Honduras:

Continuing U.S. Military Presence at Soto Cano Base Is Not Critical

NSIAD-95-39: Published: Feb 8, 1995. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 1995.

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GAO reviewed whether the U.S. military presence at Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras is critical to current U.S. activities and objectives in the region, focusing on: (1) the cost of maintaining U.S. forces at the base; (2) U.S. objectives for regional economic growth and democratic reform; (3) drug interdiction activities; and (4) the withdrawal of U.S. forces from an air base in Panama.

GAO found that: (1) the U.S. military presence at Soto Cano provides useful but minimal support to some U.S. government activities in the region, but there is not sufficient justification for maintaining the presence; (2) U.S. forces are to support military training exercises, humanitarian and civic assistance exercises, and U.S. counterdrug activities in Honduras; (3) the Army acknowledges that training can be conducted in the region without a semipermanent logistics support base; (4) federal agency officials believe that they can continue their regional operations without support from the U.S. military at Soto Cano; (5) Soto Cano provides minimal support to U.S. counterdrug activities; (6) Soto Cano's potential as a support facility for military operations in Latin America is limited by the lack of a base rights agreement with Honduras, its limited capacity, and political issues; and (7) eliminating the U.S. military presence at Soto Cano would have a minimal impact on current U.S. missions and would potentially result in budgetary savings.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has changed the mission for units at the base, including organizations and types of activities. DOD believes that there is sufficient reason to not fully withdraw, as GAO recommended. However, consistent with the GAO recommendation, there has been a reduction in U.S. military presence and activities. Personnel levels have been reduced from 1,288 to about 500 and the number of helicopters was reduced from 33 to 10. The number of large exercises and bilateral activities has been reduced. According to DOD officials, these changes reduced the cost of maintaining a U.S. military presence in Honduras and still meet U.S. military needs in the region. The annual operating budget was reduced from $35 million to $14.5 million.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should reduce U.S. military personnel at Soto Cano to the level necessary to support counterdrug activities, pending the development of other arrangements to support those counterdrug activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since DOD decided to continue supporting interagency operations, with fewer personnel, from Soto Cano Base, the need to develop plans to support antidrug activities without U.S. military support is no longer required.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Customs, the Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Secretaries of State and Defense, in conjunction with the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, should develop a plan to conduct their operations without U.S. military units at Soto Cano.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The need for DEA action was predicated on DOD's acceptance of the recommendation to withdraw from Soto Cano. Since DOD decided to continue with fewer personnel, from Soto Cano Base, the need to develop plans to support antidrug activities without U.S. military support is no longer required.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Customs, the Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Secretaries of State and Defense, in conjunction with the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, should develop a plan to conduct their operations without U.S. military units at Soto Cano.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The need for Customs action was predicated on DOD's acceptance of the recommendation to withdraw from Soto Cano. Since DOD decided to continue with fewer personnel, from Soto Cano Base, the need to develop plans to support antidrug activities without U.S. military support is no longer required.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Customs, the Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Secretaries of State and Defense, in conjunction with the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, should develop a plan to conduct their operations without U.S. military units at Soto Cano.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: United States Customs Service

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The need for State action was predicated on DOD's acceptance of the recommendation to withdraw from Soto Cano. Since DOD decided to continue with fewer personnel from Soto Cano Base, the need to develop plans to support antidrug activities without U.S. military support is no longer required.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Customs, the Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Secretaries of State and Defense, in conjunction with the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy, should develop a plan to conduct their operations without U.S. military units at Soto Cano.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is no longer applicable since DOD decided to maintain a U.S. military presence at Soto Cano Base.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should withdraw the remaining U.S. military personnel at Soto Cano once the interagency plan is developed and implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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