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The Obama Administration's Open Government Initiative: Issues for Congress

Description: This report reviews the objectives delineated in President Obama's Open Government Initiative (OGI) and examines the expectations placed on agencies to meet these objectives. This report reviews department and agency attempts to implement Obama Administration initiatives that seek to make the federal government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. The report then analyzes options for congressional action in this area.
Date: January 28, 2011
Creator: Ginsberg, Wendy R.

Geoengineering: Governance and Technology Policy

Description: This report is intended as a primer on the policy issues, science, and governance of geoengineering technologies. The report will first set the policy parameters under which geoengineering technologies may be considered. It will then describe selected technologies in detail and discuss their status. The third section provides a discussion of possible approaches to governmental involvement in, and oversight of, geoengineering, including a summary of domestic and international instruments and institutions that may affect geoengineering projects.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Bracmort, Kelsi; Lattanzio, Richard K. & Barbour, Emily C.

Samantar v. Yousef: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and Foreign Officials

Description: On June 1, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided unanimously in Samantar v. Yousef that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which governs the immunity of foreign states in U.S. courts, does not apply in suits against foreign officials. The report also addresses legislation considered by the 111th Congress that would have affected the immunity of foreign officials (the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, S. 2930, 111th Cong.).
Date: January 11, 2011
Creator: Elsea, Jennifer K.

Criminal Prohibitions on the Publication of Classified Defense Information

Description: The recent online publication of classified defense documents by the organization WikiLeaks and subsequent reporting by the New York Times and other news media have focused attention on whether such publication violates U.S. criminal law. The Justice Department and Department of Defense are investigating the circumstances to determine whether any prosecutions will be undertaken in connection with the disclosure. This report discusses the statutory prohibitions that may be implicated, including the Espionage Act; the extraterritorial application of such statutes; and the First Amendment implications related to such prosecutions against domestic or foreign media organizations and associated individuals. The report provides a summary of recent legislation relevant to the issue as well as some previous efforts to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Elsea, Jennifer K.

Neglected Tropical Diseases: Background, Responses, and Issues for Congress

Description: Over the past decade, global health has become a priority in U.S. foreign policy, more than tripling U.S. funding for such efforts. This report discusses neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a group of 17 diseases that are found primarily among the poorest people in 149 countries and territories. NTDs are an important focus of U.S. global health assistance and may come under scrutiny as the 112th Congress debates spending levels for ongoing global health programs.
Date: January 21, 2011
Creator: Salaam-Blyther, Tiaji

Violence Against Members of Congress and Their Staff: Selected Examples and Congressional Responses

Description: This report describes legislation introduced in the 112th Congress related to violence against members and congressional staff, provides examples of violence in which members of Congress were the apparent target, and some actions Congress has taken based in part on those incidents. This report comes in the aftermath of a recent attack in Tucson, Arizona, in which congressional staff and several constituents were injured or killed.
Date: January 25, 2011
Creator: Petersen, R. Eric; Manning, Jennifer E. & Hemlin, Erin

The Obama Administration's Feed the Future Initiative

Description: The primary objectives of this report are to (1) provide a context for the state of food insecurity in the world; (2) provide an overview of the Obama Administration's global hunger and food security initiative, called Feed the Future; and (3) provide an overview of issues that the 112th Congress may consider in relation to agricultural development and global food security.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Ho, Melissa D. & Hanrahan, Charles E.

Why Certain Trade Agreements Are Approved as Congressional-Executive Agreements Rather Than as Treaties

Description: U.S. trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), World Trade Organization agreements, and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) have been approved by majority vote of each house rather than by two-thirds vote of the Senate - that is, they have been treated as congressional-executive agreements rather than as treaties. The congressional-executive agreement has been the vehicle for implementing Congress's long-standing policy of seeking trade benefits for the United States through reciprocal trade negotiations. This report discusses this topic in brief.
Date: January 19, 2011
Creator: Grimmett, Jeanne J.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Description: This report discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a free trade agreement that includes nations on both sides of the Pacific. Original members of the TPP were Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. The United States, Australia, Peru, and Vietnam have committed themselves to joining and expanding this group. This report discusses similar trade partnerships, the importance of Asia to U.S. trade and security interests, and U.S. participation in the TPP.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Fergusson, Ian F. & Vaughn, Bruce

The National Intelligence Council: Issues and Options for Congress

Description: The National Intelligence Council (NIC), composed of some 18 senior analysts and national security policy experts, provides the U.S. intelligence community's best judgments on crucial international issues. It is the purpose of this report to describe the statutory provisions that authorize the NIC, provide a brief history of its work, and review its role within the federal government. The report will focus on congressional interaction with the NIC and describe various options for modifying congressional oversight.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Best, Richard A., Jr.

