Innovation in Foreign Army Systems, & More from CRS

Several nations are independently pursuing development of ground combat weapon systems that are comparable or superior to their U.S. Army counterparts, says a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Accordingly, there is a “possibility that in the not-too-distant future, foreign armored vehicle design and capabilities could surpass existing U.S. systems.”

Close study of those developments should help guide current U.S. modernization efforts, wrote CRS military analyst Andrew Feickert, and “may also lead to a conclusion that an entirely new combat vehicle will be required to address current and potential future threats.”

CRS did not conclude that there has been a “very sad depletion of our military,” as President Trump asserted in his inauguration speech. Nor does the CRS report present an argument that additional investment in ground combat systems would actually be the best use of defense budget dollars in particular, or of taxpayer dollars in general. See Selected Foreign Counterparts of U.S. Army Ground Combat Systems and Implications for Combat Operations and Modernization, January 18, 2017.

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

Overview of U.S. Sanctions Regimes on Russia, CRS Insight, January 11, 2017

The Islamic State and U.S. Policy, updated January 18, 2017

U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: the Mérida Initiative and Beyond, updated January 18, 2017

Rescission of the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot Policy as to Aliens from Cuba Raises Legal Questions, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 18, 2017

Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview, updated January 18, 2017

Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration Policy and Issues, updated January 17, 2017

What Can the New President Do About the Effective Dates of Pending Regulations?, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 18, 2017

Finding Medicare Enrollment Statistics, January 12, 2017

U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective, updated January 18, 2017

An Overview of the Housing Finance System in the United States, January 18, 2017

EPA’s Mid-Term Evaluation of Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards, CRS Insight, January 17, 2017

Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs, updated January 11, 2017

Climate Change Litigation Update: “Children’s Crusade” Case Against the United States Goes Forward, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 17, 2017

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions, updated January 17, 2017

Digital Trade and U.S. Trade Policy, updated January 13, 2017

Health Benefits for Members of Congress and Designated Congressional Staff, updated January 13, 2017

Inauguration Security, and More from CRS

The inauguration of the President on January 20, 2017 has been formally designated as a National Security Special Event (NSSE), the Congressional Research Service confirmed.

“NSSEs are high profile, and usually public, events that require significant security because of the attendance of U.S. and foreign dignitaries and the event’s public or official nature. The United States Secret Service (USSS) is designated as the primary federal entity responsible for NSSE security,” a newly updated CRS report explained.

See Inauguration Security: Operations, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress, January 11, 2017.

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

Sanctuary Jurisdictions and Criminal Aliens: In Brief, updated January 10, 2017

U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, updated January 6, 2017

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, updated January 6, 2017

Israel: Background and U.S. Relations In Brief, updated January 6, 2017

Biennial Budgeting: Issues, Options, and Congressional Actions, January 10, 2017

Child Welfare: An Overview of Federal Programs and Their Current Funding, updated January 10, 2017

Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview, January 6, 2017

Military Retirement: Background and Recent Developments, updated January 6, 2017

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, updated January 5, 2017

International Trade and Finance, and More from CRS

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

International Trade and Finance: Overview and Issues for the 115th Congress, December 21, 2016

China-U.S. Trade Issues, updated December 29, 2016

U.S. International Corporate Taxation: Basic Concepts and Policy Issues, updated December 21, 2016

Political Status of Puerto Rico: Brief Background and Recent Developments for Congress, December 28, 2016

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, updated December 22, 2016

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies, updated December 21, 2016

The Impeachment of South Korea’s President, CRS Insight, December 22, 2016

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer, updated December 27, 2016

Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) Negotiations: Overview and Issues for Congress, updated January 3, 2017

New State Abortion Requirements Post-Whole Woman’s Health, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 3, 2017

EPA Regulations: Too Much, Too Little, or On Track?, updated December 30, 2016

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs, updated December 28, 2016

Expedited Procedures Governing Senate Consideration of Legislation Waiving a Restriction Related to the Military Service of the Secretary of Defense, CRS Insight, December 27, 2016

Conventional Arms Transfers, & More from CRS

The United States continued to lead global trade in conventional armaments last year, according to a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service, but overall trade declined from the year before.

