energy (DOE), and for a number of independent agencies.

President Obama’s FY2013 budget request for Energy and Water Development was released in February 2012.

For FY2013 the level of overall spending has been a major issue. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA, P.L. 112-25) contained an overall discretionary spending cap for FY2013 of $1.047 trillion. On March 29,...

Terrorism, Miranda, and Related Matters

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides in part that “No person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court declared that statements of an accused, given during a custodial interrogation, could not be introduced in evidence in criminal proceedings against him, unless he were first advised of his rights and waived them. In Dickerson v. United States, the Court held that the Miranda exclusionary rule was constitutionally...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2013 Appropriations

On February 13, 2012, President Obama submitted his FY2013 budget to Congress. The Administration requests a total of $62.076 billion for the agencies and bureaus funded as a part of the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill. The Administration’s request includes $7.978 billion for the Department of Commerce, $28.079 billion for the Department of Justice, $25.090 billion for the science agencies, and $929.2 million for the related agencies. The FY2013 request for CJS is 1.9% greater than the FY2012 appropriation of $60.910 billion.

On April 19,...

Intelligence Issues for Congress

To address the challenges facing the U.S. intelligence community in the 21st century, congressional and executive branch initiatives have sought to improve coordination among the different agencies and to encourage better analysis. In December 2004, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (P.L. 108-458) was signed, providing for a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with authorities to manage the national intelligence effort. The legislation also established a Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Making cooperation effective presents substantial leadership...

Ricin: Technical Background and Potential Role in Terrorism

In April 2013, envelopes sent to President Obama and a U.S. Senator tested positive for ricin, a deadly toxin derived from castor beans. Ricin has been identified as a potential bioweapon. Ricin is extremely toxic by ingestion, inhalation, and injection. No treatment or prophylaxis currently exists, though research into new therapies and vaccines against ricin exposure continues. Additionally, research to improve ricin detection is ongoing. Although governments have investigated ricin’s potential use as a military weapon, individuals have used ricin in small quantities. Most experts...

Cybersecurity: Selected Legal Issues

This report discusses selected legal issues that frequently arise in the context of legislation to address vulnerabilities of private critical infrastructure to cyber threats, efforts to protect government networks from cyber threats, and proposals to facilitate and encourage sharing of cyber threat information amongst private sector and government entities. This report also provides an overview of the ways in which federal laws of these types may preempt or affect the applicability of state law.

Public Mass Shootings in the United States: Selected Implications for Federal Public Health and Safety Policy

This report focuses on mass shootings and selected implications they have for federal policy in the areas of public health and safety. While such crimes most directly impact particular citizens in very specific communities, addressing these violent episodes involves officials at all levels of government and professionals from numerous disciplines.

Defining Public Mass Shooting

Policy makers may confront numerous questions about shootings such as the December 2012 incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, that claimed 27 lives (not including the shooter). Foremost, what are...

Intelligence Identities Protection Act

Concern that government documents obtained by WikiLeaks and disclosed to several newspapers could reveal the identities of United States intelligence agents or informants focused attention on whether the disclosure or publication of such information could give rise to criminal liability. This report summarizes the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA; P.L. 97-200), enacted by Congress in 1982 to address the unauthorized disclosure of information that exposes covert U.S. intelligence agents. The act, as amended, is codified at 50 U.S.C. Sections 421-426, and provides criminal...

Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions

Published reports have suggested that in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Pentagon has expanded its counterterrorism intelligence activities as part of what the Bush Administration termed the global war on terror. Some observers have asserted that the Department of Defense (DOD) may have been conducting certain kinds of counterterrorism intelligence activities that would statutorily qualify as “covert actions,” and thus require a presidential finding and the notification of the congressional intelligence committees.

Defense officials have asserted that none of DOD’s current...

FY2013 Continuing Resolutions: Analysis of Components and Congressional Action

This report provides analysis of the components of the two FY2013 continuing resolutions (CR) and congressional action on those CRs.

Prior to the beginning of the fiscal year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees each reported 11 out of 12 regular appropriations bills. Seven regular appropriations bills were passed by the House; no regular appropriations bills were passed by the Senate. None of the regular appropriations bills were enacted into law. The first CR for FY2013 was signed into law on September 28, 2012 (H.J.Res. 117; P.L. 112-175). On March 26, 2013, H.R. 933 (P.L....

Reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act

On December 30, 2012, President Obama signed H.R. 5949, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012, which extends Title VII of FISA until December 31, 2017.

Reauthorizations of expiring provisions of FISA have been an annual occurrence in Congress since 2009. Prior to 2012, the legislative debate and reauthorizations largely dealt with three amendments to FISA that are commonly linked to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act). Most...

Foreign Investment and National Security: Economic Considerations

The United States is the largest foreign direct investor in the world and also the largest recipient of foreign direct investment. This dual role means that globalization, or the spread of economic activity by firms across national borders, has become a prominent feature of the U.S. economy and that through direct investment the U.S. economy has become highly enmeshed with the broader global economy. This also means that the United States has important economic, political, and social interests at stake in the development of international policies regarding direct investment. With some...

Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses

The prospect of drone use inside the United States raises far-reaching issues concerning the extent of government surveillance authority, the value of privacy in the digital age, and the role of Congress in reconciling these issues.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are aircraft that can fly without an onboard human operator. An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is the entire system, including the aircraft, digital network, and personnel on the ground. Drones can fly either by remote control or on a predetermined flight path; can be as small as an insect and as large as a...

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

This report summarizes what is known from open sources about the North Korean nuclear weapons program—including weapons-usable fissile material and warhead estimates—and assesses current developments in achieving denuclearization. Little detailed open-source information is available about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons production capabilities, warhead sophistication, the scope and success of its uranium enrichment program, or extent of its proliferation activities. In total, it is estimated that North Korea has between 30 and 50 kilograms of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2013 Budget and Appropriations

International affairs expenditures typically amount to about 1.5% of the total federal budget. While some foreign policy and defense experts view that share as a small price to pay for a robust foreign affairs budget that they believe is essential to meeting national security and foreign policy objectives, others see international affairs spending, particularly foreign aid, as an attractive target for significant spending cuts in order to reduce deficit spending.

On February 13, 2012, the Obama Administration submitted its FY2013 budget proposal. The FY2013 request totaled $54.87 billion...

Foreign Investment, CFIUS, and Homeland Security: An Overview

The President is generally seen as exercising broad discretionary authority over developing and implementing U.S. direct investment policy, including the authority to suspend or block investments that “threaten to impair the national security.” Congress is also directly involved in formulating the scope and direction of U.S. foreign investment policy. At times, some Members have urged the President to be more aggressive in blocking certain types of foreign investments. Such confrontations reflect vastly different philosophical and political views between Members of Congress and between...

The Exon-Florio National Security Test for Foreign Investment

This report covers the recent background of the Exon-Florio provision with special regards to issues faced in the 112th Congress. The Exon-Florio provision grants the President the authority to block proposed or pending foreign acquisitions of "persons engaged in interstate commerce in the United States" that threaten to impair the national security.

Crisis in Mali

For the past 18 months, Mali has been mired in overlapping security, political, and humanitarian crises. A separatist rebellion launched in 2011 aggravated intra-military and political tensions in the country. In March 2012, junior military officers—led by a former participant in U.S. training programs—carried out a coup that overthrew a democratically elected government. Islamist extremist groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, took advantage of the ensuing chaos to expand their presence in Mali’s vast, Saharan north. In the...

Intelligence Authorization Legislation: Status and Challenges

Since President Bush signed the FY2005 Intelligence Authorization Act (P.L. 108-487) in December 2004, no subsequent intelligence authorization legislation was enacted until the FY2010 bill was signed by President Obama in October 2010 (after the end of FY2010), becoming P.L. 111-259. Although the National Security Act requires intelligence activities to be specifically authorized, this requirement had been satisfied in previous years by one-sentence catchall provisions in defense appropriations acts authorizing intelligence activities. This procedure meets the statutory requirement but...

Publishing Scientific Papers with Potential Security Risks: Issues for Congress

The federal government generally supports the publication of federally funded research results because wide dissemination may drive innovation, job creation, technology development, and the advance of science. However, some research results could also be used for malicious purposes. Congress, the Administration, and other stakeholders are considering whether current policies concerning publishing such research results sufficiently balances the potential benefits with the potential harms. The current issues under debate cut across traditional policy areas, involving simultaneous...

A Unified National Security Budget? Issues for Congress

In recent years a number of observers and practitioners have identified various facets of U.S. government national security practice—decision-making, strategy-making, budgeting, planning and execution, and congressional oversight—as inherently “cross-cutting.” They have in mind arenas—such as counterterrorism, and stabilization and reconstruction—that by definition involve multiple agencies, or for which responsibilities could be divided up in any number of ways among various agencies. For such facets of national security, they argue, the U.S. government is seldom able to conduct genuinely...

U.S. Policy Towards Burma: Issues for the 113th Congress

U.S. policy towards Burma has undergone a discernible shift in its approach since a quasi-civilian government was established in March 2011. While the overall objectives of U.S. policy towards the country remain in place—the establishment of civilian democratic government based on the rule of law and the protection of basic human rights—the Obama Administration has moved from a more reactive, “action-for-action” strategy and a skeptical and cautious attitude towards the newly created Union Government and Union Parliament to a more proactive mode. The new approach is designed to foster...

Brief History of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Efforts in the 109th and 110th Congresses to Inform Policy Discussions in the 113th Congress

Leaders in both chambers of Congress have listed immigration reform as a legislative priority in the 113th Congress. Most policymakers agree that the main issues in “comprehensive immigration reform” (CIR) include increased border security and immigration enforcement, improved employment eligibility verification, revision of legal immigration, and options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country. These elements were among the features that President Barack Obama emphasized when he called for the 113th Congress to take up CIR legislation.

Similar to President...

Securing America’s Borders: The Role of the Military

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with preventing the entry of terrorists, securing the borders, and carrying out immigration enforcement functions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of DHS, has primary responsibility for securing the borders of the United States, preventing terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States, and enforcing hundreds of U.S. trade and immigration laws. Within CBP, the U.S. Border Patrol’s mission is to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens across the nearly 7,000 miles of Mexican and...

Azerbaijan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

Azerbaijan is an important power in the South Caucasus by reason of its geographic location and ample energy resources, but it faces challenges to its stability, including the unresolved separatist conflict involving Nagorno Karabakh (NK). Azerbaijan enjoyed a brief period of independence in 1918-1920, after the collapse of the Tsarist Russian Empire. However, it was re-conquered by Red Army forces and thereafter incorporated into the Soviet Union. It re-gained independence when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991. Upon independence, Azerbaijan continued to be ruled for a while...

Border Security: Understanding Threats at U.S. Borders

The United States confronts a wide array of threats at U.S. borders, ranging from terrorists who may have weapons of mass destruction, to transnational criminals smuggling drugs or counterfeit goods, to unauthorized migrants intending to live and work in the United States. Given this diversity of threats, how may Congress and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set border security priorities and allocate scarce enforcement resources?

In general, DHS’s answer to this question is organized around risk management, a process that involves risk assessment and the allocation of resources...

State and Local Economic Sanctions: Constitutional Issues

States and localities have occasionally enacted measures restricting their agencies from conducting economic transactions with entities that do business with or in foreign countries whose conduct these jurisdictions find objectionable. While some maintain that sub-federal entities may enact such laws under sovereign proprietary powers and other constitutional prerogatives, others argue that these measures impermissibly invade federal commerce and foreign affairs authorities and may, in some cases, be preempted by federal statute. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Crosby...

Congressional Authority to Limit Military Operations

Controversy continues over the appropriate role that Congress should play in regulating U.S. military operations against foreign entities. U.S. action against Libya reignited consideration of long-standing questions concerning the President’s constitutional authority to use military force without congressional authorization, as well as congressional authority to regulate or limit the use of such force. There may be a renewed focus in the 113th Congress on whether or to what extent Congress has the constitutional authority to legislate limits on the President’s authority to conduct military...

Tax Provisions to Assist with Disaster Recovery

Relief after a natural or man-made disaster may come from what many might consider an unlikely source: the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The IRC includes several tax relief provisions that apply to affected taxpayers. Some of these provisions are permanent. The following are among the permanent provisions discussed in this report: casualty loss deductions, IRC Section 165; exemption from taxation for disaster relief payments to individuals, IRC Section 139; exemption from taxation for certain insurance payments, IRC Section 123; and deferral of gain from the involuntary conversion of...

Cybersecurity: Cyber Crime Protection Security Act (S. 2111, 112th Congress)—A Legal Analysis

The Cyber Crime Protection Security Act (S. 2111) would enhance the criminal penalties for the cybercrimes outlawed in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Those offenses include espionage, hacking, fraud, destruction, password trafficking, and extortion committed against computers and computer networks. S. 2111 contains some of the enhancements approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee when it reported the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act (S. 1151), S.Rept. 112-91 (2011).

The bill would (1) establish a three-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for aggravated damage to a...

U.S.-India Security Relations: Strategic Issues

In today’s fluid geopolitical environment, the relationship between the United States, the world’s oldest democracy and an established global power, and India, its most populous democracy and an aspiring global power, is seen as a key variable in the unfolding international dynamics of the 21st century. As U.S. foreign policy attention shifts toward the Asia-Pacific (or Indo-Pacific) region, and as India’s economic and military capabilities grow, Washington’s pursuit of a strategic partnership with New Delhi demonstrates that the mutual wariness of the Cold War era has rapidly faded. A...

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

In recent years, many analysts have expressed concern that the international community’s efforts over the past 17 years to stabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina are failing. Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska (RS), one of the two semi-autonomous “entities” within Bosnia, has obstructed efforts to make Bosnia’s central government more effective. He has repeatedly asserted the RS’s right to secede from Bosnia, although he has so far refrained from trying to make this threat a reality. Some ethnic Croat leaders in Bosnia have called for more autonomy for Croats within Bosnia, perhaps...

The Interplay of Borders, Turf, Cyberspace, and Jurisdiction: Issues Confronting U.S. Law Enforcement

Savvy criminals constantly develop new techniques to target U.S. persons, businesses, and interests. Individual criminals as well as broad criminal networks exploit geographic borders, criminal turf, cyberspace, and law enforcement jurisdiction to dodge law enforcement countermeasures. Further, the interplay of these realities can potentially encumber policing measures. In light of these interwoven realities, policy makers may question how to best design policies to help law enforcement combat ever-evolving criminal threats.

Criminals routinely take advantage of geographic borders. They...

FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Policy Issues

Military personnel issues typically generate significant interest from many Members of Congress and their staffs. Recent military operations in Iraq and ongoing operations in Afghanistan, along with the operational role of the Reserve Components, further heighten interest in a wide range of military personnel policies and issues.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has selected a number of the military personnel issues considered in deliberations on the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2013. This report provides a brief synopsis of sections...

United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues

The congressional debate over United Nations funding focuses on several questions, including (1) What is the appropriate level of U.S. funding for U.N. system operations and programs? (2) What U.S. funding actions are most likely to produce a positive continuation of U.N. system reform efforts?

The U.N. system includes the United Nations, a number of specialized or affiliated agencies, voluntary and special funds and programs, and U.N. peacekeeping operations. Participating states finance the system with assessed contributions to the budgets of the United Nations and its specialized...

Cuba: Issues for the 112th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. The government of Raúl Castro has implemented limited economic policy changes, including an expansion of self-employment. A party congress held in April 2011 laid out numerous economic goals that, if implemented, could significantly alter Cuba’s state-dominated economic model. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system....

Organized Crime: An Evolving Challenge for U.S. Law Enforcement

In the last two decades, organized crime has grown more complex, posing evolving challenges for U.S. federal law enforcement. These criminals have transformed their operations in ways that broaden their reach and make it harder for police to combat them. They have adopted more-networked structural models, internationalized their operations, and grown more tech savvy. They are a significant challenge to U.S. law enforcement.

Modern organized criminals often prefer cellular or networked structural models for their flexibility and avoid the hierarchies that previously governed more...

Venezuela: Issues for Congress, 2009-2012

Under the rule of populist President Hugo Chávez, first elected in 1998, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and unicameral legislature, and even a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of expression under the Chávez government. President Chávez won reelection to another six-year term on October 7, 2012, by a margin of 11%, capturing about 55% of the vote compared to 44% for opposition candidate...

Keeping America’s Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress

Nearly half a million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage. The nation’s pipeline networks are also widespread and vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. Recent pipeline accidents in Marshall, MI, San Bruno, CA, Allentown, PA, and Laurel, MT, have heightened congressional concern about pipeline risks and drawn criticism from the National Transportation...

Ghana: Recent Developments and U.S. Relations

Ghana: Bilateral Cooperation and Leadership Engagement

Ghana is considered a model for many of the outcomes that many Members of Congress have long sought to achieve in sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of authorizations; appropriations and program guidance; and oversight. Ghana has received a large U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact and may soon receive a second. It is also a recipient of substantial U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department bilateral aid, much of which is channeled through three presidential development initiatives:

the Global...

The Unified Command Plan and Combatant Commands: Background and Issues for Congress

The Unified Command Plan (UCP) and associated Combatant Commands (COCOMs) provide operational instructions and command and control to the Armed Forces and have a significant impact on how they are organized, trained, and resourced—areas over which Congress has constitutional authority. The UCP is a classified executive branch document prepared by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and reviewed and updated every two years that assigns missions; planning, training, and operational responsibilities; and geographic areas of responsibilities to COCOMs. Functional COCOMs operate...

The Project BioShield Act: Issues for the 112th Congress

In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. As the expiration of some of these authorities approaches, Congress is considering whether these authorities have sufficiently contributed to national preparedness to merit extension.

The Project BioShield Act provides three main authorities: (1) guaranteeing a federal market for new CBRN medical countermeasures,...

Latin America and the Caribbean: U.S. Policy and Key Issues for Congress in 2012

Geographic proximity has ensured strong linkages between the United States and the Latin American and Caribbean region, with diverse U.S. interests, including economic, political and security concerns. U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration has focused on four priorities: promoting economic and social opportunity; ensuring citizen security; strengthening effective democratic institutions; and securing a clean energy future. There has been substantial continuity in U.S. policy toward the region under the Obama Administration, which has pursued some of the same basic...

Chemical Facility Security: Issues and Options for the 112th Congress

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has statutory authority to regulate chemical facilities for security purposes. The 112th Congress has extended this authority through March 27, 2013. The Obama Administration has requested extension of this authority until October 4, 2013. Congressional policymakers have debated the scope and details of reauthorization and continue to consider legislation establishing an authority with longer duration. Some Members of Congress support extension, either short- or long-term, of the existing authority. Other Members call for revision and more...

Peacekeeping and Stabilization Missions Abroad: The Development of Civilian Capabilities, 2004-2011

In November 2011, the Obama Administration announced the creation of a new State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) to provide the institutional focus for policy and “operational solutions” to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises in priority states. This bureau represents a “second generation” effort to develop civilian capacity to deal with conflict, integrating the “first generation” Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS).

Congress established S/CRS by law in the Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act,...

Child Protection Act of 2012: A Brief Legal Analysis

On the December 7, 2012, the President signed the Child Protection Act of 2012, P.L. 112-206 (H.R. 6063), into law. The measure had previously passed the House under suspension of the rules and the Senate by unanimous consent. Its provisions are (1) increase the maximum penalty for certain child pornography offenses; (2) outlaw harassment of a child victim or witness while under a protective order; (3) grant the U.S. Marshals Service administrative subpoena authority in sex offender registration cases; (4) direct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review the adequacy of federal sentencing...

Administrative Subpoenas in Criminal Investigations: A Brief Legal Analysis

Administrative subpoena authority is the power vested in various administrative agencies to compel testimony or the production of documents or both in aid of the agencies’ performance of their duties. Administrative subpoenas are not a traditional tool of criminal law investigation, but neither are they unknown. Several statutes authorize the use of administrative subpoenas primarily or exclusively for use in a criminal investigation in cases involving health care fraud, child abuse, Secret Service protection, controlled substance cases, inspector general investigations, and tracking...

Nuclear Regulatory Commission 10 C.F.R. 37, A New Rule to Protect Radioactive Material: Background, Summary, Views from the Field

This report analyzes 10 C.F.R. 37, a forthcoming rule promulgated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Physical Protection of Byproduct Material. Byproduct material includes specified types of radioactive material other than uranium or plutonium. The rule regulates byproduct material of types and in quantities that could be used to make a dirty bomb.

Congress may find this analysis of interest for several reasons: Congress attaches great importance to protecting the United States against terrorist threats; the rule will affect the many industrial, research, and medical activities...

Organized Retail Crime

Organized retail crime (ORC) involves the large-scale theft of everyday consumer items and potentially has much broader implications. Organized groups of professional shoplifters, or “boosters,” steal or fraudulently obtain merchandise that is then sold, or “fenced,” to individuals and retailers through a variety of venues. In an increasingly globalized society, more and more transactions take place online rather than face-to-face. As such, in addition to relying on physical resale markets, organized retail thieves have turned to online marketplaces as means to fence their ill-gotten...

Presidential Reorganization Authority: History, Recent Initiatives, and Options for Congress

On January 13, 2012, President Barack Obama announced that he would ask Congress to reinstate so-called presidential reorganization authority, and his Administration conveyed a legislative proposal that would renew this authority to Congress on February 16, 2012. Bills based on the proposed language were subsequently introduced in the Senate (S. 2129) and the House (H.R. 4409) during the 112th Congress.

Should this authority be granted, the President indicated that his first submitted plan would propose consolidation of six business and trade-related agencies into one: U.S. Department of...

Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians

This report collects statistics from a variety of sources on casualties sustained during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which began on October 7, 2001, and is ongoing. OEF actions take place primarily in Afghanistan; however, OEF casualties also include American casualties in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Yemen.

Casualty data of U.S. military forces are compiled by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as tallied from the agency’s press releases. Also...

Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Programs

Iran has long been a source of concern for the United States and other countries because its goals are at odds with core U.S. objectives in the Middle East. Although it is not certain that Iran has made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon, it is taking steps to drastically reduce the time needed to obtain nuclear weapons should a decision be made to do so. It is the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon mated to an effective missile delivery capability that is especially worrisome to most.

Congress has long been interested in these matters. Congress has held numerous hearings on Iran,...

In Brief: Next Steps in the War in Afghanistan? Issues for Congress

On May 1, 2012, President Obama gave a speech from Bagram Air Field in which he laid out U.S. government approaches for “winding down” the war in Afghanistan. While a number of observers have challenged the logical plausibility of a unilateral decision to “wind down” a war, the Administration’s commitment to decreasing U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan is clear.

Many observers point to a coalescing vision of the way forward—shared by the governments of the United States, Afghanistan, and other international partners—that includes bringing the current campaign to a close by the end...

Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange and U.S.-Vietnam Relations

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, there has been a gradual warming of bilateral relations between the United States and Vietnam, culminating in the appointment of the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam in 1996 and the granting of permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Vietnam in 2007. Over the last three decades, many—but not all—of the major issues causing tension between the two nations have been resolved.

One major legacy of the Vietnam War that remains unresolved is the damage that Agent Orange, and its accompanying dioxin, have done to the people and the environment of...

Colombia: Background, U.S. Relations, and Congressional Interest

Colombia, a key U.S. ally, has made measurable progress in providing security despite having endured the longest internal armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. It has long been a source for both cocaine and heroin. Drug trafficking has helped to perpetuate civil conflict by funding both left-wing and right-wing armed groups. Over the years, Colombia and the United States forged a close partnership focused initially on counternarcotics and later counterterrorism. Building on that cooperation, the U.S.-Colombia partnership has broadened to include development, human rights, and trade....

Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector

Damage to or destruction of the nation’s water supply and water quality infrastructure by terrorist attack or natural disaster could disrupt the delivery of vital human services in this country, threatening public health and the environment, or possibly causing loss of life. Interest in such problems increased after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Across the country, water infrastructure systems extend over vast areas, and ownership and operation responsibility are both public and private, but are overwhelmingly non-federal. Since the attacks, federal dam...

Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations Through 2012

With five successive elected civilian governments, the Central American nation of Panama has made notable political and economic progress since the 1989 U.S. military intervention that ousted the regime of General Manuel Antonio Noriega from power. Current President Ricardo Martinelli of the center-right Democratic Change (CD) party was elected in May 2009, defeating the ruling center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) in a landslide. Martinelli was inaugurated to a five-year term on July 1, 2009. Martinellis Alliance for Change coalition with the Panameñista Party (PP) also...

Federal Prison Inmates: Rehabilitative Needs and Program Participation

The stated mission of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is “to protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure, and that provide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” In support of this mission, BOP offers a variety of rehabilitative programs, including work opportunities through the Federal Prison Industries (FPI), occupational education programs, literacy/GED courses, and a variety of drug abuse treatment...

Gun Control Legislation

Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. During the 112th Congress, several mass-casualty shootings punctuated public discourse on gun control. In a January 8, 2011, Tucson, AZ, shooting, 6 people were killed and 14 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was grievously wounded. In a July 20, 2012, Aurora, CO, theater shooting, 12 people were killed and 58 wounded. In an August 5, 2012, Milwaukee, WI, Sikh temple shooting, 6 people were...

India-U.S. Security Relations: Current Engagement

U.S.-India engagement on shared security interests is a topic of interest to the U.S. Congress, where there is considerable support for a deepened U.S. partnership with the world’s largest democracy. Congressional advocacy of closer relations with India is generally bipartisan and widespread; House and Senate caucuses on India and Indian-Americans are the largest of their kind. Caucus leaders have encouraged the Obama Administration to work toward improving the compatibility of the U.S. and Indian defense acquisitions systems, as well as to seek potential opportunities for co-development...

Congressional Investigations of the Department of Justice, 1920-2012: History, Law, and Practice

Legislative oversight is most commonly conducted through congressional budget, authorization, appropriations, confirmation, and investigative processes, and, in rare instances, through impeachment. But the adversarial, often confrontational, and sometimes high profile nature of congressional investigations sets it apart from the more routine, accommodative facets of the oversight process experienced in authorization, appropriations, or confirmation exercises. While all aspects of legislative oversight share the common goals of informing Congress so as to best accomplish its tasks of...

Community Development Block Grant Funds in Disaster Relief and Recovery

In the aftermath of presidentially declared disasters, Congress has used a variety of programs to help states and local governments finance recovery efforts, among them the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Over the years, Congress has appropriated supplemental CDBG funds to assist states and communities to recover from such natural disasters as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes. In addition, CDBG funds supported recovery efforts in New York City following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; in Oklahoma City following the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Building...

Proliferation Control Regimes: Background and Status

Weapons of mass destruction (WMD), especially in the hands of radical states and terrorists, represent a major threat to U.S. national security interests. Multilateral regimes were established to restrict trade in nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and missile technologies, and to monitor their civil applications. Congress may consider the efficacy of these regimes in the 112th Congress. This report provides background and current status information on the regimes.

The nuclear nonproliferation regime encompasses several treaties, extensive multilateral and bilateral diplomatic...

The U.S. Postal Service and Six-Day Delivery: History, Issues, and Current Legislation

After running modest profits from FY2004 through FY2006, USPS lost $25.4 billion between FY2007 and FY2011. Were it not for congressional action, USPS would have lost an additional $9.5 billion. In the first three quarters of FY2012, USPS had an $11.5 billion operational loss. USPS leaders, Congress, and the public have suggested methods that may increase revenue or reduce expenses. Among these suggestions is reducing the number of days per week that USPS delivers mail from six to five.

