Security Assistance:

U.S. Government Should Strengthen End-Use Monitoring and Human Rights Vetting for Egypt

GAO-16-435: Published: Apr 12, 2016. Publicly Released: May 12, 2016.

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What GAO Found

U.S. agencies allocated approximately $6.5 billion for security-related assistance to Egypt in fiscal years 2011 through 2015. As of September 30, 2015, over $6.4 billion of the $6.5 billion total had been committed or disbursed. The majority of the funding (99.5 percent) was provided to Egypt through the Department of State's (State) Foreign Military Financing (FMF) account. The funds from this account were used to purchase and sustain a wide variety of military systems, including F-16 aircraft, Apache helicopters, and M1A1 tanks.

The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State implemented end-use monitoring for equipment transferred to Egyptian security forces, but challenges including obtaining Egyptian government cooperation hindered some efforts. DOD completed all required end-use monitoring inventories and physical security inspections of storage sites for missiles and night vision devices (NVD) in fiscal year 2015, but DOD lacked documentation showing that it completed physical security inspections for these sensitive items in prior years. Despite agreeing to give access, the Egyptian government prevented DOD officials from accessing a storage site to verify the physical security of some NVDs prior to 2015, according to DOD officials and documents. State conducted 12 end-use checks of U.S. equipment exported to Egypt in fiscal years 2011 to 2015, but State data indicate that the Egyptian government's incomplete and slow responses to some inquiries limited U.S. efforts to verify the use and security of certain equipment, including NVDs and riot-control items. Despite this lack of cooperation, since 2008, State has not used outreach programs in Egypt that are intended to facilitate host country cooperation and compliance with State's monitoring program. According to State officials, this was due to the small number of end-use checks conducted in Egypt and the lower priority assigned to Egypt than to other countries.

Examples of U.S. Military Equipment Subject to End-Use Monitoring in Egypt

Examples of U.S. Military Equipment Subject to End-Use Monitoring in Egypt

The U.S. government completed some, but not all, human rights vetting required by State policy before providing training or equipment to Egyptian security forces. State deemed GAO's estimate of the percentage of Egyptian security forces that were not vetted to be sensitive but unclassified information, which is excluded from this public report. Moreover, State has not established specific policies and procedures for vetting Egyptian security forces receiving equipment. Although State concurred with a 2011 GAO recommendation to implement equipment vetting, it has not established a time frame for such action. State currently attests in memos that it is in compliance with the Leahy law. However, without vetting policies and procedures, the U.S. government risks providing U.S. equipment to recipients in Egypt in violation of the Leahy laws.

Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. government has allocated an average of about $1.3 billion annually in security assistance for Egypt in fiscal years 2011 through 2015. DOD and State have established end-use monitoring programs to ensure that military equipment transferred to foreign countries is safeguarded and used for its intended purposes. In addition, legal requirements, known as the Leahy laws, prohibit DOD- and State-funded assistance to units of foreign security forces if there is credible information that these forces have committed a gross violation of human rights.

This report examines, for fiscal years 2011 through 2015, the extent to which the U.S. government (1) committed or disbursed funds allocated for security-related assistance for Egypt, (2) implemented end-use monitoring for equipment transferred to Egyptian security forces, and (3) vetted Egyptian recipients of security-related assistance for human rights concerns. GAO analyzed U.S. agency data and documentation; conducted fieldwork in Egypt; and interviewed U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., and Cairo, Egypt. This is the public version of a sensitive but unclassified report issued in February 2016.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations to strengthen State's implementation of end-use monitoring and human rights vetting, including utilizing its end-use monitoring outreach programs and developing time frames for establishing policies and procedures for equipment vetting. State generally agreed with these recommendations.

For more information, contact Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., at (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: State agreed with this recommendations and noted that it would implement it, subject to restrictions on travel to Egypt and any limitations in the United States' current political relations with the Egypt government. We will continue to monitor agency efforts to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen assurances that military equipment sold through direct commercial sales is used as intended, the Secretary of State should utilize available Blue Lantern outreach programs to help improve the completeness and timeliness of responses from the Egyptian government.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: State agreed with this recommendation and asserted that the department remains committed to ensuring that perpetrators of gross violations of human rights do not receive U.S. training or assistance. In April 2017 State reported that it and the Department of Defense were unable to retroactively determine the factors that resulted in no records of vetting for certain Egyptian security forces. However, State noted that since the issuance of GAO's report, the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC) at Embassy Cairo has sought to improve its record-keeping practices. State also reported that the OMC will not initiate its process to generate orders and funding for Egyptian security forces' participation in U.S.-funded training until after vetting approval is received through the International Vetting and Security Tracking (INVEST) system. We are awaiting further information from State on what additional actions it plans to take in response to our recommendation, including for assistance that is not administered by the OMC.

