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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Employment for Veterans: Trends and Programs

Benjamin Collins, Coordinator
Analyst in Labor Policy

David H. Bradley
Specialist in Labor Economics

Cassandria Dortch
Analyst in Education Policy

Lawrence Kapp
Specialist in Military Manpower Policy

Christine Scott
Specialist in Social Policy

Veterans’ employment outcomes in the civilian labor market are an issue of ongoing congressional interest. This report offers introductory data on veterans’ performance in the civilian labor market as well as a discussion of veteran-targeted federal programs that provide employment-related benefits and services.

According to federal data, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 2001 is higher than the unemployment rate for nonveterans. Conversely, the unemployment rate for veterans from prior service periods (a much larger population than post-9/11 veterans) is lower than the nonveteran unemployment rate. The varied demographic factors of each of these populations likely contribute to these variations, though their degree of influence is unclear.

There are a number of federal programs to assist veterans in developing job skills and securing civilian employment. Broadly speaking, these programs can be divided into (1) general veterans’ programs, (2) programs that target veterans with service-connected disabilities, and (3) competitive grant programs that offer supplemental services but may be limited in scope.

General veterans’ programs begin with transition programs that are provided to exiting members of the Armed Forces. These transition programs cover a variety of topics including information on identifying occupations that align with military skills and specializations, conducting job searches, applying for employment, and navigating veterans’ benefits. One of the most common veterans’ benefits is educational funding through the GI Bill. The GI Bill programs typically provide funding for education or training programs as well as housing allowance while the veteran is enrolled. Veterans who are no longer eligible for the GI Bill may receive training benefits through the newly created Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP).

Veterans who are seeking employment without obtaining additional training may receive job search assistance and other services from Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER). Veterans who wish to pursue employment in the federal government are assisted by several policies that give them preference in the competitive hiring process or, in some cases, allow them to forego the competitive process and be appointed directly.

Veterans with service-connected disabilities who have obstacles to employment may be assisted by the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program. This program provides assistance in identifying an occupation that is consistent with the veterans’ skills and interests and providing the services (including educational services) necessary to achieve that outcome. Disabled veterans can also receive assistance from the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP), which provides assistance in local labor markets.

In addition to these nationwide programs, the federal government also funds competitive grant programs for state, local, and private entities to provide employment-oriented services to veterans. These include the Veterans Workforce Investment Program (VWIP), which may provide training or employment services and Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), which prepares educationally disadvantaged veterans for postsecondary coursework.

Date of Report: October 23, 2012
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R42790
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

This report presents policy and oversight issues for Congress arising from (1) maritime territorial disputes involving China in the South China Sea (SCS) and East China Sea (ECS) and (2) an additional dispute over whether China has a right under international law to regulate U.S. and other foreign military activities in its 200-nautical-mile maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

China is a party to multiple maritime territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS, including, in particular, disputes over the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal in the SCS, and the Senkaku Islands in the ECS. Maritime territorial disputes involving China in the SCS and ECS date back many years, and have periodically led to incidents and periods of increased tension. The disputes have again intensified in the past few years, leading to numerous confrontations and incidents, and heightened tensions between China and other countries in the region, particularly Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

In addition to maritime territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS, China is involved in a dispute, particularly with the United States, over whether China has a right under international law to regulate the activities of foreign military forces operating within China’s EEZ. The dispute appears to be at the heart of multiple incidents between Chinese and U.S. ships and aircraft in international waters and airspace in 2001, 2002, and 2009.

The issue of whether China has a right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to regulate foreign military activities in its EEZ is related to, but ultimately separate from, the issue of maritime territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS. The two issues are related because China can claim EEZs from inhabitable islands over which it has sovereignty, so accepting China’s claims to islands in the SCS or ECS could permit China to expand the EEZ zone within which China claims a right to regulate foreign military activities.

The EEZ issue is ultimately separate from the territorial disputes issue because even if all the territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS were resolved, and none of China’s claims in the SCS and ECS were accepted, China could continue to apply its concept of its EEZ rights to the EEZ that it unequivocally derives from its mainland coast—and it is in this unequivocal Chinese EEZ that most of the past U.S.-Chinese incidents at sea have occurred.

China depicts its maritime territorial claims in the SCS using the so-called map of the nine dashed lines that appears to enclose an area covering roughly 80% of the SCS. China prefers to discuss maritime territorial disputes with other parties to the disputes on a bilateral rather than multilateral basis, and has resisted U.S. involvement in the disputes. Some observers believe China is pursuing a policy of putting off a negotiated resolution of maritime territorial disputes so as to give itself time to implement a strategy of taking incremental unilateral actions that gradually enhance China’s position in the disputes and consolidate China’s de facto control of disputed areas. China’s maritime territorial claims in the SCS and ECS appear to be motivated by a mix of factors, including potentially large undersea oil and gas reserves, fishing rights, nationalism, and security concerns.

