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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gun Control Legislation


William J. Krouse
Specialist in Domestic Security and Crime Policy

Congress has debated the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition, with strong advocates arguing for and against greater gun control. Since March 2011, much of the gun control debate in the 112th Congress has swirled around allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) mishandled a Phoenix, AZ-based gun trafficking investigation known as “Operation Fast and Furious.” In the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-55), Congress included a provision that reflects a Senate-adopted amendment that forbids the expenditure of any funding provided under it to be used by a federal law enforcement officer to transfer an operable firearm to a person known or suspected to be connected with a drug cartel without that firearm being continuously monitored or controlled. The act, however, does not include language adopted during House full committee markup to prohibit ATF from collecting multiple long gun sales reports in Southwest Border states.

The 112th Congress continues to consider the implications of Operation Fast and Furious and several gun control issues. On June 20, 2012, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is scheduled to meet and consider a report and resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to produce subpoenaed documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. On May 18, 2012, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), which amends a provision that limits the Secretary of Defense’s authority to regulate firearms privately held by members of the Armed Forces off-base. On May 10, 2012, the House passed a Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) that would fund ATF for FY2013 and, on April 19, 2012, the Senate Committee on Appropriations reported a similar bill (S. 2323). Both bills include several gun control-related provisions, such as a ban on additional shotgun importation regulations.

On April 17, 2012, the House passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089), a bill that would prohibit any federal agency from banning recreational shooting on federally managed public lands. On November 16, 2011, the House passed a bill (H.R. 822) that would establish a greater degree of reciprocity between states that issue concealed carry permits for handguns to civilians than currently exists under state law. On October 11, 2011, the House passed a Veterans’ Benefits Act (H.R. 2349) that would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from determining a beneficiary to be mentally incompetent for the purposes of gun control, unless such a determination were made by a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority based upon a finding that the beneficiary posed a danger to himself or others. In May 2011, firearms-related amendments to bills reauthorizing the USA PATRIOT Act were considered (H.R. 1800, S. 1038, and S. 990), but they were not passed.

The tragic shootings in Tucson, AZ, on January 8, 2011, in which 6 people were killed and 13 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, also generated attention. Several Members introduced proposals that arguably address issues related to the shooter’s mental illness and drug use (see S. 436/H.R. 1781) and his use of large capacity ammunition feeding devices (LCAFDs) (see H.R. 308 and S. 32), as well as a proposal to ban firearms within the proximity of certain high-level federal officials (see H.R. 367 and H.R. 496).

In addition to legislative action in the 112th Congress, this report also includes discussion of other salient and recurring gun control issues that have generated past or current congressional interest. Those issues include (1) screening firearms background check applicants against terrorist watch lists, (2) combating gun trafficking and straw purchases, (3) reforming the regulation of federally licensed gun dealers, (4) requiring background checks for private firearms transfers at gun shows, (5) more-strictly regulating certain firearms previously defined in statute as “semiautomatic assault weapons,” and (6) banning or requiring the registration of certain long-range .50 caliber rifles, which are commonly referred to as “sniper” rifles. To set these and other emerging issues in context, this report provides basic firearms-related statistics, an overview of federal firearms law, and a summary of legislative action in the 111th and 112th Congresses.



Date of Report: June 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 105
Order Number: RL32842
Price: $29.95

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Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress


Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget requests $3,217.6 million in procurement funding to complete the procurement cost of the 17th and 18th Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The FY2013 budget estimates the combined procurement cost of these two boats at $5,107.9 million, and the ships have received a total of $1,890.3 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) and Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget also requests $874.9 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in future years. The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget defers the scheduled procurement of one Virginia-class boat from FY2014 to FY2018.

The two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2013 are the final two in a group of eight covered by a multiyear procurement (MYP) arrangement for the period FY2009-FY2013. The Navy this year is requesting congressional approval for a new MYP arrangement that would cover the next nine Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2014-FY2018 (in annual quantities of 1-2-2-2-2).

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced in January 2012 that it wants to build Virginiaclass boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years with an additional mid-body section, called the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), that contains four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes that the boats would use to store and fire additional Tomahawk cruise missiles or other payloads, such as large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Building Virginia-class boats with the VPM might increase their unit procurement costs by about 15%-20%, and would increase the total number of torpedo-sized weapons (such as Tomahawks) that they could carry by about 76%.

