Preparing for the Presidential Transition, and More from CRS

The transfer of presidential power from one Administration to the next “is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking” that actually begins several months before the general election, an updated report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

The law known as the Presidential Transition Act (PTA) “includes a number of provisions related to the pre-election portion of the presidential transition. It directs the President and the incumbent Administration to establish a specified transition-related organizational infrastructure, with some features ongoing and others operational during a presidential election year only.”

Among other things, “the PTA authorizes eligible candidates to fund pre-election transition activities through their campaigns. The statute also establishes a process for designating and preparing career officials who will likely act as agency leaders during the transition process. It further provides for the negotiation, before the election, of memoranda of understanding between the incumbent President and eligible candidates concerning post-election transition matters.”

The requested FY2016 budget for pre-election presidential transition activities is $13.278 million. See Presidential Transition Act: Provisions and Funding, updated April 12, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service this week include the following.

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emission Trends and the Role of the Clean Power Plan, April 11, 2016

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress, April 11, 2016

Friended, but not Friends: Federal Ethics Authorities Address Role of Social Media in Politics, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 12, 2016

Puerto Rico’s Current Fiscal Challenges, updated April 11, 2016

Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations, updated April 11, 2016

Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 11, 2016

Brazil in Crisis, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Brazil in Crisis, CRS Insight, April 6, 2016

Peru: Politics, Economy, and Elections in Brief, April 6, 2016

Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances, updated April 6, 2016

United States Supreme Court: Criminal Law Cases in the October 2015 Term, April 6, 2016

Municipal Broadband: Background and Policy Debate, updated April 6, 2016

Federal Minimum Wage, Tax-Transfer Earnings Supplements, and Poverty, 2016 Update: In Brief, April 8, 2016

U.S. Sugar Program Fundamentals, updated April 6, 2016

U.S. Crude Oil Exports to International Destinations, CRS Insight, April 6, 2016

Assessing “Security Cooperation,” and More from CRS

There are approximately 80 distinct “security cooperation” programs and statutory authorities by which the U.S. provides security assistance to foreign security forces, according to a Department of Defense tally.

The legal and institutional framework for delivering U.S. security aid to foreign countries is detailed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Over the past decade, Congress has substantially increased Department of State and Department of Defense (DOD) efforts to train, equip, and otherwise engage with foreign military and other security forces. As these efforts have increased, congressional questions and concerns have multiplied,” the CRS report said.

“Such concerns range from broad to specific–for example, the perceived lack of an overarching strategy for such assistance or, more specifically, the utility of the current legal framework, appropriate State Department and DOD roles and modes of coordination, and program effectiveness.”

“Current State and DOD security assistance and engagement efforts involve a range of activities, including ‘traditional’ programs transferring conventional arms for defense posture purposes, training and equipping regular and irregular forces for combat, conducting counterterrorism programs, and expanding education and training programs.”

“This report provides an overview of U.S. assistance to and engagement with foreign military and other security forces, focusing on Department of State and DOD roles. It lays out the historical evolution and current framework of the Department of State-DOD shared responsibility. It concludes with a brief overview of salient issues” including how to assess effectiveness, whether and how to modify the existing framework, and how to provide appropriate transparency for oversight.

A copy of the CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News. See Security Assistance and Cooperation: Shared Responsibility of the Departments of State and Defense, April 4, 2016.

(We are told that the FAS web site is currently inaccessible at the Pentagon, thanks to US Cyber Command. DoD personnel who wish to obtain a copy of this document or other materials are welcome to email me directly.)

Other new products of the Congressional Research Service that have not been publicly released include the following.

Supreme Court Vacancies That Arose During One Presidency and Were Filled During a Different Presidency, CRS Insight, April 5, 2016

Discharging a Senate Committee from Consideration of a Nomination, CRS Insight, April 5, 2016

Federal Lifeline Program: Modernization and Reform, CRS Insight, April 5, 2016

FDIC’s Plan to Meet Increased Deposit Insurance Fund Reserve Ratio, CRS Insight, April 4, 2016

High Frequency Trading: Overview of Recent Developments, April 4, 2016

Newly updated versions of previously released CRS reports include the following.

