NATO Enlargement:

Reports on Albania and Croatia Respond to Senate Requirements, but Analysis of Financial Burdens Is Incomplete

GAO-08-1165R: Published: Sep 22, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 22, 2008.

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On April 2, 2008, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) invited Albania and Croatia to begin accession talks for NATO membership. NATO wants new members to be democracies, have harmonious relations with neighboring countries, modernize and restructure their defense capabilities, protect civil liberties and human and minority rights, and have open market economies. The admission of new members requires ratification by two-thirds of the United States Senate. To ensure that Congress had sufficient information on the countries invited to join NATO, the Senate mandated in a 1999 resolution that the President provide Congress with information on countries seeking to join the alliance--before NATO made any decision on enlarging its membership. In particular, the President was required to assess how countries would further the principles of the North Atlantic Treaty, contribute to North Atlantic security, and affect U.S. national security interests. The President also was required to evaluate countries' eligibility for membership and estimate the military requirements and costs associated with a country's membership for both NATO and U.S. budgets. The President submitted this classified report on Albania and Croatia to Congress on March 28, 2008. Prior to signing any protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the accession of any country, the Senate mandated that the President provide Congress a classified and an unclassified report that provide updated information on the status of political, economic, defense, and related issues for the countries invited to join NATO in the recent round of enlargement discussions. In addition, these reports are to provide an assessment of the invited countries' likely impact on NATO's military effectiveness and an analysis of the ability of each invited country to fulfill the full range of financial burdens of NATO membership. The President submitted these reports on Albania and Croatia to Congress on June 20, 2008. The Senate also mandated that GAO review and assess these reports. To fulfill our mandate, we determined whether (1) the reports met the Senate's requirements, (2) the information in the reports was complete, and (3) the information in the reports was current. To address our objectives, we reviewed information from an array of reports and analyses from the U.S. government, NATO, and the countries invited to join NATO, and discussed supporting documentation and methodologies used to prepare the reports with officials of the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State). To address the first objective, we determined whether major issues in the mandates were addressed in the reports. To address whether information in the reports was complete, we assessed whether information in the President's reports concerning the aspirant countries was consistent with other U.S. government documents and data we collected from various sources, and whether key evidence that could affect the conclusions in the reports was included. To assess whether information in the reports was current, we assessed the supporting evidence to determine that it was dated within the past year and whether key events that have occurred that might alter the general information provided in the reports were included. This report addresses both the March and the June 2008 President's reports.

The President's March and June 2008 reports on NATO enlargement respond to the congressionally mandated requirements and address all the key elements contained in the resolution concerning Albania's and Croatia's accession to NATO membership. For example, the reports discuss how Albania and Croatia would further the principles of NATO and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area. They also discuss country eligibility for membership, including political, economic, defense, budgetary, information security, and legal issues--all goals of NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP). Similarly, the President's reports respond to mandated requirements for estimates of the potential impacts of new members on both NATO and U.S. costs, and on NATO's shared costs. The reports' information is generally complete and consistent with the data we collected from various sources, including agencies within the U.S. government and NATO. For example, the discussion of country eligibility for membership, including political, economic, defense, budgetary, information security, and legal issues and the status of their implementation is detailed and provides more information than reports submitted to Congress for previous rounds of NATO enlargement. However, we found that the report provides an incomplete explanation of why NATO lowered its estimate of certain enlargement costs for the two aspirants. We also found that the information concerning the countries' ability to fulfill the full range of financial burdens of NATO membership is incomplete. The June 2008 classified and unclassified reports provide little information concerning Albania's and Croatia's ability to meet the full range of the financial burdens of NATO membership and do not identify the methodology used to support the conclusions that Albania and Croatia should be able to meet their financial obligations. We raised similar issues in our May 2003 report on the previous round of NATO enlargement. Without a complete understanding of the aspirant countries' ability to meet their financial obligations, NATO cannot be assured that goals in other areas will be achieved, since many of the goals rely on financial resources for their successful implementation. In addition, a key U.S. intelligence assessment that we reviewed differs from some of the conclusions in the President's reports concerning Albania's and Croatia's ability to meet NATO financial obligations. Further discussion of this report is classified. We found that the information in the report and the supporting evidence are generally current. For example, most of the documents we reviewed that were used to support the report were dated within the last 12 months or were those most recently available. On the basis of our review of relevant documents, we did not identify any key events that were not addressed in the reports. In addition, according to DOD and State officials, no recent events occurred that could cast doubt over the reports' findings.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD officials responded orally that DOD concurred with the recommendation. DOD officials said that they would add a more detailed discussion of the financial burdens of NATO membership for each country invited to join in the future. This would include more explicitly identifying both known and unknown costs and the methodology used to reach the report's conclusions. We did not expect DOD to take any further action until NATO proposed additional countries for membership. NATO has not done so to date; therefore, the President has not submitted any additional reports to Congress on NATO enlargement since our 2008 report.

    Recommendation: To provide Congress with a complete picture of the cost of NATO enlargement, the Secretary of Defense, should, in consultation with the Secretary of State, provide more complete information on the financial burdens of NATO enlargement for the President's reports to Congress. The needed information would include the full range of the financial burdens of NATO membership for each country invited to join in the future, each country's ability to assume those burdens, and the methodology used to reach conclusions on this issue in the President's report, with explicit identification of the known and unknown costs involved. Given the short time frames for congressional action on Albania and Croatia, we would not expect such information to be provided for Albania and Croatia, but would expect that the Secretary implement our recommendation for all future NATO aspirant countries.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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