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Before the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, Committee on Oversight and 
Government Reform, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT:
Wednesday, July 21, 2010: 

Drug Control: 

International Programs Face Significant Challenges Reducing the Supply 
of Illegal Drugs but Support Broad U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives: 

Statement of Jess T. Ford, Director: 
International Affairs and Trade: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-921T, a report to House Government Oversight 
Committee, Subcommittee on Domestic Policy. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The overall goal of the U.S. National Drug Control Strategy, prepared 
by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), is 
to reduce illicit drug use in the United States. GAO has issued more 
than 20 products since 2000 examining U.S.-funded international 
programs aimed at reducing the supply of drugs. These programs have 
been implemented primarily in drug source countries, such as Colombia 
and Afghanistan, as well drug transit countries, such as Mexico, 
Guatemala, and Venezuela. They have included interdiction of maritime 
drug shipments on the high seas, support for foreign military and 
civilian institutions engaged in drug eradication, detection, and 
interdiction; and rule of law assistance aimed at helping foreign 
legal institutions investigate and prosecute drug trafficking, money 
laundering, and other drug-related crimes. 

What GAO Found: 

GAO’s work on U.S.-funded international counternarcotics-related 
programs has centered on four major topics: 

* Counternarcotics-related programs have had mixed results. In 
Afghanistan, Colombia, and drug transit countries, the United States 
and partner nations have only partially met established targets for 
reducing the drug supply. In Afghanistan, opium poppy eradication 
efforts have consistently fallen short of targets. Plan Colombia has 
met its goals for reducing opium and heroin but not coca crops, 
although recent data suggest that U.S.-supported crop eradication 
efforts over time may have caused a significant decline in potential 
cocaine production. Data also indicate that increases in cocaine 
production in Peru and Bolivia have partially offset these declines. 
Interdiction programs have missed their performance targets each year 
since goals were established in 2007. 

* Several factors have limited program effectiveness. Various factors 
have hindered these programs’ ability to reduce the supply of illegal 
drugs. In some cases, we found that U.S. agencies had not planned for 
the sustainment of programs, particularly those providing interdiction 
boats in transit countries. External factors include limited 
cooperation from partner nations due to corruption or lack of 
political support, and the highly adaptive nature of drug producers 
and traffickers. 

* Counternarcotics-related programs often advance broad foreign policy 
objectives. The value of these programs cannot be assessed based only 
on their impact on the drug supply. Many have supported other U.S. 
foreign policy objectives relating to security and stabilization, 
counterinsurgency, and strengthening democracy and governance. For 
example, in Afghanistan, the United States has combined 
counternarcotics efforts with military operations to combat insurgents 
as well as drug traffickers. U.S. support for Plan Colombia has 
significantly strengthened Colombia’s security environment, which may 
eventually make counterdrug programs, such as alternative agricultural 
development, more effective. In several cases, U.S. rule of law 
assistance, such as supporting courts, prosecutors, and law 
enforcement organizations, has furthered both democracy-building and 
counterdrug objectives. 

* Judging the effectiveness of some programs is difficult. U.S. 
agencies often lack reliable performance measurement and results 
reporting needed to assess all the impacts of counterdrug programs. In 
Afghanistan, opium eradication measures alone were insufficient for a 
comprehensive assessment of U.S. efforts. Also, the State Department 
has not regularly reported outcome-related information for over half 
of its programs in major drug transit countries. Furthermore, DOD’s 
counternarcotics-related measures were generally not useful for 
assessing program effectiveness or making management decisions. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO has made recommendations to the Departments of Defense (DOD) and 
State and other agencies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency 
of these programs. In particular, GAO has recommended that agencies 
develop plans to sustain programs. GAO has also recommended that 
agencies improve performance measurement and results reporting to 
assess program impacts and to aid in decision making. In most cases, 
the agencies have either implemented these recommendations or have 
efforts underway to address them. 

View [hyperlink,] or key 
components. For more information, contact Jess T. Ford at (202) 512- 
4268 or 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here to discuss our analysis of the United States' 
international counternarcotics effort over the past several years. 
Since 2000, we have published over 20 reports on U.S. international 
counternarcotics programs and other international programs related to 
counternarcotics. Today, I will discuss the overall findings from 
these reports and some of the recommendations we have made. 
Specifically, I will focus on four major topics with regard to U.S. 
international counternarcotics-related programs: (1) their results in 
reducing the supply of illegal drugs; (2) factors limiting their 
effectiveness; (3) their alignment with broad U.S. foreign policy 
objectives, such as counterinsurgency and the promotion of political 
stability, and democracy, and (4) difficulties in judging their 
effectiveness, given a lack of reliable performance measurement and 
results reporting. 

