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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nanotechnology: A Policy Primer


John F. Sargent Jr.
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology—commonly referred to collectively as nanotechnology—is believed by many to offer extraordinary economic and societal benefits. Congress has demonstrated continuing support for nanotechnology and has directed its attention primarily to three topics that may affect the realization of this hoped for potential: federal research and development (R&D) in nanotechnology; U.S. competitiveness; and environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns. This report provides an overview of these topics—which are discussed in more detail in other CRS reports—and two others: nanomanufacturing and public understanding of and attitudes toward nanotechnology.

The development of this emerging field has been fostered by significant and sustained public investments in nanotechnology R&D. Nanotechnology R&D is directed toward the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers. At this size, the properties of matter can differ in fundamental and potentially useful ways from the properties of individual atoms and molecules and of bulk matter. Since the launch of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2000 through FY2012, Congress has appropriated approximately $15.6 billion for nanotechnology R&D, including approximately $1.7 billion in FY2012 funding under the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-55) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2012 (P.L. 112-74). President Obama has requested $1.8 billion in NNI funding for FY2013. More than 60 nations have established similar programs. In 2010, total global public R&D investments reached an estimated $8.2 billion, complemented by an estimated private sector investment of $9.6 billion. Data on economic outputs used to assess competitiveness in mature technologies and industries, such as revenues and market share, are not available for assessing nanotechnology. Alternatively, data on inputs (e.g., R&D expenditures) and non-financial outputs (e.g., scientific papers, patents) may provide insight into the current U.S. position and serve as bellwethers of future competitiveness. By these criteria, the United States appears to be the overall global leader in nanotechnology, though some believe the U.S. lead may not be as large as it was for previous emerging technologies.

Some research has raised concerns about the safety of nanoscale materials. There is general agreement that more information on EHS implications is needed to protect the public and the environment; to assess and manage risks; and to create a regulatory environment that fosters prudent investment in nanotechnology-related innovation. Nanomanufacturing—the bridge between nanoscience and nanotechnology products—may require the development of new technologies, tools, instruments, measurement science, and standards to enable safe, effective, and affordable commercial-scale production of nanotechnology products. Public understanding and attitudes may also affect the environment for R&D, regulation, and market acceptance of products incorporating nanotechnology.

In 2003, Congress enacted the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act providing a legislative foundation for some of the activities of the NNI, addressing concerns, establishing programs, assigning agency responsibilities, and setting authorization levels. Legislation was introduced in the 110th Congress and 111th Congress to amend and reauthorize the act.



Date of Report: April 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: RL34511Price: $29.95

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as fire grants or the FIRE Act grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). Currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the program provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. A related program is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring, recruiting, and retaining firefighters.

The fire grant program is now in its 12th year. The Fire Act statute was reauthorized in 2004 (Title XXXVI of P.L. 108-375) and provides overall guidelines on how fire grant money should be distributed. There is no set geographical formula for the distribution of fire grants—fire departments throughout the nation apply, and award decisions are made by a peer panel based on the merits of the application and the needs of the community. However, the law does require that fire grants be distributed to a diverse mix of fire departments, with respect to type of department (paid, volunteer, or combination), geographic location, and type of community served (e.g., urban, suburban, or rural).

For FY2012, P.L. 112-74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act provided $675 million for firefighter assistance, including $337.5 million for AFG and $337.5 million for SAFER. The Administration’s FY2013 budget proposed $670 million for firefighter assistance, including $335 million for AFG and $335 million for SAFER.

On March 10, 2011, S. 550, the Fire Grants Authorization Act of 2011 was introduced into the Senate. Previously in the 111th Congress, reauthorization legislation for AFG and SAFER was passed by the House, but was not passed by the Senate. Debate over the reauthorization reflected a competition for funding between career/urban/suburban departments and volunteer/rural departments. The urgency of this debate was heightened by the proposed reduction of overall AFG funding in FY2011, and the economic downturn in many local communities increasingly hard pressed to allocate funding for their local fire departments.

On June 22, 2011, H.R. 2269, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011, was introduced into the House. H.R. 2269 is virtually identical to House legislation that was passed in the 111th Congress.



Date of Report: April 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL32341
Price: $29.95

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Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as fire grants or the FIRE Act grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). Currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the program provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. A related program is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring, recruiting, and retaining firefighters.

