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Friday, March 23, 2012

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress


Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2013 budget includes $8 million in acquisition funding to initiate survey and design activities for a new polar icebreaker. The Coast Guard’s Five Year Capital Investment Plan includes an additional $852 million in FY2014-FY2017 for acquiring the ship. The Coast Guard anticipates awarding a construction contract for the ship “within the next five years” and taking delivery on the ship “within a decade.” The project to design and build a polar icebreaker is a new acquisition project initiated in the FY2013 budget.

Coast Guard polar icebreakers perform a variety of missions supporting U.S. interests in polar regions. The Coast Guard’s two existing heavy polar icebreakers—Polar Star and Polar Sea— have exceeded their intended 30-year service lives, and neither is currently operational. Polar Star was placed in caretaker status on July 1, 2006. Congress in FY2009 and FY2010 provided funding to repair it and return it to service for 7 to 10 years; the Coast Guard expects the reactivation project to be completed in December 2012. On June 25, 2010, the Coast Guard announced that Polar Sea had suffered an unexpected engine casualty; the ship was unavailable for operation after that. The Coast Guard placed Polar Sea in commissioned, inactive status on October 14, 2011, and plans to decommission it in FY2012.

The Coast Guard’s third polar icebreaker—Healy—entered service in 2000. Compared to Polar Star and Polar Sea, Healy has less icebreaking capability (it is considered a medium polar icebreaker), but more capability for supporting scientific research. The ship is used primarily for supporting scientific research in the Arctic.

The reactivation of Polar Star and the decommissioning of Polar Sea will result in an operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet consisting for the next 7 to 10 years of one heavy polar icebreaker (Polar Star) and one medium polar icebreaker (Healy). The new polar icebreaker for which initial acquisition funding is requested in the FY2013 budget would replace Polar Star at about the time Polar Star’s 7- to 10-year reactivation period ends.

Potential issues for Congress regarding Coast Guard polar icebreaker modernization include the potential impact on U.S. polar missions of the United States currently having no operational heavy polar icebreakers; the numbers and capabilities of polar icebreakers the Coast Guard will need in the future; the disposition of Polar Sea following its decommissioning; whether the new polar icebreaker initiated in the FY23013 budget should be funded with incremental funding (as proposed in the Coast Guard’s Five Year Capital Investment Plan) or full funding in a single year, as required under the executive branch’s full funding policy; whether new polar icebreakers should be funded entirely in the Coast Guard budget, or partly or entirely in some other part of the federal budget, such as the Department of Defense (DOD) budget, the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget, or both; whether to provide future icebreaking capability through construction of new ships or service life extensions of existing polar icebreakers; and whether future polar icebreakers should be acquired through a traditional acquisition or a leasing arrangement.



Date of Report: February 24, 2012
Number of Pages:
75
Order Number:
RL34391
Price: $29.95

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Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements


Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

Mary Beth Nikitin
Specialist in Nonproliferation

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation


Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement U.S. national security strategy. Although some believe these tools do little to restrain the behavior of U.S. adversaries, while doing too much to restrain U.S. military forces and operations, many other analysts see them as an effective means to promote transparency, ease military planning, limit forces, and protect against uncertainty and surprise. Arms control and nonproliferation efforts have produced formal treaties and agreements, informal arrangements, and cooperative threat reduction and monitoring mechanisms. The pace of implementation for many of these agreements slowed during the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration usually preferred unilateral or ad hoc measures to formal treaties and agreements to address U.S. security concerns. But the Obama Administration resumed bilateral negotiations with Russia and pledged its support for a number of multilateral arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

The United States and Soviet Union began to sign agreements limiting their strategic offensive nuclear weapons in the early 1970s. Progress in negotiating and implementing these agreements was often slow, and subject to the tenor of the broader U.S.-Soviet relationship. As the Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s, the pace of negotiations quickened, with the two sides signing treaties limiting intermediate range and long-range weapons. But progress again slowed in the 1990s, as U.S. missile defense plans and a range of other policy conflicts intervened in the U.S.- Russian relationship. At the same time, however, the two sides began to cooperate on securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Through these cooperative efforts, the United States now allocates more than $1 billion each year to threat reduction programs in the former Soviet Union.

The United States is also a prominent actor in an international regime that attempts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. This regime, although suffering from some setbacks in recent years in Iran and North Korea, includes formal treaties, export control coordination and enforcement, U.N. resolutions, and organizational controls. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) serves as the cornerstone of this regime, with all but four nations participating in it. The International Atomic Energy Agency not only monitors nuclear programs to make sure they remain peaceful, but also helps nations develop and advance those programs. Other measures, such as sanctions, interdiction efforts, and informal cooperative endeavors, also seek to slow or stop the spread of nuclear materials and weapons.

The international community has also adopted a number of agreements that address non-nuclear weapons. The CFE Treaty and Open Skies Treaty sought to stabilize the conventional balance in Europe in the waning years of the Cold War. Other arrangements seek to slow the spread of technologies that nations could use to develop advanced conventional weapons. The Chemical Weapons and Biologica


Date of Report: March
7, 2012
Number of Pages:
73
Order Number:
RL33865
Price: $29.95

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Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress


Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The planned size of the Navy, the rate of Navy ship procurement, and the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been matters of concern for the congressional defense committees for the past several years.

