Instability in Yemen, and More from CRS

The population of Yemen has quadrupled over the last 30 years, the Congressional Research Service noted in a newly updated report, exacerbating that nation’s widespread poverty and contributing to the upheaval that is now unfolding. See Yemen: Background and U.S. Relations, January 21, 2015.

The United States currently provides refuge to over 300,000 foreign nationals from 11 countries facing civil rest or natural disasters, according to another CRS report. See Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration Policy and Issues, January 12, 2015.

The major policy provisions of the last two intelligence authorization bills were itemized and described by CRS in Intelligence Authorization Legislation for FY2014 and FY2015: Provisions, Status, Intelligence Community Framework, January 14, 2015.

The losses to the U.S. treasury due to tax evasion may reach as high as $100 billion per year. CRS looked at how it happens and how it might be fixed in Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion, January 15, 2015.

Other noteworthy new or newly updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from public distribution include the following.

Changes in the Purposes and Frequency of Authorizations of Appropriations, January 16, 2015

Qualifications of Members of Congress, January 15, 2015

The Federal Minimum Wage: In Brief, January 13, 2015

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs, January 20, 2015

Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response, January 15, 2015

Military Pay: Key Questions and Answers, January 20, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape, January 9, 2015

Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, January 13, 2015

North Korea: Back on the State Sponsors of Terrorism Lists?, January 21, 2015

China’s Mineral Industry and U.S. Access to Strategic and Critical Minerals: Issues for Congress, January 9, 2015

China and WMD Proliferation, and More from CRS

New or newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues, January 5, 2015

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, December 23, 2014

Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress, January 6, 2015

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, January 5, 2015

Terrorism Risk Insurance Legislation in the 114th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis, January 7, 2015

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments, January 5, 2015

U.S. Crude Oil Export Policy: Background and Considerations, December 31, 2014

DoD Cyber Operations, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service presents an introduction to U.S. military operations in cyberspace and the thorny policy issues that arise from them.

“This report presents an overview of the threat landscape in cyberspace, including the types of offensive weapons available, the targets they are designed to attack, and the types of actors carrying out the attacks. It presents a picture of what kinds of offensive and defensive tools exist and a brief overview of recent attacks. The report then describes the current status of U.S. capabilities, and the national and international authorities under which the U.S. Department of Defense carries out cyber operations.”

The Department of Defense requested $5.1 billion for “cybersecurity” in 2015, the CRS report noted. Cybersecurity here includes funding for cyberspace operations, information assurance, U.S. Cyber Command, the National Cybersecurity Initiative, and related functions. See Cyber Operations in DoD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress, January 5, 2015.

(The CRS report includes only a capsule summary description of the Stuxnet episode.  A fuller account is presented in Kim Zetter’s gripping book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon.)

Other noteworthy new and updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief, December 24, 2014

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action of November 20, 2014: Overview and Issues, January 8, 2015

Proposed Retirement of A-10 Aircraft: Background in Brief, January 5, 2015

American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, January 2, 2015

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, December 31, 2014

Secret Sessions of the House and Senate: Authority, Confidentiality, and Frequency, December 30, 2014

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, December 24, 2014

Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress, December 23, 2014

Definitions of “Inherently Governmental Function” in Federal Procurement Law and Guidance, December 23, 2014

Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2015, January 3, 2015

The Congressional Research Service has never been more frequently cited or more influential in informing public discourse than it is today, as its publications are increasingly shared with the public in violation of official policy.

But budget cuts and congressional dysfunction seem to have bred discontent among some staff members, judging from an article by former CRS analyst Kevin R. Kosar.

“Thanks to growing pressure from a hyper-partisan Congress, my ability to write clearly and forthrightly about the problems of government–and possible solutions–was limited. And even when we did find time and space to do serious research, lawmakers ignored our work or trashed us if our findings ran contrary to their beliefs. When no legislation is likely to move through the system, there’s simply not much market for the work the CRS, at its best, can do,” he wrote. See “Why I Quit the Congressional Research Service,” Washington Monthly, January/February 2015.

Congressional Oversight Manual, & More from CRS

The Congressional Research Service has updated its Congressional Oversight Manual. The 150-page document describes the tools and procedures that Congress has at its disposal to perform the oversight function.

Other noteworthy new CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following:

The Political Question Doctrine: Justiciability and the Separation of Powers, December 23, 2014

Human-Induced Earthquakes from Deep-Well Injection: A Brief Overview, December 22, 2014

Post-9/11 War Costs Reach $1.6 Trillion

The U.S. has spent $1.6 trillion on post-9/11 military operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other counterterrorism activities, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

“Based on funding enacted from the 9/11 attacks through FY2014, CRS estimates a total of $1.6 trillion has been provided to the Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Veterans Administration for war operations, diplomatic operations and foreign aid, and medical care for Iraq and Afghan war veterans over the past 13 years of war,” the report said. See “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” December 8, 2014.