Competition in Federal Contracting: An Overview of the Legal Requirements

Description: This report describes the competition requirements currently governing the procurement activities of federal agencies. It addresses several issues, including what contracts are subject to competition requirements, what constitutes full and open competition for government contracts, and the circumstances permitting agencies to award contracts on the basis of other than full and open competition. It also briefly describes the benefits and drawbacks of competition, situates recent reform efforts within their historical context, and discusses how the policy debates surrounding competition in federal contracting can shape legislative responses.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Manuel, Kate M.

Interagency Contracting: An Overview of Federal Procurement and Appropriations Law

Description: Recently, federal agencies have increasingly resorted to interagency contracting, relying on the contracts or contracting operations of other agencies to acquire goods and services. This increased use of interagency contracting has made it a topic of interest to some members of Congress. This report provides an overview of the federal procurement and appropriations laws governing interagency contracting. It defines key terms used in discussing interagency contracting; surveys the various interagency contracting vehicles; and describes recently enacted and proposed amendments to the laws governing interagency contracting.
Date: January 11, 2011
Creator: Manuel, Kate M. & Yeh, Brian T.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Expenditures

Description: In 1986, the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) was enacted to fund U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE or the Corps) activities related to the routine operation and maintenance (O&M) of harbors, namely the dredging of harbor channels to their authorized depths and widths. Economic and equity issues related to HMT expenditures and collections are the main focus of this report. Before analyzing these issues, the report reviews the legislative history of the tax and legal challenges to it, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of alternative funding mechanisms, and describes the commercial context of current dredging activity. The last section identifies legislation related to harbor maintenance funding.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Frittelli, John

F-35 Alternate Engine Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Description: The administration's proposal to terminate the alternate engine program for the F-35 Lightning II fighter is a significant issue for Congress in FY2012, with implications for the defense budget, military capability in the future, and the division of power between Congress and the executive branch. This report discusses these issues.
Date: January 10, 2011
Creator: Gertler, Jeremiah

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF): Budget and Operations for FY2011

Description: This report provides an overview of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) budget and operations. This report chronicles congressional action on the FY2011 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies Appropriations bills, as well as any FY2010 supplemental appropriations bills, that provide funding for ATF.
Date: January 6, 2011
Creator: Krouse, William J.

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Acquisition: Issues for Congress

Description: Increasing calls for intelligence support and continuing innovations in intelligence technologies combine to create significant challenges for both the executive and legislative branches. This report discusses Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems, which are integral components of both national policymaking and military operations, including counterterrorism operations. ISR systems are costly and complicated, and the relationships among organizations responsible for designing and operating these systems are equally complicated. These factors create numerous oversight issues for Congress, which this report addresses.
Date: January 20, 2011
Creator: Best, Richard A., Jr.

The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions

Description: This report presents, verbatim, the United States "Flag Code" as found in Title 4 of the United States Code and the section of Title 36 which designates the Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem and provides instructions on how to display the flag during its rendition. The report also addresses several of the frequently asked questions concerning the flag.
Date: January 24, 2011
Creator: Luckey, John R.

The National Security Council: An Organizational Assessment

Description: The National Security Council (NSC) was established in 1947. This report describes the history of the NSC, how is structure and influence have varied over the years from one Administration to another, what its current structure and who its current members are, varying opinions as to what the role of the NSC should be, and future developments for the NSC.
Date: January 20, 2011
Creator: Best, Richard A., Jr.

Federal Funding of Presidential Nominating Conventions: Overview and Policy Options

Description: This report provides an overview and analysis of two recurring questions surrounding the federal government's role in financing presidential nominating conventions. First, how much public funding supports presidential nominating conventions? Second, what options exist for changing that amount if Congress chooses to do so? Both issues have generated controversy in the past and continue to be the subject of debate.
Date: January 28, 2011
Creator: Garrett, R. Sam & Reese, Shawn

The Jackson-Vanik Amendment and Candidate Countries for WTO Accession: Issues for Congress

Description: Russia, Kazakhstan, and a number of other former communist states are still subject to the provisions of Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, including section 402 (the Jackson-Vanik amendment). The Jackson-Vanik Amendment denies country eligibility for normal trade relations (NTR) status as long as the country denies its citizens the right of freedom of emigration. The 112th Congress could face the question of whether to enact legislation to repeal the application of Title IV to all of these countries, thereby authorizing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status to fulfill the unconditional most-favored-nation (MFN) obligation under the World Trade Organization (WTO), or to exercise other options.
Date: January 5, 2011
Creator: Cooper, William H.

Unemployment Compensation (Insurance) and Military Service

Description: This report discusses Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX), which provides income support while former active duty military personnel or reservists released from active duty search for work. The report addresses funding for this service, who is entitled to UCX benefits, and Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) and the Extended Benefits (EB) payments, which a servicemember receives when regular unemployment benefits are exhausted.
Date: January 13, 2011
Creator: Whittaker, Julie M.