Drug Control:

DOD Needs to Improve Its Performance Measurement System to Better Manage and Oversee Its Counternarcotics Activities

GAO-10-835: Published: Jul 21, 2010. Publicly Released: Jul 21, 2010.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) leads detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs into the United States in support of law enforcement agencies. DOD reported resources of more than $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2010 to support its counternarcotics activities. Congress mandated GAO report on DOD's counternarcotics performance measurement system. Specifically, this report addresses the extent to which (1) DOD's counternarcotics performance measurement system enables DOD to track progress and (2) DOD uses performance information from its counternarcotics performance measurement system to manage its activities. GAO analyzed relevant DOD performance and budget documents, and discussed these efforts with officials from DOD and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

DOD does not have an effective performance measurement system to track the progress of its counternarcotics activities; however, it continues efforts to improve the system. GAO has previously reported that measuring performance provides managers a basis for making fact-based decisions. DOD has established performance measures for its counternarcotics activities and a database to collect performance information, including measures, targets, and results. However, these measures lack a number of attributes, such as being clearly stated and objective, which GAO considers key to successful performance measures. In May 2010, DOD issued new guidance for its counternarcotics performance measurement system. However, DOD officials noted the department will face challenges implementing the guidance. These challenges include creating performance measures that assess program outcomes and ensuring adequate resources, such as expertise in performance management, are available to develop measures. DOD rarely uses the information in its performance measurement system to manage its counternarcotics activities and has applied few practices to facilitate its use. GAO has found that the full benefit of collecting performance information is realized only when managers use it to inform key decisions. However, DOD officials responsible for counternarcotics activities throughout the department told us they rarely use data submitted to the system to manage activities. Rather, they tend to manage programs using data not submitted to the system, such as information obtained in weekly program meetings regarding the cost and timeliness of projects. Moreover, officials responsible for oversight of DOD's activities stated they use the system to develop reports for ONDCP, but not to allocate resources. While DOD has applied some practices to facilitate the use of the performance information in its system, it does not utilize certain key practices identified by GAO, such as frequently and effectively communicating performance information. Absent an effective performance management system, DOD lacks critical information to use to improve the management and oversight of its counternarcotics activities. GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense take steps to improve DOD's counternarcotics performance measurement system by (1) revising its performance measures and (2) applying practices to better facilitate the use of performance data to manage its counternarcotics activities. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the recommendation. In response, DOD reviewed its counternarcotics performance measures through its Program Objective Memorandum process from May to August 2011 and analyzed these new measures against some of GAO's key attributes of successful performance measures. While the DOD review found that the measures showed some improvement against these attributes, its review did not examine certain attributes including those of limited overlap and balance. GAO found that DOD's fiscal year 2014 counternarcotics performance measures still lacked these attributes. For this reason, we determined that more work is needed by DOD to successfully incorporate all key attributes.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's performance measurement system to manage and oversee its counternarcotics activities, and to address weaknesses identified in DOD's counternarcotics performance measurement system, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counternarcotics and Global Threats to review the department's performance measures for counternarcotics activities and revise the measures, as appropriate, to include the key attributes of successful performance measures previously identified by GAO.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO identified key practices that agencies can adopt to facilitate the use of performance data--such as demonstrating management commitment, improving the usefulness of performance data, and developing agency capacity to effectively use performance information--and found that DOD had weaknesses in these areas. In response to this recommendation, DOD stated in May 2011 that it was working to improve the functionality and usability of its counternarcotics performance information so that counternarcotics program managers could use this information as a basis for decision making. In January 2012, DOD issued standard operating procedures for developing and documenting performance metrics for its counternarcotics activities. Issuing the guidance helps demonstrate management commitment to the use of performance data. The guidance directs DOD counternarcotics components to develop metrics that improve the usefulness of performance information, and also enhances agency capacity to use this information. Additionally, DOD implemented a series of working groups designed to build the capacity of DOD components to develop performance indicators and use performance information. These actions taken by DOD in 2012 address the weaknesses found by GAO in 2010.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's performance measurement system to manage and oversee its counternarcotics activities, and to address factors associated with the limited use of DOD's counternarcotics performance measurement system, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counternarcotics and Global Threats to apply practices that GAO has identified to facilitate the use of performance data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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