Drug Control:

Reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

T-GGD-97-97: Published: May 1, 1997. Publicly Released: May 1, 1997.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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GAO discussed the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), focusing on: (1) its recent work on federal drug control efforts; (2) ONDCP's efforts to implement performance measures; (3) ONDCP's anticipated actions to lead the development of a centralized lessons-learned data system for drug control activities; and (4) whether ONDCP, which is scheduled to expire in September 1997, should be reauthorized.

GAO noted that: (1) its recent work shows that there are some promising initial research results in the area of demand reduction but that international supply reduction efforts have not reduced the availability of drugs; (2) GAO's work also shows that the nation still lacks meaningful performance measures to help guide decisionmaking; (3) GAO has acknowledged that performance measurement in the area of drug control is particularly difficult for a variety of reasons; (4) notwithstanding, GAO has concluded over the years that better performance measures than the ones in place were needed; (5) in 1993, GAO recommended that Congress, as part of its reauthorization of ONDCP, direct the agency to develop additional performance measures; (6) in reauthorizing ONDCP in 1994, Congress specified that ONDCP's performance measurement system should assess changes in drug use, drug availability, the consequences of drug use, drug treatment capacity, and the adequacy of drug treatment systems; (7) ONDCP's initial effort, with a private contractor, did not prove fruitful, and, in the summer of 1996, it began a new effort involving working groups composed of representatives from federal drug control agencies and state, local, and private organizations; (8) the working groups have been tasked with establishing performance measures for the goals set forth in the 1997 national strategy articulated by ONDCP; (9) as of April 15, 1997, no new measures had been approved by the ONDCP Director; (10) given the complexity of the issues and the fragmentation of the approach to the national drug strategy among more than 50 federal agencies, GAO continues to believe that there is a need for a central planning agency, such as ONDCP, to coordinate the nation's efforts; and (11) while it is difficult to gauge ONDCP's effectiveness given the absence of good performance measures, GAO has found no compelling evidence that would lead it to advise against ONDCP's reauthorization for a finite period of time.

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