Archive

Archive for the ‘Gov – US’ Category

New From the GAO

April 22, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Report

1. Department of Defense’s Waiver of Competitive Prototyping Requirement for the Air Force’s B-2 Defensive Management System Modernization Program. GAO-14-522R, April 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-522R

Testimony

1. VA Construction: VA’s Actions to Address Cost Increases and Schedule Delays at Denver and Other Major Medical-Facility Projects, by Lorelei St. James, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in Denver, CO. GAO-14-548T, April 22.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-548T
Highlights: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662690.pdf

About these ads

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the United States: Drivers of U.S. Economic Competitiveness

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the United States: Drivers of U.S. Economic Competitiveness
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration

This paper studies the impact of FDI on the U.S. economy, the strengths and attractiveness of the United States as a destination for FDI, and the competitiveness of the United States with respect to investment trends by geography and industry sector.

FDI is a key source of capital, job creation, innovation, and cross-border trade. In the United States, FDI has continued to flourish because firms worldwide recognize the United States as an innovative and stable market and the world’s largest economy. Moreover, the United States upholds its longstanding open investment policy, recognizing that the free movement of capital across borders is at the heart of today’s global economy.

CRS — Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implements the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) regulations, which regulate security at high-risk facilities possessing more than certain amounts of one or more chemicals of interest. Facilities possessing more than the specified amount must register with DHS through this program (a process known as the Top- Screen) and perform security-related activities. The DHS identifies a subset of high-risk chemical facilities from among those that register. These high-risk chemical facilities must submit a security vulnerability assessment, which DHS uses to confirm their high-risk designation, and a site security plan, which DHS then authorizes. The DHS also inspects high-risk chemical facilities for adherence to their submitted site security plans and later for compliance with these plans following DHS approval. The DHS regulates approximately 4,300 facilities under this program and is in the process of implementing requirements for security vulnerability assessment, site security planning, and inspection.

The DHS has had challenges meeting its own projections and congressional expectations regarding program performance, raising questions about its ability to achieve steady-state regulatory implementation.

CRS — Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206″ Background and Issues for Congress

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206″ Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2006, as amended and regularly extended, provides the Secretary of Defense with authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes—counterterrorism and stability operations—and foreign security forces for counterterrorism operations. Section 1206 authority now extends through FY2017.

CRS — U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel

April 22, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides an overview of U.S. foreign assistance to Israel. It includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and an analysis of current issues. For general information on Israel, see CRS Report RL33476, Israel: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jim Zanotti.

CRS — The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2015 and Beyond

April 22, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2015 and Beyond (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal budget is central to Congress’s ability to exercise its “power of the purse.” Each fiscal year Congress and the President undertake a variety of steps intended to set levels of spending and revenue and to make policy decisions. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview and background on the current budget debate. This report will track legislative events related to the federal budget and will be updated as budgetary legislation moves through Congress.

CRS — What Is the Farm Bill? (updated)

April 22, 2014 Comments off

What Is the Farm Bill? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity price and income supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, bioenergy, foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. Although agricultural policies sometimes are created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policy makers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is renewed about every five years.

CRS — Campaign Contribution Limits: Selected Questions About McCutcheon and Policy Issues for Congress

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Campaign Contribution Limits: Selected Questions About McCutcheon and Policy Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Recently invalidated aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions capped the total amount that one can give to all candidates, parties, or political action committees (PACs). For the 2014 election cycle, the aggregate limit for individual contributions was $123,200.The Supreme Court of the United States struck down the aggregate limits on April 2, 2014. Alabama contributor Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee (RNC) brought the case, McCutcheon v. FEC, after the aggregate limits prevented McCutcheon from contributing as desired to federal candidates and parties during the 2012 election cycle. The decision does not affect “base limits” that individuals may contribute to particular candidates or parties. Instead, McCutcheon permits individuals to give limited contributions to an unlimited number of candidates, political parties, and political action committees.

This report offers a preliminary analysis of major policy issues and potential implications that appear to be most relevant as the House and Senate decide whether or how to respond to McCutcheon. With the aggregate limits relaxed, additional funds might flow to candidate committees, party committees, or PACs. Joint fundraising committees and leadership PACs might expand as tools to funnel large contributions to multiple candidate committees, parties, or PACs. Disclosure of contributors who exceed the current aggregate limits might also be a policy concern. It is important to note that whether these possibilities will occur is unclear at this time.

This report will be updated to reflect major developments. This version of the report supersedes previous versions.