Members of the 112th Congress have introduced nine bills (H.R. 2309; H.R. 2434; H.R. 3591; H.R. 3744;...

Presidential Appointments, the Senate’s Confirmation Process, and Changes Made in the 112th Congress

The responsibility for populating top positions in the executive and judicial branches of government is one the Senate and the President share. The President nominates an individual, the Senate may confirm him, and the President would then present him with a signed commission. The Constitution divided the responsibility for choosing those who would run the federal government by granting the President the power of appointment and the Senate the power of advice and consent.

Several hundred people go through the appointments process each year. Prior to the adoption of the measures discussed...

Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping

This report provides an overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). ECPA consists of three parts. The first, often referred to as Title III, outlaws wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping, except as otherwise provided. The second, the Stored Communications Act, governs the privacy of, and government access to, the content of electronic communications and to related records. The third outlaws the use and installation of pen registers and of trap and trace devices, unless judicially approved for law enforcement or...

Privacy: An Overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

This report provides an overview of federal law governing wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). It also appends citations to state law in the area and the text of ECPA.

It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given his prior consent. It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than five years;...

2012-2013 Presidential Election Period: National Security Considerations and Options

A presidential election period is a unique time in America and holds the promise of opportunity, as well as a possible risk to the nation’s security interests. While possible changes in Administration during U.S. involvement in national security-related activities are not unique to the 2012-2013 election period, many observers suggest that the current security environment may portend a time of increased risk to the current presidential election period. Whether the enemies of the United States choose to undertake action that may harm the nation’s security interests during the 2012-2013...

Sudan and South Sudan: Current Issues for Congress and U.S. Policy

Congress has played an active role in U.S. policy toward Sudan for more than three decades. Efforts to support an end to the country’s myriad conflicts and human rights abuses have dominated the agenda, as have counterterrorism concerns. When unified (1956-2011), Sudan was Africa’s largest nation, bordering nine countries and stretching from the northern borders of Kenya and Uganda to the southern borders of Egypt and Libya. Strategically located along the Nile River and the Red Sea, Sudan was historically described as a crossroads between the Arab world and Africa. Domestic and...

Federal Grants-in-Aid Administration: A Primer

Congressional authorization of federal assistance to state and local governments can be traced back to the Continental Congress and its approval of the granting of nationally owned land to states formed out of the Northwest Territory. Those lands were to be sold for the support of public education. Congress subsequently granted millions of acres of land to states to support various congressional priorities, including wagon road and canal construction, improvements to river navigation, and the establishment of land grant colleges. The first federal cash grant program was adopted in 1808, to...

Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

Several published reports indicate that top Israeli decisionmakers are seriously considering whether to order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and if so, when. Twice in Israel’s history, it has conducted air strikes aimed at halting or delaying what Israeli policymakers believed to be efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by a Middle Eastern state—destroying Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and a facility the Israelis identified as a reactor under construction in Syria in 2007. Today, Israeli officials generally view the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran as an unacceptable threat...

War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance

Two separate but closely related issues confront Congress each time the President introduces Armed Forces into a situation abroad that conceivably could lead to their involvement in hostilities. One issue concerns the division of war powers between the President and Congress, whether the use of Armed Forces falls within the purview of the congressional power to declare war and the War Powers Resolution (WPR). The other issue is whether or not Congress concurs in the wisdom of the action. This report does not deal with the substantive merits of using Armed Forces in specific cases, but...

Recent Protests in Muslim Countries: Background and Issues for Congress

Muslims in a number of countries have responded in recent days with anger at the United States that many observers describe as a response to a privately produced film circulating on the Internet that denigrates Islam and the prophet Mohammed. In some cases, this outrage has taken the form of public expressions by relatively small groups of demonstrators, and in other countries the demonstrations have been larger. In the most extreme cases, such demonstrations have been accompanied by violent attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and diplomatic facilities. Pre-existing anti-U.S....

Airport Body Scanners: The Role of Advanced Imaging Technology in Airline Passenger Screening

Responding to the need to reliably detect explosives, bomb-making components, and other potential security threats concealed by airline passengers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has focused on the deployment of whole body scanners as a core element of its strategy for airport checkpoint screening. TSA has deployed about 700 of these scanners, known as whole body imagers (WBI) or advanced imaging technology (AIT), at airports throughout the United States, and plans to have 1,800 in place by the end of FY2014. AIT systems include two technologies: millimeter wave systems...

Pilotless Drones: Background and Considerations for Congress Regarding Unmanned Aircraft Operations in the National Airspace System

Report that covers the history and current status of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Particular attention is paid to recent privacy implications and potential intrusiveness of drone operations that have emerged as a significant issue before Congress. It also looks at the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) timeline to establish six test ranges throughout the United States to study unmanned aircraft integration technical issues.

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status

This report examines initial responses to the 9/11 Commission's call for a board to oversee adherence to presidential guidelines on information sharing that safeguard the privacy of individuals about whom information is shared, and the implementation of this board.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006

President George W. Bush signed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA; P.L. 109-435; 120 Stat. 3198) on December 20, 2006. The PAEA was the first broad revision of the 1970 statute that replaced the U.S. Post Office with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), a self-supporting, independent agency of the executive branch.

This report describes Congress’s pursuit of postal reform and summarizes the major provisions of the new postal reform law. The report also suggests possible PAEA-related oversight issues for Congress.

Legislatively, the pursuit of reform of the U.S. Postal Service...

Critical Infrastructure Resilience: The Evolution of Policy and Programs and Issues for Congress

In 2006, the Critical Infrastructure Task Force of the Homeland Security Advisory Council initiated a public policy debate arguing that the government’s critical infrastructure policies were focused too much on protecting assets from terrorist attacks and not focused enough on improving the resilience of assets against a variety of threats. According to the Task Force, such a defensive posture was “brittle.” Not all possible targets could be protected and adversaries could find ways to defeat defenses, still leaving the nation having to deal with the consequences. The Task Force advocated...

Afghanistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance

The U.S. program of assistance to Afghanistan is intended to stabilize and strengthen the Afghan economic, social, political, and security environment so as to blunt popular support for extremist forces in the region. Since 2001, nearly $83 billion has been appropriated toward this effort.

Since FY2002, nearly two-thirds of U.S. assistance—roughly 62%—has gone to the training and equipping of Afghan forces. The remainder has gone to development and humanitarian-related activities from infrastructure to private sector support, governance and democratization efforts, and counter-narcotics...

Pipeline Cybersecurity: Federal Policy

The vast U.S. network of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines is integral to U.S. energy supply and has vital links to other critical infrastructure. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, this network is vulnerable to cyber attacks. In particular, cyber infiltration of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems could allow successful “hackers” to disrupt pipeline service and cause spills, explosions, or fires—all from remote locations. In March 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported ongoing cyber intrusions among U.S. natural...

The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: The Use of the Military to Execute Civilian Law

The Constitution permits Congress to authorize the use of the militia “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” And it guarantees the states protection against invasion or usurpation of their “republican form of government,” and, upon the request of the state legislature, against “domestic violence.” These constitutional provisions are reflected in the Insurrection Acts, which have been invoked numerous times both before and after passage of the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 1385, in 1878. Congress has also enacted a number of statutes that...

The U.S. Postal Service’s Financial Condition: Overview and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS’s) financial condition, legislation enacted to alleviate the USPS’s financial challenges, and possible issues for the 112th Congress.

Since 1971, the USPS has been a self-supporting government agency that covers its operating costs with revenues generated through the sales of postage and related products and services.

In recent years, the USPS has experienced significant financial challenges. After running modest profits from FY2004 through FY2006, the USPS lost $25.4 billion between FY2007 and FY2011. Were it not for...

The U.S. Postal Service’s Use of Contractors to Deliver Mail: Background and Recent Developments

Recently, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been in negotiations with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA). One issue that may or may not be settled is the Postal Service’s use of non-USPS employees (i.e., contractors) to deliver mail. If the parties cannot come to a satisfactory arrangement, Congress may be approached to consider the matter.

Contractors have delivered mail to homes and businesses since 1900. Controversy over this practice arose in 2007 when the NALC alleged that the USPS had expanded the use of...

The Proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement: Background and Key Issues

The proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a new agreement for combating intellectual property rights (IPR) infringement. The ACTA negotiation concluded in October 2010, nearly three years after it began, and negotiating parties released a final text of the agreement in May 2011. Negotiated by the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union and its 27 member states, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and Switzerland, the ACTA is intended to build on the IPR protection and enforcement obligations set forth in the 1995 World Trade...

Timor-Leste: Political Dynamics, Development, and International Involvement

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste gained independence on May 20, 2002, after a long history of Portuguese colonialism and, more recently, Indonesian rule. The young nation, with a population of 1.1 million, has been aided by the United Nations under several different mandates under which the U.N. has provided peacekeeping, humanitarian, reconstruction and capacity building assistance to establish a functioning government. The current United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) is slated to withdraw from the nation at the end of 2012.

The independence of Timor-Leste (also...

U.S. Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress

India, which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and does not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all of its nuclear material, exploded a “peaceful” nuclear device in 1974, convincing the world of the need for greater restrictions on nuclear trade. The United States created the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as a direct response to India’s test, halted nuclear exports to India a few years later, and worked to convince other states to do the same. India tested nuclear weapons again in 1998. However, President Bush announced July 18, 2005, he would “work to...

Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was formed to increase international cooperation in interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials. The Initiative was announced by President Bush on May 31, 2003. PSI does not create a new legal framework but aims to use existing national authorities and international law to achieve its goals. Initially, 11 nations signed on to the “Statement of Interdiction Principles” that guides PSI cooperation. As of May 2012, 98 countries (plus the Holy See) have committed formally to the PSI...

Mexican Migration to the United States: Policy and Trends

History and geography have given Mexico a unique status in the U.S. immigration system, and have made the Mexico-U.S. migration flow the largest in the world. Mexicans are the largest group of U.S. migrants across most types of immigration statuses—a fact that may have important implications for how Congress makes U.S. immigration policy. This report reviews the history of immigration policy and migration flows between the countries and the demographics of Mexicans within the United States. It also analyzes contemporary issues in U.S. immigration policy and the impact Mexico may have on...

Congressional Oversight and Related Issues Concerning International Security Agreements Concluded by the United States

The United States is a party to numerous security agreements with other nations. The topics covered, along with the significance of the obligations imposed upon agreement parties, may vary. Some international security agreements entered by the United States, such as those obliging parties to come to the defense of another in the event of an attack, involve substantial commitments and have traditionally been entered as treaties, ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate. Other agreements dealing with more technical matters, such as military basing rights or the application of a...

Pakistan-U.S. Relations

In a security alliance since 2004 and “strategic partners” since 2006, the United States and Pakistan for decades experienced major shifts in the nature and tone of their relations. In the post-9/11 period, assisting in the creation of a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy has been among the most important U.S. foreign policy efforts. Vital U.S. interests are seen to be at stake in its engagement with Pakistan related to regional and global terrorism; efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan; nuclear weapons proliferation; links...

U.S. Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage

Regardless of the outcome of the ongoing debate about the proposed Yucca Mountain geologic waste repository in Nevada, the storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF)—also referred to as “high-level nuclear waste”—will continue to be needed and the issue will continue to be debated. The need for SNF storage, even after the first repository is opened, will continue for a few reasons.

The Obama Administration terminated work on the only planned permanent geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, which was intended to provide a destination for most of the stored SNF. Also, the Yucca Mountain project was...

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Current Structure and Alternatives

This report describes the current select committees on intelligence; characteristics and a model for a possible joint committee; recent actions by Congress; and obstacles affecting legislative oversight in the field.

NATO’s Chicago Summit

NATO’s 2012 summit of alliance heads of state and government is scheduled to take place in Chicago on May 20-21. U.S. and NATO officials have outlined what they expect to be the Summit’s three main agenda items:

Defining the next phase of formal transition in Afghanistan and shaping a longer term NATO commitment to the country after the planned end of combat operations by the end of 2014;

Securing commitments to maintain and develop the military capabilities necessary to meet NATO’s defense and security goals, including through a new “Smart Defense” initiative; and

Enhancing NATO’s...

Fact Sheet: The FY2013 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request

On February 13, 2012, the Obama Administration submitted to Congress its FY2013 budget request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs totaling $54.7 billion, $8.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. Of the total request, $18.6 billion is for State Department Operations and related agencies (a 4.6% increase over FY2012 funding) and $36.1 billion is for Foreign Operations (an increase of 0.1% over the FY2012 level). This fact sheet provides a brief overview of that request. A full report on FY2013 State and Foreign Operations budget and appropriations...

WTO Dispute Settlement: Status of U.S. Compliance in Pending Cases

Although the United States has complied with adverse rulings in many past World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes, there are currently 14 cases in which rulings have not yet been implemented or the United States has acted and the dispute has not been fully resolved. Under WTO dispute settlement rules, a WTO Member will generally be given a reasonable period of time to comply. While the Member is expected to remove the offending measure by the end of this period, compensation and temporary retaliation are available if the Member has not acted or not taken adequate remedial action by this...

Foreign Assistance Act of 1961: Authorizations and Corresponding Appropriations

The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195; 22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.) serves as the cornerstone for the United States’ foreign assistance policies and programs. Written, passed, and signed into law at what some consider the height of the Cold War, the act is seen by some today as anachronistic. Ironically, when President Kennedy urged the 87th Congress to enact foreign aid legislation that would exemplify and advance the national interests and security strategies of the United States post-World War II, he described the existing foreign aid mechanisms as bureaucratic, fragmented,...

Prosecution of Public Corruption: An Overview of Amendments Under H.R. 2572 and S. 2038

The House Judiciary Committee has approved an amended version of the Clean Up Government Act (H.R. 2572). The Senate has passed nearly identical provisions as Title II of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (S. 2038). Title II, however, was dropped from the bill prior to its enactment as P.L. 112-105, 126 Stat. 291 (2012). Among other things, Title II and H.R. 2572 would each:

Expand the scope of federal mail and wire fraud statutes to reach undisclosed self-dealing by public officials—in response to Skilling.

Amend the definition of official act for bribery purposes—to...

The Republic of the Philippines and U.S. Interests

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines maintain close ties stemming from the U.S. colonial period, the bilateral security alliance, extensive military cooperation, and common strategic and economic interests. Although the United States closed its military bases in the Philippines in 1992, the two treaty allies have continued joint military activities related to counterterrorism and maritime security. This report looks at the U.S. foreign policy towards the Philippines.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Illicit Drug Trafficking and U.S. Counterdrug Programs

Drug trafficking is viewed as a primary threat to citizen security and U.S. interests in Latin America and the Caribbean despite decades of anti-drug efforts by the United States and partner governments. The production and trafficking of popular illicit drugs—cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and methamphetamine—generate a multi-billion dollar black market in which Latin American criminal and terrorist organizations thrive. These groups challenge state authority in source and transit countries where governments are often fragile and easily corrupted. According to the Department of Justice,...

Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): What Is It, and How Has It Been Utilized?

The deadly attacks on Afghan civilians allegedly by a U.S. servicemember have raised questions regarding the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in place between the United States and Afghanistan that would govern whether Afghan law would apply in this circumstance. SOFAs are multilateral or bilateral agreements that generally establish the framework under which U.S. military personnel operate in a foreign country and how domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction apply toward U.S. personnel in that country.

Formal requirements concerning form, content, length, or title of a SOFA do not...

Executive Branch Reorganization Initiatives During the 112th Congress: A Brief Overview

On January 13, 2012, President Barack Obama announced a proposal for a federal government reorganization. This reorganization initially would involve two legislative stages. First, the President would ask Congress to reinstate the so-called “President’s reorganization authority,” an expedited process that was available to Presidents periodically between 1932 and 1984. A legislative proposal that would renew this authority was conveyed to Congress on February 16, 2012. A bill that is substantively similar to the Administration’s request, S. 2129, was subsequently introduced in the Senate....

Securing Nuclear Materials: The 2012 Summit and Issues for Congress

In an April 2009 speech in Prague, President Obama pledged that his Administration would launch “a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” To motivate world leaders to achieve this goal, the President hosted a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, on April 12-13, 2010. Leaders of 47 countries attended the summit, including many heads of state. Attendees represented a wide geographic range of states and nuclear capabilities, and include China, India, Israel, and Pakistan. The summit resulted in a joint statement saying...

Financial Services and General Government: FY2012 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

U.S. Defense Articles and Services Supplied to Foreign Recipients: Restrictions on Their Use

In accordance with United States law, the U.S. Government places conditions on the use of defense articles and defense services transferred by it to foreign recipients. Violation of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of the contracts for such defense items, among other things. On occasion, the President has indicated that such violations by foreign countries “may” have occurred, raising the prospect that termination of deliveries to or imposition of other penalties on such nations might take place. Section 3(a) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA)...

Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union

Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar amendment, authorizing U.S. threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union, in November 1991, after a failed coup in Moscow and the disintegration of the Soviet Union raised concerns about the safety and security of Soviet nuclear weapons. The annual program has grown from $400 million in the DOD budget to over $1 billion per year across three agencies—DOD, DOE, and the State Department. It has also evolved from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union, to a more comprehensive threat reduction and nonproliferation effort, to a...

Rising Gasoline Prices 2012

Homeland Security Department: FY2012 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2012 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a total appropriation (mandatory and discretionary) of $45,015 million in budget authority for FY2012. This amounts to a $1,610 million, or a 3.7%, increase from the $43,405 million enacted for FY2011 through the continuing resolution (P.L. 112-10). Total budget authority, including appropriations, fee revenues, and trust funds in the Administration’s budget request for DHS for FY2012 amounts to $57,079 million as compared to $55,783 million enacted for FY2011.

Net...

Building Civilian Interagency Capacity for Missions Abroad: Key Proposals and Issues for Congress

Within the past two decades, prominent foreign policy organizations and foreign policy experts have perceived serious deficiencies in the authorities, organizations, and personnel used to conduct interagency missions that prevent the United States from exercising its power to full advantage. For the 112th Congress, proposals to address these problems may be of interest for their perceived potential not only to enhance performance, but also to save money by streamlining processes, encouraging interagency cooperation, and reducing duplication. These proposals also provide context for current...

Energy and Water Development: FY2012 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

President Obama’s FY2012 budget request for Energy and Water Development was released in February 2011, but the Congress was concerned for the first months of the year with completing the appropriations cycle for FY2011. As with other funding bills, the FY2011 Energy and Water Development bill was not taken to the floor in either the...

Lebanon and the Uprising in Syria: Issues for Congress

As Congress exercises oversight and prepares to consider programs for Lebanon in the coming year, some observers have expressed fear that Syrian instability may negatively affect Lebanon. Syria exerts a strong political influence on Lebanon and Syrian business interests remain prominent in the Lebanese economy. Both Lebanon and Syria have diverse societies where ethnic and sectarian groups compete and cooperate as they seek power within the confines of a rigid political system. Primary concerns about the implications of Syrian unrest include:

Negative effects on the Lebanese economy;...

Internet Gambling: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law

This is a summary of the federal criminal statutes implicated by conducting illegal gambling using the Internet. Gambling is primarily a matter of state law, reinforced by federal law in instances where the presence of an interstate or foreign element might otherwise frustrate the enforcement policies of state law. State officials and others have expressed concern that the Internet may be used to bring illegal gambling into their jurisdictions.

Illicit Internet gambling implicates at least seven federal criminal statutes. It is a federal crime (1) to conduct an illegal gambling business...

Iran’s Threat to the Strait of Hormuz

Some officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran have recently renewed threats to close or exercise control over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s threats appear to have been prompted by the likely imposition of new multilateral sanctions targeting Iran’s economic lifeline—the export of oil and other energy products. In the past, Iranian leaders have made similar threats and comments when the country’s oil exports have been threatened. However, as in the past, the prospect of a major disruption of maritime traffic in the Strait risks damaging Iranian interests. U.S. and allied military...

Coast Guard Deepwater Acquisition Programs: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress

The term Deepwater referred to more than a dozen separate Coast Guard acquisition programs for replacing and modernizing the service’s aging fleet of deepwater-capable ships and aircraft. Until April 2007, the Coast Guard pursued these programs as a single, integrated acquisition program that was known as the Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) program or Deepwater program for short. Since April 2007, the Coast Guard has pursued them as separate acquisition programs. These acquisition programs include plans for, among other things, 91 new cutters, 124 new small boats, and 247 new or...

Kim Jong-il’s Death: Implications for North Korea’s Stability and U.S. Policy

North Korea represents one of the United States’ biggest foreign policy challenges due to its production and proliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles, the threat of attacks against South Korea, its record of human rights abuses, and the possibility that its internal problems could destabilize Northeast Asia. The North Korean government’s December 19, 2011 announcement of the death of the country’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-il, has the potential to be a watershed moment in the history of the Korean Peninsula and the region. Ever since the death of his father, the “Great Leader” Kim Il...

Horn of Africa Region: The Humanitarian Crisis and International Response

As a result of the worst drought in 60 years, regional conflicts, and conflict within states, a humanitarian emergency of massive proportion has unfolded over the past year in the Horn of Africa region. Current estimates suggest that more than 13.3 million people are currently affected, 250,000 of whom need food assistance in the near term to avoid death. Somalia has been hardest hit so far, creating population displacement within its borders and a refugee crisis of nearly 1 million people in the region, primarily in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The international community continues to respond...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2012 Budget and Appropriations

Some in the 112th Congress view the foreign affairs budget as a place to cut funds in order to reduce the budget deficit. Foreign affairs expenditures typically amount to about 1% of the annual budget. Others, including Members of Congress of both political parties, view a robust foreign affairs budget as essential for America’s national security and foreign policy interests.

The State Department, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies appropriations bills, in addition to funding U.S. diplomatic and foreign aid activities, have been the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress...

Funding Emergency Communications: Technology and Policy Considerations

The United States has yet to find a solution that assures seamless communications among first responders and emergency personnel at the scene of a major disaster. Since September 11, 2001, when communications failures contributed to the tragedies of the day, Congress has passed several laws intended to create a nationwide emergency communications capability. The 111th Congress considered pivotal issues, such as radio frequency spectrum license allocation and funding programs for a Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN), without finding a solution that satisfied the expectations of both...

U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems

Unmanned aerial systems comprise a rapidly growing portion of the military budget, and have been a long-term interest of Congress. At times, Congress has encouraged the development of such systems; in other instances, it has attempted to rein in or better organize the Department of Defense’s efforts.

Unmanned aircraft are commonly called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and when combined with ground control stations and data links, form UAS, or unmanned aerial systems.

The use of UAS in conflicts such as Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and humanitarian relief operations such as Haiti,...

Continuing Resolutions: Latest Action and Brief Overview of Recent Practices

The National Security Council: An Organizational Assessment

The National Security Council (NSC) was established by statute in 1947 to create an inter-departmental body to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security. Currently, statutory members of the Council are the President, Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and, since 2007, the Secretary of Energy; but, at the...

Terrorism Information Sharing and the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Report Initiative: Background and Issues for Congress

The 2004 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) cited breakdowns in information sharing and the failure to fuse pertinent intelligence (i.e., “connecting the dots”) as key factors in the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Two of the efforts undertaken since 2001 to tackle these issues included

Congress mandating the creation of an information-sharing environment (commonly known as the “ISE”) that would provide and facilitate the means of sharing terrorism information among all appropriate federal, state, local, and tribal entities and the...

The National Intelligence Council (NIC): Issues and Options for Congress

The National Intelligence Council (NIC), composed of some 18 senior analysts and national security policy experts, provides the U.S. intelligence community’s best judgments on crucial international issues. NIC members are appointed by the Director of National Intelligence and routinely support his office and the National Security Council. Congress occasionally requests that the NIC prepare specific estimates and other analytical products that may be used during consideration of legislation.

It is the purpose of this report to describe the statutory provisions that authorize the NIC,...

Monitoring and Verification in Arms Control

The United States and Russia signed a new START Treaty on April 8, 2010, and the treaty entered into force on February 5, 2011. Many analysts, both in the United States and Russia, supported negotiations on a new treaty so that the two sides could continue to implement parts of the complex monitoring and verification regime in the 1991 START Treaty. This regime was designed to build confidence in compliance with the START and to provide transparency and cooperation during the treaty’s implementation. The verification regime in the new START Treaty differs in some respects from the regime...

Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2012 Appropriations

The Agriculture appropriations bill provides funding for all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) except the Forest Service, plus the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, in alternating years, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-55, H.R. 2112) was signed by the President on November 18, 2011, after passing both chambers by more than two-thirds majorities. It was the lead division of a three-bill “minibus” appropriation that also included Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development...

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)—Responsibilities and Potential Congressional Concerns

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was established in 2004 to ensure that information from any source about potential terrorist acts against the U.S. could be made available to analysts and that appropriate responses could be planned. Investigations of the 9/11 attacks had demonstrated that information possessed by different agencies had not been shared and thus that disparate indications of the looming threat had not been connected and warning had not been provided. As a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the NCTC is composed of analysts with...

Intelligence Estimates: How Useful to Congress?

National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are often of considerable interest to many Members of Congress. They represent the most formal assessment of a given national security issue by the U.S. intelligence community. The intelligence process, however, is not an exact science and, on occasion, NIEs have proved unreliable because they were based on insufficient evidence or contained faulty analysis. This was demonstrated in the NIE produced in 2002 on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, parts of which were significantly inaccurate.

At best NIEs provide an in-depth understanding of a complex...

Director of National Intelligence Statutory Authorities: Status and Proposals

In passing the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) in 2004, Congress approved the most comprehensive reform of the U.S. intelligence community since it was created over 50 years ago. Principal among enacted changes was the establishment of a new position of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to serve as head of the intelligence community (IC) and principal adviser to the President on intelligence matters related to the national security and to oversee and direct the implementation of the National Intelligence Program.

Some observers have...

Russia’s December 2011 Legislative Election: Outcome and Implications

Challenges to Russia’s democratic development have long been of concern to Congress as it has considered the course of U.S.-Russia cooperation on matters of mutual strategic interest and as it has monitored problematic human rights cases. Most recently, elections for the 450-member Russian State Duma (lower legislative chamber) on December 4, 2011, have heightened concerns among some Members of Congress about whether Russia can be an enduring and reliable partner in international relations if it does not uphold human rights and the rule of law.

In the run-up to the December 2011 State...

Congress as a Consumer of Intelligence Information

This report examines the role of Congress as a consumer of national intelligence and examines several issues that Congress might address during the second session of the 112th Congress.

The President, by virtue of his role as commander-in-chief and head of the executive branch, has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community. By definition, the President, the Vice President, and certain Cabinet-level officials, have access to a greater overall volume of intelligence and to sensitive intelligence information than do members of the...

Federal Building, Courthouse, and Facility Security

The security of federal government buildings and court facilities affects not only the daily operations of the federal government but also the health, well-being, and safety of federal employees and the public.

Early in the 112th Congress, legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate to improve the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the agency charged with responsibility to protect federal buildings, the employees who work in the buildings, and public visitors. On January 5, 2011, H.R. 176, the Federal Protective Service Improvement and Accountability Act of 2011,...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2012 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2012 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) accounts.

On November 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-55), which includes the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (Division B). The act includes $60.91 billion for CJS, of which $7.808 billion is for the Department of Commerce, $27.408 billion is for the Department of Justice, $24.838 billion is for the science...

