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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Conflict Records Research Center in the FY 2014 NDAA

The compromise FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) draft released yesterday (available here) includes an important new statutory provision (see § 1071) related to the Conflict Records Research Center (CRRC), which has been providing access to an impressive collection of captured records from Saddam's Iraq and Afghanistan.  An earlier post discussed the CRRC's funding crisis, which was due, in part, to the delay in the consideration of the NDAA in Congress.  According to its last update, the CRRC has subsequently been operating with bridge funding and one employee.

Section 1071 of the FY 2014 NDAA draft is entitled "Enhancement of the capacity of the United States Government to analyze captured records." It includes a provision that will become, if passed, 10 U.S.C. § 426 called "Conflict Records Research Center" that authorizes the Secretary of Defense to establish the CRRC.  This may seem odd given that the CRRC of course already exists within the National Defense University, but providing an explicit statutory basis for the CRRC may place it on more firm footing going forward.

Moreover, the other substantive provisions appear to be designed to broaden the CRRC's ability to obtain funding.  According to the "Joint Explanatory Statement" the "additional statutory authorization would allow the [CRRC] to be funded collectively by the Department of Defense, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other departments and agencies, rather than rely on discrete partner funding for each activity."  The provision "would also allow the [CRRC] to receive funding from other agencies, states, or other foreign and domestic entities, including academic and philanthropic organizations, to support important research in international relations, counterterrorism, conventional warfare and unconventional warfare."

Other noteworthy detail includes the statutory "purposes" of the CRRC:
(1) To establish a digital research database, including translations, and to facilitate research and analysis of records captured from countries, organizations, and individuals, now or once hostile to the United States, with rigid adherence to academic freedom and integrity. 
(2) Consistent with the protection of national security information, personally identifiable information, and intelligence sources and methods, to make a significant portion of these records available to researchers as quickly and responsibly as possible while taking into account the integrity of the academic process and risks to innocents or third parties. 
(3) To conduct and disseminate research and analysis to increase the understanding of factors related to international relations, counterterrorism, and conventional and unconventional warfare and, ultimately, enhance national security. 
(4) To collaborate with members of academic and broad national security communities, both domestic and international, on research, conferences, seminars, and other information exchanges to identify topics of importance for the leadership of the United States Government and the scholarly community.
Finally, the draft includes a statutory definition of "captured record:"
The term "captured record" means a document, audio file, video file, or other material captured during combat operations from countries, organizations, or individuals, now or once hostile to the United States.
Voting on the FY 2014 NDAA could begin later this week.

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