State of the Union: Frequently Asked Questions, and More from CRS

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

History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions, updated January 29, 2020

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement: A Summary, January 29, 2020

The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” and U.S. Policy: Main Points and Possible Questions for Congress, January 28, 2020

Solar Energy: Frequently Asked Questions, January 27, 2020

Challenges to the United States in SpaceCRS In Focus, updated January 27, 2020

Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2020, updated January 13, 2020

National Emergency Powers, updated December 5, 2019

Diplomacy with North Korea: A Status ReportCRS In Focus, January 22, 2020

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Overview of Department of Energy Sites, updated February 3, 2020

Presidential Pardons: Overview and Selected Legal Issues, January 14, 2020

Congressional Oversight Manual, updated January 16, 2020

Artificial Intelligence and National Security, and More from CRS

The 2019 defense authorization act directed the Secretary of Defense to produce a definition of artificial intelligence (AI) by August 13, 2019 to help guide law and policy. But that was not done.

Therefore “no official U.S. government definition of AI yet exists,” the Congressional Research Service observed in a newly updated report on the subject.

But plenty of other unofficial and sometimes inconsistent definitions do exist. And in any case, CRS noted, “AI research is underway in the fields of intelligence collection and analysis, logistics, cyber operations, information operations, command and control, and in a variety of semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles. Already, AI has been incorporated into military operations in Iraq and Syria.”

“The Central Intelligence Agency alone has around 140 projects in development that leverage AI in some capacity to accomplish tasks such as image recognition and predictive analytics.” CRS surveys the field in Artificial Intelligence and National Security, updated November 21, 2019.

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The 2018 financial audit of the Department of Defense, which was the first such audit ever, cost a stunning $413 million to perform. Its findings were assessed by CRS in another new report. See Department of Defense First Agency-wide Financial Audit (FY2018): Background and Issues for Congress, November 27, 2019.

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The Arctic region is increasingly important as a focus of security, environmental and economic concern. So it is counterintuitive — and likely counterproductive — that the position of U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic has been left vacant since January 2017. In practice it has been effectively eliminated by the Trump Administration. See Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 27, 2019.

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Other noteworthy new and updated CRS reports include the following (which are also available through the CRS public website at

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History, updated November 20, 2019

Immigration: Recent Apprehension Trends at the U.S. Southwest Border, November 19, 2019

Air Force B-21 Raider Long Range Strike Bomber, updated November 13, 2019

Precision-Guided Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress, November 6, 2019

Space Weather: An Overview of Policy and Select U.S. Government Roles and Responsibilities, November 20, 2019

Intelligence Community Spending: Trends and Issues, updated November 6, 2019

Impeachment Investigations: Law and Process (CRS)

The procedures that govern congressional impeachment investigations are largely left to the discretion of the House and, in the case of a trial, to the discretion of the Senate.

new publication from the Congressional Research Service summarizes the options. It “also describes some of the ways in which an impeachment investigation, as compared to a more traditional investigation for legislative or oversight purposes, might bolster the House’s ability to obtain, either voluntarily or through the courts, information from the executive branch.” Finally, it “briefly describes possible future steps that might follow an impeachment inquiry, including possible action by the Senate.”

See Impeachment Investigations: Law and ProcessCRS Legal Sidebar, October 2, 2019

Some other noteworthy new CRS publications include the following.

Ukraine: Background, Conflict with Russia, and U.S. Policy, updated September 19, 2019

Military Space Reform: FY2020 NDAA Legislative ProposalsCRS In Focus, October 2, 2019

American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, updated September 24, 2019

Defense Primer: Defense Support of Civil AuthoritiesCRS In Focus, October 2, 2019

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections (CRS)

Noteworthy new and updated publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections: In Brief, updated September 23, 2019

U.S.-Iran Tensions and Implications for U.S. Policy, updated September 23, 2019

U.S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress, updated September 23, 2019

U.N. Peacekeeping Operations in Africa, September 23, 2019

China’s Retaliatory Tariffs on U.S. Agriculture: In Brief, September 24, 2019

Global Research and Development Expenditures: Fact Sheet, updated September 19, 2019

U.S. Research and Development Funding and Performance: Fact Sheet, updated September 19, 2019

Defense Primers for Members of Congress

The Congressional Research Service developed “a series of short primers to provide Members of Congress an overview of key aspects of the Department of Defense and how Congress exercises authority over it.” The defense primers, several of which have been recently updated, can be found here.