My statement today is based on our extensive body of work examining 
U.S. efforts to reduce the flow of drugs into this country (see app. 
I). We have conducted extensive on-the-ground work in the United 
States as well as in major illicit drug producing countries, such as 
Afghanistan, Colombia, and Peru, and major drug transit countries, 
such as the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico Panama, and 
Venezuela.[Footnote 1] Our reports incorporate information we obtained 
and analyzed from foreign officials in these countries as well as U.S. 
officials posted both overseas and in Washington, D.C., from the 
Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security, State (State), 
Justice, Treasury; the U.S. Agency for International Development 
(USAID); the Defense Intelligence Agency; the Drug Enforcement 
Administration (DEA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy 
(ONDCP). In the United States we also obtained information from U.S. 
officials at other agencies and organizations involved in 
international drug control and interdiction, such as the U.S. Southern 
Command and the Joint Interagency Task Force-South in Florida and the 
El Paso Information Center in Texas, and the Central Intelligence 
Agency's Crime and Narcotics Center in Virginia. Our work was 
conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit 
to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 
We believe that the evidence we obtained provides a reasonable basis 
for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 


During the past decade, the overarching goal of the U.S. National Drug 
Control Strategy has been to reduce illegal drug use in the United 
States. A main priority of the strategy has been to disrupt illegal 
drug trade and production abroad in the transit zone[Footnote 2] and 
production countries by attacking the power structures and finances of 
international criminal organizations and aiding countries with 
eradication and interdiction efforts.[Footnote 3] This involves 
seizing large quantities of narcotics from transporters, disrupting 
major drug trafficking organizations, arresting their leaders, and 
seizing their assets. The strategy also called for the United States 
to support democratic institutions and the rule of law in allied 
nations both in the transit zone and in drug producing countries, 
strengthening of these nations' prosecutorial efforts, and the 
prosecution of foreign traffickers and producers. According to State's 
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the goal of U.S. 
counternarcotics assistance to other countries is to help their 
governments become full and self-sustaining partners in the fight 
against drugs. 

The updated U.S. National Drug Control Strategy, released in May 2010, 
endorses a balance of drug abuse prevention, drug treatment, and law 
enforcement. International efforts in the strategy include 
collaborating with international partners to disrupt the drug trade, 
supporting the drug control efforts of major drug source and transit 
countries, and attacking key vulnerabilities of drug-trafficking 

Counternarcotics-Related Programs Have Had Mixed Results in Meeting 
Supply Reduction and Interdiction Goals: 

Our work in Afghanistan, Colombia, and the transit zone has shown that 
the United States and its partner nations have partially met 
established targets for reducing the supply of illicit drugs. Most 
programs designed to reduce cultivation, production, and trafficking 
of drugs have missed their performance targets. 

Some Afghan Opium Poppy Reduction Targets Have Been Achieved: 

In Afghanistan, one of the original indicators of success of the U.S.- 
funded counternarcotics effort was the reduction of opium poppy 
cultivation in the country, and for each year from 2005 to 2008, State 
established a new cultivation reduction target. According to State, 
the targets were met for some but not all of these years. We recently 
reported that cultivation data show increases from 2005 to 2007 and 
decreases from 2007 to 2009 and that 20 of the 34 Afghan provinces are 
now poppy-free. However, the U.S. and Afghan opium poppy eradication 
strategy did not achieve its stated objectives, as the amounts of 
poppy eradicated consistently fell short of the annual targeted 
amounts. For example, based on the most recent data we analyzed--for 
2008-2009--slightly more than one-quarter of the total eradication 
goal for that year was achieved: of the 20,000 hectares targeted, only 
5,350 hectares were successfully eradicated.[Footnote 4] 

These eradication and cultivation goals were not met due to a number 
of factors, including lack of political will on the part of Afghan 
central and provincial governments. In 2009, the United States 
revamped its counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan to deemphasize 
eradication efforts and shift to interdiction and increased 
agricultural assistance. 

Plan Colombia Partially Met Six-Year Drug Supply Reduction Goals and 
Recent Data Suggest More Improvements Have Been Made: 

In 2008, we reported that Plan Colombia's goal of reducing the 
cultivation and production of illegal drugs by 50 percent in 6 years 
was partially achieved.[Footnote 5] From 2001 to 2006, Colombian opium 
poppy cultivation and heroin production decreased by about 50 percent 
to meet established goals. However, estimated coca cultivation rose by 
15 percent with an estimated 157,000 hectares cultivated in 2006 
compared to 136,200 hectares in 2000.[Footnote 6] State officials 
noted that extensive aerial and manual eradication efforts during this 
period were not sufficient to overcome countermeasures taken by coca 
farmers. U.S. officials also noted the increase in estimated coca 
cultivation levels from 2005 through 2007 may have been due, at least 
in part, to the U.S. government's decision to increase the size of the 
coca cultivation survey areas in Colombia beginning in 2004.[Footnote 
7] Furthermore, in 2008 we reported that estimated cocaine production 
was about 4 percent greater in 2006 than in 2000, with 550 metric tons 
produced in 2006 compared to 530 metric tons in 2000.[Footnote 8] 

Since our 2008 report, ONDCP has provided additional data that 
suggests significant reductions in the potential cocaine production in 
Colombia despite the rising cultivation and estimated production 
numbers we had cited. ONDCP officials have noted that U.S.-supported 
eradication efforts had degraded coca fields, so that less cocaine was 
being produced per hectare of cultivated coca. According to ONDCP 
data, potential cocaine production overall has dropped from 700 metric 
tons in 2001 to 295 metric tons in 2008--a 57 percent decrease. 
According to ONDCP officials, decreases in cocaine purity and in the 
amount of cocaine seized at the Southwest Border since 2006 tend to 
corroborate the lower potential cocaine production figures. 

