Rule of Law Assistance:
DOD Should Assess Workforce Size of Defense Institute of International Legal Studies
GAO-17-118: Published: Dec 14, 2016. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2016.
Upholding the rule of law is critical to U.S. efforts to support international peace and security. DOD's Defense Institute of International Legal Studies trains military partners in over 100 countries on rule of law concepts such as human rights, rules on the use of force, and anticorruption.
We found that demand for DIILS assistance has increased by over 50 percent since 2013, while its workforce has remained constant. Consequently, DIILS staff face challenges in meeting the demands for their services. We recommended that DOD assess whether the size of DIILS’s workforce allows it to fulfill its mission.
Number and Type of Rule of Law Assistance Events Held by the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies, and Full-Time Equivalent Staff, Fiscal Years 2013-2016
Bar chart showing increasing number of events with roughly the same amount of staff.
What GAO Found
For fiscal years 2013 through 2016, the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS) conducted over 500 rule of law events in almost 100 countries, and it assessed the quality of its assistance in a variety of ways. DIILS provides three types of assistance: (1) core rule of law training in the United States and abroad, (2) defense institution-building, and (3) statutorily required human rights training. DIILS takes steps to assess the quality of its assistance, such as by conducting student feedback surveys and real-time classroom assessments of students' learning. Foreign partner recipients of DIILS assistance and U.S. officials working to provide it told us they generally held positive views about the quality of DIILS's services.
Number and Type of Rule of Law Assistance Events Held by the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies, and Full-Time Equivalent Staff, Fiscal Years 2013–2016
Although the demand for DIILS's assistance has increased since 2013, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not assessed whether the size of DIILS's workforce aligns with the scope of its mission. Federal internal control standards highlight the need for management to conduct reviews at the functional or activity level, including conducting a workforce review, if needed. Since fiscal year 2013, the demand for DIILS's assistance has grown by nearly 50 percent, while its workforce has increased by one full-time equivalent (FTE) staff position. According to DIILS officials, as a result of staffing constraints, DIILS staff have completed 55 percent of required after action reports, which capture lessons learned for future events; expended 55 percent of all defense institution-building funds that DOD has made available since fiscal year 2013; and faced challenges in increasing capacity of residence courses to help meet demand. According to DOD officials, DOD has declined DIILS's requests for additional FTE staff based on budget considerations and not on an assessment of whether the size of DIILS's workforce aligns with the scope of its mission. Without a clear understanding provided by such an assessment, DOD cannot adequately ensure that DIILS is effectively meeting demands for its training and assistance to foreign military officials, which may contribute to more robust rule of law systems, more accountable governments, and greater respect for human rights.
Why GAO Did This Study
Rule of law assistance is an important component of U.S. efforts to build the capacity of foreign partners to support international peace and security. DIILS is DOD's lead global resource for providing professional legal education and assistance to foreign military personnel and civilian defense officials on core rule of law issues. Such issues include military justice, anticorruption, and professionalization of the military. In addition, DIILS provides defense institution-building assistance and statutorily required human rights training to foreign partners. In fiscal years 2013 through 2016, DIILS disbursed over $24 million.
House Report 114-102 includes a provision for GAO to review DOD's efforts to build partner capacity in the rule of law. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which (1) DIILS has provided rule of law assistance to foreign partners and assessed its quality and (2) DOD has considered whether the size of DIILS's workforce aligns with the scope of its mission. GAO reviewed and analyzed agency funding, planning, and organizational structure documents for fiscal years 2013 through 2016. GAO interviewed U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., and conducted fieldwork in Newport, Rhode Island; Botswana; Germany; and Uganda. Locations were selected on the basis of the nature and timing of assistance.
What GAO Recommends
The Secretary of Defense should assess the extent to which the size of DIILS's workforce is aligned with the scope of its mission. DOD concurred with the recommendation.
For more information, contact Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., at (202) 512-7331 or JohnsonCM@gao.gov.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation. As of October 2017, DOD stated that its position on the report has not changed. When we confirm what actions DOD has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Recommendation: To help ensure that DOD successfully achieves the goal of supporting foreign nations in upholding the rule of law, the Secretary of Defense should assess the extent to which the size of DIILS's workforce is aligned with the scope of its mission, including whether DIILS has sufficient staff to complete required after action reports and to increase its resident course capacity.
Agency Affected: Department of Defense