Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Programs, December 6, 2012

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress, December 5, 2012

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, December 6, 2012

In Brief: Next Steps in the War in Afghanistan? Issues for Congress, December 6, 2012

Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians, December 6, 2012

Detention of U.S. Persons as Enemy Belligerents, December 4, 2012

Right to Work Laws: Legislative Background and Empirical Research, December 6, 2012

China’s Holdings of U.S. Securities, and More from CRS

Congressional concerns arising from China’s holdings of U.S. government debt, including the potential for economic destabilization or diplomatic coercion, are examined in a report from the Congressional Research Service that was updated today.  See China’s Holdings of U.S. Securities: Implications for the U.S. Economy, December 6, 2012.

Relatedly (though not newly updated), see Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt, July 3, 2012.

And recently updated is The Presidential Records Act: Background and Recent Issues for Congress, November 15, 2012.

How a Bill Becomes a Law, and More from CRS

On January 6, 2013 Congress will convene to count electoral votes and to formally certify the results of the last presidential election.  The process was detailed by the Congressional Research Service in Counting Electoral Votes: An Overview of Procedures at the Joint Session, Including Objections by Members of Congress, November 30, 2012.

The declining economic condition of many state governments is examined by CRS in State Government Fiscal Stress and Federal Assistance, December 3, 2012.

And for members of Congress who never had civics class, CRS explains how a bill becomes a law in Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress, November 30, 2012.   See also the elementary Introduction to the Federal Budget Process, December 3, 2012.

Other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

Congressional Salaries and Allowances, December 4, 2012

Alternative Minimum Taxpayers by State: 2009, 2010, and Projections for 2012, December 4, 2012

Offsets, Supplemental Appropriations, and the Disaster Relief Fund: FY1990-FY2012, December 4, 2012

The Bayh-Dole Act: Selected Issues in Patent Policy and the Commercialization of Technology, December 3, 2012

Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development, December 3, 2012

Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy, December 3, 2012

Cooperative R&D: Federal Efforts to Promote Industrial Competitiveness, December 3, 2012

IMF Reforms: Issues for Congress, December 4, 2012

China’s Economic Conditions, December 4, 2012

Federal Emergency Management: A Brief Introduction, November 30, 2012

Income Inequality on the Rise, and More from CRS

The extraordinary rise in income inequality among Americans is painstakingly documented in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service.

In the past few decades, the rich have gotten a lot richer as “those at the very top have reaped disproportionately larger gains from economic growth.”

“Based on the limited data that are comparable among nations, the U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income dispersion,” the CRS report said.

Popular beliefs concerning the possibility of upward mobility in income are not well-founded, CRS said.

“Empirical analyses estimate that the United States is a comparatively immobile society, that is, where one starts in the income distribution influences where one ends up to a greater degree than in several advanced economies. Children raised in families at the bottom of the U.S. income distribution are estimated to be especially less likely to ascend the income ladder as adults,” the report said.  See The U.S. Income Distribution and Mobility: Trends and International Comparisons, November 29, 2012.

Congressional secrecy policy prohibits CRS from releasing its reports to the public.  Some other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

Addressing the Long-Run Budget Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches, November 30, 2012

Economic Recovery: Sustaining U.S. Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis Economy, November 29, 2012

Tax Provisions to Assist with Disaster Recovery, November 29, 2012

Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate, November 29, 2012

Congressional Nominations to U.S. Service Academies: An Overview and Resources for Outreach and Management, November 30, 2012

Health Benefits for Members of Congress, November 30, 2012

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, November 30, 2012

Social Security Reform: Current Issues and Legislation, November 28, 2012

Casework in a Congressional Office: Background, Rules, Laws, and Resources, November 30, 2012

Army Corps Supplemental Appropriations: Recent History, Trends, and Policy Issues, November 29, 2012

DOD Purchase of Renewable Energy Credits Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, November 27, 2012

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings in Vladivostok, Russia: Postscript, November 19, 2012

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, November 30, 2012

Colombia: Background, U.S. Relations, and Congressional Interest, November 28, 2012

Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990, November 29, 2012

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities, and More from CRS

In almost every year since 2007, Congress appropriated less money for diplomatic security than had been requested.  In FY2012, the State Department sought $2.9 billion for security, and Congress enacted $2.6 billion.

The diplomatic security function, including its funding profile, was discussed in the light of recent attacks of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya and elsewhere in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues, November 26, 2012.

Some other new and updated CRS reports that have not been made publicly available include the following.