In interpreting this additional ONDCP data, a number of facts and 
mitigating circumstances should be considered. First, increasing 
effectiveness of coca eradication efforts may not be the only 
explanation for the data that ONDCP provided. Other factors, such as 
dry weather conditions, may be contributing to these decreases in 
potential cocaine production. Also, other factors, such as increases 
in cocaine flow to West Africa and Europe could be contributing to 
decreased availability and purity of cocaine in U.S. markets. 
Additionally, ONDCP officials cautioned about the longer-term 
prospects for these apparent eradication achievements, because 
weakened economic conditions in both the U.S. and Colombia could 
hamper the Colombian government's sustainment of eradication programs 
and curtail the gains made. Moreover, as we noted in 2008, reductions 
in Colombia's estimated cocaine production have been partially offset 
by increases in cocaine production in Peru and, to a lesser extent, 
Bolivia. Although It remains to be seen whether cocaine production in 
Peru and Bolivia will continue to increase and these whether Peru will 
return to being the primary coca producing country that it was through 
the 1980's and into the 1990's.[Footnote 9] 

Cocaine Interdiction Programs in the Transit Zone Has Fallen Short of 

According to ONDCP data, the United States has fallen slightly short 
of its cocaine interdiction targets each year since the targets were 
established in 2007. The national interdiction goal calls for the 
removal of 40 percent of the cocaine moving through the transit zone 
annually by 2015. The goal included interim annual targets of 25 
percent in 2008 and 27 percent in 2009.[Footnote 10] However, since 
2006, cocaine removal rates have declined and have not reached any of 
the annual targets to date. The removal rate dropped to 23 percent in 
2007 and 20 percent in 2008 (5 percentage points short of the target 
for that year) then rose to 25 percent in 2009 (2.5 percentage points 
short of the target for that year). ONDCP has cited aging interdiction 
assets, such as U.S. Coast Guard vessels, the redirection of 
interdiction capacity to wars overseas, and budget constraints, as 
contributing factors to these lower-than-desired success rates. 
Moreover, the increasing flow of illicit narcotics through Venezuela 
and the continuing flow through Mexico pose significant challenges to 
U.S. counternarcotics interdiction efforts. 

Several Factors Have Limited the Effectiveness of U.S. Programs: 

A number of factors to counternarcotics-related programs have limited 
the effectiveness of U.S. counternarcotic efforts. These factors 
include a lack of planning by U.S. agencies to sustain some U.S.-
funded programs over the longer term, limited cooperation from partner 
nations, and the adaptability of drug producers and traffickers. 

Lack of Planning by U.S. Agencies to Sustain Some Programs: 

U.S. agencies had not developed plans for how to sustain some 
programs, particularly those programs providing assets, such as boats, 
to partner nations to conduct interdiction efforts. Some 
counternarcotics initiatives we reviewed were hampered by a shortage 
of resources made available by partner nations to sustain these 
programs. We found that many partner nations in the transit zone had 
limited resources to devote to counternarcotics, and many initiatives 
depended on U.S. support. Programs aimed at building maritime 
interdiction capacity were particularly affected, as partner nations, 
including Haiti, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama and the Dominican 
Republic, were unable to use U.S.-provided boats for patrol or 
interdiction operations due to a lack of funding for fuel and 
maintenance. Despite continued efforts by DOD and State to provide 
these countries with boats, these agencies had not developed plans to 
address long-term sustainability of these assets over their expected 
operating life.[Footnote 11] 

Also, we found in 2006 that the availability of some key U.S. assets 
for interdiction operations, such as maritime patrol aircraft, was 
declining, and the United States had not planned for how to replace 
them. According to JIATF-South and other cognizant officials, the 
declining availability of P-3 maritime patrol aircraft was the most 
critical challenge to the success of future interdiction operations. 
[Footnote 12] Since then, DOD has taken steps to address the issue of 
declining availability of ships and aircraft for transit zone 
interdiction operations by using other forms of aerial surveillance 
and extending the useful life of P-3 aircraft. Recently, DOD's 
Southern Command officials told us that they plan to rely increasingly 
upon U.S.-supported partner nations for detection and monitoring 
efforts as DOD capabilities in this area diminish. However, given the 
concerns we have reported about the ability of some partner nations to 
sustain counternarcotics-related assets, it remains to be seen whether 
this contingency is viable. 

