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CRS — Health Care for Veterans: Traumatic Brain Injury (March 9, 2015)

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Health Care for Veterans: Traumatic Brain Injury (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Homeland Security Digital Library)

In recent years, Congress, the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have increased attention to traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is known as a “signature wound” of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). Although the early stages of TBI treatment may occur within the military health care system (if the injury occurs during military service), this report focuses on the VA health care system. In FY2015, VA spending for TBI is estimated to be $234 million. The VA projects the 10-year (FY2016–FY2025) costs of TBI to be $2.2 billion (including $0.5 billion for OEF/OIF veterans).

The type of treatment needed depends on the severity of the injury. Most cases of mild TBI— representing the majority of injuries—resolve without medical attention. Moderate or severe TBI requires immediate treatment. In the case of servicemembers, treatment begins at the site of the event and continues at a military treatment facility. Once stabilized, servicemembers may remain at a military treatment facility or be sent to VA medical facilities.

CRS — Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2015 Action in the 114th Congress (March 16, 2015)

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2015 Action in the 114th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides a brief outline of the FY2015 annual appropriations measure for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its enactment by the 114th Congress. It serves as a complement to CRS Report R43796, Department of Homeland Security: FY2015 Appropriations.

High Interest GAO Report — Library of Congress: Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Library of Congress: Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses
Source: Government Accountability Office

What GAO Found

The Library of Congress has established policies and procedures for managing its information technology (IT) resources, but significant weaknesses across several areas have hindered their effectiveness:

Strategic planning: The Library does not have an IT strategic plan that is aligned with the overall agency strategic plan and establishes goals, measures, and strategies. This leaves the Library without a clear direction for its use of IT.

Investment management: Although the Library obligated at least $119 million on IT for fiscal year 2014, it is not effectively managing its investments. To its credit, the Library has established structures for managing IT investments—including a review board and a process for selecting investments. However, the board does not review all key investments, and its roles and responsibilities are not always clearly defined. Additionally, the Library does not have a complete process for tracking its IT spending or an accurate inventory of its assets. For example, while the inventory identifies over 18,000 computers currently in use, officials stated that the Library has fewer than 6,500. Until the Library addresses these weaknesses, its ability to make informed decisions will be impaired.

Information security and privacy: The Library assigned roles and responsibilities and developed policies and procedures for securing its information and systems. However, its implementation of key security and privacy management controls was uneven. For example, the Library’s system inventory did not include all key systems. Additionally, the Library did not always fully define and test security controls for its systems, remediate weaknesses in a timely manner, and assess the risks to the privacy of personal information in its systems. Such deficiencies also contributed to weaknesses in technical security controls, putting the Library’s systems and information at risk of compromise.

Service management: The Library’s Information Technology Services (ITS) division is primarily responsible for providing IT services to the agency’s operating units. While ITS has catalogued these services, it has not fully developed agreements with the other units specifying expected levels of performance. Further, the other units were often not satisfied with these services, which has contributed to them independently pursuing their own IT activities. This in turn has resulted in units purchasing unnecessary hardware and software, maintaining separate e-mail environments, and managing overlapping or duplicative IT activities.

Leadership: The Library does not have the leadership needed to address these IT management weaknesses. For example, the agency’s chief information officer (CIO) position does not have adequate authority over or oversight of the Library’s IT. Additionally, the Library has not had a permanent CIO since 2012 and has had five temporary CIOs in the interim.

In January 2015, at the conclusion of GAO’s review, officials stated that that the Library plans to draft an IT strategic plan within 90 days and hire a permanent CIO. If it follows through on these plans, the Library will be in a stronger position to address its IT management weaknesses and more effectively support its mission.

CRS — Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Legal Challenges and Solutions (March 16, 2015)

March 26, 2015 Comments off

Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Legal Challenges and Solutions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Over the course of the last year, a host of cyberattacks has been perpetrated on a number of high profile American companies. The high profile cyberattacks of 2014 and early 2015 appear to be indicative of a broader trend: the frequency and ferocity of cyberattacks are increasing, posing grave threats to the national interests of the United States. While considerable debate exists with regard to the best strategies for protecting America’s various cyber-systems and promoting cybersecurity, one point of general agreement amongst cyber-analysts is the perceived need for enhanced and timely exchange of cyber-threat intelligence both within the private sector and between the private sector and the government. Nonetheless, there are many reasons why entities may opt to not participate in a cyber-information sharing scheme, including the potential liability that could result from sharing internal cyber-threat information with other private companies or the government. More broadly, the legal issues surrounding cybersecurity information sharing— whether it be with regard to sharing between two private companies or the dissemination of cyber-intelligence within the federal government—are complex and have few certain resolutions. In this vein, this report examines the various legal issues that arise with respect to the sharing of cybersecurity intelligence, with a special focus on two distinct concepts: (1) sharing of cyberinformation within the government’s possession and (2) sharing of cyber-information within the possession of the private sector.

Balancing Tourism against Terrorism: The Visa Waiver Program, CRS Insights (March 13, 2015)

March 26, 2015 Comments off

Balancing Tourism against Terrorism: The Visa Waiver Program, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

In recent months, Congress has expressed concern that some foreign fighters might exploit the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to enter the United States and commit acts of terrorism. The VWP allows eligible visitors from 38 European nations and a few prosperous Asia-Pacific countries (Figure 1) to enter the United States for short business or leisure stays without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad. Recent attacks by domestic terrorists in Europe and reports of European countries’ citizens fighting with armed groups in the Middle East have raised concerns that potential terrorists could travel to the United States with little scrutiny under the VWP.

Balancing national security interests against efforts to facilitate international travel through the VWP presents challenges to legislators. The United States has a large travel and tourism industry. In 2013, travel and tourism accounted for 2.6% of U.S. gross domestic product and directly employed nearly 5.4 million Americans. Foreign visitors in the United States account for a disproportionate amount of U.S. travel and tourism spending. International travelers spent about $215 billion in 2013 on passenger fares and travel-related goods and services, which makes tourism the United States’ single-largest services sector export.

CRS — Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress (March 4, 2015)

March 25, 2015 Comments off

Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting (BBC) are special contracting mechanisms that Congress permits the Department of Defense (DOD) to use for a limited number of defense acquisition programs. Compared to the standard or default approach of annual contracting, MYP and BBC have the potential for reducing weapon procurement costs by several percent.

CRS — Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (March 18, 2015)

March 25, 2015 Comments off

Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a priority of U.S. policy has been to reduce the perceived threat posed by Iran to a broad range of U.S. interests. In 2014, a common enemy emerged in the form of the Islamic State organization, reducing gaps in U.S. and Iranian interests, although the two countries have somewhat differing approaches over how to try to defeat the Islamic State.

See also: Iran Sanctions (March 9, 2015) (PDF)

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