Defense Infrastructure:

DOD Has Made Limited Progress in Assessing Foreign Encroachment Risks on Federally Managed Land

GAO-16-381R: Published: Apr 13, 2016. Publicly Released: Apr 13, 2016.

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What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has made limited progress in addressing foreign encroachment--foreign investment in industries located in proximity to military training and testing ranges--on federally managed land since GAO last reported on this issue in December 2014. In that report, GAO recommended that DOD (1) develop and implement guidance for conducting a risk assessment on foreign encroachment and (2) collaborate with other federal agencies to obtain additional information on transactions near ranges. DOD concurred with both recommendations, and has since begun to take some steps toward assessing the national security risks and effects of foreign encroachment. However, it has not yet fully implemented the recommendations in GAO's prior report. For example, DOD has not obtained information needed to assess specific transactions on federal land, but has conducted some outreach to relevant federal agencies.

In response to a House Report provision, DOD submitted a report to Congress in October 2015 on issues related to foreign encroachment. GAO found that DOD's report partially addresses one of the four required elements and addresses three of the four required elements. For example, DOD's report partially addresses the requirement to describe the process by which DOD and the military services assess national security risks posed by foreign investment in federal properties or facilities within proximity of DOD operating areas or installations. In addition, DOD's report provides recommendations that it believes would improve the current statutory and regulatory framework for monitoring real property transactions involving the federal government and foreign-controlled entities within the United States for possible national security implications.

GAO is not making new recommendations in this report, but continues to believe that DOD should act on GAO's 2014 recommendations and will continue to monitor DOD actions in this area.

Why GAO Did This Study

A significant portion of DOD's mission-essential test and training ranges are located adjacent to, on, above, or in other close proximity to federal lands. For many years, the department has reported that it faces growing challenges in carrying out realistic training at installations and training ranges because of the cumulative result of outside influences that inhibit military training and testing, which DOD refers to as encroachment. More recently, DOD stated that it is concerned with security encroachment by foreign entities acquiring assets or otherwise conducting business on federally managed lands near test and training ranges, which may provide an opportunity for persistent surveillance of DOD test and training activities. In December 2014, GAO reported on DOD's efforts to assess such risks.

House Report 113-446, accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, directed DOD to submit a report assessing the current statutory and regulatory framework governing real property transactions involving the federal government and foreign-controlled entities within the United States as they relate to military readiness and national security, and to include any recommendations for improving that framework. The House Report also included a provision for GAO to assess DOD's report.

This report evaluates the extent to which (1) the department has made progress in efforts to assess the national security risks and effects of foreign encroachment due to activities on federally managed lands since GAO's December 2014 report and (2) DOD's report addressed the House Report provision.

GAO assessed DOD's October 2015 report in light of the recommendations GAO made in December 2014 and met with the DOD official responsible for overseeing the DOD report to discuss what actions the department has taken on GAO's recommendations. Two GAO analysts also independently assessed DOD's report to determine the extent to which it addressed the House Report provision, reconciled their assessments, and discussed the results with the official responsible for overseeing DOD's report.

For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or leporeb@gao.gov.

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