Limited Cooperation Between the United States and Partner Nations: 

Our work in Colombia, Mexico, and drug transit countries has shown 
that cooperative working relationships between U.S. officials and 
their foreign counterparts is essential to implementing effective 
counternarcotics programs. The United States has agreed-upon 
strategies with both Colombia and Mexico to achieve counternarcotics-
related objectives and has worked extensively to strengthen those 
countries' capacity to combat illicit drug production and trafficking. 
For example, to detect and intercept illegal air traffic in Colombian 
air space the United States and Colombia collaborated to operate the 
Air Bridge Denial Program, which the Colombian Air Force now operates 
independently. Also, in Mexico, increased cooperation with the United 
States led to a rise in extraditions of high-level cartel members, 
demonstrating a stronger commitment by the Mexican government to work 
closely with U.S. agencies to combat drug trafficking problems. 
Similarly, in 2008 we reported that in most major drug transit 
countries, close and improving cooperation has yielded a variety of 
benefits for the counternarcotics effort. In particular, partner 
nations have shared information and intelligence leading to arrests 
and drug seizures, participated in counternarcotics operations both at 
sea and on land, and cooperated in the prosecution of drug 
traffickers.[Footnote 13] 

However, corruption within the governments of partner nations can 
seriously limit cooperation. For example, in 2002, the U.S. government 
suspended major joint operations in Guatemala when the antinarcotics 
police unit in that country was disbanded in response to reports of 
widespread corruption within the agency and its general lack of 
effectiveness in combating the country's drug problem. In the Bahamas, 
State reported in 2003 that it was reluctant to include Bahamian 
defense personnel in drug interdiction operations and to share 
sensitive law enforcement information with them due to corruption 
concerns. Corruption has also hampered Dominican Republic-based, money-
laundering investigations, according to DEA.[Footnote 14] 

Afghan officials objected to aerial eradication efforts and the use of 
chemicals in Afghanistan, forcing eradication to be done with 
tractors, all-terrain vehicles, and manually with sticks, making the 
effort less efficient. Furthermore, Afghan governors had been slow to 
grant permission to eradicate poppy fields until the concept for the 
central government's eradication force was changed in 2008 so that 
this force could operate without governor permission in areas where 
governors either would not or could not launch eradication efforts 
themselves.[Footnote 15] 

Deteriorating relations with Venezuela have stalled the progress of 
several cooperative counternarcotics initiatives intended to slow drug 
trafficking through that country. In 2007, Venezuela began denying 
visas for U.S. officials to serve in Venezuela, which complicated 
efforts to cooperate. Additionally, the overall number of 
counternarcotics projects supported by both the United States in 
Venezuela has fallen since 2005. For example, the Government of 
Venezuela withdrew support from the Prosecutor's Drug Task Force in 
2005 and a port security program in 2006.[Footnote 16] 

Highly Adaptive Nature of Drug Traffickers and Producers: 

Drug trafficking organizations and associated criminal networks have 
been extremely adaptive and resourceful, shifting routes and operating 
methods quickly in response to pressure from law enforcement 
organizations or rival traffickers. In 2008, we reported that drug 
traffickers typically used go-fast boats and fishing vessels to 
smuggle cocaine from Colombia to Central America and Mexico en route 
to the United States. These boats, capable of traveling at speeds over 
40 knots, were difficult to detect in open water and were often used 
at night or painted blue and used during the day, becoming virtually 
impossible to see. Traffickers have also used "mother ships" in 
concert with fishing vessels to transport illicit drugs into open 
waters and then distribute the load among smaller boats at sea. In 
addition, traffickers have used evasive maritime routes and changed 
them frequently. Some boats have traveled as far southwest as the 
Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean before heading north toward 
Mexico, while others travel through Central America's littoral waters, 
close to shore, where they could hide among legitimate maritime 
traffic. Furthermore, the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-
South), under DOD's U.S. Southern Command, reported an increase in 
suspicious flights--particularly departing from Venezuela. Traffickers 
have flown loads of cocaine to remote, ungoverned spaces and abandoned 
the planes after landing. Traffickers have also used increasingly 
sophisticated concealment methods. For example, they have built 
fiberglass semisubmersible craft that could avoid both visual-and 
sonar-detection, hidden cocaine within the hulls of boats, and 
transported liquefied cocaine in fuel tanks.[Footnote 17] 

According to DOD officials, these shifts in drug trafficking patterns 
and methods have likely taken place largely in response to U.S. and 
international counternarcotics efforts in the Pacific Ocean and 
Caribbean, although measuring causes and effects is imprecise. In 
addition, according to DOD, drug trafficking organizations and 
associated criminal networks commonly enjoy greater financial and 
material resources (including weapons as well as communication, 
navigation, and other technologies) than do governments in the transit 
zone.[Footnote 18] 

In addition to maritime operations, drug trafficking organizations 
have adopted increasingly sophisticated smuggling techniques on the 
ground. For example, from 2000 to 2006, U.S. border officials found 45 
tunnels--several built primarily for narcotics smuggling. According to 
DEA and Defense Intelligence Agency officials, the tunnels found were 
longer, deeper, and more discrete than in prior years. One such tunnel 
found in 2006 was a half-mile long. It was the longest cross border 
tunnel discovered, reaching a depth of more than nine stories below 
ground and featuring ventilation and groundwater drainage systems, 
cement flooring, lighting, and a pulley system.[Footnote 19] 

