Drug Control:

Long-Standing Problems Hinder U.S. International Efforts

NSIAD-97-75: Published: Feb 27, 1997. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO summarized the findings from its previous work on international drug control and interdiction efforts, focusing on: (1) the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to combat drug production and the movement of drugs into the United States; (2) obstacles to implementation of U.S. drug control efforts; and (3) suggestions to improve the operational effectiveness of the U.S. international drug control efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) despite long-standing efforts and expenditures of billions of dollars, illegal drugs still flood the United States; (2) although these efforts have resulted in some successes, including the arrest of traffickers and the eradication, seizure, and disruption in the transport of illegal drugs, they have not materially reduced the availability of drugs; (3) a key reason for U.S. counternarcotics programs' lack of success is that international drug-trafficking organizations have become sophisticated, multi-billion dollar industries that quickly adapt to new U.S. drug control efforts; (4) as success is achieved in one area, the drug-trafficking organizations change tactics, thwarting U.S. efforts; (5) other significant, long-standing obstacles also impede U.S. and drug-producing and transit countries' drug control efforts; (6) in the drug-producing and transit countries, counternarcotics control efforts are constrained by competing economic and political policies, inadequate laws, limited resources and institutional capabilities, and internal problems such as terrorism and civil unrest; (7) moreover, drug traffickers are increasingly resourceful in corrupting the countries' institutions; (8) U.S. efforts have been hampered by competing U.S. foreign policy objectives, organizational and operational limitations, difficulty in obtaining bilateral and multilateral support for U.S. drug control efforts, inconsistency in the funding for U.S. international drug-control efforts, and the lack of ways to tell whether or how well counternarcotics efforts are contributing to the goals and objectives of the national drug control strategy, which results in an inability to prioritize the use of limited resources; (9) there is no panacea for resolving all of the problems associated with illegal drug trafficking; (10) however, a multiyear plan that describes where, when, and how U.S. agencies intend to apply resources would provide a more consistent approach; (11) this plan should include performance measures and long-term funding needs linked to the goals and objectives of the international drug control strategy; (12) the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) should, at least annually, review the plan and make appropriate adjustments; (13) with this multiyear plan, program managers and policymakers can make more-informed decisions on prioritizing funding levels based on performance and results; and (14) GAO believes improved use of intelligence and technology and the development of a centralized system of "lessons learned" could enhance counternarcotics efforts.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action necessary to implement this recommendation was passed by the House on October 21, 1997, as part of the legislation to reauthorize the ONDCP (H.R. 2610). A Senate committee reported legislation with similar language. However, the legislation was never enacted because of major differences on other parts of the bill (i.e., drug control targets and the length of time required to meet these targets).

    Matter: To ensure continuity and commitment to achieving the goals and objectives of the drug control strategy, Congress should consider providing ONDCP the authority to require that key U.S. drug control agencies develop and submit multiyear funding plans tied to the drug control strategy.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A White House Task Force on the Coordination of Counterdrug Intelligence Centers and Activities has been created to review counterdrug-intelligence missions, activities, functions, and resources to determine how federal, state and local drug control efforts can be better supported by intelligence. The Task Force has completed its work and submitted a draft report to the Director of ONDCP. With regard to funding levels, the proposed FY1999 budget for drug-related intelligence activities has increased from $154.2 million in FY1997 to an estimated $196.5 in FY1999, a 27-percent increase. Funding for counterdrug research is expected to increase from $655.2 million in FY1997 to $725.1 million in FY1999.

    Recommendation: To aid decisionmakers in planning improved counternarcotics efforts and using U.S. resources to their best advantage, the Director, ONDCP, should enhance support for the increased use of intelligence and technology to improve U.S. and other nations' efforts to reduce supplies of and interdict illegal drugs.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ONDCP issued a 10-year strategy with multiyear budget plans and performance measures in February 1998. Under House-passed legislation (H.R. 2610) and according to testimony by the ONDCP Director, the strategy will be reviewed annually and adjusted where necessary. The first annual report on the progress was submitted to Congress in March 1999.

    Recommendation: To aid decisionmakers in planning improved counternarcotics efforts and using U.S. resources to their best advantage, the Director, ONDCP should, at least annually, review the progress made and adjust the plan, as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 1998, ONDCP submitted the President's National Drug Control Strategy for 1998. This document proposes a 10-year framework to reduce illegal drug use and availability 50 percent by 2007. The strategy contains 10-year goals and objectives and performance measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy and redirect it, when necessary. The strategy is supported by a 5-year, agency-specific budget.

    Recommendation: To aid decisionmakers in planning improved counternarcotics efforts and using U.S. resources to their best advantage, the Director, ONDCP, should complete the development of a long-term plan with meaningful performance measures and multiyear funding needs that are linked to the goals and objectives of the international drug control strategy.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ONDCP has tasked the Data, Evaluation, and Interagency Coordination Subcommittee of the Drug Control Research, Data and Evaluation Committee with collecting and disseminating lessons-learned information for all drug control issues, to include international and interdiction activities. In addition, the subcommittee is examining existing federal collection and dissemination procedures, identifying shortcomings, and will recommend steps to improve the collection and dissemination of information throughout the drug control community.

    Recommendation: To aid decisionmakers in planning improved counternarcotics efforts and using U.S. resources to their best advantage, the Director, ONDCP, should lead in developing a centralized lessons-learned data system to aid agency planners and operators in developing more effective counterdrug efforts.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

 

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