Millennium Challenge Corporation, updated April 5, 2016

Temporarily Filling Presidentially Appointed, Senate-Confirmed Positions, updated April 1, 2016

Calling Up Business on the Senate Floor, updated April 1, 2016

Telemarketing Regulation: National and State Do Not Call Registries, updated April 1, 2016

Overview of Private Health Insurance Provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), updated April 5, 2016

Agricultural Disaster Assistance, updated April 6, 2016

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress, updated April 1, 2016

Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 5, 2016

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 5, 2016

The Army’s M-1 Abrams, M-2/M-3 Bradley, and M-1126 Stryker: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 5, 2016

Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 5, 2016

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 4, 2016

DOE Requests Increase in Nuclear Weapons Budget

The Department of Energy budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would again increase spending on nuclear weapons in Fiscal Year 2017.

“The budget request for FY2017 seeks $9,243.1 million for Weapons Activities within a total budget of $12,884 million for NNSA,” according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. “This represents an increase of approximately 4.4% in the Weapons Activities Account over FY2016.”

“The Obama Administration has requested increased funding for the nuclear weapons complex in each of its annual budgets,” CRS noted. But the latest request still exceeds expectations.

In particular, “the FY2017 budget request and projections for subsequent years now exceed the amount predicted in [a] 2010 report [to Congress],” CRS said.

The details are presented in Energy and Water Development: FY2017 Appropriations for Nuclear Weapons Activities, April 1, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Supreme Court Vacancies: Frequently Asked Questions, March 31, 2016

Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee, updated April 1, 2016

Medicare Primer, updated March 31, 2016

Iran, Gulf Security, and U.S. Policy, updated March 30, 2016

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations, updated March 30, 2016

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 31, 2016

Cybersecurity: Legislation, Hearings, and Executive Branch Documents, updated March 30, 2016

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt, and More from CRS

Luxembourg owns $200 billion worth of U.S. federal debt, making it one of the top ten foreign holders of U.S. debt. China is the leader, with $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt holdings, or 20% of the total.

That information, and its possible significance, is discussed in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service on Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt, March 28, 2016.

Other new or newly updated CRS reports this week include the following.

Additional U.S. Ground Troops to Counter the Islamic State? Five Questions, CRS Insight, updated March 29, 2016

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Current Developments, March 29, 2016

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Contemporary Issues for Congress, updated March 29, 2016

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): History and Overview, March 28, 2016

Abortion and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, updated March 28, 2016

Pipeline Transportation of Natural Gas and Crude Oil: Federal and State Regulatory Authority, March 28, 2016

Congressional Efforts to Amend Title I of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), CRS Insight, March 30, 2016

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions, updated March 29, 2016

The Pacific Alliance: A Trade Integration Initiative in Latin America, updated March 29, 2016

Burma’s 2015 Parliamentary Elections: Issues for Congress, March 28, 2016

U.S.-South Korea Relations, updated March 28, 2016

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, updated March 29, 2016

Overview of the Chinese Military, and More from CRS

“From 2005 through 2014, China’s official military budget increased at an average rate of 9.5% per year in real terms, allowing the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] to improve its capabilities in many dimensions,” says a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service based on open sources.

“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’ decisions on this issue could affect U.S. defense strategy, budgets, plans, and programs, and the U.S. defense industrial base,” the CRS report said. See The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress, March 24, 2016.

Other new and newly updated products from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

What’s the Difference? — Comparing U.S. and Chinese Trade Data, updated March 24, 2016

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 25, 2016:

President Obama’s Historic Visit to Cuba, CRS Insight, March 25, 2016

U.S. Trade Concepts, Performance, and Policy: Frequently Asked Questions, updated March 25, 2016

Commemorative Days, Weeks, and Months: Background and Current Practice, March 25, 2016

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2017 and Beyond, March 24, 2016

Public Trust and Law Enforcement–A Brief Discussion for Policymakers, updated March 22, 2016

Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress, updated March 23, 2016

European Security and Islamist Terrorism, CRS Insight, March 23, 2016

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, updated March 23, 2016

Vacancy on the Supreme Court: CRS Products

New reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public release include the following.