CRS — Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress (updated)

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Prior to 1984, neither federal civil service employees nor Members of Congress paid Social Security taxes, nor were they eligible for Social Security benefits. Members of Congress and other federal employees were instead covered by a separate pension plan called the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act (P.L. 98-21) required federal employees first hired after 1983 to participate in Social Security. These amendments also required all Members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of January 1, 1984, regardless of when they first entered Congress. Because CSRS was not designed to coordinate with Social Security, Congress directed the development of a new retirement plan for federal workers. The result was the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986 (P.L. 99- 335).

Congressional pensions, like those of other federal employees, are financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. All Members pay Social Security payroll taxes equal to 6.2% of the Social Security taxable wage base ($117,000 in 2014). Members first covered by FERS prior to 2013 also pay 1.3% of full salary to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF). Members of Congress first covered by FERS in 2013 contribute 3.1% of pay to the CSRDF. Members of Congress first covered by FERS after 2013 contribute 4.4% of pay to the CSRDF. In 2014, Members covered by CSRS Offset pay 1.8% of the first $117,000 of salary, and 8.0% of salary above this amount, into the CSRDF.

CRS — Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Former Presidents Act (FPA; 3 U.S.C. §102 note) charges the General Services Administration (GSA) with providing former Presidents a pension, support staff, office support, travel funds, and mailing privileges. The FPA was enacted to “maintain the dignity” of the Office of the President. The act provides the former President—and his or her spouse—certain benefits to help him respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required of a former President. Prior to enactment of the FPA in 1958, former Presidents leaving office received no pension or other federal assistance.

Former Presidents currently receive a pension that is equal to pay for Cabinet Secretaries (Executive Level I), which was $199,700 in calendar year 2013. Executive Level I pay is set at $201,700 for calendar year 2014. In addition to benefits provided pursuant to the FPA, former Presidents are also provided Secret Service protection and financial “transition” benefits to assist their transition to post-presidential life. Pursuant to the FPA, former Presidents are eligible for benefits unless they hold “an appointive or elective office or position in or under the Federal Government or the government of the District of Columbia to which is attached a rate of pay other than a nominal rate.”

Highway Trust Fund Ticker

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Highway Trust Fund Ticker
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

Based on current spending and revenue trends, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will encounter a shortfall before the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014.

CRS — The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Contemporary Issues for Congress

April 22, 2014 Comments off

The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Contemporary Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides two ways of amending the nation’s fundamental charter. Congress, by a two-thirds vote of both houses, may propose amendments to the states for ratification, a procedure used for all 27 current amendments. Alternatively, if the legislatures of two-thirds of the states apply, 34 at present, Congress “shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…. ” This alternative, known as an Article V Convention, has yet to be implemented. This report examines the Article V Convention, focusing on contemporary issues for Congress. CRS Report R42592, The Article V Convention for Proposing Constitutional Amendments: Historical Perspectives for Congress examines the procedure’s constitutional origins and history and provides an analysis of related state procedures.

CRS — Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress’s contempt power is the means by which Congress responds to certain acts that in its view obstruct the legislative process. Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance, to punish the contemnor, and/or to remove the obstruction. Although arguably any action that directly obstructs the effort of Congress to exercise its constitutional powers may constitute a contempt, in recent times the contempt power has most often been employed in response to noncompliance with a duly issued congressional subpoena—whether in the form of a refusal to appear before a committee for purposes of providing testimony, or a refusal to produce requested documents.

See also: Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: A Sketch (PDF)

CRS — The Bureau of Prisons (BOP): Operations and Budget

April 22, 2014 Comments off

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP): Operations and Budget (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was established in 1930 to house federal inmates, professionalize the prison service, and ensure consistent and centralized administration of the federal prison system. The BOP is the largest correctional agency in the country, in terms of the number of prisoners under its jurisdiction. The BOP must confine any offender convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a federal court.

Facts for Features — Mother’s Day: May 11, 2014

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Facts for Features — Mother’s Day: May 11, 2014
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The driving force behind Mother’s Day was Anna Jarvis, who organized observances in Grafton, W.Va., and Philadelphia on May 10, 1908. As the annual celebration became popular around the country, Jarvis asked members of Congress to set aside a day to honor mothers. She succeeded in 1914, when Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Elevated Levels of Mercury Found in Fish in Western U.S. National Parks
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

Mercury has been discovered in fish in some of the most remote national park lakes and streams in the western United States and Alaska. Mercury levels in some fish exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health thresholds for potential impacts to fish, birds, and humans.

