CRS — Overview of Federal Real Property Disposal Requirements and Procedures (December 10, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Overview of Federal Real Property Disposal Requirements and Procedures (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal government holds thousands of properties that agencies no longer need to accomplish their missions. When the government disposes of unneeded properties—through transfer, donation, or sale—it generates savings by eliminating maintenance costs. In addition, when state or local governments, nonprofits, or businesses acquire unneeded federal properties, they may be used to provide services to the public, such as temporary housing, or contribute to economic development.

The General Services Administration (GSA) plays a central role in disposing of unneeded property at most federal agencies. The Federal Real Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (Property Act) gives GSA the authority to dispose of real property at all federal agencies unless they have independent statutory authority to dispose of their own properties themselves. A number of agencies have independent disposal authority—ranging from limited to broad in scope—including two of the largest federal landholders, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the Department of Defense.

CRS — Legislation to Facilitate Cybersecurity Information Sharing: Economic Analysis (December 11, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Legislation to Facilitate Cybersecurity Information Sharing: Economic Analysis (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Data breaches, such as those at Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, and JPMorgan Chase, affecting financial records of tens of millions of households seem to occur regularly. Companies typically respond by trying to increase their cybersecurity by hiring consultants and purchasing new hardware and software. Policy analysts have suggested that sharing information about these breaches could be an effective and inexpensive part of improving cybersecurity. Firms share information directly on an ad hoc basis and through private-sector, nonprofit organizations such as Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) that can analyze and disseminate information.

Firms sometimes do not share information because of perceived legal risks, such as violating privacy or antitrust laws, and economic incentives, such as giving useful information to their competitors. A firm that has been attacked might prefer to keep such information private out of a worry that its sales or stock price will fall. Further, there are no existing mechanisms to reward firms for sharing information. Their competitors can take advantage of the information, but not contribute in turn. This lack of reciprocity, called “free riding” by economists, may discourage firms from sharing. In addition, the information shared may not be applicable to those receiving it, or it might be difficult to apply.

Because firms are reluctant to share information, other firms suffer from vulnerabilities that could be corrected. Further, by not sharing information about effective cybersecurity products and techniques, the size and quality of the market for cybersecurity products suffer.

CRS — Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Clean Water Act prescribes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into surface waters. The act also provides financial assistance so that communities can construct treatment facilities to comply with the law. The availability of funding for this purpose continues to be a major concern of states and local governments.

This report provides background on municipal wastewater treatment issues, federal treatment requirements and funding, and recent legislative activity. Meeting the nation’s wastewater infrastructure needs efficiently and effectively is likely to remain an issue of considerable interest to policymakers.

CRS — Ocean Dumping Act: A Summary of the Law (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Ocean Dumping Act: A Summary of the Law (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act has two basic aims: to regulate intentional ocean disposal of materials, and to authorize related research. Permit and enforcement provisions of the law are often referred to as the Ocean Dumping Act. The basic provisions of the act have remained virtually unchanged since 1972, when it was enacted to establish a comprehensive waste management system to regulate disposal or dumping of all materials into marine waters that are within U.S. jurisdiction, although a number of new authorities have been added. This report presents a summary of the law.

CRS — Allocation of Wastewater Treatment Assistance: Formula and Other Changes (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Allocation of Wastewater Treatment Assistance: Formula and Other Changes (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Congress established a statutory formula governing distribution of financial aid for municipal wastewater treatment in the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972. Since then, Congress has modified the formula and incorporated other eligibility changes five times. Federal funds are provided to states through annual appropriations according to the statutory formula to assist local governments in constructing wastewater treatment projects in compliance with federal standards. The most recent formula change, enacted in 1987, continues to apply to distribution of federal grants to capitalize state revolving loan funds (SRFs) for similar activities.

The current state-by-state allotment is a complex formulation consisting basically of two elements, state population and “need.” The latter refers to states’ estimates of capital costs for wastewater projects necessary for compliance with the act. Surveys of funding needs have been done since the 1960s and became an element of distributing CWA funds in 1972. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in consultation with states has prepared 15 clean water needs surveys since then (the most recent was released in 2010) to provide information to policymakers on the nation’s total funding needs, as well as needs for certain types of projects.

CRS — The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (December 8, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both countries and potentially several other countries in the region. The emerging international response to the threat is multifaceted and includes coalition military strikes and assistance plans. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

CRS — FY2015 Budget Requests to Counter Ebola and the Islamic State (IS) (December 4, 2014 )

December 17, 2014 Comments off

FY2015 Budget Requests to Counter Ebola and the Islamic State (IS) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

The lame-duck session of the 113th Congress may consider appropriations measures that include recent emergency funding requests. In 2014, two major global threats — the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East — caused serious concern within the Obama Administration and among Members of Congress. In November 2014, the President requested a total of $11.68 billion for responding to the Ebola crisis and combatting the Islamic State.

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