Drug Control:

Planned Actions Should Clarify Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center's Impact

GGD-98-28: Published: Feb 3, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the operations and contributions of the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC), focusing on: (1) how CTAC coordinates its counterdrug research and development (R&D) efforts with other federal agencies to address counterdrug R&D needs that are not being met by other agencies and to avoid unnecessary duplication; and (2) what contributions CTAC has made to counterdrug R&D efforts since its creation.

GAO noted that: (1) CTAC has a coordination process in place for identifying counterdrug technology needs and selecting and funding R&D projects to meet those needs; (2) however, GAO identified the following shortcomings in CTAC's design and execution of the process: (a) the Science and Technology (S&T) Committee's charter, which was created before CTAC existed, does not reflect the Committee's current composition, responsibilities, and relationship to CTAC; (b) CTAC did not regularly and consistently involve the S&T Committee in its coordination process; (c) CTAC did not regularly evaluate and prioritize the agencies' counterdrug R&D technology needs to ensure that it funded otherwise unfunded projects with the highest priority; (d) CTAC did not systematically identify and consider the counterdrug technology needs of state and local agencies, in conjunction with federal agencies' needs, as part of its regular process for selecting and funding projects, and state and local agencies were only recently represented on the S&T Committee; (e) agencies generally did not submit transitional or acquisition plans to CTAC; and (f) although a few agencies cited instances where duplication was avoided as a result of CTAC's efforts, CTAC had not developed any means for determining the extent to which unnecessary duplication had been identified and avoided due to its efforts; (3) as a result of these shortcomings, neither GAO nor CTAC could determine the extent to which its coordination process was meeting its mission; (4) GAO's task of determining CTAC's contribution to federal drug control efforts was complicated by CTAC's lack of meaningful performance measures to enable it to: (a) assess its progress in achieving its mission and contributing to the development and deployment of counterdrug technology; and (b) identify and implement any needed improvements to better achieve its mission; (5) CTAC's Chief Scientist told GAO that he considered not just technologies that are completed and in use as contributions, but also uncompleted projects that have reached various stages of development; and (6) the contact officials of the lead R&D agencies identified by CTAC told GAO that they considered 10 of the 36 projects cited as contributions by CTAC to be actual contributions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The S&T Committee met on June 17, 1998, and discussed the updated charter, which was promulgated on July 15, 1998. During 1998, CTAC developed a prioritized composite list of scientific and technological needs, which was published in the Counterdrug Research and Development Blueprint Update, dated January 1999. According to the Director of CTAC, the S&T Committee also met in July and August 1998, and once in January 1999 to date. However, he said no minutes or agenda were available for those meetings.

    Recommendation: For CTAC to more effectively coordinate with federal, state, and local counterdrug R&D agencies in identifying and prioritizing technology needs and selecting projects for CTAC funding, the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), should direct the Chief Scientist to work with the S&T Committee to help ensure that the S&T Committee meets regularly to exchange information on federal, state, and local drug supply and demand reduction technology needs; and recommend to the Chief Scientist selection and funding of the otherwise unfunded highest priority projects. In this regard, the S&T Committee's charter should be updated to reflect the committee's current composition, responsibilities, and relationship to CTAC.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 1998, CTAC published "The Ten-Year Counterdrug Technology Plan and Development Roadmap," which presents a ten-year counterdrug technology plan and development roadmap and provides a framework for helping to ensure that transitional and acquisition plans are developed for technology initiatives. The Plan provides for the formation of an Interagency Working Group for Technology (IAWG-T) under the S&T Committee to continue the planning process and to monitor implementation of the plan, including the development of transition and acquisition plans for counterdrug technology by each federal agency. According to the Director of CTAC, the IAWG-T has since been established and held meetings. However, no formal minutes of the meetings were available because, according to CTAC, they are not required.

    Recommendation: For CTAC to more effectively coordinate with federal, state, and local counterdrug R&D agencies in identifying and prioritizing technology needs and selecting projects for CTAC funding, the Director, ONDCP, should direct the Chief Scientist to work with the S&T Committee to help ensure that projects selected for CTAC funding have transitional/acquisition plans.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Specific performance objectives, targets, and measures for CTAC were incorporated in ONDCP's annual performance plans for FY1999, 2000, and 2001. Also, the Information Management System, which is to be used to verify CTAC's and other drug control activities' performance against applicable ONDCP strategic goals and objectives, is operational for ONDCP's use. Thus, the intent of GAO's recommendation has been fulfilled.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that CTAC can adequately measure whether it is achieving its mission, the Director, ONDCP, should direct the Chief Scientist to develop, within a set period, performance objectives and outcome measures that make it possible to assess the extent to which CTAC is achieving its various mission objectives and contributing to the development and deployment of counterdrug technologies.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

 

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