Department of State's Counternarcotics Performance Management System

GAO-11-564R: Published: May 26, 2011. Publicly Released: May 26, 2011.

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Jess T. Ford
(202) 512-4268


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Our recent reviews of U.S counternarcotics programs in Mexico and Afghanistan highlighted the need to improve the programs' performance measures to track progress. The Department of State (State) received over $1 billion in its fiscal year 2010 appropriation for international counternarcotics assistance programs. The vast majority of this funding--about 90 percent in fiscal year 2010--supports counternarcotics programs in five countries--Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is primarily responsible for implementing U.S. assistance programs involving eradication of illicit crops, interdiction of drug trafficking, and drug demand reduction, which represented about 85 percent of State's counternarcotics appropriation in fiscal year 2010. INL implements a large share of its funding through contractors, primarily for aviation support for eradication and interdiction efforts. Congress asked us to review State's performance measures for its counternarcotics programs. On March 10, 2011, we briefed congressional staff on our preliminary findings in which we described State's performance management system, including State's standard indicators for measuring the performance of counternarcotics assistance in recipient countries and requirements for posts to develop project-specific performance measures. Following the briefing, in subsequent correspondence with your office, we agreed to provide to you the information presented in the briefing, updated with additional material, that describes (1) how State measures the performance of its international counternarcotics assistance efforts, and (2) the nature of its counternarcotics contracts and whether these contracts are linked to State's performance management system. This report provides a summary of the observations conveyed at this briefing.

State measures the performance of its counternarcotics activities based on information provided by the Narcotic Affairs Sections (NAS) at overseas posts on both high-level indicators and project-level indicators. State currently has nine standard indicators for its eradication, interdiction, and drug demand reduction programs, which overseas posts report on, if applicable, to the Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance in annual Performance Plans and Reports. These reports include targets and results, and form the basis for State's annual reporting of results to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). In addition to these standard indicators, INL requires posts to develop project-specific performance measures and include them in letters of agreement (LOA) with recipient countries. According to State officials, INL is developing new guidelines for monitoring and evaluation, which would require posts to develop a performance management plan that defines each project's performance measures and establishes an approach for periodic monitoring. INL also reports results of its counternarcotics efforts for each country in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), although this report does not necessarily identify performance targets in its country narratives. According to INL officials responsible for contract management, INL generally does not link the performance of individual contracts to its overall program performance assessments, in part because performance measures in contracts relate specifically to fulfillment of contract requirements rather than broad program goals. For example, performance measures in the aviation equipment and support contracts define targets for availability of aircraft and the number of flights to be conducted, not drug interdiction or eradication targets. In addition to aviation equipment and support, which constitute the bulk of contract obligations related to counternarcotics efforts, other INL counternarcotics contract activities include meal services and lodging for counternarcotics personnel, and commodities, such as fuel and vehicles. According to INL officials, State does not have a centralized inventory of counternarcotics contracts. Instead, contract data at State are disaggregated between the Narcotics Affairs Sections at overseas posts and the governmentwide FPDS. An INL official noted that INL has begun the process of developing its own database of counternarcotics contracts. Overseas posts are generally responsible for setting contract requirements and conducting contract oversight of counternarcotics activities.

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