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Friday, March 29, 2013

African Americans and the United States Military

In an era where Barack Obama serves as the Commander-in-Chief and the military is one of the most racially integrated institutions in American society, it is worth considering as one reads Defiance that things were not always so. The two epigraphs of this essay serve as bookends to the history of African Americans in relation to American patriotism and the nation’s armed forces from the Revolution through the Vietnam era. Phyllis Wheatley, the literate slave of a prominent Boston family, offered poetic support for American grievances against the colonial regime of taxation using her own actual state of enslavement as a way of proving her right to protest against a fiscal regime that many Bostonians and others referred to as metaphorical slavery. This condition of being both a patriot and, in many cases, at best a second-class citizen marks the experience of many African Americans in uniform until the integration of US armed forces under President Truman. The quotation from Private Allen Jones serves as a reminder that even after integration and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, life in an officially colorblind military (or country, for that matter) did not and does not guarantee equable treatment before the law, whether that law is civil or the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Date of Report: March 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: G1317
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Operation Rolling Thunder: Political Decision-making that Committed the United States to the Vietnam War

The assassination of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem on November 1, 1963, left a leadership void in Saigon that was never filled. Heads of state went through Saigon like a revolving door, yet none of them were able to successfully lead and govern the people of South Vietnam.

On the other side of the globe, President of the United States John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. While the U.S. had a line of succession, President Johnson was relatively new to the Vietnam situation. Even though Johnson was new, he still had Kennedy’s cabinet and advisers to aid his decisions. Despite this, by early 1964 two new leaders, Nguyen Khanh and Lyndon Johnson sought a solution to the decades long struggle in Vietnam.

President Johnson inherited a three-front war in Vietnam. One front was North Vietnamese support of the Viet Cong (VC) insurgency in South Vietnam, and Johnson had to stop this support in order to defeat the VC. The insurgency itself constituted another front that had to be defeated in order to maintain a free and independent South Vietnam. The third overarching front was the creation of a stable and legitimate government in Saigon capable of governing the people of South Vietnam. The question for his administration was on which of these aspects to focus. Before Johnson could make that decision, he first had to decide if the U.S. should continue to aid Saigon; therefore, he had three options: leave Vietnam, continue in an advisory role, or escalate U.S. involvement.

The political and military situations in Vietnam deteriorated to such a point through 1964-1965 that by February 1965 there were no good choices left from which President Johnson could choose. Johnson desired for there to be a stable South Vietnamese government before he committed U.S. forces to its defense; however, no such government emerged. The administration was unwilling to risk U.S. prestige, resources, and lives unless they were confident South Vietnam could succeed without U.S. support. Because of the instability in South Vietnam as well as the perceived risk of communist aggression, President Johnson decided that escalatory military actions would be limited and gradual. Therefore, President Johnson made the least bad decision he could in February 1965 by initiating Operation ROLLING THUNDER and committing the United States to the Vietnam War.

Date of Report: March 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 49
Order Number: G1316
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Intelligence Authorization Legislation: Status and Challenges

Marshall Curtis Erwin
Analyst in Intelligence and National Security

Since President Bush signed the FY2005 Intelligence Authorization Act (P.L. 108-487) in December 2004, no subsequent intelligence authorization legislation was enacted until the FY2010 bill was signed by President Obama in October 2010 (after the end of FY2010), becoming P.L. 111-259. Although the National Security Act requires intelligence activities to be specifically authorized, this requirement had been satisfied in previous years by one-sentence catchall provisions in defense appropriations acts authorizing intelligence activities. This procedure meets the statutory requirement but has, according to some observers, weakened the ability of Congress to oversee intelligence activities.

Over the last two years, Congress has met its statutory requirement by passing three intelligence authorization bills that included classified schedules of authorizations and that were signed into law. Most recently, in December 2012, the House and Senate passed S. 3454, the intelligence authorization for FY2013, which was signed into law by the President on January 14, 2013 (P.L. 112-277). Key issues debated during the passage of these bills included the adequacy of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) authorities, Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit authority over the intelligence community, and measures to combat national security leaks. These three bills appear to reflect a determination to underscore the continuing need for specific annual intelligence authorization legislation.

Annual intelligence authorization acts were first passed in 1978 after the establishment of the two congressional intelligence committees and were enacted every year until 2005. These acts provided specific authorizations of intelligence activities and were accompanied by reports that provided detailed guidance to the nation’s intelligence agencies. The recent absence of intelligence authorization acts has meant that key intelligence issues have been addressed in defense authorization acts and defense appropriations acts that focus primarily on the activities of the Department of Defense (DOD).

Several Members have maintained that this procedure has been characterized by misplaced priorities and wasteful spending estimates that could run into billions. One example is the eventual cancellation of a highly classified and very costly overhead surveillance system that had been approved without support from the two intelligence committees.

The challenge for the 113
th Congress will be to help shape intelligence priorities while the intelligence community shifts from a decade of growth to a time of shrinking budgets. Reforms since 9/11 have attempted to create a more collaborative, integrated community. Reflecting that reality, intelligence priorities, and corresponding budget cuts, will be spread across six cabinet departments and two independent agencies. The two intelligence committees are positioned to have the most comprehensive information on intelligence activities broadly defined, including those conducted by agencies and those within DOD. Congress has an important role in intelligence oversight and in helping the community to avoid what DNI James Clapper in March 2013 called “another damaging downward spiral” similar to that which he said occurred after budget cuts in the 1990s. The annual intelligence authorization bill will be one of its most valuable legislative tools.