The CRS report provides detailed tabulations of funding by agency, operation and fiscal year, along with appropriation source and functional breakdown. An appendix provides a monthly listing of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other hard-to-find data assembled by CRS.

Ideally, the record compiled in the 100-page CRS report would serve as the basis for a comprehensive assessment of U.S. military spending since 9/11: To what extent was the expenditure of $1.6 trillion in this way justified? How much of it actually achieved its intended purpose? How much could have been better spent in other ways?

There is little sign of a systematic inquiry along these lines, but the CRS report identifies various “questions that Congress may wish to raise about future war costs,” as well as legislative options that could be considered.

The findings of the CRS report were reported on December 19 by Bloomberg News.

*    *    *

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

Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, December 16, 2014

Economic Crisis in Russia, CRS Insights, December 17, 2014

Overview of Selected Federal Criminal Civil Rights Statutes, December 16, 2014

Ebola: Selected Legal Issues, December 16, 2014

Cybersecurity Issues and Challenges: In Brief, December 16, 2014

The 2013 Cybersecurity Executive Order: Overview and Considerations for Congress, December 15, 2014

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2015, December 17, 2014

Border Security: Immigration Enforcement Between Ports of Entry, December 18, 2014

Radio Broadcasting Chips for Smartphones: A Status Report, December 15, 2014

Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations, December 16, 2014

The Islamic State in Egypt: Implications for U.S.-Egyptian Relations, CRS Insights, December 18, 2014

CRS Resources on Detention and Interrogation

New products from the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

Selected CRS Materials on Detention and Interrogation of Terrorist Suspects and Enemy Belligerents, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 16, 2014

The SSCI Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program: Issues to Consider, CRS Insights, December 16, 2014

Big Deal? U.S. Changes Stance on Cruelty Prohibition, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 16, 2014

Special Prosecutors: Investigations and Prosecutions of Police Use of Deadly Force, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 12, 2014

Cybersecurity Information Sharing, and More from CRS

New products from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

Legislation to Facilitate Cybersecurity Information Sharing: Economic Analysis, December 11, 2014

FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues, December 11, 2014

Analysis of H.R. 5781, California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014, December 11, 2014

Addressing the Long-Run Budget Deficit: A Comparison of Approaches, December 9, 2014

Cost-Benefit and Other Analysis Requirements in the Rulemaking Process, December 9, 2014

Overview of Federal Real Property Disposal Requirements and Procedures, December 10, 2014

Anti-Terrorist/Anti-Money Laundering Information-Sharing by Financial Institutions under FINCEN’s Regulations, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 10, 2014

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations, December 9, 2014

Latin America and Climate Change, CRS Insights, December 11, 2014

The Role of Inspectors General, and More from CRS

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

Federal Inspectors General: History, Characteristics, and Recent Congressional Actions, December 8, 2014

Attorney General Nominations Since the Reagan Administration, CRS Insights, December 4, 2014

Army Active Component (AC)/Reserve Component (RC) Force Mix: Considerations and Options for Congress, December 5, 2014

Nuclear Energy Cooperation with Foreign Countries: Issues for Congress, December 8, 2014

Hospital-Based Emergency Departments: Background and Policy Considerations, December 8, 2014

Federal Lands and Natural Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 113th Congress, December 8, 2014

Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Ebola in the United States: Frequently Asked Questions, December 5, 2014

Closing a Congressional Office: Overview of House and Senate Practices, December 5, 2014

Selected Privileges and Courtesies Extended to Former Members of Congress, December 5, 2014

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002: Background and Implementation, November 5, 2014

Defense Authorization Act Highlights, and More from CRS

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

Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of H.R. 3979, the Carl Levin and Howard “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for FY2015, December 3, 2014

FY2015 Budget Requests to Counter Ebola and the Islamic State (IS), December 4, 2014

Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief, December 3, 2014

U.S. Assistance Programs in China, December 2, 2014

Iran: Interim Nuclear Agreement, and More from CRS

New products from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

Iran: Interim Nuclear Agreement and Talks on a Comprehensive Accord, November 26, 2014

U.S. International Corporate Taxation: Basic Concepts and Policy Issues, December 2, 2014

Taxation of Internet Sales and Access: Legal Issues, December 1, 2014

The Corporate Income Tax System: Overview and Options for Reform, December 1, 2014

How OFAC Calculates Penalties for Violations of Economic Sanctions, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 1, 2014

What Is the Current State of the Economic Recovery?, CRS Insights, December 1, 2014

Employment Growth and Progress Toward Full Employment, CRS Insights, November 28, 2014

Major Disaster Declarations for Snow Assistance and Severe Winter Storms: An Overview, December 1, 2014

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, December 2, 2014

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, December 2, 2014