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UK — Policy Paper: International classified information

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Policy Paper: International classified information
Source: Cabinet Office

This document sets out:

  • how the UK protects international classified information provided to government
  • how the government can exchange UK classified information with international partners
  • the various roles and responsibilities of UK government departments, agencies and contractors
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Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement
Source: Brookings Institution

After a dozen-year standoff between Iran and the international community over the Iranian nuclear program, negotiations are underway between representatives of Iran, on the one hand, and the P5+1 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China) and the European Union, on the other, on a comprehensive agreement aimed at ensuring that an Iranian nuclear program declared to be devoted to peaceful purposes will not be turned into a program for producing nuclear weapons.

However, key differences exist on the requirements of an acceptable deal, not just among negotiators at the table but also among key players outside the negotiations. Israeli officials and a number of members of Congress are demanding the elimination of key elements of Iran’s nuclear program, and the Obama administration and its supporters counter that several of those demands are neither achievable nor necessary for a sound agreement.

CRS — Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On May 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released a national strategy document for the Arctic region. On January 30, 2014, the Obama Administration released an implementation plan for this strategy.

Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.

China’s Hunger for U.S. Planes and Cars: Assessing the Risks

April 8, 2014 Comments off

China’s Hunger for U.S. Planes and Cars: Assessing the Risks (PDF)
Source: U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

The U.S. trade deficit with China continues to grow but at a slower rate. A key reason for this is the boom in U.S. automotive and aerospace shipments to China. As China becomes more affluent and urbanized, ordinary Chinese are driving more cars and traveling more by frequently by air. China’s future demand, however, could be affected by pollution, traffic bottlenecks, and other factors. U.S. companies must also contend with China’s industrial policy, which tilts the playing field toward domestic industry. In the long run, technology transfer and off-shoring could erode U.S. competitiveness and take business away from U.S. plants.

CRS — Foreign Assistance to North Korea

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Assistance to North Korea (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in assistance: slightly more than 50% for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. Since early 2009, the United States has provided virtually no aid to North Korea, though episodically there have been discussions about resuming large-scale food aid. Additionally, the Obama Administration officials have said that they would be willing to consider other types of aid if North Korea takes steps indicating that it will dismantle its nuclear program, a prospect that most analysts view as increasingly remote. As of March 2014, barring an unexpected breakthrough, there appears little likelihood the Obama Administration will provide large-scale assistance of any type to North Korea in the near future. Members of Congress have a number of tools they could use to influence the development and implementation of aid programs with North Korea.

CRS — Overview of Constitutional Challenges to NSA Collection Activities and Recent Developments

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Overview of Constitutional Challenges to NSA Collection Activities and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Beginning in the summer of 2013, media reports of foreign intelligence activities conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) have been widely published. The reports have focused on two main NSA collection activities approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The first is the bulk collection of telephony metadata for domestic and international telephone calls. The second involves the interception of Internet-based communications and is targeted at foreigners who are not within the United States, but may also inadvertently acquire the communications of U.S. persons. As public awareness of these programs grew, questions about the constitutionality of these programs were increasingly raised by Members of Congress and others. This report provides a brief overview of these two programs and the various constitutional challenges that have arisen in judicial forums with respect to each.

The Trade Deficit: The Biggest Obstacle to Full Employment

April 7, 2014 Comments off

The Trade Deficit: The Biggest Obstacle to Full Employment
Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research

Dean Baker argues that taking aim at the persistent trade deficit, through which the United States exports labor demand, would help a great deal in moving the job market toward full employment. Moreover, he argues that trade is a “policy variable,” amenable to interventions that push back against competitors who place a fat thumb on the exchange-rate scale to keep their imports cheap and our exports expensive.

Baker notes various ideas that could counter currency management. First, the US could pass legislation that gave the government the right to treat currency management as a violation of international trading rules, leading to offsetting tariffs. Second, we could also tax foreign holdings of United States Treasuries, making the usual tactic of currency managers more expensive. Third, we could institute reciprocity into the process of currency management: If a country wants to buy our Treasuries, we must be able to buy theirs.