Other noteworthy recent CRS publications include the following.

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status, updated September 6, 2019

Congress and the War in Yemen: Oversight and Legislation 2015-2019, updated September 6, 2019

Afghanistan: Issues for Congress and Legislation 2017-2019, updated September 3, 2019

DHS Border Barrier Funding, updated September 6, 2019

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, updated September 6, 2019

Kashmir, Autonomous Weapons, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Kashmir: Background, Recent Developments, and U.S. Policy, August 16, 2019

Global Trends in HIV/AIDSCRS In Focus, updated August 15, 2019

Retroactive Legislation: A Primer for CongressCRS In Focus, August 15, 2019

Words Taken Down: Calling Members to Order for Disorderly Language in the House, August 13, 2019

International Discussions Concerning Lethal Autonomous Weapon SystemsCRS In Focus, August 16, 2019

Domestic Terrorism: Some Considerations

The problem of domestic terrorism is distinct from that of foreign terrorism because of the constitutional protections enjoyed by U.S. persons, the Congressional Research Service explained last week.

“Constitutional principles — including federalism and the rights to free speech, free association, peaceable assembly, petition for the redress of grievances — may complicate the task of conferring domestic law enforcement with the tools of foreign intelligence gathering.” See Domestic Terrorism: Some ConsiderationsCRS Legal Sidebar, August 12, 2019.

Some other noteworthy new publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Convergence of Cyberspace Operations and Electronic WarfareCRS In Focus, August 13, 2019

Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, updated August 5, 2019

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, updated August 7, 2019

U.S.-North Korea RelationsCRS In Focus, updated August 13, 2019 (which notes that “Pyongyang appears to be losing its ability to control information inflows from the outside world.”)

Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: Doctrine, Forces, and Modernization, August 5, 2019

Up for Debate: Should U.S. Reduce Arms Sales Abroad?

Over the coming year, high school students around the country will debate whether the U.S. should reduce its arms sales to foreign countries.

Specifically, the national debate topic that was selected for the 2019-20 school year is: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce Direct Commercial Sales and/or Foreign Military Sales of arms from the United States.

As required by statute, the Congressional Research Service prepared a bibliography reflecting diverse points of view on U.S. arms sales to help inform student debaters on this topic.

“This selective bibliography, with brief annotations, is intended to assist debaters in identifying resources and references on the national debate topic,” the CRS document says. “It lists citations to journal articles, books, congressional publications, legal cases, and websites. The bibliography is divided into three broad sections: basic concepts and definitions, general overviews, and specific cases.”

The runner-up topic for this year’s national high school debate was: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially change its nuclear weapons strategy.

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Other noteworthy new publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Department of Defense’s JEDI Cloud Program, updated August 2, 2019

Department of Defense Energy Management: Background and Issues for Congress, July 25, 2019

U.S.-Iran Tensions and Implications for U.S. Policy, updated July 29, 2019

3D Printing: Overview, Impacts, and the Federal Role, August 2, 2019

Resolutions to Censure the President: Procedure and History, updated August 1, 2019

Use of US Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2019

There are only nineteen years since 1798 when the U.S. did not have armed forces engaged in military operations abroad, according to an updated tally from the Congressional Research Service. See Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2019, updated July 17, 2019.

The most recent year in which U.S. military forces were not used in a foreign conflict was 1979, according to the CRS. The CRS account does not reflect covert action, disaster relief, or training activities involving U.S. forces abroad.

Though there have only been 11 formal declarations of war, there have been hundreds of military actions including “extended military engagements that might be considered undeclared wars.”

“These cases vary greatly in size of operation, legal authorization, and significance,” CRS said. “Some actions were of short duration, and some lasted a number of years. In some examples, a military officer acted without authorization; some actions were conducted solely under the President’s powers as Chief Executive or Commander in Chief; other instances were authorized by Congress in some fashion.”

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Other noteworthy new publications from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Critical Infrastructure: Emerging Trends and Policy Considerations for Congress, July 8, 2019

DOD’s Cloud Strategy and the JEDI Cloud Procurement, CRS In Focus, updated July 16, 2019

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: An Overview, CRS In Focus, updated July 17, 2019

Immigration: Alternatives to Detention (ATD) Programs, July 8, 2019

Beneficial Ownership Transparency in Corporate Formation, Shell Companies, Real Estate, and Financial Transactions, July 8, 2019

Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress, July 11, 2019