Effective oversight of intelligence community contractors is a particularly difficult exercise since the reliability of official data on contractor activities is uncertain and most of it is classified and inaccessible to outsiders, a new report from the Congressional Research Service explains.
“Contractors have been and are an integral part of the intelligence community’s (IC’s) total workforce (which also includes federal employees and military personnel). Yet questions have been raised regarding how they are used, and the size and cost of the contractor component.”
The new CRS report “describes several initiatives designed, or used, to track contractors or contractor employees. [It also] addresses the questions of whether IC contractor personnel are performing inherently governmental functions and whether the IC’s acquisition workforce is equipped to monitor contractors performing critical functions….”
The CRS report itself was prepared without access to classified data on the role of contractors, so it sheds no new factual light on the subject. Instead, it summarizes the recent literature on internal IC contractor management and congressional oversight of IC contractors. See The Intelligence Community and Its Use of Contractors: Congressional Oversight Issues, August 18, 2015.
Dozens of other new and updated CRS reports were obtained and posted online last week, including these:
China’s Currency Devaluation, CRS Insights, August 17, 2015
Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview, updated August 18, 2015
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing: Federal Aggravated Identity Theft, updated August 20, 2015
Medal of Honor: History and Issues, updated August 18, 2015
Sentence for Killing a Bald Eagle Found Too Severe and Unauthorized, CRS Legal Sidebar, August 18, 2015
Biopower: Background and Federal Support, updated August 14, 2015
California Drought: Hydrological and Regulatory Water Supply Issues, updated August 14, 2015
“Who is a Veteran?” — Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits, updated August 19, 2015
Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated August 17, 2015
Women in Combat: Issues for Congress, updated August 18, 2015
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments, updated August 14, 2015
Not new, but of renewed current interest is Birthright Citizenship Under the 14th Amendment of Persons Born in the United States to Alien Parents, January 10, 2012.
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The long-term vitality of the Congressional Research Service is threatened by Congress’s repeated refusals to appropriate the modest budget increases ($5 million in FY2016) that the agency has requested in recent years. Reductions in the quality of CRS publications and in the depth of staff expertise are foreseeable.
Other congressional support agencies and professional staff face similar curbs on funding, to the detriment of the legislative process.
“Why would Congress cannibalize its own legislative and creative capacity?” ask political science professors Anthony Madonna and Ian Ostrander. See “If Congress keeps cutting its staff, who is writing your laws? You won’t like the answer,” Washington Post, August 20.
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