Combating Terrorism:

Improved Training and Guidance Needed to More Effectively Address Host Nation Support and Enhance DOD's Force Protection Efforts

GAO-07-200NI: Published: Jan 31, 2007. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 2007.

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Support from nations where the United States has a military presence is a critical aspect of the Department of Defense's (DOD) force protection efforts. Host nation support varies and can include controlling access to installations, providing emergency response capabilities, and sharing threat information. Host nation support will likely continue to play a key role in assisting DOD with its force protection efforts in current and future locations around the world. GAO was asked to (1) identify key elements that influence host nation support and opportunities for DOD to enhance that support and (2) assess the extent to which DOD has a comprehensive view of the level and adequacy of host nation support it receives. For this review, GAO obtained observations and perspectives from DOD, Department of State (State), or host nation officials in 11 countries where the United States has a significant military presence.

While host nation support is affected by many political, cultural, and economic factors that are beyond the control of DOD or State, GAO identified six key elements that influence host nation support for DOD's force protection efforts. Specifically, to various extents, the following elements influence host nation support: (1) U.S.-host nation agreements, (2) resources and other benefits provided by the United States, (3) working groups and informal outreach activities, (4) training and exercises with host nation officials, (5) threat information sharing, and (6) human capital attributes of key DOD personnel. Within two of these elements, GAO identified opportunities to improve DOD's information sharing and language and cultural training for some personnel. For example, while U.S. policies now encourage the timely exchange of information with host nations to help protect U.S. forces, DOD officials who work with threat information, including foreign disclosure officers, stated that the persistent problem of overclassification of information and the lengthy declassification process, in part caused by inadequately trained DOD personnel, delay information sharing. In addition, GAO found that while a number of DOD personnel have collaborative attitudes, adequate training, and tour durations that allow them to effectively interact with host nation personnel, certain key personnel associated with force protection activities at installations, such as emergency first responders, are not routinely identified for language and cultural training, which can inhibit their ability to fully develop effective relationships with their host nation counterparts. Until these training weaknesses are addressed, DOD may not be fully optimizing host nation support for the department's overseas force protection efforts. Although DOD recognizes that host nation support is a critical component of its force protection efforts, current methods used to monitor the level and adequacy of host nation support are limited in scope. Two factors--limited antiterrorism policy implementing guidance and inadequate commander training--have left commanders with a host nation support perspective primarily focused on perimeter security. While DOD's guidance directs commanders to examine the level and adequacy of host nation support, it does not provide specifics on how to accomplish this. Also, DOD officials said that current antiterrorism training does not provide adequate information on the complex nature of host nation support or encourage the comprehensive monitoring and management of elements that influence support, such as language and cultural training or information sharing. GAO's review of selected assessments and databases that capture their results and track trends found a number of cases where installation force protection weaknesses were reported, but the related host nation support issues that caused those weaknesses were not adequately identified. Until DOD provides additional guidance and training and takes steps to ensure that its oversight methods accurately reflect host nation support issues, it may be unable to identify areas where host nation relationships could be strengthened or risks mitigated.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on a draft of the report, DOD acknowledged that information sharing challenges do exist with host nations. As a result, the department stated that there are a number of existing DOD, counterintelligence, intelligence, and associated programs which help address information sharing with host nations that could be better leveraged in the future. For example, the Army, in tandem with the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Security Policy, at the request of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), developed a course specifically designed to address the FD problems mentions in the GAO report. Army Military Transition Teams have taken the course to field locations requested by USSOCOM.

    Recommendation: To address specific limitations to information sharing that can lead to missed opportunities to enhance support from host nations, the Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct the geographic combatant commanders to facilitate a review of the classification and foreign disclosure processes within their Area of Responsibility (AOR) to identify ways to streamline the mutual exchange of information, and develop recommendations to the appropriate command organizations to improve these processes and set specific timeframes for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on the draft report, DOD stated, "the department concurs with the recommendation in the draft report and to the extent possible the GAO recommendations should be implemented in the Combatant Commands." According to DOD, "the Geographic Combatant Commands have implemented measures to improve the training for personnel involved in the classification and declassification of threat information. Improvement examples include: CENTCOM now provides Foreign Disclosure training to all newly assigned personnel during the Staff Officer's Indoctrination Course and they provide foreign disclosure updates through a quarterly All Source Analysis Course. EUCOM has created a Classification Guide that provides a reference for classification guidance. NORTHCOM has all staff complete security training that includes classification and declassification of information. The training includes annual refresher training. The PACOM has established a Command Foreign Disclosure Office. Briefings on foreign disclosure are provided to incoming personnel and the command sponsors a DIA Foreign Exchange and Disclosure Mobile Training Team. SOUTHCOM has the Foreign Disclosure Office brief all new personnel on a monthly basis. In addition, Staff Assistance Visits are conducted with all Components and Joint Task Forces to continue to train personnel in the proper and timely release of information to host nation officials." (Source: DOD/OIG August 4, 2010)

