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New From the GAO

September 30, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office
Reports

1. Afghanistan Equipment Drawdown: Progress Made, but Improved Controls in Decision Making Could Reduce Risk of Unnecessary Expenditures. GAO-14-768, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-768
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666236.pdf

2. Bureau of Prisons: Information on Efforts and Potential Options to Save Costs. GAO-14-821, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-821
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666255.pdf

3. Unmanned Aerial Systems: Department of Homeland Security’s Review of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Use and Compliance with Privacy and Civil Liberty Laws and Standards. GAO-14-849R, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-849R

4. Elections: Observations on Wait Times for Voters on Election Day 2012. GAO-14-850, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-850
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666251.pdf

Press Release

1. GAO Makes Appointment to PCORI Governing Board. September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/press/pcori_governing_board_2014sep30.htm

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CRS — Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: How to Find Documents and Other Resources (September 25, 2014)

September 30, 2014 Comments off

Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: How to Find Documents and Other Resources (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report is one of a series of reports on legislative process and research; it is intended to serve as a finding aid to sources of information, such as documents, news articles, analysis, contacts and services, used in legislative research. It does not define or describe the purpose of various government documents; that information can be found in companion CRS Report R41865, Legislative History Research: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff, and CRS Report RL33895, Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff. This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in the House and Senate in addition to select resources freely available to the public. This report is intended for use by Members and congressional office staff and will be updated annually.

U.S. Census Bureau: Addressing Data Collection Vulnerabilities

September 30, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Census Bureau: Addressing Data Collection Vulnerabilities
Source: U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Among the report’s findings:

  • The Census Bureau’s lack of recordkeeping and deficient data collection system fostered an environment in which data falsification could occur.
  • The suspected falsification procedures are inconsistent from region to region and from case to case. The system relies on paper-based forms, making it vulnerable to error and deliberate circumvention.
  • Data quality assurance efforts are fundamentally flawed. Regional offices are responsible for both data collection and quality control, which often have conflicting objectives.
  • Philadelphia Regional Office supervisors regularly emphasized the importance of obtaining survey response rates, with little to no mention of data integrity. Employees experienced significant pressure to achieve and improve their response rates by any means possible. Pressure to meet these requirements stemmed from both the Regional Office and Census National Headquarters.
  • The current mechanisms for data quality control are insufficient and could serve to discourage individuals from identifying and reporting suspected falsification.
  • The primary data quality assurance check—reinterview—remains in the original interviewer’s chain of command, effectively diminishing the objectivity of the process.
  • There are no clear guidelines available to all Census employees for straightforward reporting of suspected falsification.
  • There is no single master record of a case. The case-tracking systems make it difficult—sometimes impossible—to determine the full history and corresponding chain of custody of a particular case.

Aging Behind Bars: Trends and Implications of Graying Prisoners in the Federal Prison System

September 30, 2014 Comments off

Aging Behind Bars: Trends and Implications of Graying Prisoners in the Federal Prison System
Source: Urban Institute

This new Urban Institute study provides an in-depth examination of the growth patterns in the largest correctional system in the United States—the US Bureau of Prisons. The number of prisoners age 50 or older experienced a 330 percent increase from 1994 to 2011. The authors find that the proportion of these older prisoners is expected to have an even steeper growth curve in the near future and they may consume a disproportionately large amount of the federal prison budget. Recommendations for policy and research include expanding data-driven knowledge on older prisoners and developing cost-effective management plans for them.

Drones — U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces FAA Exemptions for Commercial UAS Movie and TV Production

September 30, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces FAA Exemptions for Commercial UAS Movie and TV Production
Source: Federal Aviation Administration

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System. Secretary Foxx made the announcement on a conference call with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Chris Dodd, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.

Secretary Anthony Foxx also determined that the UAS to be used in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness based on a finding they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Those findings are permitted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

CRS — Defense Surplus Equipment Disposal, Including the Law Enforcement 1033 Program (September 5, 2014)

September 29, 2014 Comments off

Defense Surplus Equipment Disposal, Including the Law Enforcement 1033 Program (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The effort to dispose of surplus military equipment dates back to the end of World War II when the federal government sought to reduce a massive inventory of surplus military equipment by making such equipment available to civilians. (The disposal of surplus real property, including land, buildings, commercial facilities, and equipment situated thereon, is assigned to the General Services Administration, Office of Property Disposal.)

The Department of Defense (DOD) through a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) component called DLA Disposition Services has a policy for disposing of government equipment and supplies considered surplus or deemed unnecessary, or excess to the agency’s currently designated mission. DLA Disposition Services is responsible for property reuse (including resale), precious metal recovery, recycling, hazardous property disposal, and the demilitarization of military equipment.

DLA Disposition Services manages the reutilization, transfer, donation and sale of surplus military property. The Reutilization/Transfer/Donation Program through DLA Disposition Services establishes a process for property considered no longer needed by DOD to be redistributed among various groups. Property considered surplus can be reused, transferred, donated, or sold; potential recipients may include law enforcement agencies, school systems, medical institutions, civic and community organizations, libraries, homeless assistance providers, state and local government agencies, veteran’s organizations, and the public. Property that is no longer needed by the government may be acquired through public sales, if the property is appropriate and safe for sale to the general public.

Recently, the Law Enforcement Support Program (LESO), also referred to as the 1033 Program, has been the subject of media reports. Some Members of Congress have expressed concern over the transfer of surplus weapons from federal programs including the 1033 Program, and the types of military equipment that can be made available to state and local law enforcement agencies, particularly in the aftermath of clashes between protesters and police over the August 2014 shooting death incident in Ferguson, MO. On September 9, 2014, the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of Federal Programs Equipping State and Law Enforcement.”

This report focuses on the disposal of defense surplus property that is delegated to DOD from the General Services Administration. Law enforcement agencies are a recipient of defense surplus property, along with many other recipients. For further information on the 1033 Program, see CRS Report R43701, The “1033 Program,” Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement, by Daniel H. Else.

China’s Leaders Quash Hong Kong’s Hopes for Democratic Election Reforms – CRS Insights (September 5, 2014)

September 29, 2014 Comments off

China’s Leaders Quash Hong Kong’s Hopes for Democratic Election Reforms – CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

An August 31 decision by China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) placed strict conditions on any possible electoral reforms in Hong Kong—setting the stage for a contentious and difficult process as the city’s political bodies begin work on possible legislation to alter the rules for selecting Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.

Reactions to the NPCSC’s decision varied widely. While Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying welcomed the “precious offer” from the NPCSC, pro-democracy advocates expressed a mixture of disappointment and outrage at the decision. While all concerned, including the NPCSC, accept that the Chief Executive may be elected in 2017 by universal suffrage for all eligible Hong Kong voters, there is sharp disagreement over procedures for the nomination of candidates.

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