In production countries, such as Colombia, drug producers also proved 
to be highly adaptive. In 2009 we reported that coca farmers adopted a 
number of effective countermeasures to U.S. supported eradication and 
aerial spray efforts. These measures included pruning coca plants 
after spraying; replanting with younger coca plants or plant grafts; 
decreasing the size of coca plots; interspersing coca with legitimate 
crops to avoid detection; moving coca cultivation to areas of the 
country off-limits to spray aircraft, such as the national parks and a 
10 kilometer area along Colombia's border with Ecuador; and moving 
coca crops to more remote parts of the country--a development that 
created a "dispersal effect."[Footnote 20] While these measures 
allowed coca farmers to continue cultivation, they also increased the 
coca farmers and traffickers' cost of doing business. 

Counternarcotics Initiatives Have Been Closely Aligned with Broad U.S. 
Foreign Policy Objectives: 

U.S. counternarcotics programs have been closely aligned with the 
achievement of other U.S. foreign policy goals. U.S. assistance under 
Plan Colombia is a key example where counternarcotic goals and foreign 
policy objectives intersect. While, as of 2007, Plan Colombia had not 
clearly attained its cocaine supply reduction goals, the country did 
improve its security climate through systematic military and police 
engagements with illegal armed groups and degradation of these group's 
finances. Colombia saw a significant drop in homicides and kidnappings 
and increased use of Colombian public roads during Plan Colombia's six 
years. In addition, insurgency groups such as the Revolutionary Armed 
Forces of Colombia (FARC) saw a decline in capabilities and finances. 
While these accomplishments have not necessarily led to a decrease in 
drug production and trafficking, they signaled an improved security 
climate, which is one of the pillars of Plan Colombia. 

In Afghanistan, we recently reported that the U.S. counternarcotics 
strategy has become more integrated with the broad counterinsurgency 
effort over time. Prior to 2008, counterinsurgency and 
counternarcotics policies were largely separated and officials noted 
that this division ignored a nexus between the narcotics trade and the 
insurgency. For example, DEA drug raids yielded weapons caches and 
explosives used by insurgents, as well as suspects listed on Defense 
military target lists, and military raids on insurgent compounds also 
yielded illicit narcotics and narcotics processing equipment.[Footnote 
21] DOD changed its rules of engagement in November 2008 to permit the 
targeting of persons by the military (including drug traffickers) who 
provide material support to insurgent or terrorist groups. 
Additionally, in December 2008, DOD clarified its policy to allow the 
military to accompany and provide force protection to U.S. and host 
nation law enforcement personnel on counternarcotics field operations. 
DEA and DOD officials stated that these changes enabled higher levels 
of interdiction operations in areas previously inaccessible due to 
security problems. DEA conducted 82 interdiction operations in 
Afghanistan during fiscal year 2009 (compared with 42 in fiscal year 
2008), often with support from U.S. military and other coalition 
forces. These operations include, among other things, raiding drug 
laboratories; destroying storage sites; arresting drug traffickers; 
conducting roadblock operations; and seizing chemicals and drugs. The 
U.S. military and International Security and Assistance Force are also 
targeting narcotics trafficking and processing as part of regular 
counterinsurgency operations.[Footnote 22] In addition, DEA efforts to 
build the Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) has 
contributed to the goals of heightening security in Afghanistan. The 
DEA has worked with specialized units of the CNPA to conduct 
investigations, build cases, arrest drug traffickers, and conduct 
undercover drug purchases, while also working to build Afghan law 
enforcement capacity by mentoring CNPA specialized units. By putting 
pressure on drug traffickers, counternarcotics efforts can bring 
stabilization to areas subject to heavy drug activity. 

Many counternarcotics-related programs involve supporting democracy 
and the rule of law in partner nations, which is itself a U.S. foreign 
policy objective worldwide. In Colombia , assistance for rule of law 
and judicial reform have expanded access to the democratic process for 
Colombian citizens, including the consolidation of state authority and 
the established government institutions and public services in many 
areas reclaimed from illegal armed groups. Support for legal 
institutions, such as courts, attorneys general, and law enforcement 
organizations, in drug source and transit countries is not only an 
important part of the U.S. counternarcotic strategy but also advance 
State's strategic objectives relating to democracy and governance. 

Judging the Effectiveness of Some Counternarcotics-Related Programs is 

In many of our reviews of international counternarcotic-related 
programs, we found that determining program effectiveness has been 
challenging. Performance measures and other information about program 
results were often not useful or comprehensive enough to assess 
progress in achieving program goals. 

