Drug Control:

State Department Provides Required Aviation Program Oversight, but Safety and Security Should Be Enhanced

GAO-01-1021: Published: Sep 14, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 2001.


Jess T. Ford
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The Andean region continues to cultivate, produce, and export almost all of the world's cocaine as well as an increasing amount of heroin, according to the State Department. Colombia is the source of 90 percent of the cocaine entering the United States and about two-thirds of the heroin found on the East Coast. Although coca cultivation estimates have fallen by about two-thirds in Bolivia and Peru since 1996, increases in coca cultivation in Colombia have offset much of these successes. Under State's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Office of Aviation, through a contract with DynCorp Aerospace Technology, supports foreign governments' efforts to locate and eradicate illicit drug crops in the Andean region. In recent years, DynCorp has maintained and operated aircraft to locate and eradicate drug crops in Colombia, trained pilots and mechanics for the Colombian Army Aviation Brigade, and provided logistical and training support for the aerial eradication programs of the Colombian National Police and manual eradication programs in Bolivia and Peru. The Office of Aviation met both State's overall contracting oversight requirements and more specific oversight and evaluation requirements in the DynCorp contract. Office of Aviation officials interacted daily with DynCorp managers at the main operating base and in each country, made regular site visits to each country, and reviewed DynCorp's internal reports. The Office of Aviation ensured that its aviation program operated safely and was physically secure, but it can do more. The Office relied on monthly reports and the trimester performance evaluations, as well as periodic surveys and independent assessments of DynCorp's operations and facilities. Overall, these reports have concluded that the aviation program was safe and that physical security was adequate. However, several matters of concern have not been resolved.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the safety and security of the Office of Aviation's forward operating locations and headquarters office in Colombia, the Secretary of State should direct the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs to document what remains to be done to address the suggestions and recommendations made by the Inter-Agency Committee for Aviation Policy and Regional Security Office and when action is expected to be completed. In those instances where the Bureau disagrees that corrective action is necessary, it should document the reasons why it disagrees.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State/INL has acted to improve the safety of its flight operations in Colombia and taken steps to address the various shortcomings GAO cited in the 2001 report. In addition, in its July 2004 report (GAO-04-918), GAO noted that State/INL continues to address safety concerns as they arise and has more than doubled the resources devoted to the aviation program in Colombia as flight operations have increased.

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