Military Operations:

DOD Needs to Provide Central Direction for Supporting Coalition Liaison Officers

GAO-04-452: Published: Apr 9, 2004. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 2004.

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In the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, Congress authorized the Secretary of Defense to provide administrative services and support to foreign coalition liaison officers temporarily assigned to the headquarters of a combatant command or any of its subordinate commands. Congress required GAO to assess the implementation of this legislation. Specifically, GAO's objectives were to determine (1) what guidance the Department of Defense (DOD) has provided on the implementation of this legislation, (2) the extent to which the commands are aware of and are using this legislation, and (3) the level of support being provided by commands using this legislation and the benefits derived from it.

GAO could find no evidence that DOD had issued any guidance to combatant commanders on how to implement this legislation. In addition, GAO was unable to identify an office within DOD that has responsibility for implementing this legislation. The DOD Office of the Inspector General, as GAO's focal point within DOD, was also unable to identify a responsible office. Although the legislation was inspired by the needs of the coalition assembled for the Global War on Terrorism, its authority is available through the Secretary of Defense to all combatant commanders. According to the results of GAO's research, the combatant commands' awareness of and need to use the legislation varied widely with Central Command being the only command using the authority to support liaison officers. Central Command, spent $17 million in fiscal year 2003 to provide administrative services and support to more than 300 coalition liaison officers from over 60 countries. As allowed by the legislation, the command also paid the travel, subsistence, and personal expenses of over 70 of these officers from more than 30 developing countries. Central Command officials stated that they could not accomplish the coalition integration planning and coordination important to the Global War on Terrorism as effectively or efficiently as they are doing without the liaison officers. They also commented that the legislation helps facilitate the participation of a developing country in the coalition if the command can pay for travel and subsistence.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and designated the Comptroller's office as the responsible office.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should designate an office within DOD to take responsibility for this legislation allowing commands to pay for support for coalition liaison officers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation and designated the Office of the Comptroller as the responsible office. The Office is in the process of preparing Financial Management Regulations guidance but has not finalized the guidance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct this designated office to promulgate and issue guidance to the combatant commands and their component and subordinate commands on how to implement this legislation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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