The United States does not take a position (i.e., is neutral) regarding competing territorial claims over land features in the SCS and ECS. The U.S. position is that territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully—without coercion, intimidation, threats, or the use of force—and that claims of territorial waters and EEZs should be consistent with customary international law of the sea, as reflected in UNCLOS. U.S. officials have stated that the United States has a national interest in the preservation of freedom of navigation as recognized in customary international law of the sea and reflected in UNCLOS. The United States, like most other countries, believes that coastal states under UNCLOS do not have the right to regulate foreign military activities in their EEZs. If China’s position on the issue—that coastal states do have a right under UNCLOS to regulate the activities of foreign military forces in their EEZs—were to gain greater international acceptance under international law, it could substantially affect U.S. naval operations not only in the SCS and ECS, but around the world.

Maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China in the SCS and ECS raise a number of policy and oversight issues for Congress, including the following:

  • the risk that the United States might be drawn into a crisis or conflict over a territorial dispute involving China, particularly since the United States has bilateral defense treaties with Japan and the Philippines; 
  • the risk of future incidents between U.S. and Chinese ships and aircraft arising from U.S. military survey and surveillance activities in China’s EEZ; 
  • the impact of maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China on the overall debate on whether the United States should become a party to UNCLOS; 
  • implications for U.S. arms sales and transfers to other countries in the region, particularly the Philippines, which currently has limited ability to monitor maritime activity in the SCS on a real-time basis, and relatively few modern ships larger than patrol craft in its navy or coast guard; 
  • implications for the stationing and operations of U.S. military forces in the region, and for U.S. military procurement programs; 
  • implications for interpreting the significance of China’s rise as an economic and military power, particularly in terms of China’s willingness to accept international norms and operate within an international rules-based order; 
  • the impact on overall U.S. relations with China and other countries in the region; and 
  • the effect on U.S. economic interests, including oil and gas exploration in the SCS and ECS by U.S. firms, and on international shipping through the SCS and ECS, which represents a large fraction of the world’s seaborne trade. 

Decisions that Congress makes on these issues could substantially affect U.S. political and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and U.S. military operations in both the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.

Legislation in the 112th Congress concerning maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China in the SCS and ECS includes S.Res. 217 and S.Res. 524, both of which have been agreed to by the Senate, and H.R. 6313, H.Res. 532, and H.Res. 616. 

Date of Report: October 22, 2012
Number of Pages: 73
Order Number: R42784
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Monday, October 29, 2012

International Drug Control Policy: Background and U.S. Responses

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

The global illegal drug trade represents a multi-dimensional challenge that has implications for U.S. national interests as well as the international community. Common illegal drugs trafficked internationally include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. According to the U.S. intelligence community, international drug trafficking can undermine political and regional stability and bolster the role and capabilities of transnational criminal organizations in the drug trade. Key regions of concern include Latin America and Afghanistan, which are focal points in U.S. efforts to combat the production and transit of cocaine and heroin, respectively. Drug use and addiction have the potential to negatively affect the social fabric of communities, hinder economic development, and place an additional burden on national public health infrastructures. 

International Policy Framework and Debate 

International efforts to combat drug trafficking are based on a long-standing and robust set of multilateral commitments, to which the United States adheres. U.S. involvement in international drug control rests on the central premise that helping foreign governments combat the illegal drug trade abroad will ultimately curb illegal drug availability and use in the United States. To this end, the current Administration maintains the goal of reducing and eliminating the international flow of illegal drugs into the United States through international cooperation to disrupt the drug trade and interdiction efforts.

Despite long-standing multilateral commitments to curb the supply of illicit drugs, tensions appear at times between U.S. foreign drug policy and approaches advocated by independent observers and other members of the international community. In recent years, an increasing number of international advocates, including several former and sitting heads of state, have begun to call for a reevaluation of current prohibitionist-oriented international drug policies. Alternatives to the existing international drug control regime may include legalizing or decriminalizing certain drugs. Debates may also focus on shifting priorities and resources among various approaches to counternarcotics, including supply and demand reduction; the distribution of domestic and international drug control funding; and the relative balance of civilian, law enforcement, and military roles in anti-drug efforts. 

U.S. Counternarcotics Initiatives and Foreign Policy Options 

Several key U.S. strategies and initiatives outline the foundation of U.S. counternarcotics efforts internationally, including the U.S. National Drug Control Strategy and International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), both of which are updated annually and congressionally mandated. Other major country and regional initiatives include the (1) Mérida Initiative and Strategy in Mexico; (2) Central American Citizen Security Partnership; (3) Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI); (4) U.S.-Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI); (5) U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan; and (6) West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative (WACSI).

