Taking Stock of Government Involvement in Research and Development: Assessing Public R&D Effects

Taking Stock of Government Involvement in Research and Development: Assessing Public R&D Effects. Center for Strategic & International Studies. William Alan Reinsch et al. June 8, 2020

The public sector’s role in funding research and development is decades, if not centuries old. The question government’s face is not whether to fund R&D but in what manner. The positive impact of R&D is well documented, but if mismanaged, government-driven R&D can create more problems than it solves. By examining success stories and failures of government-backed R&D efforts, policymakers can develop more effective programs that produce greater returns. Programs must remain flexible, scalable, and results oriented. Government efforts should take advantage of their ability to establish sandboxes to test products and bring together public and private resources for basic and applied research in a relatively regulation-free environment. Bureaucrats behind government R&D efforts should not be afraid to fail fast and move on to the next promising project. At the same time, the government needs to build open lines of communication with the private sector and avoid cannibalizing private funding. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 21 pages].

Reauthorization of Federal Highway Programs

Reauthorization of Federal Highway Programs. Congressional Research Service. Robert S. Kirk. April 22, 2020

Federal highway construction and safety programs are currently authorized through September 30, 2020, under the five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act; P.L. 114-94). For the 1,027,849-mile system of federal-aid highways, the FAST Act provided an average of $45 billion annually. Although there are exceptions, federally funded projects are generally limited to this system that includes roughly 25% of all U.S. public road mileage. Of these funds, nearly 93% are distributed to the states via formula. The states have nearly complete control over the use of these funds, within the limits of federal planning, eligibility, and oversight rules. Money is not provided up front. A state is reimbursed after work is started, costs are incurred, and the state submits a voucher to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The highway program focuses on highway construction and planning, and does not support operations or routine maintenance. The federal share of project costs is generally 80%, but 90% for Interstate System projects.

[PDF format, 20 pages].

Social Security: Demographic Trends and the Funding Shortfall

Social Security: Demographic Trends and the Funding Shortfall.  Congressional Research Service. Barry F. Huston. November 4, 2019.

 The Social Security program pays monthly benefits to retired or disabled workers and their families and to the family members of deceased workers. Social Security, or OldAge, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), is intended to operate primarily as a pay-as-you-go system, where program revenues cover program costs. The OASDI program’s revenues and costs are largely determined by economic and demographic factors. The Social Security program is experiencing rising costs and relatively stable income, a trend that is projected to continue for several decades. Although economic and program-specific factors affect the balance between program revenues and costs, research has shown demographic factors to be one of the leading contributors to the increasing imbalance between costs and revenues. 

[PDF format, 31 pages].

The National Trails System: A Brief Overview

The National Trails System: A Brief Overview.  Congressional Research Service. Mark K. DeSantis, Sandra L. Johnson. Updated June 10, 2019

The National Trails System was created in 1968 by the National Trails System Act (16 U.S.C. §§1241-1251). The system includes four types of trails: (1) national scenic trails (NSTs), which display significant physical characteristics of U.S. regions; (2) national historic trails (NHTs), which follow travel routes of national historical significance; (3) national recreation trails (NRTs), which provide outdoor recreation accessible to urban areas; and (4) connecting or side trails, which provide access to the other types of trails. As defined in the act, NSTs and NHTs are longdistance trails designated by acts of Congress. NRTs and connecting and side trails may be designated by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture with the consent of the federal agency, state, or political subdivision with jurisdiction over the lands involved. 

[PDF format, 17 pages].

Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation

Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation. Congressional Research Service. Megan Stubbs. Updated June 11, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several permanently authorized programs to help producers recover from natural disasters. Most of these programs offer financial assistance to producers for a loss in the production of crops or livestock. In addition to the production assistance programs, USDA also has several permanent disaster assistance programs that help producers repair damaged crop and forest land following natural disasters. These programs offer financial and technical assistance to producers to repair, restore, and mitigate damage on private land. These emergency agricultural land assistance programs include the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), and the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. In addition to these programs, USDA also has flexibility in administering other programs that allow for support and repair of damaged cropland in the event of an emergency.

[PDF format, 17 pages].

