GAO-12-342SP: International affairs: 21. Training to Identify Fraudulent Travel Documents

International affairs > 21. Training to Identify Fraudulent Travel Documents

Establishing a formal coordination mechanism could help reduce duplicative activities among seven different entities that are involved in training foreign officials to identify fraudulent travel documents.

Why This Area Is Important

Eliminating the threat of terrorist attacks continues to be a primary U.S. national security focus. According to the 9/11 Commission, constraining the mobility of terrorists is one of the most effective weapons in fighting terrorism. The U.S. government has identified four key gaps in foreign countries’ capacity to prevent terrorist travel overseas, including a key gap in our foreign partners’ ability to address the use of fraudulent travel documents. As a result, U.S. agencies have undertaken a variety of efforts to enhance our foreign partners’ capacity to identify and interdict fraudulent travel documents (i.e., passports and visas).

What GAO Found

As GAO reported in June 2011, seven different U.S. government entities across three federal agencies are involved in providing training to foreign government officials to detect fraudulent travel documents.[1] In delivering the training, agencies have similar objectives and often train the same populations (e.g., immigration officials and law enforcement officials) to develop their skills in recognizing the characteristics of altered, counterfeit, or other fraudulent travel documents, sometimes in the same country.

U.S. Agencies and Bureaus Involved in Providing Fraudulent Travel Document Recognition Training to Foreign Immigration and Law Enforcement Officials

U.S. Agencies and Bureaus Involved in Providing Fraudulent Travel Document Recognition Training to Foreign Immigration and Law Enforcement Officials

As GAO reported in June 2011, the federal entities in the above figure provided the following training to foreign officials in fraudulent travel document recognition:
  • The Bureau of Diplomatic Security within the Department of State (State) provided 458 instructor-led courses on fraudulent travel documents through their staff posted overseas and, in collaboration with State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, provided an additional 12 courses in fraudulent travel document recognition through their Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided 360 training courses, briefings, and outreach sessions through their attachés stationed overseas, and through their Office of International Affairs provided 4 additional courses instructed by officials traveling from Washington, D.C.
  • State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, through the International Law Enforcement Academies, provided two courses specifically on fraudulent travel document recognition and five courses that covered this topic as part of longer, general law enforcement training. In addition, this State bureau provided funding to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within DHS for one training course and to arrange six trips of foreign officials to the United States through the International Visitors Program for this purpose and to the Organization of American States to deliver training in fraudulent document recognition throughout the Western Hemisphere.
  • The Transportation Security Administration within DHS funded one fraudulent travel document training course, as part of its Aviation Security Sustainable International Standards Teams.
  • CBP within DHS, through its Office of International Affairs, funded one course in fraudulent document recognition for law enforcement officials.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation within the Department of Justice did not fund or implement any such training in fiscal year 2010; however, in March 2011, it organized one such training session.

Officials from State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism—which coordinates and supports the development and implementation of all U.S. government policies and programs aimed at countering terrorism overseas—told GAO they had been unaware of how many agencies and subagencies are involved in providing fraudulent travel document training to foreign officials. They added that no mechanism existed to encourage coordination among all the parties involved. At the country level, during site visits in March 2011, GAO found that agency officials at two of the four posts it visited did not always collaborate on the delivery of fraudulent travel document recognition training. As a result, some planned training was duplicative and did not make an effective use of limited resources.

  • In Pakistan, GAO identified two agencies, State and DHS, planning to provide fraudulent travel document recognition training courses in April 2011 to Pakistani officials from the same agency without coordinating with one another. An attaché from DHS/ICE planned one course, while State’s ATA program was simultaneously planning to hold two other fraudulent travel document courses in the same month. Meanwhile, the ICE attaché had been certified to be an instructor for fraudulent travel document recognition courses through a train-the-trainer course provided by ICE’s Forensic Document Laboratory. Since ATA program officials were unaware of the existence of this local resource, the ATA program was still attempting to find two instructors from ICE to travel to Pakistan to teach their planned courses.
  • In Kenya, GAO found that representatives from two U.S. agencies, State and DHS, deliver fraudulent travel document training but do not collaborate. State provides such training through its ATA program and through an in-country representative of their Bureau of Diplomatic Security, while an in-country representative of DHS’s CBP also provided many such training courses. Despite these three representatives providing this similar training, a representative from one of the agencies stated that although he coordinated with other countries providing similar training in Kenya, he did not do so with other U.S. agencies.


[1]We were unable to determine the total amount of money spent on training foreign government officials to detect fraudulent travel documents because the agencies involved did not consistently track the cost of individual training sessions.

Actions Needed

GAO recommended in June 2011 that the Secretary of State should

  • develop a mechanism to enhance coordination among the agencies involved in funding and implementing fraudulent travel document training overseas.

How GAO Conducted Its Work

The information contained in this analysis is based on findings from the products listed in the related GAO products section. GAO reviewed the strategies and documentation of U.S. agencies funding and/or implementing foreign capacity-building efforts to prevent terrorist travel overseas, including those of State, DOD, DHS, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. GAO met with these agencies and conducted field work in Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand.

Agency Comments & GAO Contact

GAO provided a draft of its June 2011 report to State for review and comment. State agreed with GAO’s previous recommendation and reported that efforts to enhance such coordination have begun at the country level. As part of its routine audit work, GAO will track the extent to which progress has been made to address the identified actions and report to Congress.

For additional information about this area, contact Charles Michael Johnson, Jr. at (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov.