• Perspective: Oligarchs, populists, and the EU The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions

    Before 1990, under Communism, farmers in the rich-soil fields west Budapest were growing wheat and corn for a government that had stolen their land. The New York Times reports that today, their children toil for new overlords, a group of oligarchs and political patrons who have annexed the land through opaque deals with the Hungarian government of Victor Orban. “Every year, the 28-country bloc pays out $65 billion in farm subsidies intended to support farmers around the Continent and keep rural communities alive. But across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. re is a twist: these land barons are financed and emboldened by the European Union.” The Times adds: “Europe’s farm program, a system that was instrumental in forming the European Union, is now being exploited by the same antidemocratic forces that threaten the bloc from within.”

  • PerspectiveClimate Change Will Strain Federal Finances

    The federal government is ill-prepared to shoulder what could be a trillion-dollar fiscal crisis associated with extreme weather, floods, wildfires and other climate disasters through 2100, federal investigators have found. In the latest of a series of reports, the Government Accountability Office says that costs of disaster assistance to taxpayers since 2005 have swelled to nearly $500 billion—and they keep getting higher.

  • Military spendingWorld military expenditure reaches $1.8 trillion in 2018

    Military spending in Ukraine and several other Central and Eastern European countries rose sharply in 2018, largely in reaction to perceived threats from Russia, a leading research institute says. Total world military expenditure rose to $1822 billion in 2018, representing an increase of 2.6 percent from 2017, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

  • BiothreatsFunding restored to National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures lab

    The Fort Detrick, Maryland-based National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is no longer facing an immediate jeopardy. The federal omnibus spending bill,  released last Wednesday evening, provided full funding for the biohazard laboratory – funding which the original administration’s budget proposal eliminated.

  • Digital privacyPrivacy of Americans not protected in omnibus spending bill

    The CLOUD Act, inserted at the very end of the 2,232-page omnibus spending bill, will make substantial amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). It grants U.S. law enforcement entities new powers to compel U.S. companies to disclose communications and data on U.S. and foreign users that is stored overseas. It also empowers foreign governments to demand the stored and real-time data and communications of users outside the U.S.

  • Medical countermeasuresBudgeting for medical countermeasures is essential for preparedness

    Preparedness against a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) threat requires a sustained and multi-pronged approach by both the public and private sectors. An essential component of this strategy is the development, procurement, and stockpiling of diagnostic tests, drugs, and vaccines in response to a potential event, as well as the ability to distribute these products where needed.

     

  • Border securityWith border arrests down, some question Trump administration's push for more agents

    By Julián Aguilar

    The Department of Homeland Security’s announced this week a near-record decline in the number of people caught trying to enter the country illegally. Yet the Trump administration still wants to hire thousands of more border agents.

  • InfrastructureTransportation, water infrastructure funding, finance in U.S. not as dire as some believe

    Transportation and water infrastructure funding and finance in the United States are not nearly as dire as some believe, but a national consensus on infrastructure priorities, accompanied by targeted spending and selected policy changes, is needed, according to a new study.

  • BiodefenseCongressional amendments restore Maryland BioLab4 funding

    Members of the Maryland congressional delegation attached amendments to the Homeland Security and Defense Department authorization bills to prevent the closure of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick, Maryland. President Trump’s budget for 2018 had eliminated funding for NBACC as part of cutting the budget of DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) by 28 percent. At the end of May 2017, the research center received a letter from DHS stating that the facility’s closing procedures should start on 1October, with anticipated decommissioning by 30 September 2018.

  • Law enforcementCost savings of LA county crime reform initiative uncertain

    While a California ballot initiative reducing penalties for some criminal offenses promised to save local governments money, quantifying such savings will require significant changes in the way local agencies track workloads, according to a new report. The researchers concluded there was too little information available to create credible estimates of cost savings, despite there being evidence that many of the departments saw a drop in workloads.

  • Chemical safetyBudget proposal calls for abolishing the Chemical Safety Board

    Under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, the world’s only independent body dedicated to investigating chemical-related industrial accidents would be abolished. A story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, revisits why the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board was initially created, its accomplishments, and what experts say about its potential demise.

  • Military spendingWorld military spending: Increases in the U.S., Europe, decreases in oil-exporting countries

    Total world military expenditure rose to $1686 billion in 2016, an increase of 0.4 percent in real terms from 2015, according to new figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year.

  • Science & securityMIT president calls for investing in basic science to maintain U.S. edge

    President Trump’s proposed budget slashes at least $7 billion in funding for science programs. That course of action would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, argues L. Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “Since World War II, the U.S. government has been the world’s biggest supporter of potentially transformative science — which is a key reason why the country continues to have the highest share of knowledge- and technology-intensive industries in the world, amounting to nearly 40 percent of the economy,” Reif writes in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs.

  • InfrastructureThe old, dirty, creaky U.S. electric grid would cost $5 trillion to replace. Where should infrastructure spending go?

    By Joshua D. Rhodes

    The electric grid is an amazing integrated system of machines spanning an entire continent. The National Academy of Engineering has called it one of the greatest engineering achievements of the twentieth century. But it is also expensive. By my analysis, the current (depreciated) value of the U.S. electric grid, comprising power plants, wires, transformers and poles, is roughly $1.5 to $2 trillion. To replace it would cost almost $5 trillion. That means the U.S. electric infrastructure, which already contains trillions of dollars of sunk capital, will soon need significant ongoing investment just to keep things the way they are. There is no path toward shoring up or upgrading the U.S. electric grid that does not require investment – even just maintaining what we have will cost hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars over the next decade. The bigger question is: As we continue to replace and rebuild this amazing grid, what technologies should we focus on?

  • DHS budgetTrump budget cuts endangering public safety: Federal union

    Budget cuts being proposed by the Trump administration will make America less secure and endanger the lives of the public and our public servants, the head of the largest federal employee union said yesterday. the Trump administration is proposing double digit percentage budget cuts at the Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Coast Guard. Homeland Security’s budget overall would increase 6 percent, to $43.8 billion, in fiscal 2018, with most of the increase dedicated to the administration’s planned crackdown on illegal immigration.