Congress Isn’t Helping to “Rebuild” CRS

Most public controversy concerning the Congressional Research Service revolves around the question of whether Congress should authorize CRS to make its reports publicly available, or whether unauthorized access to CRS reports is a satisfactory alternative.

But a more urgent question is whether CRS itself will survive as a center of intellectual and analytical vitality. Already many of its most deeply knowledgeable and experienced specialists have been lost to retirement or attrition. And recurring budget shortfalls are taking a toll, say congressional supporters.

“According to CRS, recent funding levels have led to a loss of 13 percent of its purchasing power since 2010. The $1 million increase [proposed in the House version of the FY2017 Legislative Appropriations Act] will not even cover mandatory pay for CRS’ current staff,” wrote Reps. Nita Lowey and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in dissenting views attached to the House Appropriations Committee report on the FY 2017 bill.

“CRS’s [FY2017] budget request sought to rebuild the agency. They asked for two defense policy staff, five health policy staff, three education policy staff, two budget/appropriations staff, four technology policy staff, and two data management and analysis staff. None of those staff would be funded under the current bill, depriving Congress of a non-biased analysis of these critical policy areas,” Reps. Lowey and Wasserman Schultz wrote.

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service last week included the following.

OSHA Rule Makes Workplace Injury and Illness Data Publicly Available, CRS Legal Sidebar, May 25, 2016

Status of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa: Overview and Issues for Congress, May 25, 2016

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 25, 2016

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 26, 2016

Fact Sheet: FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) DOD Reform Proposals, May 25, 2016

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

Taliban Leadership Succession, CRS Insight, May 26, 2016

Who is a “Veteran”? — Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits, updated May 25, 2016

Military Funeral Honors for Veterans, May 25, 2016

Federal Prison Population Buildup, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made publicly available online include the following.

The Federal Prison Population Buildup: Options for Congress, May 20, 2016

Zika Response Funding: Request and Congressional Action, May 20, 2016

Pay Equity: Legislative and Legal Developments, May 20, 2016

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S. 524): Comparison of Senate- and House-Passed Versions, May 23, 2016

FHFA’s Administrative Reform of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Housing Finance System, May 23, 2016

DOT’s Federal Pipeline Safety Program: Background and Key Issues for Congress, May 20, 2016

Treasury Issues White Paper on Fintech and Marketplace Lending, CRS Insight, May 20, 2016

United States Lifts Remaining Restrictions on Arms Sales to Vietnam, CRS Insight, May 23, 2016

U.S.-Vietnam Economic and Trade Relations: Issues for the 114th Congress, May 20, 2016

Honduras: Background and U.S. Relations, May 23, 2016

A Resurgence of Unaccompanied Alien Children?, CRS Insight, May 20, 2016

Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, May 23, 2016

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, May 20, 2016

Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, May 20, 2016

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program: Background and Issues for Congress, May 20, 2016

Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, May 20, 2016

The RICO Statutes, and More from CRS

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee rejected two amendments to improve authorized public access to reports of the Congressional Research Service. However, unauthorized public access remains robust.

The latest Congressional Research Service reports include the following.

RICO: A Brief Sketch, May 18, 2016

Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 114th Congress, May 19, 2016

U.S.-EU Data Privacy: From Safe Harbor to Privacy Shield, May 19, 2016

Earthquake Risk and U.S. Highway Infrastructure: Frequently Asked Questions, May 19, 2016

Framing Spectrum Policy: Legislative Initiatives, May 18, 2016

The EMV Chip Card Transition: Background, Status, and Issues for Congress, May 17, 2016

Abortion and Family Planning-Related Provisions in U.S. Foreign Assistance Law and Policy, May 17, 2016

Federal Student Aid: Need Analysis Formulas and Expected Family Contribution, May 18, 2016

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Five-Year Program for Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: History and Proposed Program for 2017-2022, May 18, 2016

Public Health Service Agencies: Overview and Funding (FY2015-FY2017), May 19, 2016

Waiting in Queue: Options for Addressing the Airport Screening Line Conundrum, CRS Insight, May 18, 2016.

Despite its recognition that CRS has provided “tremendous value” to Congress, the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected a proposed $7.4 million increase in the CRS budget for 2017.

“While the increase requested in fiscal year 2017 includes support for 22 additional full-time equivalents that purports to improve service to Congress, bringing on board new employees in the midst of this budget stagnation may not be a practical or cost-effective solution to optimize service,” the Committee wrote last week.

Instead of increased resources, the Senate Committee told CRS to tighten its belt.

“The Committee directs CRS to examine ways in which the internal structure of the organization may be improved to meet the challenges of the ever-changing Congressional environment and provide a report to the Committee on a proposed restructuring within 120 days of enactment of this act. The report should include recommended changes to staffing, pay levels, the management structure, technology, and research priorities in order to create and support the workflow, products, and services that best meet Congress’ needs.”

National Security Space Launch, and More from CRS

In a worst-case scenario, the United States could be left without a launch vehicle needed to deploy national security space payloads within the next several years.

The ongoing turbulence within national security space policy is reviewed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See National Security Space Launch at a Crossroads, May 13, 2016.

Other new and updated CRS reports include the following.

Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4909), May 12, 2016

The Nunn-McCurdy Act: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress, updated May 12, 2016

Presidential References to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Publicly Available Executive Actions and Reports to Congress, May 11, 2016

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, updated May 13, 2016

“Sense of” Resolutions and Provisions, updated May 16, 2016

What Kind of Military Officers Does the US Need? (CRS)

There is a lack of consensus about what the U.S. military officer corps should look like, a new report from the Congressional Research Service says.

Divergent views exist about what type of military officers the country needs, what skills they should have, how they should be distributed by grade, what criteria should be used for their promotion or separation, and more.

“This report provides an overview of selected concepts and statutory provisions that shape and define officer appointments, assignments, grade structure, promotions, and separations.”  See Military Officer Personnel Management: Key Concepts and Statutory Provisions, May 10, 2016.

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

Goldwater-Nichols at 30: Defense Reform and Issues for Congress, updated May 11, 2016

Information Warfare: DOD’s Response to the Islamic State Hacking Activities, CRS Insight, May 10, 2016

Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview, updated May 11, 2016

Transportation Security: Issues for the 114th Congress, updated May 9, 2016

U.S.-Nordic Relations, CRS Insight, May 10, 2016

Delivery Drones, Confederate Flags, and More from CRS

The growing prospect of the use of drones for commercial delivery purposes is considered in a new memorandum from the Congressional Research Service.

“Can you prevent a drone from flying over your house to deliver a package to your neighbor? Until now, that question has been of purely theoretical interest. However, the Senate recently passed a bill that could significantly change the operational landscape for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) and make these kinds of hypothetical delivery drones a reality,” the CRS memo begins. See Delivery Drones: Coming to the Sky Near You?, CRS Legal Sidebar, May 6, 2016.

U.S. Army policy “allows a small Confederate flag of a size not to exceed that of the U.S. flag to be placed on Confederate graves at private expense, either on Memorial Day or on the day when Confederate Memorial Day is observed” (which is today in North Carolina and South Carolina). However, it must be removed on the first workday thereafter. See Display of the Confederate Flag at Federal Cemeteries in the United States, CRS Insight, updated May 4, 2016.

New Interior Department regulations “aim to reduce the risk of an offshore oil or gas blowout that could jeopardize human safety and harm the environment.” See The Department of the Interior’s Final Rule on Offshore Well Control, CRS Insight, May 5, 2016.

The “Senate should not confirm a nominee to the United States Supreme Court whose professional record or statements display opposition to the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners, including the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms,” a recent House Resolution opines. A May 6 CRS brief therefore asks: What, If Anything, Has Judge Garland Said About the Second Amendment and Guns?

The amount of money sent by migrants in the U.S. to their home countries exceeded $432 billion in 2015, which is larger than official development assistance and more stable than private capital flows to these countries. See Remittances: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 9, 2016.

The Administration’s FY2017 budget request for the Department of Justice “includes proposals to either increase funding for existing programs or fund new programs that seek to address several issues that have risen to national prominence recently, such as concerns about gun violence in cities across the country, the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve, violent extremism and ‘home-grown’ terrorism, preparing inmates to return to society after a period of incarceration, cybersecurity, and an increase in heroin addiction.” See FY2017 Appropriations for the Department of Justice, May 4, 2016 and FY2017 Appropriations for the Department of Justice Grant Programs, May 4, 2016.

Individuals who are not regular congressional employees can provide assistance to congressional offices as interns, volunteers, fellows, or pages, which are all distinct functions. See Internships in Congressional Offices: Frequently Asked Questions, May 6, 2016.

“The House is expected to vote on a dozen or more bills related to heroin and prescription opioid abuse during the week of May 9, leading some to dub this week ‘Opioid Week’ in the House.” See Active Opioid Legislation in the House: In Brief, May 9, 2016 and The Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3713): A Summary, May 5, 2016.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “is perhaps the most ambitious [Free Trade Agreement] undertaken by the United States in terms of its size, the breadth and depth of its commitments, its potential evolution, and its geo-political significance.” See The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): Key Provisions and Issues for Congress, May 4, 2016.

Judge Garland’s Opinions, and More from CRS

The Congressional Research Service continues to devote substantial attention to the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, even if the U.S. Senate remains unwilling or unable to act on the nomination. This week CRS issued a new report presenting an annotated tabulation of hundreds of decisions written by Judge Garland.

“To assist Members and committees of Congress and their staff in their ongoing research into Judge Garland’s approach to the law, this report identifies and briefly summarizes each of the more than 350 cases in which Judge Garland has authored a majority, concurring, or dissenting opinion. Arguably, these written opinions provide the greatest insight into Judge Garland’s judicial approach, as a judge’s vote in a case or decision to join an opinion authored by a colleague may be based upon a number of considerations and may not necessarily represent full agreement with a joined opinion.”