Detainee Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Bills

The House and Senate bills competing to become the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 contain a subtitle addressing issues related to detainees at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and more broadly, hostilities against Al Qaeda and other entities. At the heart of both bills’ detainee provisions appears to be an effort to confirm or, as some observers view it, expand the detention authority that Congress implicitly granted the President via the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF, P.L. 107-40) in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11,...

Governmental Tracking of Cell Phones and Vehicles: The Confluence of Privacy, Technology, and Law

This report will briefly survey Fourth Amendment law as it pertains to the government's tracking programs. It will then summarize federal electronic surveillance statutes and the case law surrounding cell phone location tracking. Next, the report will describe the GPS-vehicle tracking cases and review the pending Supreme Court GPS tracking case, United States v. Jones. Finally, the report will summarize the geolocation and electronic surveillance legislation introduced in the 112th Congress.

Congressional Lawmaking: A Perspective On Secrecy and Transparency

Openness is fundamental to representative government. Yet the congressional process is replete with activities and actions that are private and not observable by the public. How to distinguish reasonable legislative secrecy from impractical transparency is a topic that produces disagreement on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Why? Because lawmaking is critical to the governance of the nation. Scores of people in the attentive public want to observe and learn about congressional proceedings.

Yet secrecy is an ever-present part of much legislative policymaking; however, secrecy and transparency...

The Budget Control Act of 2011: Effects on Spending Levels and the Budget Deficit

This report focuses on how the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) will affect spending and the budget deficit through the "first round" effects, related to discretionary spending caps and student loan provisions, and the "second round" effects of additional deficit reduction, related to the work of the Joint Committee. The report also examines short and long run effects of deficit reduction on the economy.

Federal Laws and Legislation on Carrying Concealed Firearms: An Overview

Whether an individual is permitted to carry a concealed firearm is a matter traditionally regulated by the states. State laws vary with respect to eligibility requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit (CCP). A majority of states, known as “shall-issue” jurisdictions, require the issuing authority to issue a CCP to an applicant so long as he or she meets certain statutory requirements. Another handful of states, known as “may-issue” jurisdictions, grant the issuing authority discretion to issue a CCP upon a finding of proper cause, or upon the applicant demonstrating good character....

Europe’s Preferential Trade Agreements: Status, Content, and Implications

Preferential trade agreements (PTAs) comprise a variety of arrangements that favor member parties over nonmembers by extending tariff and other nontariff preferences. PTAs, particularly free trade agreements (FTAs), have proliferated in recent years. In the post-war period, the European Union (EU), which is a PTA itself, has developed the largest network of PTAs in the world. The main findings of this report are as follows.

Historically, Europe’s PTAs have differed among its partners in terms of provisions and commitments and they have been characterized by relatively modest ambition in...

Wartime Contracting in Afghanistan: Analysis and Issues for Congress

Government contracting in Afghanistan and other wartime environments is different than contracting in peacetime. In peacetime, the goal of contracting is generally to obtain the good or service that is required. The measurements of success are generally getting the right good or service, on schedule, and at a fair price. In wartime, however—and particularly in a counterinsurgency environment—cost, schedule, and performance are often secondary to larger strategic goals of promoting security and denying popular support for the insurgency.

From FY2005 through 2011, the U.S. government...

Government Access to Phone Calling Activity and Related Records: Legal Authorities

Public interest in the means by which the government may collect telephone call records has been raised by revelations in recent years regarding alleged intelligence activity by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to a USA Today article from May 11, 2006, the NSA allegedly sought and obtained records of telephone numbers called and received from millions of telephones within the United States from three telephone service providers; a fourth reportedly refused to provide such records. Additionally, a series of reports issued by the...

Presidential Policy Directive 8 and the National Preparedness System: Background and Issues for Congress

Presidential Policy Directive 8: National Preparedness (PPD-8) was signed and released by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2011. PPD-8 and its component policies intend to guide how the nation, from the federal level to private citizens, can “prevent, protect against, mitigate the effects of, respond to, and recover from those threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the Nation.” These threats include terrorist acts, natural disasters, and other man-made incidents. PPD-8 evolves from, and supersedes, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, which was released under...

National Security Professionals and Interagency Reform: Proposals, Recent Experience, and Issues for Congress

There is a growing consensus among many practitioners and scholars, across the political spectrum, broadly in favor of reforming the U.S. government interagency system to encourage a more effective application of all elements of national power. The reform debates have included proposals and initiatives to establish and foster an interagency community of national security professionals (NSPs) from all relevant departments and agencies. According to proponents, NSPs, through participating in activities that might include shared educational and training opportunities, and rotational tours in...

Issues in Homeland Security Policy for the 112th Congress

With the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, many observers are making a fresh assessment of where America’s homeland security enterprise stands today. In the wake of those attacks, Congress made extensive changes to the structure and function of many agencies, establishing a consolidated Department of Homeland Security and dedicating significant additional resources expressly to the security of the homeland. After the initial surge of activity, evolution of America’s response has continued under the leadership of different Administrations, Congresses, and in a...

United States-Canada Trade and Economic Relationship: Prospects and Challenges

The United States and Canada conduct the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship, with total merchandise trade (exports and imports) exceeding $429.7 billion in 2009. The U.S.-Canadian relationship revolves around the themes of integration and asymmetry: integration from successive trade liberalization from the U.S.-Canada Auto Pact of 1965 leading to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and asymmetry resulting from Canadian dependence on the U.S. market and from the disparate size of the two economies.

The economies of the United States and Canada are highly integrated, a...

Muslims in Europe: Promoting Integration and Countering Extremism

Many European countries have large and growing Muslim minorities. This is particularly true for the countries of Western Europe that have experienced influxes of Muslim immigrants over the last several decades from a variety of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries, as well as Turkey and the Balkans. Today, although some Muslims in Europe are recent immigrants, others are second- or third-generation Europeans. While expanding Muslim communities pose significant social and economic policy questions for European governments, the realization that some segments of Europe’s Muslim...

India: Domestic Issues, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Relations

South Asia emerged in the 21st century as increasingly vital to core U.S. foreign policy interests. India, the region’s dominant actor with more than 1 billion citizens, is often characterized as a nascent great power and “indispensable partner” of the United States, one that many analysts view as a potential counterweight to China’s growing clout. Since 2004, Washington and New Delhi have been pursuing a “strategic partnership” based on shared values and apparently convergent geopolitical interests. Numerous economic, security, and global initiatives, including plans for civilian nuclear...

Protection of Classified Information by Congress: Practices and Proposals

The protection of classified national security and other controlled information is of concern not only to the executive branch—which, for the most part, determines what information is classified and controlled—but also to Congress. The legislature uses such information to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, particularly overseeing the executive, appropriating funds, and legislating public policy. Congress has established numerous mechanisms to safeguard controlled information in its custody, although these arrangements have varied over time, between the two chambers, and among...

Somalia: Current Conditions and Prospects for a Lasting Peace

Russian Military Reform and Defense Policy

Russia has undertaken several largely piecemeal and halting efforts to revamp the armed forces it inherited from the Soviet Union. In 2007, near the end of then-President Vladimir Putin’s second term in office, he appointed Anatoliy Serdyukov—the former head of the Federal Tax Service—as defense minister as part of an effort to combat corruption in the military and carry out reforms. After the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict revealed large-scale Russian military operational failures, the leadership became more determined to boost military capabilities. U.S. government and congressional...

The Budget Control Act of 2011

The Budget Control Act (BCA) is the result of negotiations between the President and Congress held in response to the federal government having nearly reached its borrowing capacity.

The BCA authorized increases in the debt limit of at least $2.1 trillion dollars (and up to $2.4 trillion under certain conditions), subject to a disapproval process that would likely require securing the support of two-thirds of each chamber to prevent a debt limit increase. It established caps on the amount of money that could be spent through the annual appropriations process for the next 10 years, which...

The National Guard State Partnership Program: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress

The State Partnership Program (SPP) is a Department of Defense (DOD) security cooperation program run by the National Guard. It also serves as a mechanism for training National Guard personnel. Since the program began in 1992, it has expanded to the point where nearly every state National Guard participates, as do the National Guard of Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

The SPP relates to several areas of potential interest to Congress, including improving the capabilities of partner nations to protect their citizens; strengthening relationships with...

Foreign Operations Appropriations: General Provisions

This report identifies the legislative origins of General Provisions that pertain to foreign aid in the current Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010 (division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010; P.L. 111-117; 123 Stat. 3034 at 3312), as continued for Fiscal Year 2011 by the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112-10; 125 Stat. 38; of which sec. 1101(a)(6) continues appropriations enacted in P.L. 111-117, and division B, title XI, which provides further instruction for FY2011 foreign...

Medicare Program Integrity: Activities to Protect Medicare from Payment Errors, Fraud, and Abuse

Since 1990, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified the Medicare program as at risk for improper payments and fraud, and, since 2004, has issued 12 products documenting various program vulnerabilities. As noted by GAO and other public and private analysts, Medicare’s vulnerability to fraud and abuse arises from the program’s size, complexity, decentralization, and administrative requirements. Although a good estimate of the dollar amount lost to Medicare fraud and abuse is open to discussion, analysts agree that billions of dollars are lost. Administering the volume of...

Financial Services and General Government: FY2012 Appropriations Overview

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and more than two dozen independent agencies. Among those independent agencies are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is funded in the House through the...

International Violence Against Women: U.S. Response and Policy Issues

In recent years, the international community has increasingly recognized international violence against women (VAW) as a significant human rights and global health issue. VAW, which can include both random acts of violence as well as sustained abuse over time, can be physical, psychological, or sexual in nature. Studies have found that VAW occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures, and economic classes, with some research showing that women in developing countries experience higher rates of violence than those in developed countries. Many experts view VAW as a symptom of the...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2011 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2011 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). It also provides an overview of FY2010 appropriations for agencies and bureaus funded as a part of the annual appropriation for CJS.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117), included a total of $68.705 billion in new budget authority for CJS. Of the $68.705 billion appropriated for FY2010, $14.035 billion was for the Department of Commerce, $28.078 billion was for the Department of Justice, $25.658 billion was for the...

Homeland Security Department: FY2011 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2011 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a net appropriation of $45.0 billion in budget authority for FY2011. This amounts to a $1.1 billion, or a 2.4% increase from the $43.9 billion enacted for FY2010. Total budget authority requested by the Administration for DHS for FY2011 amounts to $52.6 billion as compared to $51.7 billion enacted for FY2010.

Net requested appropriations for major agencies within DHS were as follows: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $9,809 million; Immigration and Customs...

Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa

In recent years, analysts and U.S. policymakers have noted Africa’s growing strategic importance to U.S. interests. Among those interests are the increasing importance of Africa’s natural resources, particularly energy resources, and mounting concern over violent extremist activities and other potential threats posed by under-governed spaces, such as maritime piracy and illicit trafficking. In addition, there is ongoing concern for Africa’s many humanitarian crises, armed conflicts, and more general challenges, such as the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS. In 2006, Congress authorized a...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2011 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 26 independent agencies. Among the independent agencies funded by the bill are the Small Business Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, and the United States Postal Service.

The FSGG FY2010 appropriations were provided through P.L. 111-117, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010. P.L. 111-117 provided $46.265 billion for FSGG agencies in FY2010. In addition, P.L. 111-80...

Federal Material Witness Statute: A Legal Overview of 18 U.S.C. 3144

This is an overview of the law under the federal material witness statute which authorizes the arrest of material witnesses, permits their release under essentially the same bail laws that apply to federal criminal defendants, but favors their release after their depositions have been taken.

Legislative efforts in the 109th Congress to amend the provisions never fully developed. Witnesses at Congressional oversight hearings did alleged that the authority to arrest and hold material witnesses until their appearance at federal criminal proceedings (including grand jury proceedings) had been...

Ashcroft v. al-Kidd: Official Immunity and Material Witnesses Before the Supreme Court

Public officials cannot be sued personally for injuries resulting from the performance of their duties. They lose this qualified immunity when the injuries resulted from their violation of clearly established law. In Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, the Supreme Court concluded that clearly established Fourth Amendment jurisprudence did not forbid the Attorney General from encouraging the use of the federal material witness statute as a pretext to detain and question a potential criminal suspect.

The Court left for another day several related issues. Does the material witness statute permit...

Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security

Foreign nationals (i.e., aliens) not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted, with certain exceptions noted in law. The Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) each play key roles in administering the law and policies on the admission of aliens. Although the DOS’s Consular Affairs is responsible for issuing visas, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) in DHS approves immigrant petitions, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in DHS operates the Visa Security Program...

National Security Letters: Proposals in the 112th Congress

National Security Letters (NSLs) are roughly comparable to administrative subpoenas. Various intelligence agencies use them to demand certain customer information from communications providers, financial institutions, and consumer credit reporting agencies under the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the National Security Act, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The USA PATRIOT Act expanded NSL authority. Later reports of the Department of Justice’s Inspector General indicated that (1) the FBI considered the expanded authority very useful; (2) after...

Asylum and “Credible Fear” Issues in U.S. Immigration Policy

Foreign nationals seeking asylum must demonstrate a well-founded fear that if returned home, they will be persecuted based upon one of five characteristics: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Foreign nationals arriving or present in the United States may apply for asylum affirmatively with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security after arrival into the country, or they may seek asylum defensively before a Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)...

”Dirty Bombs”: Background in Brief

Congress has long sought, through legislation and oversight, to protect the United States against terrorist threats, especially from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) are one type of CBRN weapon. Explosive-driven “dirty bombs” are an often-discussed type of RDD, though radioactive material can also be dispersed in other ways. This report provides background for understanding the RDD threat and responses, and presents issues for Congress.

Radioactive material is the necessary ingredient for an RDD. This material is composed...

“Dirty Bombs”: Technical Background, Attack Prevention and Response, Issues for Congress

Congress has long sought, through legislation and oversight, to protect the United States against terrorist threats, especially from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) are one type of CBRN weapon. Explosive-driven “dirty bombs” are an often-discussed type of RDD, though radioactive material can also be dispersed in other ways. This report provides background for understanding the RDD threat and responses, and presents issues for Congress.

Radioactive material is the necessary ingredient for an RDD. This material is composed...

Imports from North Korea: Existing Rules, Implications of the KORUS FTA, and the Kaesong Industrial Complex

In early 2011, many Members of Congress focused their attention on U.S. rules and practices governing the importation of products and components from North Korea. Their interest was stimulated by debate over the proposed South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and the question of whether the agreement could lead to increased imports from North Korea. Some observers, particularly many opposed to the agreement, have argued that the KORUS FTA could increase imports from North Korea if South Korean firms re-export items made in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a seven-year-old...

The Smart Grid and Cybersecurity—Regulatory Policy and Issues

Electricity is vital to the commerce and daily functioning of United States. The modernization of the grid to accommodate today’s uses is leading to the incorporation of information processing capabilities for power system controls and operations monitoring. The “Smart Grid” is the name given to the evolving electric power network as new information technology systems and capabilities are incorporated. While these new components may add to the ability to control power flows and enhance the efficiency of grid operations, they also potentially increase the susceptibility of the grid to cyber...

Kenya: Current Conditions and the Challenges Ahead

Intelligence Information: Need-to-Know vs. Need-to-Share

Unauthorized disclosures of classified intelligence are seen as doing significant damage to U.S. security. This is the case whether information is disclosed to a foreign government or published on the Internet. On the other hand, if intelligence is not made available to government officials who need it to do their jobs, enormous expenditures on collection, analysis, and dissemination are wasted. These conflicting concerns require careful and difficult balancing.

Investigations of the 9/11 attacks concluded that both technical and policy barriers had limited sharing of information...

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations for FY2011

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to the manufacture, importation, and distribution of firearms and explosives. Congress transferred ATF’s enforcement and regulatory functions for firearms and explosives from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as part of the Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296). ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, as well as criminal violations of federal laws governing...

Interagency Collaborative Arrangements and Activities: Types, Rationales, Considerations

Interagency collaboration among federal agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and shared responsibilities is not a new phenomenon. Attempts to foster cooperation among agencies, reduce their number in particular policy areas, or clarify the division of labor among them date to the early days of the republic. Such arrangements are increasing in the contemporary era in number, prominence, and proposals across virtually all policy areas. The reasons for the current upsurge are the growth in government responsibilities, cross-cutting programs, and their complexity; certain crises which...

Project BioShield: Authorities, Appropriations, Acquisitions, and Issues for Congress

In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act (P.L. 108-276) to encourage the private sector to develop medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents and to provide a novel mechanism for federal acquisition of those newly developed countermeasures. Although some countermeasures have been acquired through this law, Congress continues to address several Project BioShield-related policy issues. These include whether to continue diverting Project BioShield acquisition funding to other purposes; whether to change the countermeasure...

Sending Mail to Members of the Armed Forces at Reduced or Free Postage: An Overview

Members of the Armed Forces on duty in designated combat areas can send personal correspondence, free of postage, to addresses in the United States. However, there is not a comparable policy to permit individuals in the United States to send letters and packages to troops serving overseas free of charge.

H.R. 1935 has been introduced in the 112th Congress to establish a new, free postage benefit. Military personnel who are deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, or who are hospitalized as a result of such deployment, would receive one postage voucher or coupon per month. The recipient may then...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa: The FY2012 Request

Sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, receives over a quarter of all U.S. bilateral foreign assistance. Aid to Africa more than quadrupled over the past decade, primarily due to sizable increases in global health spending during the Bush Administration and more measured increases in development, economic, and security assistance. The Obama Administration’s FY2012 bilateral Africa aid budget request, at $7.8 billion, represents an increase of roughly 10% compared to FY2010, albeit at a more restrained growth rate than in previous years (see “The FY2012 Request by the Numbers”)....

Defense: FY2011 Authorization and Appropriations

The President’s FY2011 budget request, released February 1, 2010, requested authorization of $725.9 billion in new budget authority in the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act. In addition to $548.9 billion for the regular (non-war) operations of the Department of Defense (DOD), the authorization request included $159.3 billion for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, bringing the total DOD request for FY2011 to $708.2 billion. The request also included $17.7 billion for defense-related activities of the Department of Energy.

The President’s FY2011 DOD appropriations...

The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background, Analysis, and Options for Congress

The United States relies on contractors to provide a wide variety of services in Afghanistan and Iraq, including armed security. While DOD has previously contracted for security in Bosnia and elsewhere, it appears that in Afghanistan and Iraq DOD is for the first time relying so heavily on armed contractors to provide security during combat or stability operations. Much of the attention given to private security contractors (PSCs) by Congress and the media is a result of numerous high-profile incidents in which security contractors have been accused of shooting civilians, using excessive...

Department of Defense Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background and Analysis

The critical role contractors play in supporting military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq necessitates that the Department of Defense (DOD) effectively manage contractors during contingency operations. Lack of sufficient contract management can delay or even prevent troops from receiving needed support and can also result in wasteful spending. Some analysts believe that poor contract management has played a role in permitting abuses and crimes committed by certain contractors against local nationals, which may have undermined U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

DOD...

Reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act: Selected Policy Provisions, Funding, and Implementation Issues

This report reviews major policy arguments raised in the congressional debate about the 2007 America COMPETES Act and 2010 reauthorization, examines and analyzes selected policy and funding provisions in these laws, and identifies some potential implementation and oversight issues for Congress.

Energy and Water Development: FY2011 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

As with other funding bills, the FY2011 Energy and Water Development bill was not taken to the floor in either the House or the Senate in the 111th Congress. Funding for its programs was included in a series of continuing resolutions, and at the beginning of the 112th Congress was part of a major debate over overall spending levels....

Humane Treatment of Farm Animals: Overview and Issues

Animal welfare supporters in the United States have long sought legislation to modify or curtail some practices considered by U.S. agriculture to be acceptable or even necessary to animal health. Members of Congress over the years have offered various bills that would affect animal care on the farm, during transport, or at slaughter; several proposals were introduced in the 111th Congress, although no further action was taken on the bills. No bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress. Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees generally have expressed a preference for...

Osama bin Laden’s Death: Implications and Considerations

The May 1, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden (OBL) by U.S. forces in Pakistan has led to a range of views about near- and long-term security and foreign policy implications for the United States. Experts have a range of views about the killing of OBL. Some consider his death to be a largely symbolic event, while others believe it marks a significant achievement in U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Individuals suggesting that his death lacks great significance argue that U.S. and allied actions had eroded OBL’s ability to provide direction and support to Al Qaeda (AQ). For these analysts, OBL’s...

Building the Capacity of Partner States Through Security Force Assistance

Historically, the U.S. military’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) have had primary responsibility for training, advising, and assisting foreign military forces. Today, although this mission has not been completely relegated to conventional forces, the National Security Strategies of the current and previous administrations direct the U.S. military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) to organize, train, and equip themselves to carry out these activities on a larger scale with conventional (non-SOF) forces. This responsibility in its broad sense of building the capacity of partner...

Expedited Rescission Bills in the 111th and 112th Congresses: Comparisons and Issues

Under the framework established by the Impoundment Control Act (ICA) of 1974 (P.L. 93-344, 88 Stat. 297), the President may propose to rescind funding provided in an appropriations act by transmitting a special message to Congress and obtaining the support of both houses within 45 days of continuous session. If denied congressional approval during this time period, either by Congress ignoring the presidential rescission request or because one or both houses rejected the proposed rescission, the President must make the funding available to executive agencies for obligation and...

Piracy off the Horn of Africa

Pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, including those on U.S.-flagged vessels, have brought renewed international attention to the long-standing problem of maritime piracy. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), at least 219 attacks occurred in the region in 2010, with 49 successful hijackings. Somali pirates have attacked ships in the Gulf of Aden, along Somalia’s eastern coastline, and outward into the Indian Ocean. Using increasingly sophisticated tactics, these pirates now operate as far east as the Maldives in good weather, and as far south as...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2011 Budget and Appropriations

The annual State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill has been the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress reviews the U.S. international affairs budget and influences executive branch foreign policy making in recent years, as Congress has not regularly considered these issues through a complete authorization process for State Department diplomatic activities since 2003 and for foreign aid programs since 1985. Funding for Foreign Operations and State Department/Broadcasting programs has been steadily rising since FY2002, after a period of decline in the...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Independent and Other Agencies During the 110th Congress

The appointment process for advice and consent positions consists of three main stages. The first stage is selection, clearance, and nomination by the President. This step includes preliminary vetting, background checks, and ethics checks of potential nominees. At this stage, the President may also consult with Senators who are from the same party if the position is located in a state. The second stage of the process is consideration of the nomination in the Senate, most of which takes place in committee. Finally, if a nomination is approved by the full Senate, the nominee is given a...

France: Factors Shaping Foreign Policy, and Issues in U.S.-French Relations

The factors that shape French foreign policy have changed since the end of the Cold War. The perspectives of France and the United States have diverged in some cases. More core interests remain similar. Both countries’ governments have embraced the opportunity to build stability in Europe through an expanded European Union (EU) and NATO. Each has recognized that terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are the most important threats to their security today.

Several factors shape French foreign policy. France has a self-identity that calls for efforts to spread French...

Turkey-U.S. Defense Cooperation: Prospects and Challenges

Congress and the Obama Administration are seeking to manage longstanding bilateral and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-based defense cooperation with Turkey at a time when a more independent Turkish foreign policy course and changes in regional security conditions are creating new challenges for both countries. Defense cooperation rooted in shared threat perceptions from the Cold War era and built on close U.S. ties with the Turkish military leadership now must be reconciled with a decline of the military’s political influence in Turkish society and some negative turns in Turkish...

Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya): Background and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of military operations in Libya under U.S. command from March 19 to March 29, 2011, and the most recent developments with respect to the transfer of command of military operations from the United States to NATO on March 30.

The ongoing uprising in Libya against the government of Muammar al Qadhafi has been the subject of evolving domestic and international debate about potential international military intervention, including the proposed establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya. On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution...

Iraq’s Debt Relief: Procedure and Potential Implications for International Debt Relief

This report discusses the Iraqi debt problem in three parts: [1] overview of the Iraq debt situation following the ouster of the Saddam regime; [2] subsequent debt relief negotiations and their resolution; [3] possible implications for future debt relief cases that arise from Iraq's experience. The implications are: a willingness by the international community to grant a stay on the enforcement of creditor rights; an increased flexibility in Paris Club debt relief decisions; and an unwillingness by successor regimes to claim that their debt is odious and repudiate it.

Non-Governmental Organizations Activities in North Korea

A number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—non-profit, charitable institutions—have been active in North Korea since the mid-1990s. Although their work is relatively limited in scope, it is of interest to U.S. policy-makers because of the deep isolation of the regime in Pyongyang. Several American and international NGOs have provided assistance to North Korea in humanitarian relief, development, health, informal diplomacy, science, communication and education. A relatively recent trend is that a growing number of NGOs, particularly in South Korea, are run by or have North Korean...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2010

This report lists hundreds of instances in which the United States has used its armed forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes. The listing contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments such as U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with NATO or the United Nations.

Fact Sheet: The FY2012 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request

This fact sheet provides a brief overview of the Obama Administration's request for International Affairs programs.

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched and led military operations in Afghanistan in order to end the ability of the Taliban regime to provide safe haven to al Qaeda and to put a stop to al Qaeda’s use of the territory of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities. Many observers argue that in succeeding years, as U.S. and world attention shifted sharply to the war in Iraq, the Afghan war became the “other war” and suffered from neglect. The Obama Administration, however, has made the war in Afghanistan a higher...

Terrorist Use of the Internet: Information Operations in Cyberspace

The Internet is used by international insurgents, jihadists, and terrorist organizations as a tool for radicalization and recruitment, a method of propaganda distribution, a means of communication, and ground for training. Although there are no known reported incidents of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure as acts of terror, this could potentially become a tactic in the future.

There are several methods for countering terrorist and insurgent information operations on the Internet. The federal government has organizations that conduct strategic communications, counterpropaganda, and...

Department of Defense “Section 1207” Security and Stabilization Assistance: Background and Congressional Concerns, FY2006-FY2010

Now expired, Section 1207 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2006 (P.L. 109-163) provided authority for the Department of Defense (DOD) to transfer to the State Department up to $100 million per fiscal year in defense articles, services, training or other support for reconstruction, stabilization, and security activities in foreign countries. From FY2006 through FY2010, Section 1207 funded $445.2 million in projects in 23 countries on a bilateral basis and in five countries on a multilateral basis (including one also funded bilaterally). Section 1207 authority...

U.S. Immigration Policy on Temporary Admissions

U.S. law provides for the temporary admission of various categories of foreign nationals, who are known as nonimmigrants. Nonimmigrants are admitted for a designated period of time and a specific purpose. They include a wide range of visitors, including tourists, foreign students, diplomats, and temporary workers. There are 24 major nonimmigrant visa categories. These visa categories are commonly referred to by the letter and numeral that denotes their subsection in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA); for example, B-2 tourists, E-2 treaty investors, F-1 foreign students, H-1B...

Public Health and Medical Emergency Management: Issues in the 112th Congress

Key recent events—the 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the H1N1 influenza (“flu”) pandemic, among others—sharpened congressional interest in the nation’s ability to respond to health threats. For the response to health emergencies, most authority resides with state and local governments, and most capacity resides in the private sector. The federal government plays a key role, however, providing numerous forms of assistance for planning and preparedness, as well as for response and recovery. Previous Congresses passed a number of laws intended to establish clear federal...