The fire grant program is now in its 12th year. The Fire Act statute was reauthorized in 2004 (Title XXXVI of P.L. 108-375) and provides overall guidelines on how fire grant money should be distributed. There is no set geographical formula for the distribution of fire grants—fire departments throughout the nation apply, and award decisions are made by a peer panel based on the merits of the application and the needs of the community. However, the law does require that fire grants be distributed to a diverse mix of fire departments, with respect to type of department (paid, volunteer, or combination), geographic location, and type of community served (e.g., urban, suburban, or rural).

For FY2012, P.L. 112-74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act provided $675 million for firefighter assistance, including $337.5 million for AFG and $337.5 million for SAFER. The Administration’s FY2013 budget proposed $670 million for firefighter assistance, including $335 million for AFG and $335 million for SAFER.

On March 10, 2011, S. 550, the Fire Grants Authorization Act of 2011 was introduced into the Senate. Previously in the 111th Congress, reauthorization legislation for AFG and SAFER was passed by the House, but was not passed by the Senate. Debate over the reauthorization reflected a competition for funding between career/urban/suburban departments and volunteer/rural departments. The urgency of this debate was heightened by the proposed reduction of overall AFG funding in FY2011, and the economic downturn in many local communities increasingly hard pressed to allocate funding for their local fire departments.

On June 22, 2011, H.R. 2269, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2011, was introduced into the House. H.R. 2269 is virtually identical to House legislation that was passed in the 111th Congress.



Date of Report: April 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL32341
Price: $29.95

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Data Security Breach Notification Laws


Gina Stevens
Legislative Attorney

A data security breach occurs when there is a loss or theft of, or other unauthorized access to, sensitive personally identifiable information that could result in the potential compromise of the confidentiality or integrity of data. Forty-six states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have laws requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information. Federal statutes, regulations, and a memorandum for federal departments and agencies require certain sectors (healthcare, financial, federal public sector, and the Department of Veterans Affairs) to implement information security programs and provide notification of security breaches of personal information. In response to such notification laws, over 2,676 data breaches and computer intrusions involving 535 million records containing sensitive personal information have been disclosed by data brokers, businesses, retailers, educational institutions, government and military agencies, healthcare providers, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, utility companies, and Internet businesses. As a result, a significantly large number of individuals have received notices that their personally identifiable information has been improperly disclosed.

This report provides an overview of state security breach notification laws applicable to entities that collect, maintain, own, possess, or license personal information. The report describes information security and security breach notification requirements in the Office of Management and Budget’s “Breach Notification Policy,” the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).

The Senate Judiciary Committee marked up three data security bills and reported the three bills with substitute amendments. See CRS Report R42474, Selected Federal Data Security Breach Legislation, by Kathleen Ann Ruane. S. 1151 (Leahy), the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2011, would apply to business entities to prevent and mitigate identity theft, ensure privacy, provide notice of security breaches, and enhance criminal penalties. It would provide law enforcement assistance and other protections against security breaches, fraudulent access, and misuse of personally identifiable information. S. 1408 (Feinstein), the Data Breach Notification Act of 2011, would require federal agencies and persons engaged in interstate commerce, in possession of data containing sensitive personally identifiable information, to disclose any breach of such information. S. 1535 (Blumenthal), the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act of 2011, would protect consumers by mitigating the vulnerability of personally identifiable information to theft through a security breach, provide notice and remedies to consumers, hold companies accountable for preventable breaches, facilitate the sharing of postbreach technical information, and enhance criminal and civil penalties and other protections against the unauthorized collection or use of personally identifiable information. The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade marked up H.R. 2577 (Bono Mack), the SAFE Data Act, to protect consumers by requiring reasonable security policies and procedures to protect data containing personal information, and to provide for nationwide notice in the event of a security breach. Several subcommittee Democrats objected to the bill’s definition of personal information, arguing that the description is limited and does not adequately protect consumers from identity theft. The House Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee approved H.R. 2577 by voice vote and the measure was referred to the full committee for consideration. H.R. 1707 (Rush) and H.R. 1841 (Stearns) were also introduced to protect consumers by requiring reasonable security policies and procedures to protect computerized data containing personal information and providing for nationwide notice in the event of a breach. Congress may address data security during its consideration of cybersecurity legislation.