    Recommendation: To address specific limitations to information sharing that can lead to missed opportunities to enhance support from host nations, the Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct the geographic combatant commanders to ensure that personnel located in their Area of Responsibility (AOR) who are involved in classifying or declassifying threat information are trained in techniques that facilitate the mutual exchange of threat information and set specific timeframes for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Starting with the June 2007 Level IV Executive Training Seminar, the Joint Staff doubled the emphasis on host nation support. Two speakers focused on the importance of host nation communications, and a host nation vignette was added to the end of session table top exercise. Host nation support now totals approximately 25% of the Level IV training. The Services are actively working to include host nation training into their Level II training courses. Examples of Level III training initiatives include: (1) The Army now routinely includes instruction on host nation support in all garrison command Level II training courses, and they are working to bring host nation training into all command Level III training; (2) the United States Army Europe Commander has instituted an additional pre-command course that includes specific host nation support training; and (3) the Navy now broadly covers host nation support and interaction as part of pre-command courses where Level III anti-terrorism training occurs. (Source: ASD (HD/ASA) letter dated March 31, 2010).

    Recommendation: To encourage a more comprehensive view of and approach to host nation support and to address specific limitations to language and cultural training that can lead to missed opportunities to enhance support from host nations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, working with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to revise DOD's antiterrorism Level III and Level IV training programs for mid-grade and senior-level officials and set specific timeframes for implementation to emphasize the importance of addressing host nation support comprehensively. The training should address, among other things, elements discussed in this report and how they affect relationships and the support received from host nations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: As of August 15, 2011, DOD had not implemented GAO's recommendation to update the department's anti-terrorism handbook even though the department had concurred with the report's findings and recommendation. Since the report was issued in 2007, DOD has identified five different ways that it planned to implement the recommendation, none of which have transpired. For example, in August 2009, the department stated that it would incorporate host nation support for in a joint doctrine document that they were developing. However, the Joint Staff disagreed with this approach and issued Joint Publication 3-07.2, Anti-terrorism, in November 2010, without addressing the host nation aspect of this program. Since DOD has not taken action to address our recommendation in updates to the Handbook, missed all deadlines it established for other planned corrective actions, and has not been able to identify an alternative corrective action that was agreed to within the department, we are closing the recommendation as not implemented.

    Recommendation: To encourage a more comprehensive view of and approach to host nation support and to address specific limitations to language and cultural training that can lead to missed opportunities to enhance support from host nations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, working with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to update the DOD Antiterrorism Handbook and set specific timeframes for implementation to (1) emphasize the complex nature of host nation support, including the different types of host nation support; the means that facilitate and optimize this support; and the effect of political, cultural, and economic environments of the host nation. (2) Identify key personnel who interact regularly with host nation officials--including but not limited to mission, installation, security, and emergency response commanders, and special investigators--as candidates for language and cultural training. (3) Ensure that existing DOD antiterrorism program evaluations (e.g., higher headquarter assessments and vulnerability assessments) allow for a more comprehensive examination of the level and adequacy of host nation support and U.S.-host nation relationships. The evaluations should include, for example, the elements utilized to facilitate and optimize such relationships, and ensure that results are presented in a format that enables commanders to easily identify host nation support problems or trends. The handbook should also identify, among other things, the process for elevating host nation concerns to DOD officials at higher command levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. Starting in 2006, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency began observing for host nation support issues. In addition, the Joint Staff-managed Core Vulnerability Assessment Management Program database showed an input of over 40 host nation observations as of January 1, 2008. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency will continue to observe host nation support issues during assessments. (Source: ASD (HD/ASA) letter dated March 31, 2010).

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct both the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to take steps to improve the information entered into their databases within specific timeframes to ensure that observations rooted in host nation support are identified and tracked, and related trend analyses provided to commanders at all levels accurately reflect host nation support issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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