“Worldwide weapons orders decreased in 2015. The total of $79.8 billion was a decrease from $89 billion in 2014. The United States’ worldwide weapons agreements values increased in value from $36.1 billion in 2014 to $40.2 billion in 2015. The U.S. market share increased greatly as well, from roughly 40.5% in 2014 to 50.3% in 2015. Although the United States retained its position as the leading arms supplying nation in the world, nearly all other major suppliers saw increases too.”

The CRS report is based on access to unclassified but unpublished government databases. As such, the 72-page document provides a uniquely informative view of the global arms trade. See Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, December 19, 2016.

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

Defense Acquisitions: How and Where DOD Spends Its Contracting Dollars, updated December 20, 2016

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians, updated December 16, 2016

Tribal Broadband: Status of Deployment and Federal Funding Programs, updated December 20, 2016

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer, updated December 16, 2016

State Management of Federal Lands: Frequently Asked Questions, updated December 16, 2016

The FCC’s Rules and Policies Regarding Media Ownership, Attribution, and Ownership Diversity, updated December 16, 2016

Special Minimum Wages for Workers with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions, updated December 16, 2016

Discretionary Budget Authority by Subfunction: An Overview, updated December 16, 2016

Restrictions on Lobbying the Government: Current Policy and Proposed Changes, CRS Insight, December 15, 2016

U.S. Policy on Cuban Migrants: In Brief, December 16, 2016

The African Union (AU): Key Issues and U.S.-AU Relations, December 16, 2016

Structure of the DoD Research Budget, & More from CRS

Nearly half of all federal research and development dollars go to the Department of Defense, a new report from the Congressional Research Service observes. The Pentagon research budget is more than twice that of the next largest recipient, the Department of Health and Human Services.

The structure of the DoD research budget, which has “its own unique taxonomy,” is described in the new CRS report. See Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure, December 13, 2016.

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

Military Construction: Process and Outcomes, December 14, 2016

Women in Combat: Issues for Congress, updated December 13, 2016

Agency Final Rules Submitted on or After June 13, 2016, May Be Subject to Disapproval by the 115th Congress, CRS Insight, updated December 15, 2016

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs, updated December 14, 2016

Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Compliance, CRS Insight, December 14, 2016

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief, updated December 14, 2016

NASA: FY2017 Budget and Appropriations, updated December 13, 2016

Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview, updated December 12, 2016

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor, updated December 13, 2016

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the Senate Floor, updated December 13, 2016

Department of Education’s Withdrawal of Its Recognition of ACICS as an Accrediting Agency, CRS Insight, December 14, 2016

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive, updated December 15, 2016

Latin America: Terrorism Issues, updated December 15, 2016

U.S. International Broadcasting: Background and Issues for Reform, updated December 15, 2016

Presidential Authority Over Trade, & More from CRS

The Trump transition team has promised vaguely that the incoming Administration will deliver “a seismic and transformative shift in trade policy.”

But executive authority over trade policy exists within a framework of law, as a new report from the Congressional Research Service explains, and there are legal limits to what the President can do.

“The United States Constitution gives Congress the power to impose and collect taxes, tariffs, duties, and the like, and to regulate international commerce. While the Constitution gives the President authority to negotiate international agreements, it assigns him no specific power over international commerce and trade.”

“Through legislation, however, Congress may delegate some of its power to the President, such as the power to modify tariffs under certain circumstances. Thus, because the President does not possess express constitutional authority to modify tariffs, he must find authority for tariff-related action in statute.” See Presidential Authority over Trade: Imposing Tariffs and Duties, December 9, 2016.