Foreign Aid Reform, National Strategy, and the Quadrennial Review

Several development proponents, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and policymakers have pressed Congress to reform U.S. foreign aid capabilities to better address 21st century development needs and national security challenges. Over the past 50 years, the legislative foundation for U.S. foreign aid has evolved largely by amending the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195), the primary statutory basis for U.S. foreign aid programs, and enacting separate freestanding laws to reflect specific U.S. foreign policy interests. Many describe U.S. aid programs as fragmented, cumbersome,...

Federal Efforts to Address the Threat of Bioterrorism: Selected Issues and Options for Congress

Reports by congressional commissions, the mention of bioterrorism in President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address, and issuance of executive orders have increased congressional attention to the threat of bioterrorism. Federal efforts to combat the threat of bioterrorism predate the anthrax attacks of 2001 but have significantly increased since then. The U.S. government has developed these efforts as part of and in parallel with other defenses against conventional terrorism. Continued attempts by terrorist groups to launch attacks targeted at U.S. citizens have increased concerns that...

Insurance Regulation: Federal Charter Legislation

Insurance is one of three primary sectors of the financial services industry. Unlike the other two, banks and securities, insurance is primarily regulated at the state, rather than federal, level. The primacy of state regulation dates back to 1868 when the Supreme Court found in Paul v. Virginia (75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 168 (1868)) that insurance did not constitute interstate commerce, and thus did not fall under the powers granted the federal government in the Constitution. In 1944, however, the Court cast doubt on this finding in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association (322...

Military Personnel and Freedom of Religion: Selected Legal Issues

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides the freedom to individuals to exercise their religious beliefs without governmental interference, and simultaneously prohibits government actions that benefit followers of one faith over another. At times, when government actions would otherwise burden individuals’ religious exercise, the government makes efforts to accommodate the religious practice. However, accommodation of religion to prevent violations of the Free Exercise Clause must be carefully considered in order to prevent violation of the Establishment Clause.

The tension...

Lebanon: Background and U.S. Relations

Lebanon is a religiously diverse country transitioning toward independence and democratic consolidation after a ruinous civil war and the subsequent Syrian and Israeli occupations. The United States and Lebanon have historically enjoyed a good relationship due in part to cultural and religious ties; the democratic character of the state; a large Lebanese American community in the United States; and the pro-western orientation of Lebanon, particularly during the Cold War. Current policy priorities of the United States include strengthening the weak democratic institutions of the state,...

Indonesia: Domestic Politics, Strategic Dynamics, and U.S. Interests

With a population of 240 million, Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia and the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world. Its size, its emerging democracy and economic vibrancy, and its strategic position across critical sea lanes linking the Middle East with East Asia have led many to consider it an emerging middle-tier power. The U.S. maintains close relations with Indonesia, with considerable security, economic, and trade ties, although human rights concerns about the Indonesian armed forces have long been a thorn in the relationship.

In the 12 years since a...

The Obama Administration's Open Government Initiative: Issues for Congress

This report reviews the objectives delineated in President Obama's Open Government Initiative (OGI) and examines the expectations placed on agencies to meet these objectives. This report reviews department and agency attempts to implement Obama Administration initiatives that seek to make the federal government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. The report then analyzes options for congressional action in this area.

Changes in Airport Passenger Screening Technologies and Procedures: Frequently Asked Questions

This report contains answers to numerous questions regarding airport passenger screening.

Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for U.S. Policy

Al Qaeda (AQ) has evolved into a significantly different terrorist organization than the one that perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks. At the time, Al Qaeda was composed mostly of a core cadre of veterans of the Afghan insurgency against the Soviet Union, with a centralized leadership structure made up mostly of Egyptians. Most of the organization’s plots either emanated from the top or were approved by the leadership. Some analysts describe pre-9/11 Al Qaeda as akin to a corporation, with Osama Bin Laden acting as an agile chief executive officer issuing orders and soliciting...

Federal Crime Control Issues in the 111th Congress

States and localities have traditionally been responsible for preventing and controlling domestic crime. As crime rates continued to increase throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the federal government increased its involvement in crime control efforts. Over a period of 10 years (1984-1994), Congress passed five major anti-crime bills and increased appropriations for federal assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, federal law enforcement efforts have been focused on countering terrorism and maintaining homeland security. Amid these...

The National Response Framework: Overview and Possible Issues for Congress

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress and President Bush moved to consolidate numerous federal emergency plans into a single, unified national response plan. The end product of these efforts was the National Response Plan (NRP), which established broad lines of authority for agencies responding to emergencies and major disasters.

Perceived problems with the implementation of the NRP during Hurricane Katrina led Congress to enact the Post-Katrina Management Reform Act (P.L. 109-295) to integrate preparedness and response authorities. The legislation directed...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 111th Congress

The Speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader of the 111th Congress pledged to take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the most controversial piece of which concerns unauthorized aliens in the United States. Although the 111th Congress did not take up a comprehensive immigration bill, it did consider a narrower DREAM Act proposal to legalize the status of certain unauthorized alien students. On December 8, 2010, the House approved a version of the DREAM Act as an amendment to an unrelated bill, the Removal Clarification Act of 2010 (H.R. 5281). A cloture motion in...

Federal Evacuation Policy: Issues for Congress

When government officials become aware of an impending disaster, they may take steps to protect citizens before the incident occurs. Evacuation of the geographic area that may be affected is one option to ensure public safety. If implemented properly, evacuation can be an effective strategy for saving lives. Evacuations and decisions to evacuate, however, can also entail complex factors and elevated risks. Decisions to evacuate may require officials to balance potentially costly, hazardous, or unnecessary evacuations against the possibility of loss of life due to a delayed order to...

Guantanamo Detention Center: Legislative Activity in the 111th Congress

The detention of alleged enemy belligerents at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, together with proposals to transfer some such individuals to the United States for prosecution or continued detention, has been a subject of considerable interest for Congress. Several authorization and appropriations measures enacted during the 111th Congress addressed the disposition and treatment of Guantanamo detainees. This report analyzes legislation enacted in the 111th Congress concerning persons held at the Guantanamo detention facility.

Nine laws that were enacted during the 111th...

Pakistan: Key Current Issues and Developments

A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy is considered vital to U.S. interests. U.S. concerns regarding Pakistan include regional and global terrorism; efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan; nuclear weapons proliferation; the Kashmir problem and Pakistan-India tensions; democratization and human rights protection; and economic development. Pakistan is praised by U.S. leaders for its ongoing cooperation with U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, although long-held doubts exist about Islamabad’s commitment to some core U.S....

Satellite Surveillance: Domestic Issues

Reconnaissance satellites, first deployed in the early 1960s to peer into denied regions of the Soviet Union and other secretive enemy states, have from time to time been used by civilian agencies of the federal government to assist with mapping, disaster relief, and environmental concerns. These uses have been coordinated by the Civil Applications Office at the U.S. Geological Survey, a component of the Interior Department. Post 9/11, the Bush Administration sought to encourage use of satellite-derived data for homeland security and law enforcement purposes, in addition to the civil...

Spyware: Background and Policy Issues for Congress

The term “spyware” generally refers to any software that is downloaded onto a computer without the owner’s or user’s knowledge. Spyware may collect information about a computer user’s activities and transmit that information to someone else. It may change computer settings, or cause “pop-up” advertisements to appear (in that context, it is called “adware”). Spyware may redirect a web browser to a site different from what the user intended to visit, or change the user’s home page. A type of spyware called “keylogging” software records individual keystrokes, even if the author modifies or...

Social Security Administration: Workload and Related Issues

Missile Defense and NATO’s Lisbon Summit

For several years, the United States and NATO have pursued parallel paths to develop a ballistic missile defense (BMD) capability to defend U.S. troops and European populations against potential ballistic attacks from countries such as Iran. At the November 2010 Lisbon Summit, alliance heads of state approved a plan to integrate existing NATO member BMD capabilities as part of the overall alliance defense posture. NATO officials have placed the estimated cost of the new territorial BMD system at 200 million euros (approximately $260 million), to be borne among all 28 member states over the...

U.S.-Russian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress

The bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement between the United States and Russia entered into force after an exchange of diplomatic notes on January 11, 2011. The United States and Russia signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement on May 6, 2008. President Bush submitted the agreement to Congress on May 13. The agreement was withdrawn from congressional consideration by President George W. Bush on September 8, 2008, in response to Russia’s military actions in Georgia. President Obama transmitted the proposed text of the agreement to Congress on May 10, 2010, along with the required...

Safeguarding the Nation’s Drinking Water: EPA and Congressional Actions

The events of September 11, 2001, focused attention on the security status of the nation’s drinking water supplies and the vulnerability of this critical infrastructure sector to attack. Congress since has enacted security requirements for public water systems and has provided funding for vulnerability assessments, emergency planning, and drinking water research. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the lead federal agency for the water sector, has worked with water utilities, state and local governments, and federal agencies to improve the drinking water security. However, water...

Critical Infrastructure Security: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to critical infrastructure security. Policy areas identified include: mission, magnitude, importance, relationship to departmental mission; policy, organization, and operations across all infrastructures; information disclosure, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); security services, airport screeners, guards; specific sectors, assessing vulnerabilities, planning and implementation; agriculture; banking and finance; chemical; defense industry; emergency systems; energy;...

Research and Development (R&D) to Enhance Homeland Security: CRS Experts

The following table provides access to names and contact information for CRS experts on policy concerns relating to research and development (R&D) to enhance homeland security. Policy areas identified include: mission, scope, magnitude, relationship to other federal homeland security goals; developing countermeasures policy and strategic plan; access to scientific and technical information; establishing R&D policy and priorities; conducting and coordinating homeland security R&D; Department of Homeland Security; Department of Agriculture; Department of Defense; Department of Health and...

South Africa: Current Issues and U.S. Relations

Over fifteen years after the South African majority gained its independence from white minority rule under apartheid, a system of racial segregation, the Republic of South Africa is firmly established as a regional power. With Africa’s largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a diverse economy, and a government that has played an active role in promoting regional peace and stability, South Africa is poised to have a substantial impact on the economic and political future of Africa. The country is also playing an increasingly prominent role in the G20 and other international fora. South Africa...

Cuba: Issues for the 111th Congress

Cuba remains a one-party communist state with a poor record on human rights. The country’s political succession in 2006 from the long-ruling Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl was characterized by a remarkable degree of stability. The government of Raúl Castro implemented limited economic policy changes in 2008 and 2009, and in September 2010 began a significant series of reforms to reduce the public sector and increase private enterprise. Few observers expect the government to ease its tight control over the political system, although it has reduced the number of political prisoners...

Economics and National Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy

As the world begins the second decade of the twenty-first century, the United States holds what should be a winning hand of a preeminent military, large economy, strong alliances, and democratic values. The nation’s security should be secure. Yet the debate over national security seems to be both intensifying and broadening. The problem appears not only in the difficulty of finding a winning strategy in the long war against acts of terrorism but having to face economic constraints that loom large in the public debate. In addition, the global financial crisis and recession have highlighted...

Hezbollah: Background and Issues for Congress

Lebanon’s Hezbollah is a Shiite Islamist militia, political party, social welfare organization, and U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization. Its armed element receives support from Iran and Syria and possesses significant paramilitary and unconventional warfare capabilities. In the wake of the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and an armed domestic confrontation between Hezbollah and rival Lebanese groups in May 2008, Lebanon’s political process is now intensely focused on Hezbollah’s future role in the country. Lebanese factions are working to define Hezbollah’s...

Location-Based Preferences in Federal and Federally Funded Contracting: An Overview of the Law

This report discusses constitutional and other legal issues related to the creation and implementation of location-based preferences in federal contracting, as well as summarizes key authorities requiring or allowing federal agencies to "favor" contractors located in specific places. The report does not address federal preferences for domestic products or provisions of federal law that could, depending upon their implementation, effectively prefer local contractors, such as project labor agreements.

The Advanced Spectroscopic Portal Program: Background and Issues for Congress

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with developing and procuring equipment to prevent a terrorist nuclear or radiological attack in the United States. At the forefront of DNDO’s efforts are technologies currently deployed and under development whose purpose is to detect smuggled nuclear and radiological materials. These technologies include existing radiation portal monitors and next-generation replacements known as advanced spectroscopic portals (ASPs).

Customs and Border Protection officers use radiation portal monitors to...

China-North Korea Relations

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) plays a key role in U.S. policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). The PRC is North Korea’s closest ally, largest provider of food, fuel, and industrial machinery, and arguably the country most able to wield influence in Pyongyang. China also is the host of the Six-Party Talks (involving the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia) over North Korea’s nuclear program. The close PRC-DPRK relationship is of interest to U.S. policymakers because China plays a pivotal role in the success of U.S....

National Security Letters: Proposed Amendments in the 111th Congress

Five federal statutes authorize various intelligence agencies to demand, through National Security Letters (NSLs), certain customer information from communications providers, financial institutions, and consumer credit reporting agencies, under the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the National Security Act, and Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The USA PATRIOT Act expanded NSL authority. Later reports of the Department of Justice Inspector General indicated that (1) the FBI considered the expanded authority very useful; (2) after expansion the number of...

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues

The United Nations (UN) has had an active presence in Afghanistan since 1988, and it is highly regarded by many Afghans for playing a brokering role in ending the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. As a result of the Bonn Agreement of December 2001, coordinating international donor activity and assistance have been tasked to a United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). However, there are other coordinating institutions tied to the Afghan government, and UNAMA has struggled to exercise its full mandate. The international recovery and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is...

Chemical Facility Security: Reauthorization, Policy Issues, and Options for Congress

This report provides a brief overview of the existing statutory authority and the regulation implementing this authority. It describes several policy issues raised in previous debates regarding chemical facility security and identifies policy options that might resolve components of these issues. Finally, legislation introduced in the 111th Congress is discussed.

Organized Crime in the United States: Trends and Issues for Congress

Organized crime threatens multiple facets of the United States, including the economy and national security. In fact, the Organized Crime Council was reconvened for the first time in 15 years to address this continued threat. Organized crime has taken on an increasingly transnational nature, and with more open borders and the expansion of the Internet, criminals endanger the United States not only from within the borders, but beyond. Threats come from a variety of criminal organizations, including Russian, Asian, Italian, Balkan, Middle Eastern, and African syndicates. Policymakers may...

The United Arab Emirates Nuclear Program and Proposed U.S. Nuclear Cooperation

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has embarked on a program to build civilian nuclear power plants and is seeking cooperation and technical assistance from the United States and others. The 111th Congress approved a U.S.-UAE bilateral agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation pursuant to Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954. Then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the proposed agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation with the UAE January 15, 2009. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg signed a new version of the agreement May 21, 2009; the Obama Administration...

Stability in Russia’s Chechnya and Other Regions of the North Caucasus: Recent Developments

Terrorist attacks in Russia’s North Caucasus—a border area between the Black and Caspian Seas that includes the formerly breakaway Chechnya and other ethnic-based regions—appeared to increase substantially in 2007-2009. Moreover, civilian and government casualties reached levels not seen in several years and terrorist attacks again took place outside the North Caucasus. Although the number of terrorist incidents may have leveled off or even declined slightly in 2010 from the high levels of 2009, the rate of civilian and government casualties continued to increase throughout the North...

The Stuxnet Computer Worm: Harbinger of an Emerging Warfare Capability

In September 2010, media reports emerged about a new form of cyber attack that appeared to target Iran, although the actual target, if any, is unknown. Through the use of thumb drives in computers that were not connected to the Internet, a malicious software program known as Stuxnet infected computer systems that were used to control the functioning of a nuclear power plant. Once inside the system, Stuxnet had the ability to degrade or destroy the software on which it operated. Although early reports focused on the impact on facilities in Iran, researchers discovered that the program had...

Securing America’s Borders: The Role of the Intelligence Community

Maintaining the security of U.S. borders is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government. Various border security missions are assigned to the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies that work in cooperation with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. The success of their efforts depends on the availability of reliable information on the nature of potential threats to border security.

Given the extent of the land borders and the long coastlines of the United States and the number of individuals and vehicles crossing...

Screening and Securing Air Cargo: Background and Issues for Congress

The October 2010 discovery of two explosive devices being prepared for loading on U.S.-bound all-cargo aircraft overseas has heightened concerns over the potential use of air cargo shipments to bomb passenger and all-cargo aircraft. The incidents have renewed policy debate over air cargo security measures and have prompted some policymakers to call for comprehensive screening of all air cargo, including shipments that travel on all-cargo aircraft.

U.S. policies and strategies for protecting air cargo have focused on two main perceived threats: the bombing of a passenger airliner carrying...

Hamas: Background and Issues for Congress

This report and its appendixes provide background information on Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, and U.S. policy towards it. It also includes information and analysis on (1) the threats Hamas currently poses to U.S. interests, (2) how Hamas compares with other Middle East terrorist groups, (3) Hamas’s ideology and policies (both generally and on discrete issues), (4) its leadership and organization, and (5) its sources of assistance. Finally, the report raises and discusses various legislative and oversight options related to foreign aid strategies, financial sanctions, and...

Ghana, an Emergent Oil Producer: Background and U.S. Relations

This report provides information on current developments in Ghana and Ghanaian-U.S. relations, which are close. Warm bilateral relations were signaled by President Barack Obama's July 2009 trip to Ghana. Ghana was chosen for his first travel as president to Africa because of its democratic and economic development successes. In Ghana, President Obama made the last of a four-part thematic series of major overseas speeches on key foreign policy issues. The speech in Ghana, to the national parliament, centered on the integral relationship between democracy, good governance, and development in...

Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, and Missile Proliferation Sanctions: Selected Current Law

The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and the means to deliver them, are front and center today for policy makers who guide and form U.S. foreign policy and national security policy, and economic sanctions are considered a valuable asset in the national security and foreign policy toolbox. The United States currently maintains robust sanctions regimes against foreign governments it has identified as proliferators (particularly Iran, North Korea, and Syria). If the 112th Congress takes up even a fraction of the proposals introduced by its predecessor involving...

Hate Crime Legislation

This report provides an overview of the hate crime debate, with background on current law and hate crime statistics, and a legislative history of hate crime prevention bills in recent Congresses. This report does not analyze the constitutional or other legal issues that often arise as part of the hate crime debate.

Turkey: Selected Foreign Policy Issues and U.S. Views

This report focuses on the foreign policy of Turkey, a long-time valued U.S. NATO ally, and examines the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) recalculation of the country's approach to foreign affairs and its possible effects on relations with the United States. This report surveys Turkish foreign policy issues that are of critical interest to U.S. officials and Members of Congress.

Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB): Emerging Public Health Threats and Quarantine and Isolation

The international saga of Andrew Speaker, a traveler thought to have XDR-TB, a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, placed a spotlight on existing mechanisms to contain contagious disease threats and raised numerous legal and public health issues. This report presents the factual situation presented by Andrew Speaker. It also discusses the application of various public health measures available to contain an emerging public health threat posed by an individual who ignores medical advice and attempts to board an airplane or take other forms of public transportation. These measures include...

North Korea’s 2009 Nuclear Test: Containment, Monitoring, Implications

On May 25, 2009, North Korea announced that it had conducted its second underground nuclear test. Unlike its first test, in 2006, there is no public record that the second one released radioactive materials indicative of a nuclear explosion. How could North Korea have contained these materials from the May 2009 event and what are the implications?

As background, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) would ban all nuclear explosions. It was opened for signature in 1996. Entry into force requires ratification by 44 states specified in the treaty, including the United States and...

Presidential Appointments to Full-Time Positions in Executive Departments During the 110th Congress, 2007-2008

The appointment process for advice and consent positions consists of three main stages. The first stage is selection, clearance, and nomination by the President. This step includes preliminary vetting, background checks, and ethics checks of potential nominees. At this stage, the president may also consult with Senators who are from the same party if the position is located in a state. The second stage of the process is consideration of the nomination in the Senate, most of which takes place in committee. Finally, if a nomination is approved by the full Senate, the nominee is given a...

Afghanistan: U.S. Rule of Law and Justice Sector Assistance

Developing effective Afghan justice sector institutions is considered by many observers to be essential in winning the support of the Afghan population, improving the Afghan government’s credibility and legitimacy, and reducing support for insurgent factions. Such sentiments are reinforced in the face of growing awareness of the pervasiveness of Afghan corruption. To this end, establishing the rule of law (ROL) in Afghanistan has become a priority in U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and an issue of interest to Congress. Numerous U.S. programs to promote ROL are in various stages of...

Islam: Sunnis and Shiites

The majority of the world’s Muslim population follows the Sunni branch of Islam, and approximately 10%-15% of all Muslims follow the Shiite (Shi’ite, Shi’a, Shia) branch. Shiite populations constitute a majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. There are also significant Shiite populations in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. Sunnis and Shiites share most basic religious tenets. However, their differences sometimes have been the basis for religious intolerance, political infighting, and sectarian violence.

This report includes a historical...

Countering Terrorism in East Africa: The U.S. Response

The United States government has implemented a range of programs to counter violent extremist threats in East Africa in response to Al Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 and subsequent transnational terrorist activity in the region. These programs include regional and bilateral efforts, both military and civilian. The programs seek to build regional intelligence, military, law enforcement, and judicial capacities; strengthen aviation, port, and border security; stem the flow of terrorist financing; and counter the spread of extremist ideologies. Current...

Immigration Reform Issues in the 111th Congress

There is a broad-based consensus that the U.S. immigration system is broken. This consensus erodes, however, as soon as the options to reform the U.S. immigration system are debated. The number of foreign-born people residing in the United States is at the highest level in U.S. history and has reached a proportion of the U.S. population—12.6%—not seen since the early 20th century. Of the 38 million foreign-born residents in the United States, approximately 16.4 million are naturalized citizens. According to the latest estimates by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), about 10.8...

Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force

The increased presence of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs and in the scientific workforce has been and continues to be of concern to some in the scientific community. Enrollment of U.S. citizens in graduate science and engineering programs has not kept pace with that of foreign students in those programs. In addition to the number of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs, a significant number of university faculty in the scientific disciplines are foreign, and foreign doctorates are employed in large numbers by industry.

Few will...

Improper Payments Information Act of 2002: Background, Implementation, and Assessment

This report discusses the Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA), which was signed into law in 2002 with the intention of increasing financial accountability in the federal government, thereby reducing wasteful spending.

Defense Logistical Support Contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan: Issues for Congress

This report examines Department of Defense (DOD) logistical support contracts for troop support services in Iraq and Afghanistan administered through the U.S. Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), as well as legislative initiatives which may impact the oversight and management of logistical support contracts. LOGCAP is an initiative designed to manage the use of civilian contractors that perform services during times of war and other military mobilization. The first LOGCAP was awarded in 1992. Four LOGCAP contracts have been awarded for combat support services in Iraq and...

The SPEECH Act: The Federal Response to “Libel Tourism”

The 111th Congress considered several bills addressing “libel tourism,” the phenomenon of litigants bringing libel suits in foreign jurisdictions so as to benefit from plaintiff-friendly libel laws. Several U.S. states have also responded to libel tourism by enacting statutes that restrict enforcement of foreign libel judgments. On August 10, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act (SPEECH Act), P.L. 111-223, codified at 28 U.S.C. §§ 4101-4105, which bars U.S. courts, both state and federal, from...

The Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010: Summary and Legislative History

On February 12, 2010, President Barack Obama signed H.J.Res. 45 into law, as P.L. 111-139. In addition to an increase in the statutory limit on the public debt to $14.294 trillion, the act contains two titles dealing with budgetary matters. Title I, referred to as the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, establishes a new budget enforcement mechanism generally requiring that direct spending and revenue legislation enacted into law not increase the deficit. Title II, which contains only a single section, pertains to routine investigations by the Comptroller General aimed at eliminating...

Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009

This report provides Congress with official, unclassified, quantitative data on conventional arms transfers to developing nations by the United States and foreign countries for the preceding eight calendar years for use in its policy oversight functions.

Public Safety Communications and Spectrum Resources: Policy Issues for Congress

Effective emergency response is dependent on wireless communications. To minimize communications failures during and after a crisis requires ongoing improvements in emergency communications capacity and capability. The availability of radio frequency spectrum is considered essential to developing a modern, interoperable communications network for public safety. Also critical are (1) building the network to use this spectrum and (2) developing and deploying the radios to the new standards required for mobile broadband. Beyond recognition of these common needs and goals, opinions diverge on...

Border Security: The Role of the U.S. Border Patrol

This report discusses the United States Border Patrol's history as our nation's first line of defense against unauthorized migration. Today, the USBP's primary mission is to detect and prevent the entry of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, and illegal aliens into the country, and to interdict drug smugglers and other criminals along the border. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 dissolved the Immigration and Naturalization Service and placed the USBP within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

FY2010 Supplemental for Wars, Disaster Assistance, Haiti Relief, and Other Programs

The Administration requested $64.3 billion in FY2010 supplemental appropriations: $5.1 billion to replenish the U.S. Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); $33 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) primarily for deploying 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan; $4.5 billion in war-related foreign aid; and $2.8 billion for Haiti earthquake-related relief and reconstruction aid; $243 million for activities related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; $600 million for border security, and $129 million to reduce backlogs in patent requests;...

CRS Issue Statement on Canada

Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy

Opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking have eroded Afghanistan’s fragile political and economic order over the last 30 years. In spite of ongoing counternarcotics efforts by the Afghan government, the United States, and their partners, Afghanistan remains the source of over 90% of the world’s illicit opium. Since 2001, efforts to provide viable economic alternatives to poppy cultivation and to disrupt drug trafficking and related corruption have succeeded in some areas. However, insecurity, particularly in the southern province of Helmand, and widespread corruption fueled a surge in...

U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation: Issues for U.S. Policy

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States faced a challenge in enlisting the full support of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the counterterrorism fight against Al Qaeda. This effort raised short-term policy issues about how to elicit cooperation and how to address PRC concerns about the U.S.-led war (Operation Enduring Freedom). Longer-term issues have concerned whether counterterrorism has strategically transformed bilateral ties and whether China’s support was valuable and not obtained at the expense of other U.S. interests.

The extent of U.S.-China...

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster: Risk, Recovery, and Insurance Implications

This report begins with a review of the Deepwater Horizon incident and identifies the limits of liability facing the operators of offshore oil rigs. The next two sections of the report examine risk management in the offshore energy exploration and production business, the scope of the oil spill financial responsibility and insurance requirements, and the marine insurance industry that offers specialized coverage for offshore oil and gas firms. The fourth section outlines the various approaches to compensating oil pollution victims, including compensation funds, commercial insurance,...

Jamaica: Background and U.S. Relations

The Caribbean island-nation of Jamaica has had a relatively stable parliamentary political system stemming from its history of British colonial rule. Current Prime Minister Bruce Golding of the Jamaica Labour Party was elected in September 2007 when his party defeated the long-ruling People’s National Party led by then-Prime Minister Portia Simpson. In late May 2010, however, Jamaica’s stability was challenged after Prime Minister Golding agreed to extradite to the United States an at-large alleged drug kingpin and gang leader, Christopher Coke. The Jamaican government deployed police and...

Homeland Security: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Border Surveillance

Congress has expressed a great deal of interest in using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to surveil the United States’ international land border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) utilizes advanced technology to augment its USBP agents’ ability to patrol the border, including a fleet of six UAVs. This report examines the strengths and limitations of deploying UAVs along the borders and related issues for Congress.

UAVs come with several costs and benefits. One potential benefit of UAVs is that they could fill a gap in current border surveillance by improving coverage along remote...