Located within the Executive Office of the President, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) establishes U.S. counterdrug policies and goals, and coordinates the federal budget to combat drugs both domestically and internationally. Within the U.S. government, multiple civilian, military, law enforcement, and intelligence entities contribute to international drug control policy, including the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

As an issue of international policy concern for more than a century, and as a subject of longstanding U.S. and multilateral policy commitment, U.S. counterdrug efforts have expanded to include a broad array of tools to attack the international drug trade, such as the following:

  • Reducing drug production at the source: Central to reducing cocaine and heroin production is the eradication of coca bush and opium poppy crops and the provision of alternative livelihood options to former drug crop farmers. Both policy approaches ultimately seek to reduce the amount of illicit drug crops cultivated. 
  • Combating drugs in transit: To reduce the international flow of drugs from source countries to final destinations, U.S. efforts focus on joint monitoring and interdiction operations as well as other forms of border, police, and maritime cooperation and training. 
  • Dismantling international illicit drug networks: The United States collaborates with other countries to target major drug traffickers and their transnational networks through various law enforcement interventions, judicial mechanisms, and financial sanctions. With the provision of U.S. foreign assistance, the U.S. government supports other countries to strengthen their capacity to investigate, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate drug traffickers domestically. 
  • Creating incentives for international cooperation on drug control: In order to deter foreign governments from aiding or participating in illicit drug production or trafficking, certain U.S. foreign assistance may be suspended to countries that are major illegal drug producers or major transit countries for illegal drugs, known as “drug majors.” Similarly, certain drug majors countries may be deemed ineligible to be a beneficiary of preferential U.S. trade arrangements. 

Congress has been involved in all aspects of U.S. international drug control policy, regularly appropriating funds for counterdrug initiatives, conducting oversight activities on federal counterdrug programs and the scope of agency authorities and other counterdrug policies. For FY2013, the Administration has requested from Congress approximately $25.6 billion for all federal drug control programs, of which $2 billion is requested for international programs, including civilian and military U.S. foreign assistance. An additional $3.7 billion is requested for interdiction programs related to intercepting and disrupting foreign drug shipments en route to the United States. .

Date of Report: October 16, 2012
Number of Pages: 42
Order Number: RL34543
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Managing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Policy Implications of Expanding Global Access to Nuclear Power

Mary Beth Nikitin, Coordinator
Specialist in Nonproliferation

Anthony Andrews
Specialist in Energy and Defense Policy

Mark Holt
Specialist in Energy Policy

After several decades of widespread stagnation, nuclear power has attracted renewed interest in recent years. New license applications for 30 reactors have been announced in the United States, and another 548 are under construction, planned, or proposed around the world. In the United States, interest appears driven, in part, by tax credits, loan guarantees, and other incentives in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, as well as by concerns about carbon emissions from competing fossil fuel technologies.

A major concern about the global expansion of nuclear power is the potential spread of nuclear fuel cycle technology—particularly uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing—that could be used for nuclear weapons. Despite 30 years of effort to limit access to uranium enrichment, several undeterred states pursued clandestine nuclear programs, the A.Q. Khan black market network’s sales to Iran and North Korea representing the most egregious examples. However, concern over the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies may be offset by support for nuclear power as a cleaner and more secure alternative to fossil fuels. The Obama Administration has expressed optimism that advanced nuclear technologies being developed by the Department of Energy may offer proliferation resistance. The Administration has also pursued international incentives and agreements intended to minimize the spread of fuel cycle facilities.

Proposals offering countries access to nuclear power and thus the fuel cycle have ranged from requesting formal commitments by these countries to forswear sensitive enrichment and reprocessing technology, to a de facto approach in which states would not operate fuel cycle facilities but make no explicit commitments, to no restrictions at all. Countries joining the U.S.- led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), now the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC), signed a statement of principles that represented a shift in U.S. policy by not requiring participants to forgo domestic fuel cycle programs. Whether developing states will find existing proposals attractive enough to forgo what they see as their “inalienable” right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes remains to be seen.

GNEP was transformed into IFNEC under the Obama Administration and has continued as an international fuel cycle forum, but the Bush Administration’s plans for constructing nuclear fuel reprocessing and recycling facilities in the United States have been halted. Instead, the Obama Administration is supporting fundamental research on a variety of potential waste management technologies. Other ideas addressing the potential global expansion of nuclear fuel cycle facilities include placing all enrichment and reprocessing facilities under multinational control, developing new nuclear technologies that would not produce weapons-usable fissile material, and developing a multinational waste management system. Various systems of international fuel supply guarantees, multilateral uranium enrichment centers, and nuclear fuel reserves have also been proposed.

Congress will have a considerable role in at least four areas of oversight related to fuel cycle proposals. The first is providing funding and oversight of U.S. domestic programs related to expanding nuclear energy in the United States. The second area is policy direction and/or funding for international measures to assure supply. A third set of policy issues may arise in the context of U.S. participation in IFNEC or related initiatives. A fourth area in which Congress plays a key role is in the approval of nuclear cooperation agreements. Significant interest in these issues is expected to continue in the 112th Congress.

Date of Report: October 19, 2012
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: RL34234
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