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

The Federal Budget Deficit and the Business Cycle, CRS Insight, December 9, 2016

“Fiscal Space” and the Federal Budget, CRS Insight, December 9, 2016

Creating a Federal Advisory Committee in the Executive Branch, updated December 9, 2016

Changing the Senate Cloture Rule at the Start of a New Congress, December 12, 2016

Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, December 9, 2016

Commercial Space Industry Launches a New Phase, December 12, 2016

Password Sharing May Be a Federal Crime: Nosal Part I (and II), CRS Legal Sidebar, December 9, 2016

Wrongful Spending Hits Record Levels, & More From CRS

The government mistakenly disbursed more than $137 billion in Fiscal Year 2015, the highest annual level of wrongful spending ever reported, the Congressional Research Service noted last week. Over $1 trillion in improper payments have been made by government agencies since 2004.

Improper payments “are payments made in an incorrect amount, payments that should not have been made at all, or payments made to an ineligible recipient or for an ineligible purpose,” CRS said.

Congress has enacted legislation to improve reporting and recovery of improper payments, but implementation “has been uneven across the government.” See Improper Payments Legislation: Key Provisions, Implementation, and Selected Proposals in the 114th Congress, December 7, 2016.

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

The U.S. Income Distribution: Trends and Issues, December 8, 2016

Has the U.S. Government Ever “Defaulted”?, December 8, 2016

Federal Citations to the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, updated December 6, 2016

EPA’s Mid-Term Evaluation of Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards, CRS Insight, December 6, 2016

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): Resources for Frequently Asked Questions, December 6, 2016

Terrorist Material Support: An Overview of 18 U.S.C. 2339A and 2339B, updated December 8, 2016

Smith v. Obama: A Servicemember’s Legal Challenge to the Campaign Against the Islamic State, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 7, 2016

Democratic Republic of Congo: Targeted Sanctions, CRS Insight, December 8, 2016

The Trump-Tsai Call and the United States’ “Unofficial” Relationship with Taiwan, CRS Insight, December 8, 2016

Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer, updated December 6, 2016

At the end of a House Oversight Committee hearing on “overclassification” last week (just after the 2:04:00 mark), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) observed that the Federation of American Scientists publishes “bootleg” copies of CRS reports on the FAS website– and he thanked us for it.

“On a weekend I go to your website to find out what the Congressional Research Service has prepared,” he said. “How ridiculous is that?”

The Federal Anti-Nepotism Law, and More from CRS

The “disruptive” character of the Trump transition is already keeping the analysts and lawyers at the Congressional Research Service busy.

One new CRS analysis responds to the question of whether the employment of Trump family members in the transition or the Administration would violate the federal law against nepotism, which generally prohibits the hiring of relatives to government jobs. The answer is not crystal clear, for several reasons explained in the new analysis. It may be that an otherwise prohibited appointment would be permitted, for example, if the appointee forgoes compensation. See The Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute: Limits on Appointing, Hiring, and Promoting Relatives, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 1, 2016.

Could President Trump simply withdraw the United States from the international Paris Agreement on climate change? Again, the answer is murky. “Historical practice would appear to suggest that, because the Paris Agreement is an executive agreement, domestic law would allow the President to unilaterally withdraw from the Agreement without approval from the legislative branch.” On the other hand, maybe not. See Can the President Withdraw from the Paris Agreement?, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 5, 2016.

Another CRS brief examines the waiver that would be needed if General (ret.) James Mattis were to serve as Secretary of Defense, a departure from the normal principle of civilian control of the military. “CRS has been able to identify [only] one instance of Congress acting to waive this provision,” namely in response to President Truman’s 1950 nomination of Gen. George C. Marshall to be Secretary of Defense. See Waiver of Statutory Qualifications Relating to Prior Military Service of the Secretary of Defense, CRS Insight, December 1, 2016.

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

European Union Efforts to Counter Disinformation, CRS Insight, December 1, 2016

Fidel Castro’s Death: Implications for Cuba and U.S. Policy, CRS Insight, December 2, 2016

Iran Nuclear Agreement, updated December 5, 2016

Internet Sales and State Taxes: Policy Issues, CRS Insight, December 1, 2016

Social Security Primer, updated December 5, 2016

An Introduction to Judicial Review of Federal Agency Action, December 5, 2016

Refugee Admissions and Resettlement, & More from CRS

The total number of refugees that can be admitted to the United States this year — termed the worldwide refugee ceiling — is 110,000 persons.