Instability and Humanitarian Conditions in Chad

As the Sahel region weathers another year of drought and poor harvests, the political and security situation in Chad remains volatile, compounding a worsening humanitarian situation in which some 2 million Chadians are at risk of hunger. In the western Sahelian region of the country, the World Food Program warns that an estimated 60% of households, some 1.6 million people, are currently food insecure. Aid organizations warn that the situation is critical, particularly for remote areas in the west with little international aid presence, and that the upcoming rainy season is likely to...

North Korea: Back on the Terrorism List?

Whether North Korea should be included on the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries has been a major issue in U.S.-North Korean diplomacy since 2000, particularly in connection with negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea demanded that the Clinton and Bush Administrations remove it from the terrorism support list. On October 11, 2008, the Bush Administration removed North Korea from the terrorism list.

This move was one of the measures the Bush Administration took to implement a nuclear agreement that it negotiated with North Korea in September 2007 and...

Health-Related Issues in Russia and Eurasia: Context and Issues for Congress

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, all the newly independent Eurasian states faced economic dislocations, conflicts and population shifts, and more porous borders that contributed to rising communicable and non-communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and drug addiction. At the same time, the inherited healthcare systems were obsolete and unable to cope with existing health problems, let alone new challenges.

Even before the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States provided it with some health assistance to address urgent needs, including vaccines for children. Since then,...

CRS Issue Statement on NATO

Israel’s Blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara Incident, and Its Aftermath

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retained control of its borders. Hamas, a U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and forcibly seized control of the territory in 2007. Israel imposed a tighter blockade of Gaza in response to Hamas’s takeover and tightened the flow of goods and materials into Gaza after its military offensive against Hamas from December 2008 to January 2009. That offensive destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure, but Israel has obstructed the delivery of rebuilding...

Intelligence Reform After Five Years: The Role of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) was the most significant legislation affecting the U.S. intelligence community since the National Security Act of 1947. Enacted in the wake of the 9/11 Commission’s final report, the 2004 act attempted to ensure closer coordination among intelligence agencies especially in regard to counterterrorism efforts. Most notably, the Intelligence Reform Act established the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) with more extensive authorities to coordinate the nation’s intelligence effort than those formerly...

Item Veto and Expanded Impoundment Proposals: History and Current Status

Conflicting budget priorities of the President and Congress accentuate the institutional tensions between the executive and legislative branches inherent in the federal budget process. Impoundment, whereby a President withholds or delays the spending of funds appropriated by Congress, provides an important mechanism for budgetary control during budget implementation in the executive branch; but Congress retains oversight responsibilities at this stage as well. Many Presidents have called for an item veto, or possibly expanded impoundment authority, to provide them with greater control over...

U.S. Foreign Assistance to the Middle East: Historical Background, Recent Trends, and the FY2011 Request

This report is an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to the Middle East from FY2006 to FY2010, and of the FY2011 budget request. It includes a brief history of aid to the region, a review of foreign aid levels, a description of selected country programs, and an analysis of current foreign aid issues. It will be updated periodically to reflect recent developments. For foreign aid terminology and acronyms, please see the glossary appended to this report. For details on U.S. reconstruction aid for Iraq, please see CRS Report RL31339, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security, by Kenneth...

Detection of Nuclear Weapons and Materials: Science, Technologies, Observations

Detection of nuclear weapons and special nuclear material (SNM, plutonium, and certain types of uranium) is crucial to thwarting nuclear proliferation and terrorism and to securing weapons and materials worldwide. Congress has funded a portfolio of detection R&D and acquisition programs, and has mandated inspection at foreign ports of all U.S.-bound cargo containers using two types of detection equipment.

Nuclear weapons contain SNM, which produces suspect signatures that can be detected. It emits radiation, notably gamma rays (high-energy photons) and neutrons. SNM is dense, so it...

The Defense Base Act (DBA): The Federally Mandated Workers’ Compensation System for Overseas Government Contractors

Many overseas federal contractors are covered by the Defense Base Act (DBA), which mandates that they provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. As the U.S. military has increased operations in Iraq, the size of the DBA program has grown. Since September 2001, there have been 49,472 DBA cases, including 1,584 cases involving the deaths of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly $200 million in cash and medical benefits were paid to DBA claimants in 2008.

Congress has become increasingly concerned with the costs involved in the DBA program because the federal...

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Implementation: The Future of Commercial Trucking Across the Mexican Border

This report discusses the implementation of trucking provisions set forth by NAFTA that would have opened the border states to cross-border trucking competition in 1995 and all of North America in 2000. The full implementation of the provisions has been stalled because of concern with the safety of Mexican trucks.

Liberia’s Post-War Development: Key Issues and U.S. Assistance

This report covers developments in Liberia, a small, poor West African country. Liberia held elections in October 2005, with a presidential runoff in November, a key step in a peace-building process following its second civil war in a decade. That war began in 1999, escalated in 2000, and ended in 2003. It pitted the forces of Charles Taylor, elected president in 1997 after Liberia’s first civil war (1989-1997), against two armed anti-Taylor rebel groups. The war also destabilized neighboring states, which accepted Liberian refugees and, in some cases, hosted anti-Taylor forces and became...

Quadrennial Defense Review 2010: Overview and Implications for National Security Planning

On February 1, 2010, the Defense Department released a report on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a legislatively mandated assessment of defense strategy and priorities. The review is the sixth full scale assessment of U.S. defense policy since the end of the Cold War, beginning with the 1990 Base Force analysis and the 1993 Bottom-Up Review and continuing with QDRs completed in 1997, 2001, 2006, and 2010. These official reviews have been supplemented by assessments of independently chartered panels.

The four QDRs reflect an ongoing evolution of strategic thinking away from...

The Jurisprudence of Justice John Paul Stevens: Leading Opinions on Wartime Detentions

Justice John Paul Stevens played a pivotal role in determining the scope of executive-branch power in a post-9/11 world. After 9/11, Congress quickly authorized the Executive to respond to the terrorist attacks using military force. Difficult legal questions emerged from the consequences of the ensuing military actions, particularly as suspected members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban were captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere and transferred to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Key questions included: What legal authorities restrict the Executive’s ability to detain and try such...

People Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection Policies

Since at least the 1980s, the border has played a central role in U.S. policy discussions. Policymakers have for years debated the best strategy for providing border protection. What has emerged from these efforts has been a generally agreed upon framework of mission and goals. However, some question whether the strategy has been sufficiently mapped out in a comprehensive fashion. The broad framework currently in place is generally supported by a collection of agency or function-specific strategic elements that show some commonalities.

For congressional policymakers, the current state of...

Strategic Arms Control After START: Issues and Options

The United States and Russia signed a new strategic arms reduction treaty (New START) on April 8, 2010. This Treaty replaces the original START Treaty, which the United States and Soviet Union signed in July 1991. START entered into force in December 1994 and expired on December 5, 2009.

The original START Treaty counted each deployed ICBM, SLBM, and bomber as a single delivery vehicle under the Treaty limit of 1,600 delivery vehicles and attributes an agreed number of warheads to each deployed delivery vehicle. This attribution rule provides the total number of warheads that count under...

Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Haiti devastated parts of the country, including the capital, on January 12, 2010. The quake, centered about 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, had a magnitude of 7.0. A series of strong aftershocks have followed. Experts estimate the earthquake caused $8 to $14 billion in damage. Approximately 3 million people, roughly one-third of the overall population, have been affected by the earthquake with estimates ranging from 1.2 to 2 million people displaced. The government of Haiti is reporting an estimated 230,000 deaths and 300,600 injured. In the...

2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference: Key Issues and Implications

The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995, is the centerpiece of international nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The NPT recognizes five nations (the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China) as nuclear-weapon states; 189 countries are parties to the NPT. India, Israel, and Pakistan have never signed the treaty and possess nuclear weapons. North Korea acceded to the NPT but announced its withdrawal in 2003. Several countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa, ended their nuclear weapons programs...

Department of Homeland Security Assistance to States and Localities: A Summary and Issues for the 111th Congress

In light of lessons learned from the September 2001 terrorist attacks and other catastrophes such as Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, the second session of the 111th Congress is expected to consider questions and issues associated with federal homeland security assistance. Federal homeland security assistance, for the purpose of this report, is defined as U.S. Department of Homeland Security programs that provide funding, training, or technical assistance to states, localities, tribes, and other entities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from man-made and natural disasters. Since the...

Long-Range Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe

In early 2007, after several years of internal discussions and consultations with Poland and the Czech Republic, the Bush Administration formally proposed to defend against an Iranian missile threat by deploying a ground-based mid-course defense (GMD) element in Europe as part of the global U.S. BMDS (Ballistic Missile Defense System). The system would have included 10 interceptors in Poland, a radar in the Czech Republic, and another radar that would have been deployed in a country closer to Iran, to be completed by 2013 at a reported cost of at least $4 billion. The proposed European BMD...

The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Six Years

This report discusses and assesses the War Powers Resolution and its application since enactment in 1973, providing detailed background on various cases in which it was used, as well as cases in which issues of its applicability were raised.

Iran’s Economic Conditions: U.S. Policy Issues

The Islamic Republic of Iran, a resource-rich and labor-rich country in the Middle East, is a central focus of U.S. national security policy. The United States asserts that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and that Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are for the development of nuclear weapons. To the extent that U.S. sanctions and other efforts to change Iranian state policy target aspects of Iran’s economy as a means of influence, it is important to evaluate Iran’s economic structure, strengths, and vulnerabilities.

Since 2000, Iran has enjoyed broad-based economic growth. However,...

Noncitizen Eligibility and Verification Issues in the Health Care Reform Legislation

Health care reform legislation raises a significant set of complex issues, and among the thornier for policy makers are the noncitizen eligibility and verification issues. That the treatment of foreign nationals complicates health care reform legislation is not surprising given that reform of immigration policy poses its own constellation of controversial policy options. This report focuses on this nexus of immigration law and health care reform in the major health care reform bills that are receiving action. These are the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), as...

North Korea’s Second Nuclear Test: Implications of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Res. 1874 on June 12, 2009, in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test. The resolution puts in place a series of sanctions on North Korea’s arms sales, luxury goods, and financial transactions related to its weapons programs, and calls upon states to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying such shipments. The resolution does allow for shipments of food and nonmilitary goods. As was the case with an earlier U.N. resolution, 1718, that was passed in October 2006 after North Korea’s first nuclear test, Resolution 1874...

East Asian Regional Architecture: New Economic and Security Arrangements and U.S. Policy

The global financial crisis, the end of the Cold War, the rise of China, globalization, free trade agreements, the war on terror, and an institutional approach to keeping the peace are causing dramatic shifts in relationships among countries in East Asia. A new regional architecture in the form of trade, financial, and political arrangements among countries of East Asia is developing that has significant implications for U.S. interests and policy. This report examines this regional architecture with a focus on China, South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. The types of arrangements include...

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations for FY2008, FY2009, and FY2010

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with administering and enforcing federal laws related to the manufacture, importation, and distribution of firearms and explosives. Congress transferred ATF’s enforcement and regulatory functions for firearms and explosives from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice as part of the Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296). ATF is also responsible for investigating arson cases with a federal nexus, as well as criminal violations of federal laws governing the...

Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces: Facts and Issues

Since the early 1990s, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Forces have been certified, trained, and funded by the federal government. Twenty-eight task forces are located in 19 states. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials may call out the task force (or forces) in closest proximity to the disaster to help locate and extricate victims from collapsed buildings and structures. The task forces represent a partnership involving federal, local government, and private sector experts. Most recently, USAR teams received extensive media coverage for their missions to Haiti after the...

Federal Financial Services Regulatory Consolidation: Structural Response to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis

This report provides a brief history and overview of the U.S. federal financial services regulatory structure and examines the regulatory structural changes the three major federal government proposals would make to remedy the causes of the financial crisis. It concludes with a discussion of some possible implications of reform.

Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court

After the Supreme Court held that federal courts have jurisdiction under the federal habeas corpus statute to hear legal challenges on behalf of persons detained at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in connection with the conflict against Al Qaeda and associated groups (Rasul v. Bush), the Pentagon established administrative hearings, called “Combatant Status Review Tribunals” (CSRTs), to allow the detainees to contest their status as enemy combatants, and informed them of their right to pursue habeas relief in federal court. Lawyers subsequently filed dozens of petitions on...

Medical Marijuana: Review and Analysis of Federal and State Policies

The issue before Congress is whether to continue the federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and their providers, in accordance with the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), or whether to relax federal marijuana prohibition enough to permit the medicinal use of botanical cannabis products when recommended by a physician, especially where permitted under state law.

Fourteen states, mostly in the West, have enacted laws allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and many thousands of patients are seeking relief from a variety of serious illnesses by smoking marijuana...

The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement: Effects After Five Years

The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) (P.L. 108-78) went into effect on January 1, 2004. This report provides an overview of the major trade and economic effects of the FTA over the three years ending in 2006. It also includes detailed information on key provisions of the agreement and legislative action.

The U.S.-Singapore FTA has taken on new importance in trade policy because the United States is engaged in negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP negotiations are the first major market-opening initiative of the Obama Administration. On December 14,...

How Agencies Monetize “Statistical Lives” Expected to Be Saved By Regulations

Federal health, safety, and environmental regulations are often designed to reduce the risk of death, illness, or injury from exposure to a particular hazard (e.g., arsenic in drinking water or rollover car crashes). As part of an economic analysis required by Executive Order 12866, the issuing agencies often place a monetary value on these expected health benefits by determining the number of “statistical lives” that the rules are expected to extend or save, and then multiplying that number by an estimated “value of a statistical life” (VSL). For example, if 100,000 people are each...

The Impact of Major Legislation on Budget Deficits: 2001 to 2009

This report examines to what extent major legislative changes from 2001 to 2009 caused the budget to move from surplus to deficit. Legislative actions taken in 2009 increased the FY2009 deficit by $509 billion, whereas legislative actions taken between 2001 and 2008 increased the FY2009 deficit by $903 billion. Furthermore, legislative changes have cumulatively increased federal budget deficits over FY2001 to FY2009 by $5.4 trillion.

Russian Energy Policy Toward Neighboring Countries

The Russian oil and natural gas industries are key players in the global energy market, particularly in Europe and Eurasia. Another trend has been the concentration of these industries in the hands of the Russian government. This latter phenomenon has been accompanied by an authoritarian political system, in which former intelligence officers play key roles.

Russian firms have tried to purchase a controlling stake in pipelines, ports, storage facilities, and other key energy assets of European countries. They need these assets to transport energy supplies to lucrative western European...

The Department of Homeland Security Intelligence Enterprise: Operational Overview and Oversight Challenges for Congress

The primary mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, the Department) is to “prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism, and minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery from terrorist attacks that do occur in the United States.” Since its inception in 2003, DHS has had an intelligence component to support this mission and has been a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

Following a major reorganization of the DHS (called the Second Stage Review or “2SR”) in July 2005, former Secretary of Homeland...

Federal Complaint-Handling, Ombudsman, and Advocacy Offices

Federal complaint-handling, ombudsman, and advocacy offices have different forms, capacities, and designations. This report, which reviews the state of research in this field and the heritage of such offices, examines and compares them, along with recent legislative developments and past proposals to establish a government-wide ombudsman. In so doing, the report identifies the basic characteristics of these offices, recognizing differences among them with regard to their powers, duties, jurisdictions, locations, and resources, as well as control over them. This study covers only...

Immigration: Policy Considerations Related to Guest Worker Programs

The United States has two main programs for temporarily importing low-skilled workers, or guest workers. Agricultural guest workers enter through the H-2A visa program, and other guest workers enter through the H-2B visa program. Before an employer can file a petition with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to import workers under either program, the employer must apply to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for a certification that U.S. workers capable of performing the work are not available and that the employment of alien workers will not adversely affect the wages and...

German Foreign and Security Policy: Trends and Transatlantic Implications

German Chancellor Angela Merkel began her first term in office in November 2005 and was elected to a second term in September 2009. Most observers agree that under her leadership, relations between the United States and Germany have improved markedly since reaching a low point in the lead-up to the Iraq war in 2003. U.S. officials and many Members of Congress view Germany as a key U.S. ally, have welcomed German leadership in Europe, and voiced expectations for increased U.S.-German cooperation on the international stage.

German unification in 1990 and the end of the Cold War represented...

The International Criminal Court (ICC): Jurisdiction, Extradition, and U.S. Policy

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.” Currently, 110 countries are States Parties to the ICC. Since its inception in 2002, the ICC has received three referrals for investigations by States Parties and one referral from the United Nations Security Council.

While the U.S. executive branch initially supported the idea of creating an international criminal court, the United States ultimately voted against the Statute of the ICC (the...

United States Relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is Southeast Asia’s primary multilateral organization. Established in 1967, it has grown into one of the world’s largest regional fora, representing a strategically important group of 10 nations that spans critical sea lanes and accounts for 5% of U.S. trade. This report discusses U.S. diplomatic, security, trade, and aid ties with ASEAN, analyzes major issues affecting Southeast Asian countries and U.S.-ASEAN relations, and examines ASEAN’s relations with other regional powers. Much U.S. engagement with the region occurs at the bilateral...

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Security Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

The South Caucasus region has been the most unstable in the former Soviet Union in terms of the number, intensity, and length of ethnic and civil conflicts. Other emerging or full-blown security problems include crime, corruption, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and narcotics trafficking. The regional governments have worked to bolster their security by combating terrorism, limiting political dissent they view as threatening, revamping their armed forces, and seeking outside assistance and allies.

The roles of neighbors Iran, Russia, and Turkey have been of...

Central Asia’s Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests

The Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) face common security challenges from crime, corruption, terrorism, and faltering commitments to economic and democratic reforms. However, cooperation among them remains halting, so security in the region is likely in the near term to vary by country. Kyrgyzstan’s and Tajikistan’s futures are most clouded by ethnic and territorial tensions, and corruption in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan could spoil benefits from the development of their ample energy resources. Authoritarianism and poverty in...

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Issues for the 111th Congress

Immigration Visa Issuances and Grounds for Exclusion: Policy and Trends

The conventional wisdom is that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, prompted a substantive change in U.S. immigration policy on visa issuances and the grounds for excluding foreign nationals from the United States. A series of laws enacted in the 1990s, however, may have done as much or more to set current U.S. visa policy and the legal grounds for exclusion. This report’s review of the legislative developments in visa policy over the past 20 years and analysis of the statistical trends in visa issuances and denials provide a nuanced study of U.S. visa policy and the grounds for...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2010 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 26 independent agencies. Among the independent agencies funded by the bill are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

On May 7, 2009, the Obama Administration delivered its FY2010 budget request to...

Prosecutorial Discretion in the Context of Corporate Attorney-Client Relations

The Justice Department enjoys prosecutorial discretion to bring criminal charges against a corporation, its culpable officers or employees, or both. For a corporation, indictment alone can be catastrophic, if not fatal, in some instances. The Thompson Memorandum, since replaced with guidelines in the U. S. Attorneys Manual, described the policy factors to be considered in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Two of the factors explicitly mentioned were whether a corporation had waived its privileges and whether it had cut off the payment of attorneys’ fees for its officers and...

Illegal Drug Trade in Africa: Trends and U.S. Policy

Africa has historically held a peripheral role in the transnational illicit drug trade, but in recent years has increasingly become a locus for drug trafficking, particularly of cocaine. Recent estimates suggest that in recent years, apart from late 2008 and 2009, between 46 and 300 metric tons of South American cocaine may have transited West Africa en route to Europe. Recent cocaine seizure levels are sharply higher than those in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which in all of Africa rarely exceeded 1 metric ton a year. Africa’s emergence as a trafficking nexus appears to have resulted...

Pipeline Safety and Security: Federal Programs

This report discusses congressional interest in securing the nation's pipelines. Nearly half a million miles of oil and natural gas transmission pipeline crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry hazardous materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage.

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: Highlights of FY2010 Budget and Appropriations

This report tracks FY2010 appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED). This legislation provides discretionary funds for three major federal departments and 13 related agencies. The report summarizes L-HHS-ED discretionary funding issues but not authorization or entitlement issues.

On May 7, 2009, President Obama submitted the FY2010 budget request to Congress, including $163.8 billion in discretionary L-HHS-ED funds. The comparable FY2009 amount was $160.1 billion, enacted mainly through the Omnibus Appropriations...

Foreign Direct Investment: Current Issues

This report presents an overview of current issues related to foreign direct investment in the economy and the development of U.S. policy toward inward and outward direct investment. This report also assesses the role of foreign direct investment in the economy and the costs and benefits of direct investment.

The 2009 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings and U.S. Trade Policy in Asia

Congress and the Executive Branch have historically identified the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) as potentially important in the promotion of liberalized international trade and investment in Asia, and possibly the rest of the world. APEC’s commitment to the goal of trade and investment liberalization is embodied in its Bogor Goals, in which APEC members pledged to free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.

The 2009 APEC Leaders’ and Ministerial Meetings focused on balanced growth,...

The Global Financial Crisis: Analysis and Policy Implications

The world appears to be recovering from the global recession that has caused widespread business contraction, increases in unemployment, and shrinking government revenues. Although the industrialized economies have stopped contracting, for many, unemployment is still rising. The United States likely hit bottom in June 2009, but numerous small banks and households still face huge problems in restoring their balance sheets, and unemployment has combined with sub-prime loans to keep home foreclosures at a high rate. Nearly all industrialized countries and many emerging and developing nations...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2010 Budget and Appropriations

The annual State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies appropriations bill is the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress reviews the U.S. international affairs budget and influences executive branch foreign policy making in general, as these activities have not been considered regularly by Congress through the authorization process since 2003. Funding for Foreign Operations and State Department/Broadcasting programs has been steadily rising since FY2002, after a period of decline in the 1980s and 1990s. Amounts approved for FY2004 in regular and supplemental bills reached an...

Paraguay: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations

Paraguay, a landlocked nation in the center of South America, has friendly relations with the United States and has been a traditional ally. Paraguay’s turbulent political history and tradition of political authoritarianism have resulted in international isolation that the country is seeking to overcome. The population of 6.9 million people is one the most homogenous mestizo populations in the hemisphere. Paraguay’s largely agrarian economy has grown well in recent years on the strength of global commodity prices. However, in 2009, a severe drought and the impact of the global economic...

Brief Summaries of Federal Animal Protection Statutes

This report contains brief summaries of federal animal protection statutes, listed alphabetically. It includes statutes enacted to implement certain treaties, but it does not include treaties. Additionally, this report includes statutes that concern animals but that are not necessarily animal protection statutes. For example, it discusses a statute authorizing the eradication of predators, because one of the statute’s purposes is to protect domestic and “game” animals; and it includes statutes to conserve fish even though the ultimate purpose of such statutes may not be for the benefit of...

Israeli-Arab Negotiations: Background, Conflicts, and U.S. Policy

After the first Gulf war, in 1991, a new peace process consisting of bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon achieved mixed results. Milestones included the Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Declaration of Principles (DOP) of September 13, 1993, providing for Palestinian empowerment and some territorial control, the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of October 26, 1994, and the Interim Self-Rule in the West Bank or Oslo II accord of September 28, 1995, which led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern the West...

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2009

This report reviews hundreds of instances in which the United States has utilized military forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict to protect U.S. citizens or promote U.S. interests.

Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture

Persons suspected of criminal or terrorist activity may be transferred from one State (i.e., country) to another for arrest, detention, and/or interrogation. Commonly, this is done through extradition, by which one State surrenders a person within its jurisdiction to a requesting State via a formal legal process, typically established by treaty. Far less often, such transfers are effectuated through a process known as “extraordinary rendition” or “irregular rendition.” These terms have often been used to refer to the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one State to another. In this...

Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America: An Overview and Selected Issues

The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was a trilateral initiative that was launched in March 2005 by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to increase cooperation and information sharing for the purpose of increasing and enhancing security and prosperity in North America. President Obama met with Mexican President Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Harper at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico in August 2009. The three leaders discussed key issues that affect the three countries and agreed to continue cooperation in these areas, but there...

The MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs: Emerging Transnational Gang Threats?

This report provides an overview of the MS-13 and M-18 gangs,5 examines how MS-13 and M-18 gangs are different from other gangs and organized crime groups, and discusses what constitutes a transnational gang. The report also explores whether MS-13 and M-18 gangs are transnational gangs, and discusses the various federal responses to these gangs.

North Korea: Economic Leverage and Policy Analysis

In early and mid-2009, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) embarked on a course that included a series of extremely provocative military actions, a shift in power toward the military, emphasis on ideological purity, rising criticism of the United States, and going forward with its nuclear and missile program in spite of sanctions and objections from much of the rest of the world. As 2009 ended, the DPRK was in the midst of a “charm offensive” in which it took specific actions to ease tensions with the United States and South Korea and appears to have...

Nuclear Weapons in U.S. National Security Policy: Past, Present, and Prospects

The Bush Administration outlined a strategy of “tailored deterrence” to define the role that nuclear weapons play in U.S. national security policy. There has been little discussion of this concept, either in Congress or in the public at large. This leaves unanswered questions about how this strategy differs from U.S. nuclear strategy during the Cold War and how it might advise decisions about the size and structure of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Throughout the Cold War, the United States relied on nuclear weapons to deter an attack by the Soviet Union and its allies and to forestall the...

Burma and Transnational Crime

Transnational organized crime groups in Burma (Myanmar) operate a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that stretches across Southeast Asia. Trafficked drugs, humans, wildlife, gems, timber, and other contraband flow through Burma, supporting the illicit demands of the region and beyond. Widespread collusion between traffickers and Burma’s ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), allows organized crime groups to function with impunity. Transnational crime in Burma bears upon U.S. interests as it threatens regional security in Southeast Asia and bolsters a...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2010 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2010 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). This report uses the House report to accompany H.R. 2847 (H.Rept. 111-149) and the text of the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-32), as the source for the FY2009-enacted and the FY2010-requested amounts, and it uses the Senate report to accompany H.R. 2847 (S.Rept. 111-34) as the source for the amounts in the House-passed bill. The Senate-passed version of H.R. 2847 is used as the source for the Senate-passed amounts. The...

U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT): Overview and Application to Interrogation Techniques

The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) requires signatory parties to take measures to end torture within their territorial jurisdiction and to criminalize all acts of torture. Unlike many other international agreements and declarations prohibiting torture, CAT provides a general definition of the term. CAT generally defines torture as the infliction of severe physical and/or mental suffering committed under the color of law. CAT allows for no circumstances or emergencies where torture could be permitted.

The United...

NATO Enlargement: Senate Advice and Consent

On July 21, 1949, the Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty. That treaty bound twelve states—the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Great Britain—in a pact of mutual defense and created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO now has a membership of 28 states. This enlargement has occurred gradually—Greece and Turkey joined in 1952; the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955; Spain in 1982; Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 1998; Bulgaria, Estonia,...

Iran: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy

As the Administration and Congress move forward to pursue engagement, harsher sanctions, or both, regional actors are evaluating their policies and priorities with respect to Iran. Iran’s neighbors share many U.S. concerns, but often evaluate them differently than the United States when calculating their own relationship with or policy toward Iran. Because Iran and other regional concerns—the Arab-Israeli peace process, stability in Lebanon and Iraq, terrorism, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan—have become increasingly intertwined, understanding the policies and perspectives of Iran’s...