Panama: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations, November 27, 2012

The Judgment Fund: History, Administration, and Common Usage, November 26, 2012

Financing the U.S. Trade Deficit, November 16, 2012

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, November 27, 2012

Some Basic Budget Tutorials from CRS

In a series of newly updated reports presumably intended for new Members of Congress who are unfamiliar with basic features of the federal budget, the Congressional Research Service presented the very rudiments of the budget process.  See:

Basic Federal Budgeting Terminology, November 26, 2012

Overview of the Authorization-Appropriations Process, November 26, 2012

Baselines and Scorekeeping in the Federal Budget Process, November 26, 2012

Budget Reconciliation Legislation: Development and Consideration, November 26, 2012

Entitlements and Appropriated Entitlements in the Federal Budget Process, November 26, 2012

Legislative Procedures for Adjusting the Public Debt Limit: A Brief Overview, November 26, 2012

Does Foreign Aid Work?, and More from CRS

New and newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News that have not been made publicly available include the following.

Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance, November 19, 2012

Congressional Redistricting: An Overview, November 21, 2012

Update on Controlling Greenhouse Gases from International Aviation, November 19, 2012

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR): Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, November 16, 2012

Gangs in Central America, November 26, 2012

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer, November 26, 2012

The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy: Issues for Congress, November 26, 2012

India-U.S. Security Relations, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

India-U.S. Security Relations: Current Engagement, November 13, 2012

A Guide to China’s Upcoming Leadership Transitions, October 16, 2012

U.S. Trade and Investment Relations with sub-Saharan Africa and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, November 14, 2012

Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress, November 9, 2012

The Congressional Research Service made a humorous appearance in the Doonesbury comic strip on November 24, in connection with the report on tax cuts that was withdrawn in response to criticism from some Republican Senators.

In fact, as often noted, members of Congress of both parties consistently withhold public access to most CRS reports.

Eavesdropping Statutes, and More from CRS

New or newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

Privacy: An Abbreviated Outline of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, October 9, 2012

Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, October 9, 2012

Privacy: An Overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, October 9, 2012

Privacy: An Abridged Overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, October 9, 2012

Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions, November 9, 2012

Medical Marijuana: The Supremacy Clause, Federalism, and the Interplay Between State and Federal Laws, November 9, 2012

The Budget Control Act of 2011: Budgetary Effects of Proposals to Replace the FY2013 Sequester, November 9, 2012

El Salvador: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations, November 9, 2012

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues, November 9, 2012

Trade Preferences: Economic Issues and Policy Options, November 14, 2012

The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class, November 13, 2012

The Meaning of Transparency, and More from CRS

President Obama’s declared goal of making his “the most transparent Administration in history” generated successive waves of enthusiasm, perplexity, frustration, and mockery as public expectations of increased openness and accountability were lifted sky high and then — often, not always — thwarted.

Every Administration including this one presides over the release of more government information than did its predecessors, if only because more information is created with the passage of time and there is more that can be released.  But President Obama seemed to promise more than this.  What was it?

Part of the problem is definitional.

“Although there are laws that affect access to government information, there is no single definition for what constitutes transparency– nor is there an agreed upon way to measure it,” observes a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Transparency may be defined as the disclosure of government information and its use by the public,” the report suggests. “Transparency, under this definition, requires a public that can access, understand, and use the information it receives from the federal government. This report first assesses the meaning of transparency and discusses its scholarly and practical definitions. It also provides an analysis of the concept of transparency, with a focus on federal government transparency in the executive branch.”

“This report subsequently examines the statutes, initiatives, requirements, and other actions that make information more available to the public or protect it from public release. It also examines transparency and secrecy from the standpoint of how the public accesses government information, and whether the release of government data and information may make operation of the federal government more or, counter-intuitively, less transparent. Finally, this report analyzes whether existing transparency initiatives are effective in reaching their stated goals.”

The CRS report makes only passing mention of national security secrecy and does not address efforts to reduce the scope and application of secrecy in the national security realm.  It also does not consider in any depth how technological changes are affecting government information policy, perturbing or mooting longstanding official positions on disclosure and non-disclosure.  Nor does it explore political obstacles to greater transparency (such as the congressional policy that bars CRS publication of this very report on transparency).

A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.  See Government Transparency and Secrecy: An Examination of Its Meaning and Use in the Executive Branch,” November 8, 2012.

Some other new and newly updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly available include the following.

U.S. Renewable Electricity: How Does Wind Generation Impact Competitive Power Markets?, November 7, 2012

Energy Policy: 112th Congress Issues and Legislative Proposals, November 8, 2012

China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues, November 7, 2012

The U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement (which entered into force on October 31), November 8, 2012

The United States as a Net Debtor Nation: Overview of the International Investment Position, November 8, 2012

Social Security: Cost-of-Living Adjustments, November 8, 2012

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, November 7, 2012

Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy, November 6, 2012