CRS — Financing the U.S. Trade Deficit (updated)

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Financing the U.S. Trade Deficit (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The U.S. merchandise trade deficit is a part of the overall U.S. balance of payments, a summary statement of all economic transactions between the residents of the United States and the rest of the world, during a given period of time. Some Members of Congress and other observers have grown concerned over the magnitude of the U.S. merchandise trade deficit and the associated increase in U.S. dollar-denominated assets owned by foreigners. International trade recovered from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the subsequent slowdown in global economic activity that reduced global trade flows and, consequently, reduced the size of the U.S. trade deficit. Now, however, U.S. exporters face new challenges with economies in Europe and Asia confronting increased risks of a second phase of slow growth. This report provides an overview of the U.S. balance of payments, an explanation of the broader role of capital flows in the U.S. economy, an explanation of how the country finances its trade deficit or a trade surplus, and the implications for Congress and the country of the large inflows of capital from abroad.

CRS — Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy options for Members of Congress and the Obama Administration. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, its increased economic and military self-reliance since the Cold War allows Turkey relatively greater opportunity for an assertive role in foreign policy. Greater Turkish independence of action and continuing political transformation appear to have been mutually reinforcing—with both led for more than a decade by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, it remains unclear how Turkey might reconcile majoritarian views favoring Turkish nationalism and Sunni Muslim values with secular governance and protection of individual freedoms and minority rights, including with regard to Turkey’s Kurdish citizens.

USITC — Trade Barriers that U.S. SMEs Perceive as Affecting Exports to the EU

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Trade Barriers that U.S. SMEs Perceive as Affecting Exports to the EU
Source: U.S. International Trade Commission

Standards and a variety of other trade barriers in the European Union disproportionately affect the exports of U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises more than those of large firms, reports the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in its new publication Trade Barriers that U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Perceive as Affecting Exports to the European Union.

The USITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, completed the report for the U.S. Trade Representative.

As requested, the report catalogs trade-related barriers that U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and related industry associations reported as limiting their exports to the European Union (EU). Highlights of the report follow.

SMEs explained that many EU trade barriers, particularly those related to standards and regulations, affect their exports. They stated that complying with EU regulations and procedures are costly for all firms, but potentially prohibit SMEs from exporting to the EU because such costs are often the same regardless of a firm’s size or export revenue. Other difficulties that were cited include protection of trade secrets, high patenting costs, and logistics challenges, especially customs requirements, inconsistent Harmonized System classifications, and the EU’s value-added tax system.

  • SMEs and related industry associations described many industry-specific barriers. For example:
  • SMEs in the chemical industry frequently cited the high cost of complying with the EU chemical regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals or REACH).
  • SMEs exporting cosmetics expressed difficulties meeting the EU’s cosmetics directive.
  • SME clothing exporters said that they were disproportionately affected by the recent EU retaliatory additional duties on U.S. exports of women’s denim jeans.
  • SMEs producing machinery, electronic, transportation, and other goods cited a lack of harmonized international standards and mutual recognition for conformity assessment, as well as problems complying with technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures.

A number of barriers reportedly constrain U.S. exports of agricultural products. SMEs and industry groups in the corn, dried fruit, animal feed, cheese, and wheat industries cited high tariffs, stringent and inconsistent EU rules and testing mandates, lack of a science-based regulatory focus (especially for genetically modified traits), lack of harmonization between U.S. and EU standards, and the EU’s protected designations of origin (PDOs). The U.S. poultry and lamb industries reported that they are effectively banned from exporting to the EU.
U.S. services SMEs in the healthcare, engineering, testing, and audiovisual industries highlighted a lack of mutual recognition of licensing, credentials, and standards, as well as issues with broadcasting and film quotas, language dubbing requirements, government subsidies, and safeguarding intellectual property.
In certain industries, SMEs or industry associations also provided suggestions for increasing U.S. SME transatlantic trade with the EU and, at times, stories of successfully exporting to the EU.

FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan

April 4, 2014 Comments off

FY 2014-2017 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2014 to 2017 sets forth the Secretary of State’s direction and priorities for both organizations. The Strategic Plan presents how the Department and USAID will implement U.S. foreign policy and development assistance.

New From the GAO

April 3, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. International Financial Reforms: U.S. and Other Jurisdictions’ Efforts to Develop and Implement Reforms. GAO-14-261, April 3.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-261
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662259.pdf

2. Defense Infrastructure: Army Has a Process to Manage Litigation Costs for the Military Housing Privatization Initiative. GAO-14-327, April 3.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-327
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662264.pdf

3. 2020 Census: Prioritized Information Technology Research and Testing Is Needed for Census Design Decisions. GAO-14-389, April 3.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-389
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662279.pdf

Department of State by State

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Department of State by State
Source: U.S. Department of State

For about a 1% investment of the Federal budget, the State Department yields a large return for the American people by protecting U.S. national security, promoting our economic interests, providing services, and reaffirming our country’s exceptional role in the world. The map below represents just some of the direct effects State Department programs have in American communities.

The Prudential Regulation of Financial Institutions: Why Regulatory Responses to the Crisis Might Not Prove Sufficient

April 2, 2014 Comments off

The Prudential Regulation of Financial Institutions: Why Regulatory Responses to the Crisis Might Not Prove Sufficient
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

It is now six years since a devastating financial and economic crisis rocked the global economy. Supported strongly by the G20 process, international regulators led by the Financial Stability Board have been working hard ever since to develop new regulatory standards designed to prevent a recurrence of these events. These international standards are intended to provide guidance for the drawing up of national legislation and regulation, and have already had a pervasive influence around the world. This paper surveys recent international developments concerning the prudential regulation of financial institutions: banks, the shadow banking system and insurance companies. It concludes that, while substantial progress has been made, the global economy nevertheless remains vulnerable to possible future financial instability. This possibility reflects three sets of concerns. First, measures taken to manage the crisis to date have actually made the prevention of future crises more difficult. Second, the continuing active debate over virtually every aspect of the new regulatory guidelines indicates that the analytical foundations of what is being proposed remain highly contestable. Third, implementation of the new proposals could suffer from different practices across regions. Looking forward, the financial sector will undoubtedly continue to innovate in response to competitive pressures and in an attempt to circumvent whatever regulations do come into effect. If we view the financial sector as a complex adaptive system, continuous innovation would only be expected. This perspective also provides a number of insights as to how regulators should respond in turn. Not least, it suggests that attempts to reduce complexity would not be misguided and that complex behavior need not necessarily be accompanied by still more complex regulation. Removing impediments to more effective self-discipline and market discipline in the financial sector would also seem recommended.

State of Global Partnerships

April 2, 2014 Comments off

State of Global Partnerships
Source: U.S. Department of State

The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships leveraged approximately $829 million in public and private resources for diplomacy and development since 2009, and worked with over 1,600 partners from around the world.

Globally, countless partnerships have been launched. In this report, we’ve selected a few standout partnerships to illustrate the impact these efforts have had, or will have, in the future.

Bureaucratic Interests and the Outsourcing of Security: The Privatization of Diplomatic Protection in the United States and the United Kingdom

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Bureaucratic Interests and the Outsourcing of Security: The Privatization of Diplomatic Protection in the United States and the United Kingdom (working paper version; PDF)
Source: Armed Forces & Society

In spite of its sensitivity, diplomatic protection has received very sporadic scholarly attention. This article provides a comparative analysis of US and UK diplomatic security policies, focusing on the increasing use of private military and security companies (PMSCs) for the protection of foreign service and development agencies’ personnel. The existing theoretical explanations of the privatization of security tasks cannot explain why countries displaying similar material incentives and similar political and market cultures have outsourced diplomatic protection to different degrees, nor can they account for variance in the use of PMSCs by different agencies within the same country. Our analysis highlights the importance of investigating organizations’ interests in providing a more accurate explanation of the varying propensity to outsource armed protection. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, the outsourcing of diplomatic security was a resultant of foreign policy bureaucracies and military organizations’ preferences.