The information about mercury, and its appearance in protected areas considered to be relatively pristine and removed from environmental contaminants, is in a recently published scientific report from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

The study of mercury in fish is the first of its kind to incorporate information from remote places at 21 national parks in 10 western states, including Alaska. Western parks were selected for this study because of the significant role that atmospheric mercury deposition plays in remote places, and the lack of broad-scale assessments on mercury in fish in remote areas of the west.

Mercury concentrations in fish sampled from these parks were generally low, but were elevated in some instances. This study examines total mercury in fish, of which 95 percent is in the form of methylmercury, the most dangerous form to human and wildlife health.

Mercury is harmful to human and wildlife health, and is among the most widespread contaminants in the world. It is distributed at a global scale from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions and from human sources such as burning fossil fuels in power plants. Mercury is distributed at local or regional scales as a result of current and historic mining activities. These human activities have increased levels of atmospheric mercury at least three fold during the past 150 years.

Consumer advisory: Co-signers can cause surprise defaults on your private student loans

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Consumer advisory: Co-signers can cause surprise defaults on your private student loans
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Today, we released a report that describes complaints we received related to the private student loan industry’s practice of placing borrowers in default even when their loans are current and in good standing. We’re also warning consumers that they can avoid surprise defaults by pursuing a co-signer release.

The vast majority of private student loans today have a co-signer (typically a parent or a grandparent). Having a co-signer can often lead to a lower interest rate, which can save you money in the long-term, because the co-signer will have to repay the loan if you don’t.

However, your loan might also contain provisions that allow your student loan servicer to put you in default — even if you’ve been making your payments on time.

That’s because your co-signer is also on the hook for your loan and therefore changes in their behavior can impact your loan, causing your loan to default and making your entire balance due all at once. We’ve received complaints that private student loan servicers are placing borrowers into default when their co-signer dies or files for bankruptcy.

NTIA Releases 3 Case Studies Examining Impact of Broadband Grants Program on Connecting Libraries

April 22, 2014 Comments off

NTIA Releases 3 Case Studies Examining Impact of Broadband Grants Program on Connecting Libraries
Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration

In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $200 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers (PCCs) throughout the United States. More than 2,000 of those centers are operated by public libraries, from Maine to Arizona. These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments that have allowed BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 1,300 libraries nationally with ultra-fast broadband, providing a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative.

Today we are releasing the first three of 15 PCC and broadband adoption case studies. These focus on the impact of grants in Delaware, Texas and Michigan. The release coincides with an important hearing on libraries and broadband, sponsored by the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services, or IMLS. The case studies were conducted for NTIA by an independent research firm, ASR Analytics, which analyzed the impact these PCCs are having in their local communities.

What kinds of impact are these expanded libraries having in their communities? The case studies, based on site visits, interviews, and publicly available data from the awardees’ quarterly reports to NTIA, tell a story of increased demand for library services that have helped the country continue to turn the corner on the economic recovery. The libraries are meeting an urgent need by giving people access to information and job skills they need to be competitive in a 21st century workplace.

CRS — Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United States v. Windsor

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United States v. Windsor (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The issue of same-sex marriage generates debate on both the federal and state levels. Either legislatively or judicially, same-sex marriage is legal in more than a dozen states. Conversely, many states have statutes and/or constitutional amendments limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. These state-level variations raise questions about the validity of such unions outside the contracted jurisdiction and have bearing on the distribution of state and/or federal benefits. As federal agencies grappled with the interplay of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the distribution of federal marriage-based benefits, questions arose regarding DOMA’s constitutionality and the appropriate standard (strict, intermediate, or rational basis) of review to apply to the statute.

In United States v. Windsor, a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, violated due process and equal protection principles. As such, federal statutes that refer to a marriage and/or spouse for federal purposes should be interpreted as applying equally to legally married same-sex couples recognized by the state. However, the Court left unanswered questions such as (1) whether samesex couples have a fundamental right to marry and (2) whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional.

USPS OIG — Preservation and Disposal of Historic Properties

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Preservation and Disposal of Historic Properties (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The Postal Service did not know how many historic properties it owned or what it cost to preserve them, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act. It did not report the status of historic artwork to the National Museum of American Art, as required by Postal Service Handbook RE-6, Facilities and Environmental Guide, when it sold 10 historic post offices.

The Postal Service did not collaborate with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to improve its compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and did not submit its 2011 status report to the council. The council could help the Postal Service establish covenants to protect historic features and help secure covenant holders to monitor compliance with those covenants. Also, the council could help review public requests to participate in the preservation process. The Postal Service could also use the U.S. General Services Administration — which employs experienced real estate and historical preservation professionals — to assist in the preservation process.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 783 other followers