Korea-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress

The United States has had a military alliance with South Korea (R.O.K.) and important interests in the Korean peninsula since the Korean War of 1950-1953. Many U.S. interests relate to communist North Korea. Since the early 1990s, the issue of North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons has been the dominant U.S. policy concern. Experts in and out of the U.S. government believe that North Korea has produced plutonium for at least six atomic bombs. North Korea tested nuclear devices in October 2006 and May 2009. In 2007, a six party negotiation (among the United States, North Korea, China,...

Immigration: Terrorist Grounds for Exclusion and Removal of Aliens

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) spells out a strict set of admissions criteria and exclusion rules for all foreign nationals who come permanently to the United States as immigrants (i.e., legal permanent residents) or temporarily as nonimmigrants. Notably, any alien who engages in terrorist activity, or is a representative or member of a designated foreign terrorist organization, is generally inadmissible. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the INA was broadened to deny entry to representatives of groups that endorse terrorism, prominent individuals who endorse...

Cybersecurity: Current Legislation, Executive Branch Initiatives, and Options for Congress

Increasing focus on current cyber threats to federal information technology systems, nonfederal critical information infrastructure, and other nonfederal systems has led to numerous legislative cybersecurity proposals and executive branch initiatives. The proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (NDAA FY2010) and the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (IIA FY2010) both contain provisions that would affect programs and funding for current and future cybersecurity-related programs. In May 2009, the Obama Administration issued its 60-day review of...

International Social Security Agreements

International Social Security agreements are bilateral agreements primarily intended to eliminate dual Social Security taxation based on the same work and provide benefit protection for workers who divide their careers between the United States and a foreign country. Most jobs in the United States are covered by Social Security. In addition, the Social Security Act extends Social Security coverage to U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are employed abroad by U.S. companies as well as those who are self-employed in a foreign country. Generally, a U.S. worker abroad and his or her employer...

Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution

Following leadership changes in the United States and Israel in early 2009 and the Israel-Hamas Gaza conflict in December 2008-January 2009, the inconclusive final-status peace negotiations that took place between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the final year of the Bush Administration have not resumed. Nevertheless, President Barack Obama showed his commitment to a negotiated “two-state solution” just days after his January 2009 inauguration by appointing former Senator George Mitchell as his Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. In September 2009, Obama...

U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority

Since shortly after the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the United States has periodically provided assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for civil security and counterterrorism purposes. Following the death of Yasser Arafat in late 2004 and the election of Mahmoud Abbas as his successor as PA President in early 2005, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created the office of U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to help reform, train, and equip PA security forces which had...

Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Legal Issues

U.S. departments and agencies contributing to combat or stability operations overseas are relying on private firms to perform a wider scope of security services than was previously the case. The use of private security contractors (PSCs) to protect personnel and property in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a subject of debate in the press, in Congress, and in the international community. While PSCs are widely viewed as being vital to U.S. efforts in the region, many Members are concerned about transparency, accountability, and legal and symbolic issues raised by the use of armed civilians to...

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy

Since August 2003, negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs have involved six governments: the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. Since the talks began, North Korea has operated nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and apparently has produced weapons-grade plutonium estimated as sufficient for five to eight atomic weapons. North Korea tested a plutonium nuclear device in October 2006 and apparently a second device in May 2009. North Korea admitted in June 2009 that it has a program to enrich uranium; the United States had cited evidence of such a...

Energy and Water Development: FY2010 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

Key budgetary issues for FY2010 involving these programs may include:

the distribution of Corps appropriations across the agency’s authorized planning, construction, and maintenance activities (Title I);

support of major ecosystem restoration initiatives, such as Florida Everglades (Title I) and California “Bay-Delta” (CALFED) and...

Terrorist Watchlist Checks and Air Passenger Prescreening

This report discusses the controversy continues to surround U.S. air passenger prescreening and terrorist watchlist checks. In the past, such controversy centered around diverted international flights and misidentified passengers. Recent incidents raise new policy issues regarding the interaction between these broader terrorist databases and systems and the "No-Fly" and selectee lists, as well as the relationship between passenger prescreening processes.

The Statutory PAYGO Process for Budget Enforcement: 1991-2002

“Pay-as-you-go” (PAYGO) procedures play an important role in enforcing budget policies with respect to the consideration of revenue and direct spending legislation. Generally, the purpose of PAYGO procedures is to discourage or prevent the enactment of legislation that would cause, or increase, a deficit or reduce a surplus in the federal budget. PAYGO procedures are not a comprehensive means of budget enforcement because they do not apply to discretionary spending, which is provided in annual appropriations acts; such spending is subject to other enforcement procedures. Further, PAYGO...

Congressional Review Act: Rules Not Submitted to GAO and Congress

This report discusses the Congressional Review Act (CRA; 5 U.S.C. §801-808), which was enacted to improve congressional authority over agency rulemaking, and requires federal agencies to submit all of their final rules to both houses of Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) before they can take effect.

Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security

The Obama Administration is facing a security environment in Iraq vastly improved over that which prevailed during 2005-2007, although rifts in Iraqi society are still not reconciled, providing the potential for the security situation to deteriorate significantly. The overall frequency of violence is down to post-Saddam low levels, yet, since May 2009, insurgents have increased high profile attacks designed to shake public confidence in the Iraqi government and security forces. These attacks did not derail the June 30, 2009, U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from major cities and have not,...

Defense: FY2010 Authorization and Appropriations

For the Department of Defense (DOD) in FY2010, the Administration requested a total of $663.8 billion in discretionary budget authority. This includes $533.8 billion for the so-called “base budget”—all DOD activities other than combat operations—and $130.0 billion for “overseas contingency operations,” including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Administration also requested $75.9 billion in supplemental DOD appropriations for FY2009 to cover war costs. The Administration’s DOD request, made public May 7, 2009, incorporated Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s April 6 recommendations to...

Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai, India, and Implications for U.S. Interests

U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and Current Issues

This report provides background on U.S. public diplomacy, and discusses the United States information agency, current structure of public diplomacy within the Department of State, and the public diplomacy budget.

U.S. Public Diplomacy: Background and Current Issues

Public diplomacy is defined in different ways, but broadly it is a term used to describe a government’s efforts to conduct foreign policy and promote national interests through direct outreach and communication with the population of a foreign country. Public diplomacy activities include providing information to foreign publics through broadcast and Internet media and at libraries and other outreach facilities in foreign countries; conducting cultural diplomacy, such as art exhibits and music performances; and administering international educational and professional exchange programs. The...

Greece Update

The Greek city-state of Athens is believed to have developed the first known democracy around 500 B.C. Modern Greece has been a democracy since the toppling of a military junta in 1974. Since then, the New Democracy (ND) party and the PanHellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) have alternated leadership of the government. ND ruled from March 2004 until October 4, 2009, when PASOK won national elections and a clear majority of the seats in parliament. PASOK’s victory has been attributed to anti-ND public sentiment caused by the economic recession, corruption scandals, and law-and-order issues....

Homeland Security Department: FY2010 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2010 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a net appropriation of $44.1 billion in budget authority for FY2010. This amounts to a $2.8 billion, or a 6.7% increase over the $41.2 billion enacted for FY2009 (not including supplemental funding). Total budget authority requested by the Administration for DHS for FY2010 amounts to $55.1 billion.

Net requested appropriations for major agencies within DHS were as follows: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $10,049 million; Immigration and Customs Enforcement...

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Import Terminals: Siting, Safety, and Regulation

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a hazardous fuel shipped in large tankers to U.S. ports from overseas. While LNG has historically made up a small part of U.S. natural gas supplies, rising price volatility, and the possibility of domestic shortages have significantly increased LNG demand. To meet this demand, energy companies have proposed new LNG import terminals throughout the coastal United States. Many of these terminals would be built onshore near populated areas.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) grants federal approval for the siting of new onshore LNG facilities under...

Proposals for a Commission to Address the Federal Government’s Long-Term Fiscal Situation

In the 111th Congress, Members have introduced several proposals to establish a commission that would make potentially far-reaching recommendations on how to address the federal government’s long-term fiscal situation. Generally speaking, the measures would include Members of Congress as some or most of a commission’s membership, provide for a majority of commission members to be appointed by congressional leaders, have varying degrees of partisan balance in membership, and require supermajority votes of commission members to approve recommendations. Each of the bills also would provide...

NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance

The mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan is seen by many as a test of the alliance’s political will and military capabilities. Since the Washington Summit in 1999, the allies have sought to create a “new” NATO, capable of operating beyond the European theater to combat emerging threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan is NATO’s first “out-of-area” mission beyond Europe. The purpose of the mission is the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan. The mission has proven difficult, an...

Pakistan—Internal Stability and U.S. Response: CRS Experts

The 2009 Influenza Pandemic: An Overview

On June 11, 2009, in response to the global spread of a new strain of H1N1 influenza (“flu”), the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be an influenza pandemic, the first since 1968. The novel “H1N1 swine flu” was first identified in California in late April. Since then, cases have been reported around the world.

When the outbreak began, U.S. officials adopted a response posture under the overall coordination of the Secretary of Homeland Security. Among other things, officials established a government-wide informational website (http://www.flu.gov), released antiviral...

The 2009 Influenza Pandemic: Selected Legal Issues

On June 11, in response to the global spread of a new strain of influenza, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to phase 6, which indicates the start of an actual pandemic. This change reflected the spread of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus, not its severity. Although currently the pandemic is of moderate severity with the majority of patients experiencing mild symptoms and making a rapid and full recovery, this experience could change. This report provides a brief overview of selected legal issues including emergency measures, civil rights,...

U.S. Accession to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC)

On July 22, 2009, during Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to Southeast Asia, the United States acceded to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), one of the 10-nation organization’s core documents, as had been amended by the 1987 and 1998 TAC Protocols. The move came less than six months after Secretary of State Clinton announced in Jakarta that the Obama Administration would launch its formal interagency process to pursue accession. This report analyzes the legal and diplomatic issues involved with accession to the TAC....

Terrorism in Southeast Asia

Since September 2001, the United States has increased focus on radical Islamist and terrorist groups in Southeast Asia, particularly those in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. Southeast Asia has been a base for terrorist operations. Al Qaeda penetrated the region by establishing local cells, training Southeast Asians in its camps in Afghanistan, and by financing and cooperating with indigenous radical Islamist groups. Indonesia and the southern Philippines have been particularly vulnerable to penetration by Islamic terrorist groups.

Members of one indigenous...

Iraq: Regional Perspectives and U.S. Policy

Iraq’s neighbors have influenced events in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, and developments in Iraq have had political, economic, and security implications for Iraq’s neighbors and the broader Middle East. Lower levels of violence in Iraq and the planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq are fueling consideration of Iraq’s future and the current and potential policies by Iraq’s neighbors. Policy makers and observers are now considering several potential “Iraq scenarios,” ranging from the resolution of outstanding Iraqi political disputes and the successful...

Intelligence Reform at the Department of Energy: Policy Issues and Organizational Alternatives

After the repeated urging of the Department of Energy (DOE), Congress in 2006 agreed to temporarily consolidate separate counterintelligence (CI) offices at the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) into a single CI office under DOE control. The Senate version of the FY2010 National Defense Authorization Bill contains language that would make the consolidation permanent. DOE had complained that the dual office structure was ineffective. In permitting DOE to consolidate the two offices, Congress reversed its 1999 authorization to establish a separate...

Gun Trafficking and the Southwest Border

According to the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the lead federal agency responsible for stopping the illegal flow of firearms, or gun trafficking, from the United States to Mexico. ATF has developed a nationwide strategy to reduce firearms trafficking and violent crime by seeking to prevent convicted felons, drug traffickers, and juvenile gang members from acquiring firearms from gun traffickers. These criminals often acquire firearms from persons who are otherwise not prohibited from possessing firearms, or by buying firearms from...

Japan’s Historic 2009 Elections: Implications for U.S. Interests

In a historic landslide victory, on August 30, 2009, Japan’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), ousted the main ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in elections for control over Japan’s Lower House of parliament. The LDP has had almost continuous control of the Japanese government since 1955 and has been a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Japan alliance throughout the postwar period. The DPJ, which includes a mixture of right- and left-leaning members and is led by Yukio Hatoyama, is now Japan’s main ruling party. The Diet (Japan’s parliament) is...

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA): Background and Proposed Amendments

On November 13, 2001, President Bush issued a Military Order (M.O.) authorizing trial by military commission of certain non-citizens suspected of participating in the war against terrorism. The Supreme Court struck down military commissions established pursuant to the M.O. as inconsistent with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To permit military commissions to go forward, Congress approved the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), conferring authority to promulgate rules that depart from the strictures of the UCMJ and possibly U.S. international obligations. The Department of...

Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2001-2008

This report is provides data on conventional arms transfers to developing nations by the United States and foreign countries for the preceding eight calendar years for use in its policy oversight functions. All agreement and delivery data in this report for the United States are government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) transactions.

The Global Economic Downturn and Protectionism

In today’s severe global economic downturn, concerns are being raised that countries may try to improve their own trade positions in order to help domestic industries at the expense of others by imposing measures that artificially increase their exports or restrict imports. Such efforts are considered by some to be a form of “protectionism” and are often referred to as beggar-thy-neighbor policies.

This report develops three scenarios to approximate different dimensions of the relationship between the global economic downturn and protectionism. The scenarios are not predictions, but...

U.S. Arms Sales to Pakistan

This report briefly reviews the issue of U.S. arms sales to Pakistan. It provides background details regarding recent major weapons transactions between the United States and Pakistan, as well as the rationale given for such sales. It also reviews the current statutory framework that governs U.S. weapons sales to Pakistan, including existing authorities that could be used to curtail or terminate existing or prospective sales to that country. This report will only be updated should events warrant.

Project BioShield: Purposes and Authorities

Many potential chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents lack available countermeasures. In 2003, President Bush proposed Project BioShield to address this need. The Project BioShield Act became law in July 2004 (P.L. 108-276).

This law has three main provisions: (1) relaxing regulatory requirements for some CBRN terrorism-related spending, including hiring and awarding research grants; (2) guaranteeing a federal government market for new CBRN medical countermeasures; and (3) permitting emergency use of unapproved countermeasures. The Department of Health and...

Iraq: Reconstruction Assistance

A large-scale assistance program has been undertaken by the United States in Iraq since mid-2003. To date, over $49 billion has been appropriated for Iraq reconstruction.

Most recently, in June 2009, Congress provided $439 million in ESF and $20 million in INCLE funds for Iraq in the FY2009 supplemental appropriations (P.L. 111-32, H.R. 2346). The $1 billion in ISFF funding appropriated previously in P.L. 110-252 was rescinded and reappropriated in this bill. The CERP appropriation of $453 million is to be shared with Afghanistan.

A significant number of reconstruction activities,...

Passports: Current Regulations

Prior to 2007, little or no documentation was required to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean. In December 2004, with the 9/11 Commission recommending tighter borders to help prevent another terrorist attack, Congress passed the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which now requires passports for anyone entering the United States. As of mid-2009, approximately 30% of American citizens hold a passport.

After the January 2007 implementation of phase I of the new passport regulations (requiring passports when entering by air), the Department of...

Special Operations Forces (SOF) and CIA Paramilitary Operations: Issues for Congress

The 9/11 Commission Report recommended that responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations should be shifted from the CIA to the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The President directed the Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence to review this recommendation and present their advice by mid-February 2005, but ultimately, they did not recommend a transfer of paramilitary responsibilities. This Report will briefly describe special operations conducted by DOD and paramilitary operations conducted by the CIA and discuss the background of the 9/11...

Iraq: Former Regime Weapons Programs and Outstanding U.N. Issues

After asserting that Iraq had failed to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions that required Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the Bush Administration began military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003, and the regime of Saddam Hussein fell on April 9. U.N. Security Council resolution 1483, adopted May 22, 2003, lifted sanctions on Iraq and provided for the possibility that U.N. inspectors could return to Iraq, although the United States, not the United Nations, conducted the post-war WMD searches. U.S. teams attempted to find WMD and related production...

Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy, 2003-2009

Under the populist rule of President Hugo Chávez, first elected in 1998 and reelected to a six-year term in December 2006, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and unicameral legislature, and a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. U.S. officials and human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of expression under President Chávez, who has survived several attempts to remove him from power. The government benefitted from the rise in world oil...

The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program: Background and Current Developments

Most current U.S. nuclear warheads were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are being retained longer than was planned. Yet they deteriorate and must be maintained. To correct problems, a Life Extension Program (LEP), part of a larger Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP), replaces components. Modifying some components would require a nuclear test, but the United States has observed a test moratorium since 1992. Congress and the Administration prefer to avoid a return to testing, so LEP rebuilds these components as closely as possible to original specifications. With this approach, the...

Peru: Current Conditions and U.S. Relations

Peru shows promising signs of economic and political stability and the inclination to work with the United States on mutual concerns. President Alan García is, however facing challenging times during this, the third year of his five-year term. Widespread social unrest has increased as growing inflation combines with unmet expectations that social conditions for Peru’s poorest citizens would improve with Peru’s economic growth. Peru’s economy has been stronger than virtually all other Latin American economies since 2001. Peru’s poverty rates have been dropping since 2000, but still...

Constitutional Approaches to Continuity of Congressional Representation: Background and Issues for Congress

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, subsequent biological incidents, and natural threats such as hurricanes or pandemic illness, have motivated consideration of contingency planning options in government and the private sector. In Congress, contingency planning includes the consideration of options for the succession of congressional leadership, or for filling multiple vacancies in either chamber that might occur due to wide-scale death of Members or their absence from Congress due to injury or incapacitation. Concerns have been expressed that current plans may be insufficient or...

FY2009 Spring Supplemental Appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations

On June 11, 2009, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees announced a conference agreement on H.R. 2346, a bill providing supplemental appropriations for the remainder of FY2009. The House passed the conference report (226 to 202) on June 16; the Senate passed it (91 to 5) on June 18. President Obama signed it into law (P.L. 111-32) on June 24.

On key issues, the agreement includes: $5 billion, as in the Senate bill, to support U.S. loans to the International Monetary Fund, does not include a Senate provision allowing the Secretary of Defense to exempt photos of military detainees...

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: FY2009 Appropriations

This report tracks FY2009 appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS-ED). This legislation provides discretionary funds for three major federal departments and 13 related agencies. The report, which will not be further updated, summarizes L-HHS-ED discretionary funding issues but not authorization or entitlement issues.

President George W. Bush’s FY2009 budget request to Congress, including amendments, proposed $147.4 billion in discretionary L-HHS-ED funds; the comparable FY2008 amount was $148.6 billion. The Senate...

Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential Issues

In February and March 2009, the Obama Administration announced its plans to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and decrease troop levels in Iraq. In Afghanistan, 30,000 more troops are deploying this year while in Iraq, troops will gradually decline to 35,000 to 50,000 by August 31, 2011 with all troops to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The most commonly cited measure of troop strength is “Boots on the Ground” or the number of troops located in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Based on average monthly Boots on the Ground figures, the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq increased from...

Pakistan-U.S. Relations

Kyrgyzstan and the Status of the U.S. Manas Airbase: Context and Implications

In February 2009, Kyrgyzstan announced that it was terminating an agreement permitting U.S. forces to upgrade and use portions of the Manas international airport near the capital of Bishkek to support coalition military operations in Afghanistan. U.S. forces faced leaving the airbase by late August 2009. Major U.S. concerns included working out alternative logistics routes and support functions for a surge in U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan and possibly cooler security ties with Kyrgyzstan that could set back U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and other U.S. interests in Central Asia....

Protecting the U.S. Perimeter: Border Searches Under the Fourth Amendment

This report first outlines the statutes authorizing certain federal officers to conduct warrantless searches. It then addresses the scope of the government's constitutional authority to search and seize persons and property at the border. It also describes the varying levels of suspicion generally required for each type of border search as interpreted by the courts. Finally, this report lists several bills before the 111th Congress that address border searches. This report does not address interior searches and seizures performed by immigration personnel since they are not traditional...

The DHS Directorate of Science and Technology: Key Issues for Congress

The Directorate of Science and Technology is the primary organization for research and development (R&D) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With an appropriated budget of $932.6 million in FY2009, it conducts R&D in several laboratories of its own and funds R&D conducted by other government agencies, the Department of Energy national laboratories, industry, and universities. The directorate consists primarily of six divisions: Chemical and Biological; Explosives; Command, Control, and Interoperability; Borders and Maritime Security; Infrastructure and Geophysical; and Human...

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses

Much of the debate over U.S. policy toward Iran has centered on the nature of the current regime; some believe that Iran, a country of about 70 million people, is a threat to U.S. interests because hardliners in Iran's regime dominate and set a policy direction

intended to challenge U.S. influence and allies in the region. President George W. Bush, in his January 29, 2002, State of the Union message, labeled Iran part of an "axis of evil" along with

Iraq and North Korea. This report discusses the political history of Iran, U.S. strategy in Iran, and the Obama Administration's policies...

East Timor: Political Dynamics, Development, and International Involvement

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, which is also known as simply Timor-Leste or East Timor, is relatively calm compared with recent periods of political strife and insurrection. That said, some underlying tensions, such as with the security sector, remain to be resolved. Timor-Leste faces many serious challenges as it seeks to establish a stable democracy and develop its economy. Prior to 2006 the international community’s main concern focused on possible tensions in East Timor’s relations with Indonesia. Since 2006 the main threat to East Timor has been internal...

Haiti: Current Conditions and Congressional Concerns

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, Haiti has struggled to overcome its centuries-long legacy of authoritarianism, extreme poverty, and underdevelopment. While some progress has been made in developing democratic institutions, they remain weak. Economic and social stability have improved considerably. But poverty remains massive and deep, and economic disparity is wide.

In May 2006, René Préval began his second five-year term as President of Haiti. During his first two years in office, Préval began to...

North Korean Counterfeiting of U.S. Currency

The United States has accused the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) of counterfeiting U.S. $100 Federal Reserve notes (Supernotes) and passing them off in various countries, although there is some doubt by observers and other governments that the DPRK is capable of creating Supernotes of the quality found. What has been confirmed is that the DPRK has passed off such bills in various countries and that the counterfeit bills circulate both within North Korea and around its border with China. Defectors from North Korea also have provided information on Pyongyang’s...

The Global Peace Operations Initiative: Background and Issues for Congress

In its May 2009 budget request for FY2010, the Obama Administration has requested $96.8 million for the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). GPOI was established in mid-2004 as a five-year program with intended annual funding to total $660 million from FY2005 through FY2009. (Actual funds allocated to the GPOI program from FY2005 through FY2009 totaled, as of April 2009, some $480.4 million.) The centerpiece of the Bush Administration’s efforts to prepare foreign security forces to participate in international peacekeeping operations, GPOI’s primary purpose has been to train and...

Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence

Drug-related violence in Mexico has spiked in recent years as drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have competed for control of smuggling routes into the United States. Drug trafficking issues are prominent in Mexico because the country has for at least four decades been among the most important producers and suppliers of heroin, marijuana and (later) methamphetamine to the U.S. market. Today it is the leading source of all three drugs and is now the leading transit country for cocaine coming from South America to the United States. Although previous Mexican governments had accommodated...

Future of the Balkans and U.S. Policy Concerns

The United States, its allies, and local leaders have achieved substantial successes in the Balkans since the mid-1990s. The wars in the region have ended, and all of the countries are undertaking political and economic reforms at home and orienting their foreign policies toward Euro-Atlantic institutions. However, difficult challenges remain, including dealing with the impact of Kosovo’s independence; fighting organized crime, corruption, and enforcing the rule of law; bringing war criminals to justice; and reforming the economies of the region.

The goal of the United States and the...

Evolution of the Senate’s Role in the Nomination and Confirmation Process: A Brief History

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other Public Ministers and Counsels, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all Other Officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law....”

Exactly what the phrase “advice and consent” means in terms of distribution of power between the legislative and executive branches has been disputed almost since the beginning of the Republic. While some drafters of...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2009 Appropriations

The Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill includes funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 26 independent agencies. Among the independent agencies funded by the bill are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

On September 30, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing...

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies: FY2009 Appropriations

This report provides an overview of actions taken by Congress to provide FY2009 appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS). On March 11, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8). In the Omnibus, Congress appropriated $60.538 billion for CJS agencies. This amount was $4.578 billion more than the FY2008 enacted level (an 8.2% increase) and $3.488 billion more than the amended FY2009 request (a 6.1% increase). The Omnibus included $9.268 billion for the Department of Commerce, $26.120 billion for the Department of...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2009 Appropriations

On February 4, 2008, President Bush sent his FY2009 budget request to Congress. The House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee marked up its then-unnumbered bill on July 16. The Chairwoman’s Mark totaled $36.62 billion, $3.82 billion more than FY2008 enacted levels. No further action on that bill occurred. The Senate took up its State Department-Foreign Operations appropriation bill (S. 3288) on July 18; the full Senate Appropriations Committee reported it out the same day with $36.78 billion for FY2009. With no further progress on several appropriations bills, on September...

Oversight of High-Containment Biological Laboratories: Issues for Congress

The federal government responded to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks with increased focus on and funding for biodefense. A key consideration in this response was addressing shortages in diagnostic, clinical, and research laboratory capacity. Several departments and agencies have increased or are in the process of increasing their laboratory capacity. High-containment laboratories play a critical role in the biodefense effort, offering the hope of better responses to an attack and a better understanding of the threat posed by bioterrorism....

Banking and Financial Infrastructure Continuity: Pandemic Flu, Terrorism, and Other Challenges

This report outlines the financial sector's recovery plans for two kinds of disasters: the inability to conduct transactions and large losses of asset value. The basic function of the payment system is carried out by banks, and monetary policy affects banks immediately. Because brokers, exchanges, secondary market facilities, and insurance companies carry out crucial financial functions, their regulators and trade associations are involved in continuity of operations planning for contingencies.

Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations

In the past few years, U.S. policy toward the Kingdom of Cambodia has broadened from a human rights focus to a multi-faceted approach. A key challenge for U.S. policy toward Cambodia lies in combining and balancing efforts to improve relations and to promote human rights and democracy in the kingdom. Cambodia’s human rights record has been a constant source of friction between Prime Minister Hun Sen and major providers of foreign aid, which is equal to roughly half of the country’s government budget. The kingdom’s dependence on this aid has helped to keep pressure on the government to...

The Public Health and Medical Response to Disasters: Federal Authority and Funding

When there is a catastrophe in the United States, state and local governments lead response activities, invoking state and local legal authorities to support them. When state and local response capabilities are overwhelmed, the President, acting through the Secretary of Homeland Security, can provide assistance to stricken communities, individuals, governments, and not-for-profit groups to assist in response and recovery. Aid is provided under the authority of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) upon a presidential declaration. The...

Proposals for a Congressional Commission on the Financial Crisis: A Comparative Analysis

This report provides a comparative analysis of six proposed congressional advisory commissions that would investigate various aspects of the recent financial crisis and economic downturn. The report specifically discusses (1) the membership structure, (2) appointment structure, (3) rules of procedure and operation, (4) duties and reporting requirements, (5) powers of the commission, (6) staffing issues, and (7) funding. Tables 1 through 7 (at the end of the report) summarize major provisions of the six proposals.

The six proposed commissions are found in Senate amendment 995 to S. 386...

Selected Federal Compensation Programs for Physical Injury or Death

Congress has established a number of programs to compensate or assist victims of certain specific circumstances, including negligence, terrorism, and “acts of God.” Federal compensation programs can be described by certain common attributes. These include aspects of program administration; requirements for and determination of individual eligibility; eligibility of health care providers; types of benefits provided; whether certain diseases are presumed to be eligible for compensation; and the means by which the program is financed.