Vacancy on the Supreme Court: CRS Products, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 21, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia: His Jurisprudence and His Impact on the Court, March 18, 2016

Merrick Garland’s Nomination to the Supreme Court: Initial Observations, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 17, 2016

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations, March 22, 2016

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians, March 18, 2016

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, March 18, 2016

Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources, March 16, 2016

Transportation Spending Under an Earmark Ban, March 17, 2016

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief, March 17, 2016

Federally Supported Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Programs, March 17, 2016

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, March 18, 2016

Can Agencies Take Actions That They Are Not Expressly Authorized by Statute to Take?, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 22, 2016

Access to Government Information In the United States: A Primer, March 18, 2016

Former Presidents with Benefits, and More from CRS

The government’s proposed FY2017 budget would increase spending on benefits for former Presidents by 17.9% (to $3,865,000) over the previous year’s level. “The increase in requested appropriations for FY2017 anticipates President Barack Obama’s transition from incumbent to former President,” according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

“This report provides a legislative and cultural history of the Former Presidents Act. It details the benefits provided to former Presidents and their costs.” See Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits, updated March 16, 2016.

President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court “is unique, at least among nominations to the Supreme Court since 1946, in that it is the only nomination made by a Democratic President with a Republican majority in the Senate,” another CRS report noted. “The last time this particular political configuration (a Democratic President and Republican Senate) existed at the time a nomination was made to the Court was in 1895.” See Nominations to the Supreme Court During Years of Divided and Unified Party Government, CRS Insight, March 16, 2016.

See also Nominations to the Supreme Court During Presidential Election Years (1900-Present), CRS Insight, updated March 16, 2016.

“Not long ago, Justice Scalia, who regularly expressed the view that capital punishment is constitutional, speculated that a majority of the Court might soon decide otherwise. Should that occur, it would be ironic if it happened that Justice Scalia had written the last opinion upholding the death penalty before its demise.” See Justice Antonin Scalia’s Last Opinion, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 15, 2016.

“The House may soon consider H. Res. 639, which would authorize the Speaker to appear as amicus curiae on behalf of the House and file a brief in United States v. Texas, supporting the position that the federal government acted in a manner inconsistent with federal law.” See The House May Vote to File an Amicus Brief: Is this Unprecedented?, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 16, 2016.

There are a number of recent law enforcement actions that indicate increased Department of Justice interest in prosecuting violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corporate bribery of foreign officials. See Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): Congressional Interest and Executive Enforcement, In Brief, updated March 15, 2016.

Other new or updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Wartime Detention Provisions in Recent Defense Authorization Legislation, updated March 14, 2016

Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress, updated March 15, 2016

Five Years of the Budget Control Act’s Disaster Relief Adjustment, March 15, 2016

U.S. Immigration Policy: Chart Book of Key Trends, updated March 14, 2016

The March 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, CRS Insight, March 14, 2016

Nigeria: Current Issues, and More from CRS

A campaign by citizens’ groups in Germany last month persuaded the Bundestag (the German parliament) to authorize the release of thousands of research reports prepared by the Wissenschaftlicher Dienst, the German equivalent of the Congressional Research Service.

“But not only that: The Parliament also changed its publication policy regarding all new reports. In the future, they will be released by the Parliament after a protective period of four weeks,” according to a blog post on the campaign from FragDenStaat.

Our own Congress is still not quite ready to follow suit.

For now, the latest products of the Congressional Research Service must be obtained through alternate channels:

Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, March 11, 2016

Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) Program: Frequently Asked Questions, March 11, 2016

Legal Issues with Federal Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food: In Brief, updated March 11, 2016

Veterans’ Benefits: Burial Benefits and National Cemeteries, updated March 11, 2016

FY2017 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability, updated March 10, 2016

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 10, 2016

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, updated March 10, 2016

Daylight Saving Time, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service this week include the following.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s State Visit, March 2016, CRS Insight, March 7, 2016

Overview of FY2017 Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), March 7, 2016

First-Term Members of the House of Representatives and Senate, 64th-114th Congresses, March 7, 2016

The Precision Medicine Initiative, CRS Insight, March 8, 2016

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources, March 8, 2016

The Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Leak: State and Federal Response and Oversight, CRS Insight, March 9, 2016

EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions, updated March 9, 2016

Poland and Its Relations with the United States: In Brief, updated March 7, 2016

Iraq: Politics and Governance, updated March 9, 2016

Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 8, 2016

Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 8, 2016

Daylight Saving Time, March 9, 2016