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CRS — Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks (September 10, 2014)

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report presents a history and analysis of the requested and actual funding for diplomatic/embassy security since FY2008—what actually became available for the Department of State to spend after rescissions, sequestration, and transfers. It also provides funding data that was requested by the Administration, passed by the House of Representatives, passed by the Senate, and enacted by Congress for the two accounts that provide the bulk of the funding: the Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) and Worldwide Security Upgrades (WSU). Combined, these two subaccounts in most years comprise more than 90% of the funding available for diplomatic/embassy security.

This report will continue to track diplomatic/embassy security appropriations and will be updated as changes occur.

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Country Analysis Brief: East China Sea

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: East China Sea
Source: Energy Information Administration

The East China Sea is a semi-closed sea bordered by the Yellow Sea to the north, the South China Sea and Taiwan to the south, Japan’s Ryukyu and Kyushu islands to the east, and the Chinese mainland to the west. Studies identifying potentially abundant oil and natural gas deposits have made the sea a source of contention between Japan and China, the two largest energy consumers in Asia.

The East China Sea has a total area of approximately 482,000 square miles, consisting mostly of the continental shelf and the Okinawa Trough, a back-arc basin formed about 300 miles southeast of Shanghai between China and Japan. The disputed eight Senkaku islands are to the northeast of Taiwan. The largest of the islands is two miles long and less than a mile wide.

Though barren, the islands are important for strategic and political reasons, as sovereignty over land is the basis for claims to the surrounding sea and its resources under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China and Japan both claim sovereignty over the islands, which are under Japanese administration, preventing wide-scale exploration and development of oil and natural gas in the East China Sea.

U.S. Food Aid Reform Fact Sheet

September 18, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Food Aid Reform Fact Sheet (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

The United States has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies and is the largest provider of lifesaving food aid in the world. Since Food for Peace—the largest U.S. food-aid program–began in 1954, approximately 3 billion people in 150 countries have benefitted from American generosity and compassion. However, as this crucial program has been scrutinized in recent years, clear inefficiencies in how it is operated have emerged. With recent constraints on federal spending, we must seize this opportunity to reform this valuable program so that appropriated funds are used as effectively as possible to reach the maximum number of hungry people overseas, especially malnourished women and children.

Who Runs the International System? Power and the Staffing of the United Nations Secretariat

September 17, 2014 Comments off

Who Runs the International System? Power and the Staffing of the United Nations Secretariat
Source: Center for Global Development

National governments frequently pull strings to get their citizens appointed to senior positions in international institutions. We examine, over a 60 year period, the nationalities of the most senior positions in the United Nations Secretariat, ostensibly the world’s most representative international institution. The results indicate which nations are successful in this zero-sum game, and what national characteristics correlate with power in international institutions. The most overrepresented countries are small, rich democracies like the Nordic countries. Statistically, democracy, investment in diplomacy, and economic/military power are predictors of senior positions–even after controlling for the U.N. staffing mandate of competence and integrity. National control over the United Nations is remarkably sticky; however the in influence of the United States has diminished as US ideology has shifted away from its early allies. In spite of the decline in US influence, the Secretariat remains pro-American relative to the world at large.

Selected Charts 2014, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials

September 17, 2014 Comments off

Selected Charts 2014, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

This collection of nine charts and maps presents examples of key statistics on the farm sector, food spending and prices, food security, rural communities, agricultural production and trade, the interaction of agriculture and natural resources, and more found in ERS’s updated web product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials.

An All-of-Government Approach to Increase Resilience for International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Events

September 16, 2014 Comments off

An All-of-Government Approach to Increase Resilience for International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Events
Source: National Research Council

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) events have the potential to destabilize governments, create conditions that exacerbate violence or promote terrorism. This can trigger global repercussions. These events can quickly overwhelm the infrastructure and capability of the responders, especially in countries that do not have the specialized resources for response like those available in the United States. When a CBRNE incident occurs in a partner nation or other foreign country, the U.S. is often called upon to provide assistance. Interoperability – the ability to work together – among U.S. agencies, foreign governments, and responders involved in the effort is key to an efficient response. The effectiveness of the U.S. response and approach to CBRNE events in partner nations depends on the capability of the U.S. government to provide timely and appropriate assistance and the resilience of the partner nation to a CBRNE event.

An All-of-Government Approach to Increase Resilience for International Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Events is the summary of a workshop convened in June 2013 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Research Council to discuss ways to strengthen the U.S. ability to prepare for and respond to CBRNE events that occur in U.S. partner nations. The workshop brought together diverse experts and stakeholders to identify capabilities that are necessary for responding to an international CBRNE event; discuss best practices and resources needed for improved interoperability of the U.S. and partner nation during response to a CBRNE event; and identify key questions that need to be addressed in follow up activities focused on improving U.S. CBRNE response in partner nations.

CRS — Latin America: Terrorism Issues (August 15, 2014)

September 15, 2014 Comments off

Latin America: Terrorism Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

U.S. attention to terrorism in Latin America intensified in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with an increase in bilateral and regional cooperation. In its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism (issued in April 2014), the State Department maintained that the majority of terrorist attacks in the Western Hemisphere were committed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The State Department asserted in that Latin American governments made modest improvements in their counterterrorism capabilities and border security, but that for some countries, corruption, weak government institutions, insufficient interagency cooperation, weak or nonexistent legislation, and a lack of resources impeded progress.

Over the past several years, policymakers have been concerned about Iran’s increasing activities in Latin America. Concerns center on Iran’s attempts to circumvent U.N. and U.S. sanctions, as well as on its ties to the radical Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah. Both Iran and Hezbollah are reported to be linked to two bombings against Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s. A June 2013 State Department report to Congress on Iran’s activities in Latin America asserted that Iran’s influence in the region is waning. Some critics maintain that the State Department is playing down the threat posed by Iran in the region, while others contend that while Iran’s involvement in the region is a concern, its level and significance are being exaggerated. As in past years, the State Department’s 2013 terrorism report maintained that “there were no known operational cells of either Al Qaeda or Hezbollah in the hemisphere,” but noted that “ideological sympathizers in South America and the Caribbean continued to provide financial and ideological support to those and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia.”

Cuba has remained on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982 pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act. Both Cuba and Venezuela are on the State Department’s annual list of countries determined to be not cooperating fully with U.S. antiterrorism efforts pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act. U.S. officials have expressed concerns over the past several years about Venezuela’s lack of cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, its relations with Iran, and the involvement of senior Venezuelan officials in supporting the drug and weapons trafficking activities of the FARC. In recent years, however, improved Venezuelan-Colombian relations have resulted in closer cooperation on antiterrorism and counternarcotics efforts and border security.

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