Drug Control:

Heavy Investment in Military Surveillance Is Not Paying Off

NSIAD-93-220: Published: Sep 1, 1993. Publicly Released: Oct 6, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) justification for the flying hours and steaming days used for drug detection and monitoring, focusing on contribution those resources make to drug interdiction and national goals for reducing drug supplies in the United States.

GAO found that: (1) DOD funding for drug detection and monitoring operations has increased by about 300 percent since 1989 without DOD or the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) establishing quantified goals or effectiveness measures; (2) DOD justifications for increased operating tempo (OPTEMPO) funding are subjective due to the lack of information about the effectiveness of counterdrug missions; (3) DOD investment in its counterdrug mission is negligible when measured against ONDCP goals for reducing the flow of drugs into the country and interdiction success rates; (4) cocaine production has increased since 1989 and its distribution has not been significantly disrupted; (5) DOD surveillance capabilities exceed the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to apprehend smugglers; (6) DOD surveillance is inherently costly and the DOD approach to its counterdrug mission increases its cost; (7) DOD counterdrug program performance is likely to decline, since DOD has a narrowly focused support role due to legal and logistical limitations and the likelihood that smuggling operations will change; (8) some of the DOD surveillance operations do not provide the type of training needed to maintain the primary DOD war-fighting mission; and (9) DOD maintains some noncombat-oriented aircraft and equipment for exclusive use in its counterdrug operations.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: In light of the negligible contribution that military surveillance has made to the drug war, Congress should consider reducing DOD counterdrug OPTEMPO funding in FY 1994 by at least $72 million. This would return the services' counterdrug flying hours and steaming days to approximately the level of 1990, when DOD first reported that it had achieved "the full expansion" of its mission.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GAO report influenced the outcome of a 1993 National Security Council review of U.S. drug war policy. That study resulted in a November 1993 Presidential Decision Directive shifting the emphasis of U.S. policy away from interdiction. Because of this change in policy, Congress reduced DOD's FY 1994 counterdrug budget from $1.2 billion to $868 million. After Congress cut the FY 1994 budget, DOD instituted cost-saving measures that reduced its FY 1995 budget from a previously projected $1.2 billion to $874 million. The 2-year budget reduction from these combined cuts totalled $611 million. Therefore, no further action is anticipated on this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should consider reducing DOD FY 1994 OPTEMPO funding (in the defense budget, not just in the counterdrug budget) by all or part of the $72 million--that is, by the amount that DOD cannot justify retaining for training requirements related to its primary, national defense mission.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GAO report influenced the outcome of a 1993 National Security Council review of U.S. drug war policy. That study resulted in a November 1993 Presidential Decision Directive shifting the emphasis of U.S. policy away from interdiction. Because of this change in policy, Congress reduced DOD's FY 1994 counterdrug budget from $1.2 billion to $868 million. After Congress cut the FY 1994 budget, DOD instituted cost-saving measures that reduced its FY 1995 budget from a previously projected $1.2 billion to $874 million. The two-year budget reduction from these combined cuts totalled $611 million. Therefore, no further action is anticipated on this recommendation.

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the DOD Drug Coordinator to prepare a written justification for DOD counterdrug OPTEMPO, to accompany future budget requests, that: (1) includes measurable goals and the approach for reaching those goals; and (2) identifies the associated costs of counterdrug OPTEMPO in terms of its effect on personnel, equipment, and other requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has consolidated measures of effectiveness for the international portion of its counterdrug program and submitted them to the Office of National Drug Control Policy for comment on July 29, 1994. As of August 22, 1994, DOD is still working on MOEs for the domestic portion of the program and is trying to finish those by November 1994. Because of the changes in DOD counterdrug policy and the fact that OPTEMPO budgeting and funding is no longer done by the DOD Drug Coordinator's office, GAO plans no further action on this recommendation.

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