Social Security: The Trust Funds

Social Security: The Trust Funds. Congressional Research Service. Barry F. Huston. Updated May 8, 2019

The Social Security program pays monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members and to the family members of deceased workers. Program income and outgo are accounted for in two separate trust funds authorized under Title II of the Social Security Act: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Projections show that the OASI fund will remain solvent until 2034, whereas the DI fund will remain solvent until 2052, meaning that each trust fund is projected to be able to pay benefits scheduled under current law in full and on time up to that point. Following the depletion of trust fund reserves (2052 for DI and 2034 for OASI), continuing income to each fund is projected to cover 91% of DI scheduled benefits and 77% of OASI scheduled benefits. The two trust funds are legally distinct and do not have authority to borrow from each other. However, Congress has authorized the shifting of funds between OASI and DI in the past to address shortfalls in a particular fund. Therefore, this CRS report discusses the operations of the OASI and DI trust funds on a combined basis, referring to them collectively as the Social Security trust funds. On a combined basis, the trust funds are projected to remain solvent until 2035. Following depletion of combined trust fund reserves at that point, continuing income is projected to cover 80% of scheduled benefits. 

[PDF format, 21 pages].

Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief

Federal Public Transportation Program: In Brief.  Congressional Research Service. William J. Mallett. Updated May 14, 2019

Federal assistance to public transportation is provided primarily through the public transportation program administered by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The federal public transportation program was authorized from FY2016 through FY2020 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). This report provides an introduction to the program as authorized by the FAST Act. Major federal involvement in public transportation dates to the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-365). Prior to the mid-1960s there was very little public funding of public transportation. With much lower ridership than existed at the end of World War II and mounting debts, however, many private transit companies were reorganized as public entities. Federal funding was initially used to recapitalize transit systems. Today, the focus of the federal program is still on the capital side, but the program has evolved to support operational expenses in some circumstances, as well as safety oversight, planning, and research.

[PDF format, 12 pages].

Medicare Primer

Medicare Primer. Congressional Research Service. Patricia A. Davis et al. Updated May 20, 2019

Medicare is a federal program that pays for covered health care services of qualified beneficiaries. It was established in 1965 under Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide health insurance to individuals 65 and older, and has been expanded over the years to include permanently disabled individuals under the age of 65. Medicare, which consists of four parts (AD), covers hospitalizations, physician services, prescription drugs, skilled nursing facility care, home health visits, and hospice care, among other services. Generally, individuals are eligible for Medicare if they or their spouse worked for at least 40 quarters in Medicare-covered employment, are 65 years old, and are a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Individuals may also qualify for coverage if they are a younger person who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, or have end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant). The program is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and by private entities that contract with CMS to provide claims processing, auditing, and quality oversight services.

[PDF format, 43 pages].

Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act: Understanding Apportionments for States and Territories

Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act: Understanding Apportionments for States and Territories. Congressional Research Service. R. Eliot Crafton. April 5, 2019

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (16 U.S.C. §§669 et seq.), enacted in 1937 and now known as the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, provides funding for states and territories to support wildlife restoration, conservation, and hunter education and safety programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), within the Department of the Interior, administers Pittman-Robertson. All 50 states (but not the District of Columbia) as well as the 5 inhabited U.S. territories receive Pittman-Robertson funds. 

Funding for FWS to carry out Pittman-Robertson programs comes from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. Receipts from these excise taxes are deposited into the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Fund in the Treasury, and monies from the fund are made available for FWS in the fiscal year following their collection without any further action by Congress. Between FY1939 and FY2019, FWS disbursed $18.8 billion (in 2018 dollars) for wildlife restoration and hunter education and safety activities for Pittman-Robertson programs.

[PDF format, 38 pages].

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Background and Congressional Issues

The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Background and Congressional Issues. Congressional Research Service.  Judith A. Johnson, Kavya Sekar. April 19, 2019

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is the primary federal agency charged with performing and supporting biomedical and behavioral research. In FY2018, NIH used its over $34 billion budget to support more than 300,000 scientists and research personnel working at over 2,500 institutions across the United States and abroad, as well as to conduct biomedical and behavioral research and research training at its own facilities. The agency consists of the Office of the Director, in charge of overall policy and program coordination, and 27 institutes and centers, each of which focuses on particular diseases or research areas in human health. A broad range of research is funded through a highly competitive system of peer-reviewed grants and contracts.

[PDF format, 81 pages].