Existing Performance Measures and Results Reporting Are Often Not 
Useful for Assessing Progress in Achieving Program Goals: 

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 requires federal 
agencies to develop performance measures to assess progress in 
achieving their goals and to communicate their results to the 
Congress.[Footnote 23] The act requires agencies to set multiyear 
strategic goals in their strategic plans and corresponding annual 
goals in their performance plans, measure performance toward the 
achievement of those goals, and report on their progress in their 
annual performance reports. These reports are intended to provide 
important information to agency managers, policymakers, and the public 
on what each agency accomplished with the resources it was given. 
Moreover, the act calls for agencies to develop performance goals that 
are objective, quantifiable, and measurable, and to establish 
performance measures that adequately indicate progress toward 
achieving those goals. Our previous work has noted that the lack of 
clear, measurable goals makes it difficult for program managers and 
staff to link their day-to-day efforts to achieving the agency's 
intended mission.[Footnote 24] 

Performance Measures Established for Afghanistan Do Not Reflect the 
Full Impact of Counternarcotics Programs: 

In Afghanistan, we have reported that the use of poppy cultivation and 
eradication statistics as the principal measures of effectiveness does 
not capture all aspects of the counternarcotics effort in the country. 
For example, these measures overlook potential gains in security from 
the removal of drug operations from an area and do not take into 
account potential rises in other drug related activity such as 
trafficking and processing of opium.[Footnote 25] Some provinces that 
are now poppy-free may still contain high levels of drug trafficking 
or processing. Additionally, according to the Special Representative 
for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the use of opium poppy cultivation as a 
measure of overall success led to an over-emphasis on eradication 
activities, which, due to their focus on farmers, could undermine the 
larger counterinsurgency campaign. ONDCP officials also criticized 
using total opium poppy cultivation as the sole measure of success, 
stating that measures of success should relate to security, such as 
public safety and terrorist attacks. 

Alternative Development Performance Measures in Colombia Do Not 
Capture Programs' Effect on Drug Supply: 

For Plan Colombia, several programs we reviewed were focused on root 
causes of the drug problem and their impact on drug activity was 
difficult to assess. In 2008 we reported that the United States 
provided nearly $1.3 billion for nonmilitary assistance in Colombia, 
focusing on economic and social progress and the rule of law, 
including judicial reform. The largest share of U.S. nonmilitary 
assistance went toward alternative development, which has been a key 
element of U.S. counternarcotics assistance and has reportedly 
improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Colombians. Other 
social programs have assisted thousands of internally displaced 
persons and more than 30,000 former combatants.[Footnote 26] We 
reported that progress tracking of alternative development programs, 
in particular, needed improvement. USAID collected data on 15 
indicators that measure progress on alternative development; however, 
none of these indicators measured progress toward USAID's goal of 
reducing illicit narcotics production through the creation of 
sustainable economic projects. Rather, USAID collected data on program 
indicators such as the number of families benefited and hectares of 
legal crops planted. While this information helps USAID track the 
progress of projects, it does not help with assessing USAID's progress 
in reducing illicit crop production or its ability to create 
sustainable projects.[Footnote 27] 

State Does Not Measure Performance or Report Results for Most Transit 
Zone Programs: 

In 2008 we reported that U.S.-funded transit zone counternarcotics 
assistance encompasses a wide variety of initiatives across many 
countries, but State and other agencies have collected limited 
information on results. Records we obtained from State and DEA, 
including State's annual International Narcotics Control Strategy 
Reports and End Use Monitoring Reports, provide information on 
outcomes of some of these initiatives but do not do so 
comprehensively. For example, in our review of State's International 
Narcotics Control Strategy Reports for 2003 to 2007, we identified 
over 120 counternarcotics initiatives in the countries we reviewed, 
but for over half of these initiatives, the outcomes were unclear or 
not addressed at all in the reports.[Footnote 28] State has attempted 
to measure the outcomes of counternarcotics programs in its annual 
mission performance reports, which report on a set of performance 
indicators for each country. However, these indicators have not been 
consistent over time or among countries. In our review of mission 
performance reports for four major drug transit countries covering 
fiscal years 2002 through 2006, we identified 86 performance 
indicators directly and indirectly related to counternarcotics 
efforts; however, over 60 percent of these indicators were used in 
only one or two annual reporting cycles, making it difficult to 
discern performance trends over time. Moreover, nearly 80 percent of 
these performance indicators were used for only one country, making it 
difficult to compare program results among countries.[Footnote 29] 

DOD and DEA Performance Measures Do Not Reflect the Results of Key 

Based on our report on DOD performance measures released today, we 
found that DOD has developed performance measures for its 
counternarcotics activities as well as a database to collect 
performance information, including measures, targets, and results. 
However, we have found that these performance measures lacked a number 
of the attributes that we consider key to being successful, such as 
being clearly stated and having measurable targets. It is also unclear 
to what extent DOD uses the performance information it collects 
through its database to manage its counternarcotics activities. 
[Footnote 30] 

In 2008, we reported that DEA's strategic planning and performance 
measurement framework, while improved over previous efforts, had not 
been updated and did not reflect some key new and ongoing efforts. 
While DEA had assisted in counterterrorism efforts through information 
collection and referrals to intelligence community partners, DEA's 
strategic plan had not been updated since 2003 to reflect these 
efforts. As such, the strategic plan did not fully reflect the 
intended purpose of providing a template for ensuring measurable 
results and operational accountability. The performance measures that 
were to be included in DEA's 2009 annual performance report did not 
provide a basis for assessing the results of DEA's counterterrorism 
efforts--efforts that include giving top priority to counternarcotics 
cases with links to terrorism and pursuing narcoterrorists.[Footnote 


We have made many recommendations in past reports regarding 
counternarcotics programs. Several of our more recent recommendations 
were aimed at improving two key management challenges that I have 
discussed in my testimony today--planning for the sustainment of 
counternarcotics assets and assessing the effectiveness of 
counternarcotics-related programs. 