    Recommendation: To strengthen compliance with the Leahy laws and implementation of State's human rights vetting process and to help ensure that U.S. funded assistance is not provided to Egyptian security forces that have committed gross violations of human rights, the Secretary of State should determine, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, the factors that resulted in some Egyptian security forces not being vetted before receiving U.S. training, and take steps to address these factors, to ensure full compliance with human rights vetting requirements for future training.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Open

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: State agreed with this recommendation. State acknowledged challenges identifying recipients of equipment across the range of assistance activities, but noted that it would continue to update its systems and procedures to facilitate human rights vetting for recipients of equipment. In April 2017, State reported that it had provided finalized guidance on vetting Egyptian recipients of Foreign Military Financing-funded equipment to Embassy Cairo. These procedures have been incorporated into a revised version of Embassy Cairo's guide for conducting human rights vetting. According to State, Embassy Cairo has implemented these procedures. However, State has not yet provided information on its plans for adopting these procedures more broadly in other countries that also receive equipment through the Foreign Military Financing account or through other U.S. assistance programs. We will continue to monitor agency efforts to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen compliance with the Leahy laws and implementation of State's human rights vetting process and to help ensure that U.S. funded assistance is not provided to Egyptian security forces that have committed gross violations of human rights, as State works to implement a revised version of the International Vetting and Security Tracking system (INVEST) system that is expected to help facilitate equipment vetting, the Secretary of State should develop time frames for establishing corresponding policies and procedures to implement a vetting process to help enable the U.S. government to provide a more reasonable level of assurance that equipment is not transferred to foreign security forces, including those in Egypt, when there is credible information that a unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC) at Embassy Cairo now maintains a list, by fiscal year, of all Egyptian military students that have completed U.S.-funded training that it administers, using a Defense Security Cooperation Agency computer system. For training funded through other relevant accounts that the OMC does not administer, State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) maintains a database of vetted Egyptian recipients of U.S. training or other assistance, which will be updated twice yearly. As of April 2017, OMC and NEA had completed their initial rosters of Egyptian security forces receiving U.S. assistance.

    Recommendation: To strengthen State's documentation and procedures related to its human rights vetting process, the Secretary of State should take steps to ensure that State maintains training rosters or similar records of Egyptian security forces that have received U.S.-funded training to allow verification that required human rights vetting was completed before the individual or units received the training.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: State partially agreed with this recommendation. State acknowledged that criteria for making these determinations are not covered in its guidance, but noted that it already takes such considerations into account on a case-by-case basis during internal policy deliberations to restrict or deny assistance and is currently discussing revisions to its guidance regarding this issue. In October 2016, State reported that new guidance on this topic will be included in an updated version of State's Leahy Vetting Guide. State completed the new version of the guide in 2017. In the revised guide, State explicitly confirms that the agency has the ability, in certain circumstances, to approve subunits to receive U.S. assistance even if they are part of a larger unit deemed ineligible to receive assistance under the Leahy laws. The guide also identifies various types of information that can potentially be used to clear subunits and provides guidance to embassies on steps to take to try and obtain such information. GAO is closing this recommendation as implemented.

    Recommendation: To strengthen State's documentation and procedures related to its human rights vetting process, the Secretary of State should issue guidance establishing procedures for determining when subunits--and individuals within those subunits--are eligible to receive U.S. assistance when they are part of a larger unit that has been deemed ineligible to receive assistance under the Leahy laws.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Priority recommendation

    Comments: State agreed with this recommendation and noted that it would maintain in INVEST, and periodically update, a version of the spreadsheet it uses to track Egyptian security force units of concern and other allegations of human rights abuses. In response to our recommendation, Embassy Cairo developed an unclassified spreadsheet which it uses to track allegations of human rights violations committed by Egyptian security forces. The embassy maintains this spreadsheet in INVEST to support human rights vetting efforts.

    Recommendation: To strengthen State's documentation and procedures related to its human rights vetting process, the Secretary of State should direct Embassy Cairo to comply with the State requirement to record relevant information it obtains regarding gross violations of human rights in INVEST.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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