Though federal compensation programs display considerable...

Airport Passenger Screening: Background and Issues for Congress

Over the next several years, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will likely face continuing challenges to address projected growth in passenger airline travel while maintaining and improving upon the efficiency and effectiveness of passenger screening operations. New initiatives to expand the role of TSA personnel beyond screening operations, as well as initiatives to improve screening efficiency and effectiveness through the deployment of new technologies, will likely require additional investment. In addition to annual appropriations of $250 million in FY2008 and FY2009, a...

Recess Appointments Made by President George W. Bush

Under the Constitution, the President and the Senate share the power to make appointments to the highest-level politically appointed positions in the federal government. The Constitution also empowers the President unilaterally to make a temporary appointment to such a position if it is vacant and the Senate is in recess. Such an appointment, termed a recess appointment, expires at the end of the following session of the Senate. This report identifies recess appointments made by President George W. Bush during his presidency. Basic descriptive statistics regarding these appointments are...

NATO’s 60th Anniversary Summit

NATO Enlargement: Albania, Croatia, and Possible Future Candidates

At the April 2-4, 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, a principal issue was consideration of the candidacies for membership of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia. The allies agreed to extend invitations to Albania and Croatia. Although the alliance determined that Macedonia met the qualifications for NATO membership, Greece blocked the invitation due to an enduring dispute over Macedonia’s name. After formal accession talks, on July 9, 2008, the foreign ministers of Albania and Croatia and the permanent representatives of the 26 NATO allies signed accession protocols amending the North...

The Global Financial Crisis: Foreign and Trade Policy Effects

The global financial and economic crisis affects all three of the essential national interests of the United States: national security, economic well being, and value projection. Only occasionally does an event of this magnitude occur that generates such daunting challenges yet also opportunities for U.S. policy. The effects of the crisis on foreign policy, trade, and security are so diverse and widespread that, out of necessity, policy responses must range from the highly specific to the broad and ethereal.

This report provides an overview of the major non-financial effects of the global...

The President’s Malaria Initiative and Other U.S. Global Efforts to Combat Malaria: Background, Issues for Congress, and Resources

In 2008, malaria remained a serious problem in 109 countries, although it was eradicated almost 60 years ago in the United States. Malaria sickens an estimated 247 million people every year; of these, nearly 1 million die, mostly children younger than 5 years old. The disease is caused by a parasite that is transmitted to a person through the bite of a particular mosquito. Infection can lead to fever, muscle aches, and, without effective treatment, organ failure and sometimes death. Although approximately 40% of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, most cases and deaths are in...

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategies, Approaches, Results, and Issues for Congress

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the U.S.-led coalition military operation in Iraq, was launched on March 20, 2003, with the immediate stated goal of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime and destroying its ability to use weapons of mass destruction or to make them available to terrorists. Over time, the focus of OIF shifted from regime removal to the more open-ended mission of helping the Government of Iraq (GoI) improve security, establish a system of governance, and foster economic development.

In 2009, the war in Iraq appears to be winding down, as security gains made since the height of the...

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the 2008 Meetings in Lima, Peru

Congress and the Executive Branch have historically identified the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) as an important organization to help promote the U.S. goal of liberalizing international trade and investment in Asia, and possibly the rest of the world. APEC’s commitment to the goal of trade and investment liberalization is embodied in its Bogor Goals, in which APEC members pledged to free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.

However, several alternative avenues for the promotion of trade...

Public Health and Medical Preparedness and Response: Issues in the 111th Congress

Key recent events—the 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and concerns about an influenza (“flu”) pandemic, among others—sharpened congressional interest in the nation’s systems to track and respond to public health threats. The 109th Congress passed several laws that established, reorganized, or reauthorized key public health and medical preparedness and response programs in the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS). The 110th Congress was engaged in oversight of the implementation of these laws, focused in particular on such matters as (1) the...

Energy and Water Development: FY2009 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

Key budgetary issues for FY2009 involving these programs included

the distribution of Corps appropriations across the agency’s authorized planning, construction, and maintenance activities (Title I);

support of major ecosystem restoration initiatives, such as Florida Everglades (Title I) and California “Bay-Delta” (CALFED)...

The Global Nuclear Detection Architecture: Issues for Congress

The U.S. government has implemented a series of programs to protect the nation against terrorist nuclear attack. Some of these programs predate September 11, 2001, while others were established since then. Most programs are within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State; and agencies that became part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) upon its creation, and they are focused on detecting the illicit acquisition and shipment of nuclear and radiological materials and protecting and securing nuclear weapons. These disparate programs have...

National Special Security Events

Major events that are considered to be nationally significant may be designated by the President—or his representative, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—as National Special Security Events (NSSE). Beginning in September 1998 through February 2008, there have been 28 events designated as NSSEs. Some of these events have included presidential inaugurations, presidential nominating conventions, major sports events, and major international meetings. The U.S. Secret Service (USSS) is the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and...

Information Operations, Cyberwarfare, and Cybersecurity: Capabilities and Related Policy Issues

This report describes the emerging areas of information operations, cybersecurity, and cyberwar in the context of U.S. national security. It also notes related policy issues of potential interest to Congress.

For military planners, the control of information is critical to military success, and communications networks and computers are of vital operational importance. The use of technology to both control and disrupt the flow of information has been generally referred to by several names: information warfare, electronic warfare, cyberwar, netwar, and Information Operations (IO). Currently,...

Border Security: Barriers Along the U.S. International Border

Congress has repeatedly shown interest in examining and expanding the barriers being deployed along the U.S. international land border. The United States Border Patrol (USBP) deploys fencing, which aims to impede the illegal entry of individuals, and vehicle barriers, which aim to impede the illegal entry of vehicles (but not individuals) along the border.

The USBP first began erecting physical barriers in 1990 to deter illegal entries and drug smuggling in its San Diego sector. The ensuing 14-mile-long San Diego “primary fence” formed part of the USBP’s “Prevention Through Deterrence”...

Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws has received a significant amount of attention. Some observers contend that the federal government does not have adequate resources to enforce immigration law and that state and local law enforcement entities should be utilized. Others, however, question what role state and local law enforcement agencies should have in light of limited state and local resources and immigration expertise.

Congress defined our nation’s immigration laws in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which contains...

Georgia [Republic] and NATO Enlargement: Issues and Implications

This report examines the aspirations of Georgia [Republic] to become a member of NATO. Issues related to Georgia’s reform progress, Georgia-Russia relations, and U.S. policy are examined. This report may be updated. Related products include CRS Report RL34701, NATO Enlargement: Albania, Croatia, and Possible Future Candidates, by Vincent Morelli et al.

Judicial Security: Comparison of Legislation in the 110th Congress

The 2005 murders of the husband and mother of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow by a disgruntled litigant and the murders of Judge Rowland Barton, his court reporter, a deputy sheriff, and a federal officer in Atlanta, Georgia, focused national attention on the need for increased court security. Data from the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), Pennsylvania’s survey of judicial safety, and the New York Office of Court Administration demonstrate that judges are the targets of threats and other aggressive actions. In addition, congressional testimony and a report by the Department of...

Homeland Security Department: FY2009 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2009 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a net appropriation of $38,849 million in budget authority for FY2009. The House Appropriations Committee reported its version of the FY2009 DHS Appropriations bill on June 24, 2008. The bill was filed on September 18, 2008, as H.R. 6947, and the accompanying report has been numbered H.Rept. 110-862. House-reported H.R. 6947 would have provided a net appropriation of $41,137 million in budget authority for DHS for FY2009. This amounted to an increase of $2,288...

Securing General Aviation

General aviation (GA)—a catch-all category that includes about 54% of all civilian aviation activity within the United States—encompasses a wide range of airports, aircraft, and flight operations. Because GA plays a small but important role in the U.S. economy, improving upon GA security without unduly impeding air commerce or limiting the freedom of movement by air remains a significant challenge. However, policymakers have received mixed signals about the relative security risk posed by GA, due to its diversity and a general lack of detailed information regarding the threat and...

Expedited Citizenship Through Military Service: Current Law, Policy, and Issues

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, there has been and continues to be considerable congressional interest in further streamlining and expediting the naturalization process for military personnel and in providing immigration benefits specifically for immediate relatives of such personnel. The reported deaths in action of noncitizen soldiers drew attention to the immigration laws that grant posthumous citizenship and to the advantages of further expediting naturalization for noncitizens serving in the United States military. President George W. Bush officially...

Defense: FY2009 Authorization and Appropriations

Soon after the 111th Congress convened, it began drafting H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, generally referred to as the “economic stimulus” bill. This bill added a total of $8.5 billion to amount previously appropriated for DOD in FY2009. Of the additional funds provided by H.R. 1, $4.6 billion was for accounts funded by the regular FY2009 DOD appropriations provided by Division D of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act for FY2009, generally referred to as the “continuing resolution,” which President George W. Bush...

Foreign Students in the United States: Policies and Legislation

In the midst an economic downturn, colleges and universities in the United States are finding themselves confronting economic difficulties. Foreign students have historically been an important source of revenue for colleges and universities because unlike many of their native counterparts, foreign students frequently do not receive financial aid from the university—particularly at the undergraduate level. Despite the financial justifications for admitting large numbers of foreign students, critics of foreign student admissions generally raise two objections. The first objection is that...

Japan’s Nuclear Future: Policy Debate, Prospects, and U.S. Interests

Japan, traditionally one of the most prominent advocates of the international non-proliferation regime, has consistently pledged to forswear nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, evolving circumstances in Northeast Asia, particularly North Korea’s nuclear test in October 2006 and China’s ongoing military modernization drive, have raised new questions about Japan’s vulnerability to potential adversaries and, therefore, the appeal of developing an independent nuclear deterrent. The previous taboo within the Japanese political community of discussing a nuclear weapons capability appears to have been...

Israel and Hamas: Conflict in Gaza

This report closely examines the conflict in Gaza (2008-2009), assessing the impact of the conflict on civilians, possible consequences and unresolved issues, the regional and international implications and possible modes of action for the 111th Congress to consider in response.

Medicaid Citizenship Documentation

Since 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (P.L. 99-603) has mandated Medicaid to have applicants declare under penalty of perjury that they are citizens or nationals of the United States (or that they are aliens in a satisfactory immigration status). Subsequently, §432 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193) stated that the Secretary of Health and Human Services must establish procedures for persons applying for federal public benefits to “provide proof of citizenship in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner.” States could accept...

Financing Recovery from Large-Scale Natural Disasters

This report provides an analysis of the challenges facing property and casualty insurance and reinsurance companies in financing large-scale natural disasters, particularly during financial market turmoil.

Iran’s Ballistic Missile Programs: An Overview

Iran has an active interest in developing, acquiring, and deploying a broad range of ballistic missiles, as well as developing a space launch capability. This was spotlighted several times since 2008. In mid-July 2008, Iran launched a number of ballistic missiles during military exercises, reportedly including the medium-range Shahab-3. At the time, a Pentagon spokesman said Iran was “not testing new technologies or capabilities, but rather firing off old equipment in an attempt to intimidate their neighbors and escalate tension in the region.” Subsequent analysis of the July 2008 missile...

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act: Implementation and Proposed Amendments

On September 26, 2006, President Bush signed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) into law (P.L. 109-282). In an attempt to expand oversight of federal spending, including earmarks, the new law required the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a publicly available online website that provides access to information about entities that are awarded federal grants, loans, contracts, and other forms of assistance. Federal agencies award over $880 billion dollars annually in three of the primary categories of financial assistance that are included in the...

National Aviation Security Policy, Strategy, and Mode-Specific Plans: Background and Considerations for Congress

In the years leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States lacked a comprehensive national policy and strategy for aviation security. The approach to aviation security was largely shaped by past events, such as the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988, rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the full range of security risks. The 9/11 Commission concluded that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, revealed failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management by both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. intelligence...

Immigration Policy on Expedited Removal of Aliens

Expedited removal, an immigration enforcement strategy originally conceived to operate at the borders and ports of entry, is being expanded, raising a set of policy, resource, and logistical questions. Expedited removal is a provision under which an alien who lacks proper documentation or has committed fraud or willful misrepresentation of facts may be removed from the United States without any further hearings or review, unless the alien indicates a fear of persecution. Congress added expedited removal to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in 1996, making it mandatory for arriving...

Alien Smuggling: Recent Legislative Developments

The primary statutory provision proscribing alien smuggling is § 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). INA § 274 proscribes a broad spectrum of activities that would aid aliens to enter and live within the United States without proper legal status. In the 110th Congress, several legislative proposals were introduced to modify the penalties for alien smuggling, some of which saw legislative action or received significant congressional interest. S. 2366/S. 2368 (the SAVE Act); House-passed H.R. 2399, its companion bill S. 2463; and House-passed H.R. 2830 all contained similar...

Foreign Aid Reform: Issues for Congress and Policy Options

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the role of foreign assistance as a tool of foreign policy has come into sharper focus. The President elevated global development as a third pillar of national security, with defense and diplomacy, as articulated in the U.S. National Security Strategy of 2002, and reiterated in 2006. At the same time that foreign aid is being recognized as playing an important role in U.S. foreign policy, it has also come under closer scrutiny by Congress, largely in response to a number of presidential initiatives, and by critics who argue that the U.S....

The Proposed U.S.-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement

This report addresses the proposed U.S.-Malaysia free trade agreement (FTA). It provides an overview of the current status of the negotiations, a review of the 2008 talks, an examination of leading issues that have arisen during the negotiations, a review of U.S. interests in the proposed agreement, a summary of the potential effects of a FTA on bilateral trade, and an overview of the legislative procedures to be followed if the proposed FTA is presented to Congress for approval.

The proposed U.S.-Malaysia FTA is of interest to Congress because (1) it requires congressional approval; (2)...

Latin America and the Caribbean: Issues for the 110th Congress

Over the past two decades, the Latin America and Caribbean region has made enormous strides in terms of political and economic development, with regular free and fair elections the norm in most countries. Although the region overall experienced an economic setback in 2002-2003, it rebounded from 2004-2007, with strong economic growth. In 2008, however, the advent of the global financial crisis and U.S. economic recession began to be felt in Latin America. Growth began to slow as commodity prices and the demand for exports and services from the region declined. Several nations also...

Immigration-Related Document Fraud: Overview of Civil, Criminal, and Immigration Consequences

In order to enter or remain in the United States and be eligible for various immigration-related benefits, non-citizens (aliens) must comply with a number of document requirements under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Attempts to circumvent these requirements are generally prohibited. Under the INA, an alien who uses, acquires, or produces fraudulent documents for immigration-related purposes may be subjected to civil penalties and denied certain immigration benefits. Additionally, certain fraudulent actions may carry criminal penalties under both the INA and the United States...

The War Crimes Act: Current Issues

The War Crimes Act of 1996, as amended, makes it a criminal offense to commit certain violations of the law of war when such offenses are committed by or against U.S. nationals or Armed Service members. Among other things, the act prohibits certain violations of Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which sets out minimum standards for the treatment of detainees in armed conflicts “not of an international character” (e.g., civil wars, rebellions, and other conflicts between State and non-State actors). Common Article 3 prohibits protected persons from being subjected to...

Homeland Security Intelligence: Perceptions, Statutory Definitions, and Approaches

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress has focused considerable attention on how intelligence is collected, analyzed, and disseminated in order to protect the homeland against terrorist threats. Prior to 9/11, it was possible to make a distinction between “domestic intelligence”—primarily law enforcement information collected within the United States—and “foreign intelligence”—primarily military, political, and economic intelligence collected outside the country. Today, threats to the homeland posed by terrorist groups are now national security threats. Intelligence collected outside...

Cuba: Issues for the 110th Congress

Since the early 1960s, U.S. policy toward Cuba has consisted largely of isolating the communist nation through economic sanctions, which the Bush Administration has tightened significantly. A second policy component has consisted of support measures for the Cuban people, including private humanitarian donations and U.S.-sponsored radio and television broadcasting to Cuba. As in past years, the main issue for U.S. policy toward Cuba in the 110th Congress was how to best support political and economic change in one of the world’s remaining communist nations. Unlike past years, however,...

CRS Issue Statement on Child Well-Being

The nation's future depends in large part on its children's ability to develop into contributing adult members of society. For that reason, and for what many would consider a society's moral responsibility to care for the young and vulnerable, Congress and the nation take an interest in promoting children's well-being. It can be argued that children are the nation's most valuable resource, constituting the next generation of workers, taxpayers, and parents. Their well-being and ability to develop into productive adults in an increasingly competitive global economy is influenced by a...

Organizing the U.S. Government for National Security: Overview of the Interagency Reform Debates

A growing community of interest, including Members of Congress, senior officials in the executive branch, and think-tank analysts, is calling for a reexamination of how well the U.S. government, including both the executive branch and Congress, is organized to apply all instruments of national power to national security activities. The organizations and procedures used today to formulate strategy, support presidential decision-making, plan and execute missions, and budget for those activities are based on a framework established just after World War II. That framework was designed to...

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 110th Congress

Comprehensive immigration reform was the subject of much discussion at the start of the 110th Congress. In the spring of 2007, the Senate considered several broad immigration reform measures aimed at addressing a host of perceived problems with the U.S. immigration system. These measures combined border security and interior enforcement provisions with provisions on temporary workers, permanent admissions, and unauthorized aliens. In June 2007, the Senate voted on a motion to invoke cloture on one of these measures (S. 1639), which, if approved, would have ultimately brought the bill to a...

The Department of Defense Role in Foreign Assistance: Background, Major Issues, and Options for Congress

The Department of Defense (DOD) has long played a role in U.S. efforts to assist foreign populations, militaries, and governments. The use of DOD to provide foreign assistance stems in general from the perception that DOD can contribute unique or vital capabilities and resources because it possesses the manpower, materiel, and organizational assets to respond to international needs. Over the years, Congress has helped shape the DOD role by providing DOD with its mandate for such activities through a wide variety of authorities.

The historical DOD role in foreign assistance can be regarded...

Presidential Directives: Background and Overview

This report provides an overview of the different kinds of directives that have been utilized primarily by twentieth century Presidents. It presents background on their historical development, accounting, use, and effect.

The Executive Office of the President: An Historical Overview

Executive Branch Reorganization and Management Initiatives: A Brief Overview

This report provides a brief overview of recent executive branch reorganization actions and related management initiatives. It reviews the relevant plans and preparations of President-elect Barack Obama as the new Administration transitions to assuming management of the executive branch. Briefly examined, as well, are the organization and management efforts of the most recent regimes.

Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with Russia: Statutory Procedures for Congressional Consideration and Their Implementation

On May 13, 2008, President Bush submitted to Congress a proposed agreement for nuclear cooperation with the Russian Federation. On September 8, the President announced that he was rescinding his certification of the proposed U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement. This action, in effect, withdrew the proposed agreement from further congressional consideration for the foreseeable future

Under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), the text of such an agreement is to be submitted to the committees of jurisdiction for at least 30 days of consultation, and the agreement itself is then to be submitted...

Water Quality Issues in the 110th Congress: Oversight and Implementation

Although much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established more than 35 years ago in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or “nonpoint” sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions...

The Capitol Visitors’ Center: An Overview

Islamist Militancy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region and U.S. Policy

Increasing militant activity in western Pakistan poses three key national security threats: an increased potential for major attacks against the United States itself; a growing threat to Pakistani stability; and a hindrance of U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. This report will be updated as events warrant.

A U.S.-Pakistan relationship marked by periods of both cooperation and discord was transformed by the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the ensuing enlistment of Pakistan as a key ally in U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts. Top U.S. officials have praised...

Spectrum Management: Auctions

Radio frequency spectrum policy issues before Congress are characterized by economic, technological and regulatory complexity. Of particular interest to policy makers are the allocation of spectrum for specific types of use (such as TV broadcasting, radio, advanced wireless services, or unlicensed) and the assignment of licenses for exclusive or shared use of specific frequencies. Today, most frequencies allocated for commercial uses are assigned through auctions, with licenses going to the highest bidder. Another important allocation of spectrum is for unlicensed use. Both commercial and...

Bush Administration Policy Regarding Congressionally Originated Earmarks: An Overview

During the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the George W. Bush Administration have defined terms like congressional earmark, congressionally directed spending item, and earmark, and have provided some direction for how congressionally originated earmarks, according to these definitions, are to be handled. This report focuses on Bush Administration policy regarding earmarks originated by Congress and related issues. Specific definitions for the term earmark (and related terms, like congressional earmark, presidential earmark, and others) vary considerably and...

Homeland Emergency Preparedness and the National Exercise Program: Background, Policy Implications, and Issues for Congress

This report provides an overview of emergency preparedness authorities and guidance; development and management of the National Exercise Program (NEP); and current exercise planning, scheduling, and evaluation processes. Additionally, it provides analysis of national preparedness policy issues and exercise operations issues that Congress might wish to consider.

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations

A South American nation with a population of around 40 million, Argentina returned to elected civilian democracy in 1983 after seven years of harsh military rule. In 2001-2002, the democratic political system experienced considerable stress as the country experienced a severe economic crisis, but ultimately weathered the storm. Current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, elected in October 2007, succeeded her husband President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007), who had made popular policy moves regarding human rights, institutional reform, and economic policy that helped restore...

The Death Penalty: Capital Punishment Legislation in the 110th Congress

Most capital offenses are state crimes. In 1994, however, Congress revived the death penalty as a federal sentencing option. More than a few federal statutes now proscribe offenses punishable by death. A number of bills were offered during the 110th Congress to modify federal law in the area. None were enacted. One, S. 447 (Senator Feingold)/H.R. 6875 (Representative Kucinich), would have abolished the federal death penalty. Another, H.J.Res. 80 (Rep McCollum), would have amended the Constitution to abolish capital punishment as a sentencing alternative for either state or federal crimes....

The Gulf Security Dialogue and Related Arms Sale Proposals

In May 2006, the Administration launched an effort to revive U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security cooperation under the auspices of a new Gulf Security Dialogue (GSD). The Dialogue now serves as the principal security coordination mechanism between the United States and the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. The core objectives of the Dialogue are the promotion of intra-GCC and GCC-U.S. cooperation to meet common perceived threats. The Dialogue provides a framework for U.S. engagement with...

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues

The United States is relying heavily on private firms to supply a wide variety of services in Iraq, including security. From publicly available information, this is apparently the first time that the United States has depended so extensively on contractors to provide security in a hostile environment, although it has previously contracted for more limited security services in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and elsewhere. In Iraq, private firms known as Private Security Contractors (PSCs) serve to protect individuals, transport convoys, forward operating bases, buildings, and other economic...

Do Not Mail Initiatives and Their Potential Effects: Possible Issues for Congress

Since 2007, at least 19 state legislatures have introduced legislation that would require the creation of state Do Not Mail (DNM) registries. In 2008, 12 states had pending DNM legislation. Although each state’s DNM initiative is unique, all attempt to curb the delivery of unsolicited advertising mail—often referred to as “junk mail or “direct mail marketing.” Each state’s bill would permit a resident to submit his or her name and address to a state agency or department, which would compile all the names and addresses into a registry that would then be distributed to direct mail marketers....

Emergency Communications Legislation: Implications for the 110th Congress

Since September 11, 2001, several bills introduced in the U.S. Congress have included provisions to assist emergency communications. Key provisions from a number of these bills have become law.

Legislation addressing communications among first responders focused first on interoperability—the capability of different systems to connect—with provisions in the Homeland Security Act (P.L. 107-296). The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (P.L. 108-458) provided more comprehensive language that included requirements for developing a national approach to achieving interoperability....

Vulnerability of Concentrated Critical Infrastructure: Background and Policy Options

“Critical infrastructure” consists of systems and assets so vital to the United States that their incapacity would harm the nation’s physical security, economic security, or public health. Critical infrastructure is often geographically concentrated, so it may be distinctly vulnerable to events like natural disasters, epidemics, and certain kinds of terrorist attacks. Disruption of concentrated infrastructure could have greatly disproportionate effects, with costs potentially running into billions of dollars and spreading far beyond the immediate area of disturbance. Hurricane Katrina in...

Weak and Failing States: Evolving Security Threats and U.S. Policy

Although long a component of U.S. foreign policy, strengthening weak and failing states has increasingly emerged as a high-priority U.S. national security goal since the end of the Cold War. Numerous U.S. government documents point to several threats emanating from states that are variously described as weak, fragile, vulnerable, failing, precarious, failed, in crisis, or collapsed. These threats include providing safe havens for terrorists, organized crime, and other illicit groups; causing conflict, regional instability, and humanitarian emergencies; and undermining efforts to promote...

Data Mining and Homeland Security: An Overview

Data mining has become one of the key features of many homeland security initiatives. Often used as a means for detecting fraud, assessing risk, and product retailing, data mining involves the use of data analysis tools to discover previously unknown, valid patterns and relationships in large data sets. In the context of homeland security, data mining can be a potential means to identify terrorist activities, such as money transfers and communications, and to identify and track individual terrorists themselves, such as through travel and immigration records.

While data mining represents a...

North Korean Crime-for-Profit Activities

Strong indications exist that the North Korean (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) regime has been involved in the production and trafficking of illicit drugs, as well as of counterfeit currency, cigarettes, and pharmaceuticals. It appears that drug trafficking has declined and counterfeiting of cigarettes may be expanding. Reports indicate that North Korea may engage in insurance fraud, human trafficking, and wildlife trafficking as a matter of state policy. DPRK crime-for-profit activities have reportedly brought in important foreign currency resources and come under the...

Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76: Implications for the Future

This report examines the issues surrounding the Walter Reed public-private competition conducted under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76 and its potential impact on future Department of Defense (DOD) competitions. Circular A-76 is a policy and a process first initiated in 1966 that was designed to determine whether federal employees or private sector contractors are best to perform activities deemed commercial. A series of articles that first appeared in the Washington Post chronicled the dilapidated conditions and the substandard medical treatment afforded to returning...

Congressional Investigations of the Department of Justice, 1920-2007: History, Law, and Practice

This report discusses the legislative oversight that is most commonly conducted through congressional budget, authorization, appropriations, confirmation, and investigative processes, and, in rare instances, through impeachment.

Al Qaeda in Iraq: Assessment and Outside Links

In explaining the decision to invade Iraq and oust Saddam Hussein from power, the Administration asserted, among other justifications, that the regime of Saddam Hussein had a working relationship with the Al Qaeda organization. The Administration assessed that the relationship dated to the early 1990s, and was based on a common interest in confronting the United States. The Administration assertions were derived from U.S. intelligence showing a pattern of contacts with Al Qaeda when its key founder, Osama bin Laden, was based in Sudan in the early to mid-1990s and continuing after he...

National Park Management

The 110th Congress is considering legislation and conducting oversight on National Park Service (NPS) related topics. The Administration is addressing park issues through budgetary, regulatory, and other actions. This report focuses on several key topics.

Centennial Initiative. President Bush’s National Park Centennial Initiative seeks to add up to $3 billion for national park units over 10 years through: (1) an additional $100.0 million annually in discretionary funds; (2) public donations of least $100.0 million annually; and (3) a federal match of the public donations with up to $100.0...

Comparing Global Influence: China’s and U.S. Diplomacy, Foreign Aid, Trade, and Investment in the Developing World

This report compares the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) and U.S. projections of global influence, with an emphasis on non-coercive means or “soft power,” and suggests ways to think about U.S. foreign policy options in light of China’s emergence. Part One discusses U.S. foreign policy interests, China’s rising influence, and its implications for the United States. Part Two compares the global public images of the two countries and describes PRC and U.S. uses of soft power tools, such as public diplomacy, state diplomacy, and foreign assistance. It also examines other forms of soft power...