* Improved planning for sustainment of counternarcotics assets. In our 
2008 report on U.S. assistance to transit zone countries, we 
recommended that the Secretary of State, in consultation with the 
Secretary of Defense (1) develop a plan to ensure that partner nations 
in the transit zone could effectively operate and maintain all 
counternarcotics assets that the United States had provided, including 
boats and other vehicles and equipment, for their remaining useful 
life and (2) ensure that, before providing a counternarcotics asset to 
a partner nation, agencies determined the total operations and 
maintenance cost over its useful life and, with the recipient nation, 
develop a plan for funding this cost. 

* More consistent results reporting. In our report on U.S. assistance 
to transit zone countries, we recommended that the Secretary of State, 
in consultation with the Director of ONDCP, the Secretaries of Defense 
and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the Administrator of 
USAID, report the results of U.S.-funded counternarcotics initiatives 
more comprehensively and consistently for each country in the annual 
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. 

* Improved performance measures. Several agencies we reviewed did not 
have sufficient performance measures in place to accurately assess the 
effectiveness of counternarcotics programs. In our DOD report released 
today, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense take steps to 
improve DOD's counternarcotics performance measurement system by (1) 
revising its performance measures, and (2) applying practices to 
better facilitate the use of performance data to manage its 
counternarcotics activities. For Colombia, we recommended that the 
Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID develop 
performance measurements that will help USAID (1) assess whether 
alternative development assistance is reducing the production of 
illicit narcotics, and (2) determine to what extent the agency's 
alternative development projects are self-sustaining. The existence of 
such measures would allow for a greater comprehension of program 
effectiveness. For Afghanistan, we recommended that the Secretary of 
Defense develop performance targets to measure interim results of 
efforts to train the CNPA. We also recommended to the Secretary of the 
State that measures and interim targets be adopted to assess Afghan 
capacity to independently conduct public information activities. 
Lastly, we recommended that the Secretary of State, in consultation 
with the Administrator of DEA and the Attorney General, establish 
clear definitions for low-, mid-, and high-level traffickers that 
would improve the ability of the U.S. and Afghan governments to track 
the level of drug traffickers arrested and convicted. 

In most cases, the agencies involved have generally agreed with our 
recommendations and have either implemented them or have efforts 
underway to address them. 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the committee, this concludes my prepared 
statement. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

Drug Control: Long-Standing Problems Hinder U.S. International 
Efforts. [hyperlink,] 
Washington, D.C. February 27, 1997. 

Drug Control: U.S.-Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts Face Difficult 
Challenges. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., June 30, 1998. 

Drug Control: Narcotics Threat From Colombia Continues to Grow. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington 
D.C., June 22, 1999. 

Drug Control: Assets DOD Contributes to Reducing the Illegal Drug 
Supply Have Declined. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., December 
21, 1999: 

Drug Control: U.S. Efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington 
D.C., February 18, 2000. 

Drug Control: U.S. Assistance to Colombia Will Take Years to Produce 
Results. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., October 17, 2000. 

International Counterdrug Sites Being Developed. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., December 
28, 2000. 

Drug Control: State Department Provides Required Aviation Program 
Oversight, but Safety and Security Should be Enhanced. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., September 
14, 2001. 

Drug Control: Difficulties in Measuring Costs and Results of Transit 
Zone Interdiction Efforts. [hyperlink,]. January 25, 2002. 

Drug Control: Efforts to Develop Alternatives to Cultivating Illicit 
Crops in Colombia Have Made Little Progress and Face Serious 
Obstacles. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., February 8, 2002. 

Drug Control: Coca Cultivation and Eradication Estimates in Colombia. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., 
January 8, 2003. 

Drug Control: Specific Performance Measures and Long-Term Costs for 
U.S. Programs in Colombia Have Not Been Developed. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., June 16, 

Drug Control: Aviation Program Safety Concerns in Colombia Are Being 
Addressed, but State's Planning and Budgeting Process Can Be Improved. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., 
July 29, 2004. 

Drug Control: Air Bridge Denial Program in Colombia Has Implemented 
New Safeguards, but Its Effect on Drug Trafficking Is Not Clear. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., 
September 6, 2005. 

Drug Control: Agencies Need to Plan for Likely Declines in Drug 
Interdiction Assets, and Develop Better Performance Measures for 
Transit Zone Operations. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., November 
15, 2005. 

Afghanistan Drug Control: Despite Improved Efforts, Deteriorating 
Security Threatens Success of U.S. Goals. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., November 15, 

State Department: State Has Initiated a More Systematic Approach for 
Managing Its Aviation Fleet. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., February 2, 

Drug Control: U.S. Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotic 
Efforts, But Tons of Illicit Drugs Continue to Flow into the United 
States. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., August 17, 2007. 