See Majority, Concurring, and Dissenting Opinions Authored by Judge Merrick Garland, May 2, 2016. (The larger implications of Judge Garland’s opinions were analyzed in a separate CRS report that was issued last week.)

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

China’s Natural Gas: Uncertainty for Markets, May 2, 2016

Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress, updated May 3, 2016

Funding of Presidential Nominating Conventions: An Overview, updated May 4, 2016

Green Infrastructure and Issues in Managing Urban Stormwater, updated May 2, 2016

DHS Budget v. DHS Appropriations: Fact Sheet, May 2, 2016

Overview of Commercial (Depository) Banking and Industry Conditions, May 3, 2016

Judge Garland’s Jurisprudence, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines Judge Merrick Garland’s approach to various domains of the law in an attempt to assess what the impact would be if his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court were ever confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“The report focuses on those areas of law where Justice Scalia can be seen to have influenced the High Court’s approach to particular issues, or served as a fifth and deciding vote on the Court, with a view toward how Judge Garland might approach that same issue if he were to be confirmed.”

The report addresses Judge Garland’s treatment of 14 topical areas of law, including civil rights, environmental law, and freedom of the press. See Judge Merrick Garland: His Jurisprudence and Potential Impact on the Supreme Court, April 27, 2016.

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

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress, updated April 28, 2016

Dominican Republic: Update on Citizenship and Humanitarian Issues, CRS Insight, April 27, 2016

Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated April 26, 2016

Private Flood Insurance in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), CRS Insight, April 25, 2016

Clean Power Plan: Legal Background and Pending Litigation in West Virginia v. EPA, April 27, 2016

Corporate Expatriation, Inversions, and Mergers: Tax Issues, updated April 27, 2016

The Buy American Act–Preferences for “Domestic” Supplies: In Brief, updated April 26, 2016

Zika Response Funding: In Brief, updated April 28, 2016

Traditional and Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs): A Primer, updated April 27, 2016

U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective, updated April 26, 2016

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Congress, April 27, 2016

Defense Reform: Yes, But How? (and more from CRS)

There is widespread dissatisfaction with the organization and performance of the Department of Defense, a new Congressional Research Service report says, but no consensus on what to do about it.

Driving the current debate, CRS says, are questions such as:

*     “Why, after the expenditure of nearly $1.6 trillion and over 15 years at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, has the United States had such difficulty translating tactical and operational victories into sustainable political outcomes?”

*     “Why, despite the expenditure of over $600 billion per year on defense, is the readiness of the force approaching critically low levels, according to military officials, while the number of platforms and capabilities being produced are generally short of perceived requirements?”

*     “Why, despite tactical and operational adaptations around the world, is DOD often seen as having difficulty formulating strategies and policies in sufficient time to adapt to and meet the increasingly dynamic threat environment?”

“Taken together, […] the issues raised by these questions suggest the systemic nature of the challenges with which the Department of Defense appears to be grappling. In other words, they suggest that DOD’s organizational architecture and culture may merit serious review and analysis.”

“This report is intended to assist Congress as it evaluates the variety of reform proposals currently under discussion.” See Goldwater-Nichols at 30: Defense Reform and Issues for Congress, April 20, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public disclosure include the following.

Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1970-FY2016, updated April 20, 2016

The World Drug Problem: UNGA Convenes for a Special Session, CRS Insight, April 20, 2016

Climate Change Paris Agreement Opens for Signature, CRS Insight, April 20, 2016

Negative Interest Rates, CRS Insight, April 20, 2016

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa, April 22, 2016

Department of Education Funding: Key Concepts and FAQ, April 22, 2016

Congressional Nominations to U.S. Service Academies: An Overview and Resources for Outreach and Management, updated April 21, 2016

Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, April 21, 2016

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, updated April 20, 2016

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated April 22, 2016

Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation, updated April 22, 2016

Freedom of Information Act Legislation in the 114th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis, updated April 21, 2016

 

Border Security Doesn’t Yield Consistent Results (CRS)

Border security to prevent unauthorized migration along the U.S-Mexico border is a dynamic and challenging problem that has not consistently been mitigated by allocating increased resources, such as fencing and surveillance, says a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Robust investments at the border were not associated with reduced unauthorized inflows during the 1980s and 1990s, but a range of evidence suggests a substantial drop in unauthorized inflows from 2007 to 2011, followed by a rise from 2012 to 2014 and a decrease in 2015,” CRS said. See Border Security: Immigration Enforcement Between Ports of Entry, updated April 19, 2016.

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

DHS Appropriations FY2016: Protection, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery, updated April 18, 2016

Escalating Violence in El Salvador, CRS Insight, updated April 20, 2016

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated April 15, 2016

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, updated April 18, 2016

What’s on Television? The Intersection of Communications and Copyright Policies, April 20, 2016

Funding for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CSS) at DOE: In Brief, April 19, 2016

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief, updated April 19, 2016

Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process, updated April 19, 2016

The Islamic State’s Acolytes and the Challenges They Pose to U.S. Law Enforcement, April 19, 2016