Date of Report: April 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R42475
Price: $29.95

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Selected Federal Data Security Breach Legislation


Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

The protection of data, particularly data that can be used to identify individuals, has become an issue of great concern to Congress. There is no comprehensive federal law governing the protection of data held by private actors. Only those entities covered by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, 15 U.S.C. §§6801-6809, (certain financial institutions) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 42 U.S.C. §1320d et seq., and amendments to HIPAA contained in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), P.L. 111-5, (certain health care facilities) are required explicitly by federal law to report data breaches. If private companies have indicated in their privacy policies that they will notify individuals upon a suspected data breach, failure to provide such notification may be considered to be an unfair and deceptive trade practice under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). However, the FTC does not explicitly require private actors in possession of data related to individuals to notify individuals or the federal government should a data breach occur.

Forty-six states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have enacted laws requiring notification upon a data security breach involving personal information. However, these laws may vary in their application. They may only apply to certain entities or to certain data. Furthermore, companies maintaining stores of personal data may find it difficult to comply with the potentially different requirements of various state laws.

A combination of a lack of a comprehensive federal law addressing security breaches involving personal data and the difficulty industry participants report in complying with various state laws has led Congress to propose a number of bills that would require private actors in possession of personal data to report breaches of that data. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved and reported three bills that would create federal standards for data breach notification: S. 1151, the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2011 (Chairman Leahy); S. 1408, the Data Breach Notification Act of 2011 (Senator Feinstein); and S. 1535, the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act of 2011 (Senator Blumenthal). The bills have similar structures and elements. This report will analyze the bills, as reported out of the committee, discussing their similarities and differences.

For more information about current state and federal data security breach notification laws, see CRS Report R42475, Data Security Breach Notification Laws, by Gina Stevens.



Date of Report: April 9, 2012
Number of Pages:
15
Order Number: R424
74
Price: $29.95

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Monday, April 2, 2012

The FCC’s Broadcast Media Ownership and Attribution Rules: The Current Debate


Charles B. Goldfarb
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) broadcast media ownership rules, which place restrictions on the number of media outlets that a single entity can own or control in a local market or nationally, are intended to foster the three long-standing goals of U.S. media policy— competition, localism, and diversity of voices. The FCC is statutorily required to review these rules every four years to determine whether they continue to serve the public interest or should be modified or eliminated. One part of these rules, the FCC’s attribution rules, identify criteria for determining when an entity holds sufficient ownership or control of a broadcast station that such ownership or control should be attributed to the entity for the purposes of applying the media ownership rules.

The FCC proposes eliminating its Radio/Television Cross-Ownership rule because it is no longer needed to foster the goals of diversity of voices and localism. It also proposes modifying its Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership rule to allow certain types of combinations in the 20 largest markets. It proposes a technical change in its Local Television Ownership Rule, but otherwise would continue to prohibit ownership of two stations in a local market unless one is not among the four highest-ranked stations in the market and, after the combination, there would still be eight independently owned and operating commercial full-power television stations. The FCC proposes that its Local Radio Ownership and Dual Network rules be retained as is.

In recent years, many television stations have entered into sharing arrangements with other stations in their local market to jointly sell advertising and/or produce local news programming, typically with one station managing that shared operation and perhaps providing most or all of the staffing and other resources. The FCC seeks public comment on how, for the purposes of the media ownership rules, to attribute control of a broadcast television station that has entered into such a sharing arrangement. Currently, the only sharing agreement-related attribution rule for television stations covers local marketing agreements in which one station both purchases blocks of time from another station in the same market and sells the advertising for the purchased time— that is, the broker station provides both the programming and the advertising—for at least 15% of the brokered station’s broadcasting time. The FCC has enforced this as a bright-line rule. As long as (1) the block of time covered by an agreement does not exceed 15% of the brokered station’s programming time, and (2) the agreement contains a certification and perhaps other language indicating that the licensee of the brokered station maintains ultimate control over station finances, personnel, and programming, the agreement will not trigger the attribution rule. Other evidence is considered immaterial. As a result, in many cases the FCC has not deemed a station to have control over another station in the same market even if such control is considered to exist, and must be reported, under generally accepted accounting practices. Such agreements create what is known in the industry as “virtual duopolies.”

The FCC also seeks public comment on how to define the criteria for an entity to be eligible for programs intended to promote the diversity of media ownership, and, in particular, to promote ownership by women and minorities. The FCC states that it does not at present have enough information to make a decision in this area and indicates that it plans to do so in its 2014 quadrennial review.



Date of Report: March 24, 2012
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R42436
Price: $29.95

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