Suits Against Terrorist States by Victims of Terrorism

In 1996 Congress amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) to allow U.S. victims of terrorism to sue designated State sponsors of terrorism for their terrorist acts. The courts have handed down large judgments against the terrorist State defendants, generally in default, and successive Administrations have intervened to block the judicial attachment of frozen assets to satisfy judgments. After a court ruled that Congress never created a cause of action against terrorist States themselves, but only against their officials, employees, and agents, plaintiffs have based claims on...

Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview

A 1996 amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) enables American victims of international terrorist acts supported by certain States designated by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism—Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and previously Iraq and Libya—to bring suit in U.S. courts for damages. Despite congressional efforts to make blocked (or “frozen”) assets of such States available for attachment by judgment creditors in such cases, plaintiffs encountered difficulties in enforcing the awards. Congress passed, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for...

Department of Justice (DOJ) Appropriations for FY2008 and FY2009

This report provides coverage of the FY2009 appropriations cycle for the Department of Justice (DOJ), including FY2008 supplemental appropriations.

U.S. Assistance to North Korea

This report summarizes U.S. assistance to the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK, also known as North Korea). It will be updated periodically to track changes in U.S. provision of aid to North Korea.

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC): An Overview

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) is an agreement among member states to provide assistance after disasters overwhelm a state's capacity to manage consequences. The compact, initiated by the states and coordinated by the National Emergency Management Association, provides a structure for requesting emergency assistance from party states. In 1996 Congress approved EMAC as an interstate compact ( P.L. 104-321 ). EMAC also resolves some, but not all, potential legal and administrative obstacles that may hinder such assistance at the state level. EMAC also enhances state...

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Amendments: 110th Congress

High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is an instantaneous, intense energy field that can overload or disrupt at a distance numerous electrical systems and high technology microcircuits, which are especially sensitive to power surges. A large scale EMP effect can be produced by a single nuclear explosion detonated high in the atmosphere. This method is referred to as High-Altitude EMP (HEMP). A similar, smaller-scale EMP effect can be created using non-nuclear devices with powerful batteries or reactive chemicals. This method is called High Power Microwave (HPM). Several nations, including reported...

China’s Foreign Policy: What Does It Mean for U.S. Global Interests?

Since the late 1990s, China’s robust international engagement has caught many by surprise and prompted growing American debate over the PRC’s motivations and objectives. This international engagement has expanded while the United States has been preoccupied with its military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress and other U.S. policymakers are becoming increasingly concerned that China’s expanded international engagement could have its “soft power” projection and affect U.S. economic and strategic interests.

Experience suggests that abrupt, unexplained shifts in policy occur with...

Federal Advisory Committees: A Primer

U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

As interest in troop level deployments continues, there remains an increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This report provides official Department of Defense (DOD) statistical information on U.S. forces now serving in Afghanistan with comparisons to earlier force levels. It also provides brief official information on the military units extended or schedule for the next rotation of duty into Afghanistan.

Mérida Initiative: U.S. Anticrime and Counterdrug Assistance for Mexico and Central America

In October 2007, the United States and Mexico announced the Mérida Initiative, a multi-year proposal for $1.4 billion in U.S. assistance to Mexico and Central America aimed at combating drug trafficking, gangs, and organized crime. On May 14, 2008, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a bill, H.R. 6028 (Berman), which would authorize $1.6 billion for the Initiative from FY2008 through FY2010. The Bush Administration requested $500 million for Mexico and $50 million for Central American countries in its FY2008 supplemental appropriations request. In late June 2008, Congress...

The Global Nuclear Detection Architecture: Issues for Congress

This report discusses the global nuclear detection architecture: a multi-layered system of detection technologies, programs, and guidelines designed to enhance the nation's ability to detect and prevent a radiological or nuclear attack.

North Korea: Economic Sanctions Prior to Removal from Terrorism Designation

This paper explains the U.S. economic sanctions in place up to the point when North Korea was delisted as a state sponsor of acts of international terrorism.

Until June 2008, U.S. economic sanctions were imposed against North Korea for five primary reasons: (1) North Korea is seen as posing a threat to U.S. national security; (2) North Korea is designated by the Secretary of State as a state sponsor or supporter of international terrorism; (3) North Korea is a Marxist-Leninist state, with a Communist government; (4) North Korea has been found by the State Department to have engaged in...

Asian Pacific Americans in the United States Congress

Asian Pacific Americans have served in both houses of Congress representing California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Oregon, Virginia, American Samoa, and Guam. They have served in leadership positions, including committee and subcommittee chairmanships. This report presents information on Senators, Representatives, and Delegates, including party affiliations, length and dates of service, and committee assignments.

Lebanon

This report provides an overview of Lebanese politics, recent events in Lebanon, and current issues in U.S.-Lebanon relations.

Saudi Arabia: Terrorist Financing Issues

According to the U.S. State Department 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, “Saudi donors and unregulated charities have been a major source of financing to extremist and terrorist groups over the past 25 years.” The September 11, 2001 attacks fueled criticisms within the United States of alleged Saudi involvement in terrorism or of Saudi laxity in acting against terrorist groups. The final report released by the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission) indicates that the Commission “found no evidence that the Saudi...

Azerbaijan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests

This report discusses political, economic, and security challenges facing Azerbaijan, including the unsettled conflict in the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region. A table provides basic facts and biographical information. Related products include CRS Report RL33453, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests, by Jim Nichol.

Presidential Appointments to Full-time Positions in Executive Departments During the 109th Congress, 2005-2006

During the 109th Congress, the President submitted to the Senate 283 nominations to executive department full-time positions. Of these 283 nominations, 233 were confirmed; nine were withdrawn; and 41 were returned to him in accordance with Senate rules. For those nominations that were confirmed, an average of 75 days elapsed between nomination and confirmation. The median number of days elapsed was 57. These statistics do not include the days during which the Senate was adjourned for its summer recesses and between sessions of Congress.

President George W. Bush made a total of 13 recess...

Strategic Airlift Modernization: Analysis of C-5 Modernization and C-17 Acquisition Issues

This report discusses an issue currently before Congress regarding the appropriate size of strategic airlift fleet. There is a consensus among policy makers that the Department of Defense (DOD) must maintain a robust and effective strategic airlift fleet.

Tax Deductions for Catastrophic Risk Insurance Reserves: Explanation and Economic Analysis

According to the Insurance Services Office, Inc., (ISO), the property/casualty (p/c) insurance industry paid $62.2 billion in catastrophe losses from 24 disasters and more than 4.4 million claims in 2005, making 2005 the most costly year for catastrophe losses. This report begins by providing some background on the market for catastrophe insurance. It continues by describing the proposal for tax-deductible reserve accounts as set forth in H.R. 164/S. 926 of the 110th Congress, and concludes by providing an economic analysis of the plan.

Homeland Security: Roles and Missions for United States Northern Command

In 2002, President Bush signed a new Unified Command Plan (UCP) establishing United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to provide command and control of the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) homeland defense efforts and to coordinate military support to civil authorities. As a geographical combatant command, NORTHCOM has an area of responsibility that includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, and surrounding waters out to approximately 500 nautical miles, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. The NORTHCOM Commander also commands North American...

Bangladesh: Political Turmoil and Transition

Bangladesh (the former East Pakistan) gained its independence in 1971, following India’s intervention in a rebellion against West Pakistan (currently called Pakistan). The Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which led the ruling coalition of the previous government, and the leading opposition party, the Awami League (AL), traditionally have dominated Bangladeshi politics. The BNP has been led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia; the AL has been led by Sheikh Hasina. In the years since independence, Bangladesh has established a reputation as a largely moderate and democratic majority Muslim...

Congressional Oversight and Related Issues Concerning the Prospective Security Agreement Between the United States and Iraq

On November 26, 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel Al-Maliki signed a Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America. Pursuant to this Declaration, the parties pledged to “begin as soon as possible, with the aim to achieve, before July 31, 2008, agreements between the two governments with respect to the political, cultural, economic, and security spheres.” Among other things, the Declaration proclaims the parties’ intention to enter an agreement that...

Maritime Security: Potential Terrorist Attacks and Protection Priorities

This report outlines the key dimensions of maritime terrorism and how these dimensions may characterize specific attacks in the global maritime domain. The report illustrates credible maritime attack scenarios based on actual past attacks or potential attacks developed for maritime security exercises or other U.S. counter terrorism activities. It discusses the challenge to maritime security planners of facing a virtually unlimited number of potential attack scenarios and how certain federal programs address this challenge. It also reviews various perspectives on the overall likelihood of...

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Infrastructure Security: Issues for Congress

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a hazardous fuel shipped in large tankers from overseas to U.S. ports. Because LNG infrastructure is highly visible and easily identified, it can be vulnerable to terrorist attack. Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. LNG industry and federal agencies have put new measures in place to respond to the possibility of terrorism. Nonetheless, public concerns about LNG risks continue to raise questions about LNG security. Faced with a perceived national need for greater LNG imports, and persistent public concerns about LNG risks, some in Congress are examining the...

Homeland Security Act of 2002: Tort Liability Provisions

The Homeland Security Act of 2002, P.L. 107-296 (H.R. 5005), contains the following provisions that limit tort liability, and this report examines each of them.

Section 304 immunizes manufacturers and administrators of smallpox vaccines from tort liability. It makes the United States liable, but not strictly liable, as manufacturers and administrators would be under state law. Rather, the United States will be liable only for the negligence of vaccine manufacturers and administrators.

Section 863 limits the tort liability of sellers of anti-terrorism technologies. It prohibits punitive...

Paraguay: Background and U.S. Relations

The demise of the long-ruling Stroessner military dictatorship in 1989 initiated a political transition in Paraguay that has been difficult at times. Current President Nicanor Duarte Frutos has implemented some reforms that have addressed corruption and contributed to economic growth. Yet, due in large part to the country’s authoritarian past, Paraguay’s state institutions remain weak while corruption remains ingrained in the political culture, impeding democratic consolidation and economic development.

In Paraguay’s April 20, 2008, presidential election, former Roman Catholic bishop...

The NATO Summit at Bucharest, 2008

NATO held a summit in Bucharest, Romania, April 2-4, 2008. The summit did not become the occasion to adopt major new ideas or initiatives. A “Strategic Vision” paper on Afghanistan clarified several issues but did not lead to a greater sharing of the combat burden among NATO governments. Croatia and Albania, but not Macedonia, were invited to begin accession negotiations for membership. In a contentious debate, neither Georgia nor Ukraine were admitted to the MAP process. The debate over missile defense led to the consolidation of an evolving allied position. See also CRS Report RL34415,...

National Guard Personnel and Deployments: Fact Sheet

The National Guard plays a major role in the defense and security of the United States under the federal component of its mission. A January 2008 report by the congressionally chartered independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves has found that the U.S. military's lack of "sufficiently trained, ready forces available" to respond to possible domestic attacks "is an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk." The report estimated that fewer than 88% of Army National Guard units are "combat-ready." This report presents statistical information on the...

Chemical Facility Security: Regulation and Issues for Congress

This report describes the statutory authority granted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with regards to chemical facility security regulation and the interim final rule promulgated by DHS, and identifies select issues of contention related to the interim final rule. Finally, this report discusses several possible policy options for Congress.

FY2008 Supplemental Appropriations for Global War on Terror Military Operations, International Affairs, and Other Purposes

During the 1st session of the 110th Congress, in calendar year 2007, the Administration requested emergency FY2008 supplemental appropriations of $196.5 billion to cover costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for war-related and other international affairs programs, and for some other activities. The request included $189.3 billion for the Department of Defense, $6.9 billion for international affairs, and $325 million for other agencies.

Through the end of December 2007, Congress provided $86.8 billion in emergency funds for the Defense Department and $2.4 billion for...

FY2008 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for International Affairs

Congress approved an FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2764) during the week of December 17, 2007, that included some emergency supplemental funding for international affairs requested by the White House. The President signed the spending measure on December 26 (P.L. 110-161). The White House had submitted emergency supplemental requests to Congress for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and international affairs programs totaling $196.5 billion. The request was made in two installments—an estimate of additional expenses was sent to Congress with the FY2008 regular...

2008-2009 Presidential Transition: National Security Considerations and Options

A presidential transition is a unique time in America and holds the promise of opportunity, as well as a possible risk to the nation’s security interests. The 2008-2009 election marks the first presidential transition in the post-9/11 era, and is of concern to many national security observers. While changes in administration during U.S. involvement in national security related activities are not unique to the 2008-2009 election, many observers suggest that the current security climate and recent acts of terrorism by individuals wishing to influence national elections and change foreign...

Enlargement Issues at NATO’s Bucharest Summit

NATO held a summit in Bucharest on April 2-4, 2008. A principal issue was consideration of the candidacies for membership of Albania, Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM, or the Republic of Macedonia). These states are small, with correspondingly small militaries, and their inclusion in the alliance cannot be considered strategic in a military sense. However, it is possible that they could play a role in the stabilization of southeastern Europe. The allies issued invitations only to Albania and Croatia.

At Bucharest NATO decided not to offer a Membership Action...

Pakistan’s 2008 Elections: Results and Implications for U.S. Policy

A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan actively working to counter Islamist militancy is considered vital to U.S. interests. Pakistan is a key ally in U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts. The history of democracy in Pakistan is a troubled one marked by ongoing tripartite power struggles among presidents, prime ministers, and army chiefs. Military regimes have ruled Pakistan directly for 34 of the country’s 60 years in existence, and most observers agree that Pakistan has no sustained history of effective constitutionalism or parliamentary democracy. In 1999, the democratically elected...

Judicial Security: Responsibilities and Current Issues

Spain: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

In the more than three decades since the death of Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco, Spain has become a mature democracy and has experienced rapid economic growth. It has also become an increasingly important player internationally, including in NATO and the European Union. The United States and Spain have generally enjoyed good relations. However, problems have arisen in recent years over such issues as the war in Iraq, promoting democracy in Latin America, and the tactics to be used in fighting the war on terrorism. This report provides information on Spain’s current political...

Immigration Fraud: Policies, Investigations, and Issues

Immigration fraud is reportedly widespread, though reliable estimates of its pervasiveness are not available. Given that an estimated12 million aliens are residing in the United States without legal authorization, it is reasonable to presume that many of these unauthorized aliens are committing document fraud. The extent to which unauthorized aliens enter with fraudulently obtained documents or acquire bogus documents after entry is not known.

Immigration fraud is generally grouped into two types—immigration-related “document fraud” and immigration “benefit fraud” (“benefit fraud” involves...

U.S.-Malaysia Relations: Implications of the 2008 Elections

This report discusses key aspects of the U.S.-Malaysia relationship (including economics and trade, counterterrorism cooperation, and defense ties) and the possible impact of Malaysia’s 2008 elections on the future of the relationship.

In parliamentary elections held on March 8, 2008, the Barisan Nasional (BN), which has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957, was struck by a “political tsunami” that saw it lose its two-thirds “supermajority” for the first time since 1969. Malaysia’s major opposition parties won 82 of the 222 parliamentary seats up for election. In addition, the...

Presidential Transitions

The REAL ID Act of 2005: Legal, Regulatory, and Implementation Issues

In 2005, Congress addressed the issue of national standards for drivers’ licenses and personal identification cards by passing The REAL ID Act of 2005 (REAL ID). The act contains a number of provisions relating to improved security for drivers’ licenses and personal identification cards, as well as instructions for states that do not comply with its provisions. In general, while REAL ID does not directly impose federal standards with respect to states’ issuance of drivers’ licenses and personal identification cards, states nevertheless appear compelled to adopt such standards and modify...

Financial Institutions and Markets: Major Federal Statutes

This report provides brief summaries of the major federal laws affecting financial institutions and markets. Arrangement is chronological according to the order of original enactment, with divisions into three periods. The first period begins with the Civil War era and includes the creation of national banks and the Federal Reserve System. The second period encompasses the New Deal and its aftermath, during which a wall was erected and reinforced between commerce and banking. The third or current period is characterized by statutes designed to modernize the financial services industry and,...

Selected Federal Homeland Security Assistance Programs: A Summary

Saving for College Through Qualified Tuition (Section 529) Programs

Public Health Service (PHS) Agencies: Background and Funding

North Korea’s Abduction of Japanese Citizens and the Six-Party Talks

The admission by North Korea in 2002 that it abducted several Japanese nationals—most of them nearly 30 years ago—continues to affect significantly the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. This report provides background information on the abductee issue, summarizes its effect on Japanese politics, analyzes its impact on U.S.-Japan relations, and assesses its regional implications. Congress has indicated considerable interest in the abductions issue. The North Korean Human Rights Act (P.L. 108-333) includes a sense of the Congress that non-humanitarian aid be...

Semipostal Stamps: Authorization, Revenue, and Selection Process

Semipostal stamps, postage sold at a premium to raise funds for particular causes, have only recently been authorized by Congress for use in the United States. The Breast Cancer Research Stamp (BCRS) was introduced in July 1998, and as of December 2007, has raised over $60.1 million to support research in treating breast cancer through distributions to designated agencies. In the 106th Congress, the Semipostal Authorization Act of 2000 extended the BCRS two years and authorized the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to issue other semipostals until 2010. USPS issued regulations inviting public...

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG): FY2008 Appropriations

FY2008 appropriations for Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) agencies were originally proposed in H.R. 2829. The bill included funding for the Department of the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), the judiciary, the District of Columbia, and 20 independent agencies. Among the independent agencies funded by the bill are the General Services Administration (GSA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

On June 28, 2007, the House approved $43.8 billion for H.R. 2829, a...

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: FY2008 Appropriations

This report monitors actions taken by the 110th Congress for the FY2008 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (P.L. 110-161), Congress has provided $54.637 billion in CJS appropriations, a 3.4% increase over the FY2007 enacted level and a 2.2% increase over the Administration’s request. This amount includes $6.857 billion for the Department of Commerce (a 3.5% increase over the FY2007 enacted level), $23.592 billion for the Department of Justice (a 1.6% increase), $23.38 billion for science agencies (a 5.3%...

Bulgaria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy

This short report provides information on Bulgaria’s current political and economic situation, and foreign policy. It also discusses U.S. policy toward Bulgaria. This report will be updated as warranted.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Issues and Arguments

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty would ban all nuclear explosions. It was opened for signature in 1996. As of March 2008, 178 nations had signed it and 144 had ratified. To enter into force, 44 specified nations must ratify it; 35 have done so. The Senate rejected the treaty in 1999; the Bush Administration opposes it. The United States has observed a nuclear test moratorium since 1992.

There have been many calls worldwide for the United States and others to ratify the treaty. Many claim that it would promote nuclear nonproliferation; some see it as a step toward nuclear...

The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty-Four Years

Congressional Authority to Limit U.S. Military Operations in Iraq

On October 16, 2002, President Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Congress has enacted appropriation bills to fund the continuation of the Iraq war, including military training, reconstruction, and other aid for the government of Iraq. In April, 2007, however, Congress passed a supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war that contained conditions and a deadline for ending some military operations. The President vetoed the bill, arguing in part that some of its provisions are unconstitutional....

Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons and Missiles: Status and Trends

The United States has long recognized the dangers inherent in the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons, and missiles. This report, which analyzes NBC weapons programs potential threat patterns around the globe, is updated as needed.

The total number of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in the world is shrinking as the major powers scale back their inventories through unilateral reductions and arms control, but other countries and groups still try to acquire these weapons. There are five established nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia, the United...

Homeland Security Department: FY2008 Appropriations

This report describes the FY2008 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Administration requested a net appropriation of $35.5 billion in net budget authority for FY2008. The requested net appropriation for major components of the department included the following: $8,783 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP); $4,168 million for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); $3,608 million for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); $8,457 million for the U.S. Coast Guard; $1,399 million for the Secret Service; $1,047 for the National Protection...

Title VII Health Professions Education and Training: Issues in Reauthorization

In 1963, responding to projections of an impending physician shortage, Congress passed the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act (P.L. 88-129). This act was the first comprehensive legislation to address the supply of health care providers. Relevant programs, authorized in Title VII of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), have evolved in subsequent reauthorizations, to provide grants to institutions for primary care curriculum and faculty development, scholarships and loans to individuals training in certain health professions, and other programs. Title VII programs are...

The FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Policy Issues

Military personnel issues typically generate significant interest from many Members of Congress and their staffs. Ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of what the Bush Administration terms the Global War on Terror, along with the emerging operational role of the Reserve Components, have further heightened interest and support for a wide range of military personnel policies and issues.

CRS selected a number of issues addressed by Congress as it considered the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1585/S. 1547/H.R. 4986). In each case, a brief synopsis is...

Passenger Rail Security: Issues and Legislation in the 110th Congress

Bombings of passenger trains in Europe and Asia in the last few years have demonstrated the vulnerability of passenger rail systems to terrorist attack. The number of riders and access points makes it impractical to subject all rail passengers to the type of screening airline passengers undergo. Nevertheless, steps can be taken to reduce the risks of terrorist attacks.

The 9/11 Commission called for a systematic analysis of transportation assets, the risks to those assets, and the costs and benefits of different approaches to defending those assets. The commission also called for homeland...

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act: Background, Overview, and Implementation Issues

On September 26, 2006, President Bush signed S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, into law (P.L. 109-282). In an attempt to expand oversight of federal spending, including earmarks, the new law required the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a publicly available online database containing information about entities that are awarded federal grants, loans, contracts, and other forms of assistance. Federal agencies award over $880 billion dollars annually in three of the primary categories of financial assistance to be included in the database—$470...

Military Forces: What Is the Appropriate Size for the United States?

For several years, some Members of Congress and many military analysts have argued that the U.S. Armed Forces are too small to adequately meet all the requirements arising after the Cold War, particularly with the advent of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). In January 2004, the Department of Defense acknowledged a problem by temporarily adding 30,000 troops to the authorized active duty end strength of the Army. Congress addressed the issue by raising ground force statutory end strengths in the FY2005 defense authorization bill (P.L. 108-375), the FY2006 bill (P.L. 109-163), and again in...

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2008 Appropriations

The annual State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies appropriations bill is the primary legislative vehicle through which Congress reviews the U.S. international affairs budget and influences executive branch foreign policy making in general. Funding for Foreign Operations and State Department/Broadcasting programs has been steadily rising since FY2002, and amounts approved for FY2004 in regular and supplemental bills reached an unprecedented level compared with the past 40 years. Emergency supplementals enacted since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to assist the front-line...

Energy and Water Development: FY2008 Appropriations

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

Key budgetary issues involving these programs include

the distribution of Army Corps of Engineers appropriations across the agency’s authorized construction and maintenance activities (Title I);

support of major ecosystem restoration initiatives, such as Florida Everglades (Title I) and California “Bay-Delta” (CALFED) (Title...

Countries of the World and International Organizations: Sources of Information

This report provides a selection of authoritative materials for locating information on foreign countries and international organizations. In the general information section, it presents sources giving an overview of politics, economics, and recent history. A specialized information section cites sources on human rights, immigration, international organizations, military strengths, terrorism, and other topics. Included are titles of some of the most frequently consulted bibliographic sources that are available for use in many libraries. Electronic information on foreign countries is also...

Botnets, Cybercrime, and Cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and Policy Issues for Congress

Cybercrime is becoming more organized and established as a transnational business. High technology online skills are now available for rent to a variety of customers, possibly including nation states, or individuals and groups that could secretly represent terrorist groups. The increased use of automated attack tools by cybercriminals has overwhelmed some current methodologies used for tracking Internet cyberattacks, and vulnerabilities of the U.S. critical infrastructure, which are acknowledged openly in publications, could possibly attract cyberattacks to extort money, or damage the U.S....

NATO and the European Union

Since the end of the Cold War, both NATO and the European Union (EU) have evolved along with Europe’s changed strategic landscape. While NATO’s collective defense guarantee remains at the core of the alliance, members have also sought to redefine its mission as new security challenges have emerged on Europe’s periphery and beyond. At the same time, EU members have taken steps toward political integration with decisions to develop a common foreign policy and a defense arm to improve EU member states’ abilities to manage security crises, such as those that engulfed the Balkans in the...

Homeland Security Advisory System: Possible Issues for Congressional Oversight

The Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS), established on March 12, 2002, is a color-coded terrorist threat warning system administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The system, which federal departments and agencies are required to implement and use, provides recommended protective measures for federal departments and agencies to prevent, prepare for, mitigate against, and respond to terrorist attacks.

DHS disseminates HSAS terrorist threat warnings to federal departments, state and local agencies, the public, and private-sector entities. DHS, however, only provides...

Democracy Promotion: Cornerstone of U.S. Foreign Policy?

The Bush Administration has viewed democracy promotion as key element in its foreign policy agenda and an instrument for combatting terrorism. Given unsettled events related to elections in Pakistan and Kenya, and a recent landslide election in Taiwan for a party advocating closer ties with Mainland China, democracy promotion objectives will continue to be of interest in the American presidential campaigns and in the second session of the 110th Congress.

Arguably, the lack of a clear definition of democracy and a comprehensive understanding of its basic elements may have hampered the...

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Issues for Congress

Open source information (OSINT) is derived from newspapers, journals, radio and television, and the Internet. Intelligence analysts have long used such information to supplement classified data, but systematically collecting open source information has not been a priority of the U.S. Intelligence Community. In recent years, given changes in the international environment, there have been calls, from Congress and the 9/11 Commission among others, for a more intense and focused investment in open source collection and analysis. However, some still emphasize that the primary business of...

The World Bank and Iran

Distribution of Homeland Security Grants in FY2007 and P.L. 110-53, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act

This report summarizes and compares the FY2007 and P.L. 110-53 Homeland Security Grant Program distribution method; it also presents an estimate of State Homeland Security Grant Program guaranteed minimum allocations for FY2008 through FY2012.

Youth Gangs: Background, Legislation, and Issues

FY2008 Appropriations for State and Local Homeland Security

Visa Issuances: Policy, Issues, and Legislation

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, considerable concern has been raised because the 19 terrorists were aliens who apparently entered the United States with temporary visas despite provisions in immigration laws that bar the admission of terrorists. Foreign nationals not already legally residing in the United States who wish to come to the United States generally must obtain a visa to be admitted, with certain exceptions noted in law. The report of the 9/11 Commission maintained that border security was not considered a national security matter prior to September 11, and as a...

Pakistan’s Scheduled 2008 Election: Background

A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan actively working to counter Islamist militancy is considered vital to U.S. interests. Pakistan is a key ally in U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts. The history of democracy in Pakistan is a troubled one marked by ongoing tripartite power struggles among presidents, prime ministers, and army chiefs. Military regimes have ruled Pakistan directly for 34 of the country’s 60 years in existence, and most observers agree that Pakistan has no sustained history of effective constitutionalism or parliamentary democracy. The United States has supported the...

The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and subsequent discussions of religious extremism have called attention to Islamic puritanical movements known as Wahhabism and Salafiyya. Al Qaeda leaders and their ideological supporters have advocated a violent message that some suggest is rooted in these conservative Islamic traditions. Other observers have accused Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Wahhabism, of having disseminated religious ideology that promotes hatred and violence, targeting the United States and its allies. Saudi officials strenuously deny these allegations. This report...

Victims of Crime Compensation and Assistance: Background and Funding

Defense: FY2008 Authorization and Appropriations