Tag Archive | CRS

Drone Programs Sparks Budgetary and Privacy Concerns

By Steve Aftergood, Secrecy News, January 31, 2013

The development of unmanned aerial systems (or drones) for military and civilian applications appears to be accelerating faster than the normal policy process can adapt to it.  Aside from festering doubts about the legality, propriety and wisdom of their routine use in targeted killing operations, drone programs are beset by budgetary confusion, and a host of privacy and other legal problems are poised to emerge with the expanded use of drones in domestic airspace. … Meanwhile, “Perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens,” said a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

For full text of the article visit Secrecy News here.

A copy of the CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.  See Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues, January 30, 2013.

See also Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Manufacturing Trends, January 30, 2013.

Additional resources on drone policy issues are available from the Electronic Privacy Information Center here.

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Congressional Research Service Update to Federal GIS Report

The Congressional Research Service has published an update to one of their GIS reports:

Issues and Challenges for Federal Geospatial Information (R41826)

by Pete Folger, Specialist in Energy and Natural Resources Policy, April 27, 2012

Summary

Congress has recognized the challenge of coordinating and sharing geospatial data from the local, county, and state level to the national level, and vice versa. The cost to the federal government of gathering and coordinating geospatial information has also been an ongoing concern. As much as 80% of government information has a geospatial component, according to various sources. The federal government’s role has changed from being a primary provider of authoritative geospatial information to coordinating and managing geospatial data and facilitating partnerships. Congress explored issues of cost, duplication of effort, and coordination of geospatial information in hearings during the 108th Congress. However, challenges to coordinating how geospatial data are acquired and used—collecting duplicative data sets, for example—at the local, state, and federal levels, in collaboration with the private sector, are not yet resolved. Two bills introduced in the 112th Congress, H.R. 1620 and H.R. 4322, would address aspects of duplication and coordination of geospatial information.

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New CRS Report on Governmental Tracking of Cell Phones and Vehicles

Governmental Tracking of Cell Phones and Vehicles: The Confluence of Privacy, Technology, and Law

by Richard M. Thompson, Law Clerk,Congressional Research Service Report #R42109, December 1, 2011

Summary

Technology has advanced considerably since the framers established the constitutional parameters for searches and seizures in the Fourth Amendment. What were ink quills and parchment are now cell phones and the Internet. It is undeniable that these advances in technology threaten to diminish privacy. Law enforcement’s use of cell phones and GPS devices to track an individual’s movements brings into sharp relief the challenge of reconciling technology, privacy, and law. Beyond the Constitution, a miscellany of statutes and cases may apply to these tracking activities. One such statute is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), P.L. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848 (1986), which protects individual privacy and governs the methods by which law enforcement may retrieve electronic communications information for investigative purposes, including pen registers, trap and trace devices, wiretaps, and tracking devices. The primary debate surrounding cell phone and GPS tracking is not whether they are permitted by statute but rather what legal standard should apply: probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or something less.

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New Congressional Research Reports on Major Disasters and Emergencies | Secrecy News

From Secrecy News, September 16, 2011:

  • “Climate Change: Conceptual Approaches and Policy Tools,” August 29, 2011
  • “Homeland Security Department: FY2012 Appropriations,” September 2, 2011
  • “Congressional Primer on Major Disasters and Emergencies,” August 31, 2011

For links to the PDF CRS reports, visit Secrecy News.

Former FGDC Executive Director on Mapping and the Spatial Data Infrastructure

Mapping and Spatial Data: Infrastructures and Imagination

by John Moeller, Communia Blog,, Woodrow Wilson Center Science and Technology Program, September 6, 2011

“Cartographers, imagery analysts, geographic information system GIS specialists and others who work with maps and geospatial information operate on the premise that location or place is the most effective organizing principal for bringing together information and making it understandable for use. Others outside of the geospatial community are also increasingly recognizing that “where” is the most common integrating element of almost all data and information. In May 2011 the U.S. Congressional Research Service released a Report that highlighted the challenges to coordinating how geospatial data are acquired and used at the local, state, and federal levels, in collaboration with the private sector. The Report concluded that the issues of coordination are not yet resolved and that it will likely take some time, and several budget cycles, to evaluate whether the current model of geospatial data management is the best available model for managing the federal geospatial assets. …”

For full text of the article, visit Communia Mapping and Spatial Data.

New CRS Report: Considerations for a Catastrophic Declaration – Stafford Act

Bruce R. Lindsay, Analyst in Emergency Management Policy
Francis X. McCarthy, Analyst in Emergency Management Policy

Congressional Research Service, June 21, 2011

SUMMARY: The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) is the principal authority governing federal emergency and disaster response in the United States. The act authorizes the President to issue three categories of declaration: (1) major disaster, (2) emergency, or (3) fire assistance declarations in response to incidents that overwhelm the resources of state and local governments. Once a declaration is issued, a wide range of federal disaster assistance becomes available to eligible individuals and households, public entities, and certain nonprofit organizations. Disaster assistance authorized by the Stafford Act is appropriated by Congress and provided through the Disaster Relief Fund.

Emergency declarations supplement and promote coordination of local and state efforts such as evacuations and protection of public assets. They may also be declared prior to the impact of an incident to protect property, public health and safety and lessen or avert the threat of a major disaster or catastrophe. Major disaster declarations are issued after an incident and constitute broader authority to help states and localities, as well as families and individuals, recover from the damage caused by the event. Fire assistance declarations provide grants to state and localities to manage fires that threaten to cause major disasters.

Recently there has been discussion that the Stafford Act should be amended to include a fourth category, generally called a “catastrophic declaration.” If approved, catastrophic declarations could be invoked for high-profile, large-scale incidents that threaten the lives of many people, create tremendous damage, and pose significant challenges to timely recovery efforts.

This report examines concerns expressed by policymakers and experts that current Stafford Act declarations are inadequate to respond to, and recover from, highly destructive events, and presents the arguments for and against amending the act to add a catastrophic declaration amendment. This report also includes data analyses of past and potential disasters to determine what incidents might be deemed as catastrophic, and explores alternative policy options that might obviate the need for catastrophic declarations.

For full text of the article, visit the Federation of American Scientists‘ Website: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R41884.pdf

GIS Analyst Position at the Congressional Research Service

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Job Title: Geographic/Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Analyst

Agency: Library Of Congress Congressional Research Service

Job Announcement Number: 110094

SALARY RANGE: $89,033.00 – $115,742.00 /year

OPEN PERIOD: Monday, June 20, 2011 to Monday, July 11, 2011

SERIES & GRADE: GS-1370-13/13

POSITION INFORMATION: Open Permanent

PROMOTION POTENTIAL: 13

DUTY LOCATIONS: 1 vacancy(s) in one of the following locations: Washington, DC

WHO MAY BE CONSIDERED: U.S. citizens

JOB SUMMARY: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) Knowledge Services Group (KSG) seeks a Geographic/Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Analyst. The person hired for this position will work in partnership with analysts, attorneys, information professionals, graphic design specialists, and cartographers to find and use authoritative GIS sources to create sophisticated geospatial models and visual materials that anticipate and illustrate complex public policy issues for the Congress. As part of this work, the GIS Analyst will provide GIS analysis and support; and develop policies and guidelines for the GIS program, including development of clear procedures for intake of requests, prioritization of work, identification of division of labor, definition of deliverables, and following through with clients. The GIS Analyst will also provide training and promote GIS services throughout CRS. CRS works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for nearly a century. CRS is well known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has immediate access to the nation’s best thinking on public policy issues of interest to its Members and Committees.

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