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

Cross-Cutting Intelligence Issues, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service raises the possibility that polygraph testing of intelligence employees could be phased out in favor of “continuous evaluation” (CE), i.e. the automated monitoring of financial, criminal and other databases.

The notion was suggested in a CRS overview of selected intelligence policy issues, including budget management, the quality of analysis, big data, workforce diversity, global coverage, and transparency.

The new CRS report, written by Anne Daugherty Miles, does not make recommendations, but instead presents a series of questions for congressional consideration, such as:

**     “In light of the IC’s use of CE to continually monitor an employee’s social and financial activity, are polygraph examinations still necessary?”

**     “Are there portions of the IC budget that could be made more transparent to the American public without endangering national security?”

**     “Should the IC be expected to monitor every corner of the world every hour of the day?”

**     “What authorities are needed to enhance cooperation with outside experts?”

**     “Are the new principles of transparency sufficient? Can the DNI do more to promote transparency across the IC?” (The April 15 CRS report does not take note of the latest steps by DNI Clapper to invigorate IC implementation of the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review or to establish the IC Transparency Council.)

This particular CRS report does not address intelligence surveillance policy, whistleblower policy, or various other intelligence-related topics of current controversy or interest. See The U.S. Intelligence Community: Selected Cross-Cutting Issues, April 12, 2016.

Some other new or updated products from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Contested Presidential Nominating Conventions: Brief Background and Questions, CRS Insight, April 15, 2016

Sexual Violence at Institutions of Higher Education, updated April 15, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape, updated April 15, 2016

European Security and Islamist Terrorism, CRS Insight, updated April 18, 2016

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 18, 2016

Counting Casualties in Syria & Iraq, and More from CRS

The number of people killed in Syria since March 2011 is variously estimated to be between 250,000 and 470,000. The number of estimated casualties in Iraq ranges from 19,000 to 41,650 deaths since January 2014.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service somewhat clinically discusses “the difficulties of collecting war-related casualty data in both countries and provides an overview of some of the current estimated figures available through selected organizations.”

“CRS is unable to independently track casualties in Syria and Iraq, and cannot verify the data presented.” Nor does CRS suggest that U.S. policy would be affected in one direction or another by casualty data that were verified to be accurate. See Counting Casualties in Syria and Iraq: Process and Challenges, CRS Insight, April 12, 2016.

Other noteworthy reports from the Congressional Research Service that have been withheld by Congress from online public distribution include the following.

Coalition Contributions to Countering the Islamic State, updated April 13, 2016

The Islamic State Woos Jihadists in Africa but Faces Competition, CRS Insight, April 14, 2016

Defense: FY2017 Budget Request, Authorization, and Appropriations, April 12, 2016

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements, updated April 13, 2016

Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 13, 2016

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions, updated April 13, 2016

Air Force B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, April 14, 2016

Mens Rea Reform: A Brief Overview, April 14, 2016

Zika Response Funding: In Brief, April 14, 2016

Zika Virus: Global Health Considerations, CRS Insight, updated April 14, 2016

U.S. Postal Service Rolls Back Its Prices, CRS Insight, April 13, 2016

Highway Bridge Conditions: Issues for Congress, April 13, 2016

The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, updated April 13, 2016

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for Supreme Court Nominations: Historical Overview and Data, CRS Insight, April 13, 2016

Surveillance of Foreigners Outside the United States Under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), April 13, 2016

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