The Navy’s FY2013 30-year SSN procurement plan, if implemented, would not be sufficient to maintain a force of 48 SSNs consistently over the long run. The Navy projects under that plan that the SSN force would fall below 48 boats starting in FY2022, reach a minimum of 43 boats in FY2028-FY2030, and remain below 48 boats through FY2034.

Potential issues for Congress regarding the Virginia-class program include the following:

  • whether to approve the Navy’s request for a new MYP arrangement for the nine Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2014-FY2018; 
  • whether to restore procurement of a second Virginia-class boat in FY2014—an issue that could have implications for Virginia-class AP funding in FY2013; 
  • the Virginia-class procurement rate more generally in coming years, particularly in the context of the projected SSN shortfall and the larger debate over future U.S. defense strategy and defense spending; and 
  • Virginia-class program issues raised in a December 2011 report from DOD’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E). 
The Navy’s Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) ballistic missile submarine program is discussed in CRS Report R41129, Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O'Rourke.


Date of Report: June 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL32418
Price: $29.95

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Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV): Background and Issues for Congress


Andrew Feickert
Specialist in Military Ground Forces

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is being developed by the Army and the Marine Corps as a successor to the High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) that have been in service since 1985. On October 28, 2008, three awards were made for the JLTV Technology Development (TD) Phase to three industry teams: (1) BAE Systems, (2) the team of Lockheed Martin and General Tactical Vehicle, and (3) AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems. Once testing was completed and technology requirements established, a full and open competition was expected to be conducted in the late summer of 2011 for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Phase; the Department of Defense (DOD) planned to award two contracts for the EMD phase, which was scheduled to last 24 months.

In February 2011, it was announced that the award of the EMD contract would be delayed until January or February 2012 because the Army changed requirements for the JLTV. DOD had planned to award two contracts for the EMD phase, which was scheduled to last 24 months, but instead proposed a 48-month-long EMD. There will be two JLTV variants—a Combat Tactical Vehicle (CTV) that can transport four passengers and carry 3,500 pounds and a Combat Support Vehicle (CSV) that can transport two passengers and carry 5,100 pounds.

On January 26, 2012, the Army issued the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the JLTV’s EMD phase. Up to three EMD contracts may be awarded, and contract award was scheduled for June 2012. The EMD phase will last 27 months, and vendors will be required to provide 22 prototypes for testing 12 months after contract award. The target cost for the base vehicle is $250,000 excluding add-on armor and other kits. Reports suggest that due to an increased number of JLTV EMD phase competitors—up from three to six—the EMD contract award will be delayed until July 2012.

Australia is reportedly “not committed” to participating in the EMD phase, and the new RFP has no Australia-specific requirements—such as right-hand drive. Furthermore, the Australian Ministry of Defense (MOD) is said to be looking at a domestic variant of the JLTV, although they stated that they would continue to monitor the JLTV program.

Ford Motor Company expressed an interest in late 2011 about entering the JLTV EMD competition, noting it could deliver a superior product quicker and cheaper than the current vendors. Because the Army was unwilling to extend the EMD RFP beyond its March 13, 2012, deadline to accommodate Ford, Ford declined to participate. Ford has instead opted to provide the engine for the BAE Systems JLTV Team variant.

The FY2013 Budget Request for JLTVs is $72.3 million for Army Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) and $44.5 million for Marine Corps RDT&E, for a program total of $116.8 million. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees as well as the House Appropriations Committee have recommended fully funding the Administration’s FY2013 JLTV Budget Request.

Potential issues for Congress include clarification of foreign participation in the JLTV program, given Australia’s apparent non-participation, and how the Army’s upcoming study to revise overall tactical wheeled vehicle requirements might affect the JLTV program.



Date of Report: June 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS22924
Price: $29.95

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Nuclear Cooperation with Other Countries: A Primer


Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Mary Beth Nikitin
Specialist in Nonproliferation


In order for the United States to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with other states, it must conclude a framework agreement that meets specific requirements under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA). The AEA also provides for exemptions to these requirements, export control licensing procedures, and criteria for terminating cooperation. Congressional review is required for Section 123 agreements; the AEA establishes special parliamentary procedures by which Congress may act on a proposed agreement.


Date of Report: June 19, 2012
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RS22937
Price: $29.95

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Friday, June 22, 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: June 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 62
Order Number: RL34391
Price: $29.95

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