Date of Report: March 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R40240
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Trade Facilitation, Enforcement, and Security

Vivian C. Jones
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Marc R. Rosenblum
Specialist in Immigration Policy

International trade is a critical component of the U.S. economy, with U.S. merchandise imports and exports amounting to $2.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion in 2011, respectively. The efficient flow of legally traded goods in and out of the United States is thus a vital element of the country’s economic security.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the primary agency charged with ensuring the smooth flow of trade through U.S. ports of entry (POEs). CBP’s policies with regard to U.S. imports are designed to (1) facilitate the smooth flow of imported cargo through U.S. ports of entry; (2) enforce trade and customs laws designed to protect U.S. consumers and business and to collect customs revenue; and (3) enforce import security laws designed to prevent weapons of mass destruction, illegal drugs, and other contraband from entering the United States—a complex and difficult mission. Congress has a direct role in organizing, authorizing, and defining CBP’s international trade functions, as well as appropriating funding for and conducting oversight of its programs. The 113
th Congress may consider legislation to reauthorize CBP’s trade functions.

Laws currently authorizing the trade facilitation and enforcement functions of CBP (as outlined in the Customs Modernization and Informed Compliance Act, Title VI of P.L. 103-182) emphasize a balanced relationship between CBP and the trade community based on the principles of “shared responsibility,” “reasonable care,” and “informed compliance.” Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, Congress has placed greater emphasis on import security and CBP’s role in preventing terrorist attacks at the border. Legislation addressing customs procedures and import security includes the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296), the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-347), and the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-53).

CBP’s current import strategy emphasizes a risk management approach that segments importers into higher and lower risk pools and focuses trade enforcement and import security procedures on higher-risk imports, while expediting lower-risk flows. CBP’s “multi-layered approach” means that security screening and enforcement occur at multiple points in the import process, beginning before goods are loaded in foreign ports (pre-entry) and continuing long after the time goods have been admitted into the United States (post-entry).

How effectively CBP has performed its import policy mission is a matter of some debate. Some participants in CBP’s “trusted trader” programs argue that the concessions CBP provides at the border do not adequately justify the effort and expense participants undergo to certify their supply chains with CBP. Questions have also been raised about CBP’s management of trade facilitation, especially the “customs modernization” process through which the Automated Commercial System (ACS) trade data management system is being phased out in favor of the newer Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). Some critics also assert that CBP has not adequately fulfilled its trade enforcement role, especially its duties for preventing illegal transshipments, protecting U.S. intellectual property rights, and collecting duties. Still others criticize CBP’s performance of its security functions, especially because it does not yet physically scan 100% of maritime cargo as mandated by the SAFE Port Act of 2006, as amended.

Date of Report: March 22, 2013
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: R43014
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Public Mass Shootings in the United States: Selected Implications for Federal Public Health and Safety Policy

Jerome P. Bjelopera, Coordinator
Specialist in Organized Crime and Terrorism

Erin Bagalman
Analyst in Health Policy

Sarah W. Caldwell
Information Research Specialist

Kristin M. Finklea
Specialist in Domestic Security

Gail McCallion
Specialist in Social Policy

This report focuses on mass shootings and selected implications they have for federal policy in the areas of public health and safety. While such crimes most directly impact particular citizens in very specific communities, addressing these violent episodes involves officials at all levels of government and professionals from numerous disciplines. 

This report does not discuss gun control and does not systematically address the broader issue of gun violence. Also, it is not intended as an exhaustive review of federal programs addressing the issue of mass shootings. 

Defining Public Mass Shooting 

Policy makers may confront numerous questions about shootings such as the December 2012 incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, that claimed 27 lives (not including the shooter). Foremost, what are the parameters of this threat? How should it be defined?

There is no broadly agreed-to, specific conceptualization of this issue, so this report uses its own definition for public mass shootings. These are incidents occurring in relatively public places, involving four or more deaths—not including the shooter(s)—and gunmen who select victims somewhat indiscriminately. The violence in these cases is not a means to an end—the gunmen do not pursue criminal profit or kill in the name of terrorist ideologies, for example. 

One Measure of the Death Toll Exacted by Public Mass Shootings.
Applying this understanding of the issue, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has identified 78 public mass shootings that have occurred in the United States since 1983. This suggests the scale of this threat and is intended as a thorough review of the phenomenon but should not be characterized as exhaustive or definitive. According to CRS estimates, over the last three decades public mass shootings have claimed 547 lives and led to an additional 476 injured victims. Significantly, while tragic and shocking, public mass shootings account for few of the murders or non-negligent homicides related to firearms that occur annually in the United States. 

Policymaking Challenges in Public Health and Safety 

Aside from trying to develop a sense of this phenomenon’s scope, policy makers may face other challenges when addressing this topic. To help describe some of the health and safety issues public mass shootings pose, this report discusses selected policy in three areas: law enforcementpublic health, and education. While mass shootings may occur in a number of settings, the education realm is one that has received particular attention from policy makers, officials, and the public alike—at least since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has renewed such concerns for many.

In the areas of law enforcement, public health, and education, this report discusses some key efforts to prevent mass shootings as well as efforts geared toward preparedness and response. Policy measures that deal with recovery are also discussed within the context of education and public health initiatives. 

Policy Effectiveness and Outlay of Resources.
Many of the policymaking challenges regarding public mass shootings boil down to two interrelated matters: (1) a need to determine the effectiveness of existing programs and (2) figuring out where to disburse limited resources. Finally, baseline metrics related to this problem are often unclear or unavailable. This lack of clarity starts with identifying the number of shootings themselves, since no broadly agreed-to definition exists. Several questions flow from this issue. How many people have such incidents victimized? How much does prevention of, preparedness for, and response to such incidents cost the federal government? What measurements can be used to determine the effectiveness of such programs?

Date of Report: March 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 40
Order Number: R43004
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