The total amount is allocated among refugees from Africa (35,000), East Asia (12,000), Europe and Central Asia (4,000), Latin America/Caribbean (5,000), and Near East/South Asia (40,000), with an unallocated reserve of 14,000 persons.

Background on law and policy affecting refugees is presented in a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service. See Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy, November 30, 2016.

The number of government employees involved in acquisition of U.S. military systems, equipment and services reached 158,212 as of March 2016, according to another new CRS report. See The Civil Defense Acquisition Workforce: Enhancing Recruitment Through Hiring Flexibilities, November 22, 2016.

The U.S. has gone from being a net exporter of fruits and vegetables in the 1970s to being a net importer today, CRS found. On the other hand, U.S. production of nuts is strong. As far as nuts are concerned, there have been “continued increases and, generally, a growing U.S. trade surplus.” See The U.S. Trade Situation for Fruit and Vegetable Products, updated December 1, 2016.

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

Demographic and Social Characteristics of Persons in Poverty: 2015, November 30, 2016

Child Welfare: An Overview of Federal Programs and Their Current Funding, updated November 30, 2016

Agency Final Rules Submitted After June 2, 2016, May Be Subject to Disapproval, CRS Insight, updated November 30, 2016

The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction, November 30, 2016

Authorization of Appropriations: Procedural and Legal Issues, updated November 30, 2016

Federal Income Tax Treatment of the Family, updated November 23, 2016

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?, updated November 23, 2016

Conflict of Interest and “Ethics” Provisions That May Apply to the President, CRS memorandum, November 22, 2016

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status, updated November 30, 2016

The Central African Republic: Background and U.S. Policy, updated December 1, 2016

What Happens if Johnny Hacks His Seventh Grade Report Card?, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 1, 2016

What Can President Trump “Undo”?, & More from CRS

The steps that the incoming Trump Administration could take to revise or reverse policies of the Obama Administration are considered in several new publications from the Congressional Research Service.

“While the Constitution does not permit the President to single-handedly repeal or amend statutes, there is much that a new President can do to rapidly reverse the policies of a previous administration,” CRS explained.

The ease of altering existing policies depends on how those policies were promulgated in the first place: by executive order, through agency policy statements, or through agency rules.

“The President can immediately revoke, modify, or supersede executive orders issued by a predecessor.”

“A new President can also immediately direct the heads of executive branch agencies to withdraw discretionary directives and guidance documents that were issued by an executive agency during a previous administration.”

“Agency rules and regulations may also be repealed by a new administration; however, the repeal process can be time consuming and must comply with certain mandated procedures.”

See With the Stroke of a Pen: What Executive Branch Actions Can President-elect Trump “Undo” on Day One?, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 22, 2016.

See also: Can a New Administration Undo a Previous Administration’s Regulations?, CRS Insight, November 21, 2016

The Obama Administration’s 2014 Immigration Initiative: Looking Back at What the Obama Administration Has Done– and Ahead to the Trump Administration, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 22, 2016

“Major” Obama Administration Rules Potentially Eligible to be Overturned under the Congressional Review Act in the 115th Congress, CRS Memorandum, November 17, 2016

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

The Budget Reconciliation Process: The Senate’s “Byrd Rule”, updated November 22, 2016

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Proposed Legislation in the 114th Congress, November 21, 2016

Five-Year Program for Federal Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: Status and Issues in Brief, November 21, 2016

Unique Identification Codes for Federal Contractors: DUNS Numbers and CAGE Codes, November 21, 2016

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Primer on TANF Financing and Federal Requirements, updated November 21, 2016

Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress, updated November 18, 2016

Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations, updated November 21, 2016

Barriers Along the U.S. Borders: Key Authorities and Requirements, updated November 18, 2016