Total Passengers on U.S Airlines and Foreign Airlines Serving the U.S. Increased 1.3% in 2013 from 2012

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Total Passengers on U.S Airlines and Foreign Airlines Serving the U.S. Increased 1.3% in 2013 from 2012
Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today that U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the United States carried 826.0 million systemwide (domestic + international) scheduled service passengers in 2013, 1.3 percent more than in 2012 and the highest total since 2007. The systemwide total was the result of a 0.5 percent increase in the number of domestic passengers (645.6 million) and a 4.0 percent increase in international passengers (180.4 million) (Tables 1, 1A, 5).

New From the GAO

April 1, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Puerto Rico: Information on How Statehood Would Potentially Affect Selected Federal Programs and Revenue Sources. GAO-14-31, March 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-31
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661335.pdf

2. Puerto Rico: Informacion Sobre Como la Estatidad Afectaria Determinados Programas y Fuentes de Ingresos Federales. GAO-14-301, March 4.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-301
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661704.pdf

3. National Preparedness: HHS Has Funded Flexible Manufacturing Activities for Medical Countermeasures, but It Is Too Soon to Assess Their Effect. GAO-14-329, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-329
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662121.pdf

4. Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. GAO-14-340SP, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-340SP
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662183.pdf
Podcast - http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/662072

5. Programa Para Mitigar Activos Problemáticos: Es necesario un mayor esfuerzo en el control de préstamos equitativos y en el acceso a los programas de vivienda por parte de personas sin dominio del ingles. GAO-14-457, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-457
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662186.pdf

6. American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Economic Indicators Since Minimum Wage Increases Began. GAO-14-381, March 31.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-381
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662128.pdf

7. Missile Defense: Mixed Progress in Achieving Acquisition Goals and Improving Accountability. GAO-14-351, April 1.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-35
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662199.pdf

8. Afghanistan: Changes to Updated U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework Reflect Evolving U.S. Role. GAO-14-438R, April 1.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-438R

CRS — Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (updated)

March 31, 2014 Comments off

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Several Turkish domestic and foreign policy issues have significant relevance for U.S. interests, and Congress plays an active role in shaping and overseeing U.S. relations with Turkey. This report provides background information on Turkey and discusses possible policy options for Members of Congress and the Obama Administration. U.S. relations with Turkey—a longtime North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally—have evolved over time. Turkey’s economic dynamism and geopolitical importance have increased its influence regionally and globally. Although Turkey still depends on the United States and other NATO allies for political and strategic support, its increased economic and military self-reliance since the Cold War allows Turkey relatively greater opportunity for an assertive role in foreign policy. Greater Turkish independence of action and continuing political transformation appear to have been mutually reinforcing—with both led for more than a decade by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, it remains unclear how Turkey might reconcile majoritarian views favoring Turkish nationalism and Sunni Muslim values with secular governance and protection of individual freedoms and minority rights, including with regard to Turkey’s Kurdish citizens.

CRS — Major U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan Since 2001

March 31, 2014 Comments off

Major U.S. Arms Sales and Grants to Pakistan Since 2001 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Major U.S. arms sales and grants to Pakistan since 2001 have included items useful for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations, along with a number of “big ticket” platforms more suited to conventional warfare. In dollar value terms, the bulk of purchases have been made with Pakistani national funds, although U.S. grants have eclipsed these in recent years. The Pentagon reports total Foreign Military Sales agreements with Pakistan worth about $5.2 billion for FY2002-FY2012 (sales of F-16 combat aircraft and related equipment account for about half of this). Congress has appropriated more than $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Pakistan since 2001, more than $2 billion of which has been disbursed. These funds are used to purchase U.S. military equipment for longer-term modernization efforts. Pakistan has also been granted U.S. defense supplies as Excess Defense Articles (EDA).

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