In February 2006, the Navy presented to Congress a goal of achieving and maintaining a fleet of 313 ships, consisting of certain types and quantities of ships. In September 2011, the Navy began briefing congressional offices on a revised 313-ship plan that altered planned numbers for certain ship categories while staying within the overall total of 313 ships. On January 31, 2012, the Navy announced that it had begun a force structure assessment, to be completed in several months, that could lead to a new force structure goal for the Navy.

The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget requests funding for the procurement of 10 new battle force ships (i.e., ships that count against the 313-ship goal). The 10 ships include one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class aircraft carrier; two Virginia-class attack submarines, two DDG-51 class Aegis destroyers, four Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), and one Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV). These ships are all funded through the Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) account.

The FY2013-FY2017 five-year shipbuilding plan contains a total of 41 ships—14 ships, or about 25%, less than the 55 ships in the FY2012 five-year (FY2012-FY2016) shipbuilding plan, and 16 ships less, or about 28%, less than the 57 ships that were planned for FY2013-FY2017 under the FY2012 budget.

Of the 16 ships that are no longer planned for FY2013-FY2017, nine were eliminated from the Navy’s shipbuilding plan and seven were deferred to years beyond FY2017. The nine ships that were eliminated were eight Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs) and one TAGOS ocean surveillance ship. The seven ships that were deferred beyond FY2017 were one Virginia-class attack submarine, two LCSs, one LSD(X) amphibious ship, and three TAO(X) oilers. The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget also proposes the early retirement of seven Aegis cruisers and two LSD-type amphibious ships in FY2013-FY2014.

The Navy’s FY2012 30-year (FY2012-FY2041) shipbuilding plan that was submitted to Congress last year does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s 313-ship goal over the long run. Among other things, the Navy projects that the cruiser-destroyer and attack submarine forces would drop substantially below required levels in the latter years of the 30-year plan.

A June 2011 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the cost of the Navy’s FY2012 30- year (FY2012-FY2041) shipbuilding plan estimated that the plan would cost an average of $18.0 billion per year in constant FY2011 dollars to implement, or about 16% more than the Navy estimates. CBO’s estimate is about 7% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the first 10 years of the plan, about 10% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the second 10 years of the plan, and about 31% higher than the Navy’s estimate for the final 10 years of the plan.



Date of Report: March
5, 2012
Number of Pages:
28
Order Number:
RL32665
Price: $29.95

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Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union


Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

Congress passed the Nunn-Lugar amendment, authorizing U.S. threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union, in November 1991, after a failed coup in Moscow and the disintegration of the Soviet Union raised concerns about the safety and security of Soviet nuclear weapons. The annual program has grown from $400 million in the DOD budget to over $1 billion per year across three agencies—DOD, DOE, and the State Department. It has also evolved from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union, to a more comprehensive threat reduction and nonproliferation effort, to a broader program seeking to keep nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from leaking out of the former Soviet Union and into the hands of rogue nations or terrorist groups, to a global program to address the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

The Department of Defense manages the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, which provides Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan with assistance in transporting, storing, and dismantling nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. U.S. assistance has helped these nations eliminate the delivery systems for nuclear weapons under the START Treaty, secure weapons storage areas, construct a storage facility for nuclear materials removed from weapons, construct a destruction facility for chemical weapons, and secure biological weapons materials.

The State Department manages the International Science and Technology Centers in Moscow and Kiev. These centers have provided research grants to scientists and engineers so that they will not sell their knowledge to other nations or terrorist groups. The State Department has also provided assistance with export and border control programs in the former Soviet states. The Department of Energy manages programs that seek to improve the security of nuclear warheads in storage and nuclear materials at civilian, naval, and nuclear weapons complex facilities. It also funds programs that help nuclear scientists and engineers find employment in commercial enterprises. DOE is also helping Russia dispose of plutonium removed from nuclear weapons and shut down its remaining plutonium-producing reactors by replacing them with fossil-fuel plants.

Analysts have debated numerous issues related to U.S. nonproliferation and threat reduction assistance. These include questions about the coordination of and priority given to these programs in the U.S. government, questions about Russia’s willingness to provide the United States with access to its weapons facilities, questions about the President’s ability to waive certification requirements so that the programs can go forward, and questions about the need to expand the efforts into a global program that receives funding from numerous nations and possibly extends assistance to others outside the former Soviet Union.



Date of Report: March 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 67
Order Number: RL31957
Price: $29.95

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Veterans Affairs: A Preliminary Analysis of the FY2013 Budget Proposal


Christine Scott
Specialist in Social Policy

Sidath Viranga Panangala
Specialist in Veterans Policy


The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a range of benefits and services to veterans who meet certain eligibility criteria. These benefits and services include hospital and medical care, disability compensation and pensions, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment services, assistance to homeless veterans, home loan guarantees, administration of life insurance as well as traumatic injury protection insurance for servicemembers, and death benefits that cover burial expenses.

This report provides a preliminary analysis of the President’s budget request for FY2013 for the programs administered by the VA. For FY2013, the Administration is requesting approximately $140.3 billion for the VA, an increase of $13.4 billion over FY2012 budget authority. This amount includes approximately $64.0 billion in discretionary funds and approximately $76.4 billion in mandatory funding.

The FY2013 budget request for VA medical care programs is $56.3 billion, with a FY2014 request of advance appropriations of $54.5 billion. This report is not an exhaustive discussion of VA’s budget request for FY2013. A full CRS report on FY2013 VA budget and appropriations issues is planned after initial congressional consideration of appropriations legislation.



Date of Report: March 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R42408
Price: $29.95

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