Drug Control: U.S. Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotics 
Efforts, But the Flow of Illicit Drugs Into the United States Remains 
High. [hyperlink,]. Washington 
D.C., October 25, 2007. 

Drug Control: Cooperation with Many Major Drug Transit Countries Has 
Improved, but Better Performance Reporting and Sustainability Plans 
Are Needed. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., July 15, 2008. 

Plan Colombia: Drug Reduction Goals Were Not Fully Met, but Security 
Has Improved; U.S. Agencies Need More Detailed Plans for Reducing 
Assistance. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., October 6, 2008. 

Drug Control: Better Coordination with the Department of Homeland 
Security and An Updated Accountability Framework Can Further Enhance 
DEA's Efforts to Meet Post-9/11 Responsibilities. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., March 20, 

Iraq and Afghanistan: Security, Economic, and Governance Challenges to 
Rebuilding Efforts Should be Addressed in U.S. Strategies. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., March 25, 

Drug Control: U.S. Counternarcotics Cooperation with Venezuela Has 
Declined. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., July 20, 2009. 

Status of Funds for the Mérida Initiative. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., December 3, 

Afghanistan Drug Control: Strategy Evolving and Progress Reported, but 
Interim Performance Targets and Evaluation of Justice Reform Efforts 
Needed. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington D.C., March 9, 2010. 

Preliminary Observations on the Department of Defense's 
Counternarcotics Performance Measurement System. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., April 30, 

Drug Control: DOD Needs to Improve Its Performance Measurement System 
to Better Manage and Oversee Its Counternarcotic Activities. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., 
July 21, 2010. 

[End of section] 


[1] As defined in State's International Narcotics Control Strategy 
Report 2010, a major illicit drug producing country is one in which: 
(a) 1,000 hectares or more of illicit opium poppy are cultivated or 
harvested during a year, (b) 1,000 hectares or more of illicit coca 
are cultivated or harvested during a year, or (c) 5,000 hectares or 
more of illicit cannabis are produced or harvested during a year, 
unless the President determines that such illicit cannabis production 
does not significantly affect the United States. A major drug transit 
country is one (a) that is a significant direct source of illicit 
narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances 
significantly affecting the United States; or (b) through which are 
transported such drugs or substances. 

[2] The transit zone is defined as the 6 million square miles 
encompassing Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, 
the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific Ocean. 

[3] Other priorities include stopping drug use before it starts and 
healing America's drug users. 

[4] See Afghanistan Drug Control: Strategy Evolving and Progress 
Reported, but Interim Performance Targets and Evaluation of Justice 
Reform Efforts Needed. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., March 9, 

[5] See Plan Colombia: Drug Reduction Goals Were Not Fully Met, but 
Security has Improved: U.S. Agencies Need More Detailed Plans for 
Reducing Assistance. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., October 6, 

[6] See [hyperlink,]. 

[7] See [hyperlink,]. 

[8] See [hyperlink,]. 

[9] In 1995, Peru and Bolivia together accounted for 76 percent of the 
world's cultivated coca crop while Colombia comprised 23 percent. See 
Drug Control: Long-Standing Problems Hinder U.S. International 
Efforts. [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C. February 27, 1997. 

[10] Subsequent targets increase 2 percentage points per year. 

[11] See Drug Control: Cooperation with Many Major Drug Transit 
Countries Has Improved, but Better Performance Reporting and 
Sustainability Plans Are Needed. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., July 15, 

[12] See Drug Control: Agencies Need to Plan for Likely Declines in 
Drug Interdiction Assets, and Develop Better Performance Measures for 
Transit Zone Operations. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., November 
15, 2005. 

[13] See [hyperlink,]. 

[14] See [hyperlink,]. 

[15] See vGAO-10-291 

[16] See Drug Control: U.S. Counternarcotics Cooperation with 
Venezuela Has Declined. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., July 20, 

[17] See [hyperlink,]. 

[18] See [hyperlink,]. 

[19] See Drug Control: U.S. Assistance Has Helped Mexican 
Counternarcotic Efforts, But Tons of Illicit Drugs Continue to Flow 
into the United States. [hyperlink,]. Washington D.C., August 17, 

[20] See [hyperlink,]. 

[21] See [hyperlink,] 

[22] See [hyperlink,]. 

[23] Pub. L. No. 103-62, as amended. 

[24] See [hyperlink,]. 

[25] See [hyperlink,]. 

[26] See [hyperlink,]. 

[27] See [hyperlink,]. 

[28] See [hyperlink,]. 

[29] See [hyperlink,]. 

[30] See Drug Control: DOD Needs to Improve Its Performance 
Measurement System to Better Manage and Oversee Its Counternarcotic 
Activities [hyperlink,]. 
Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010. 

[31] See Drug Control: Better Coordination with the Department of 
Homeland Security and an Updated Accountability Framework can Further 
Enhance DEA's Efforts to Meet Post-9/11 Responsibilities. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C., March 20, 

[End of section] 

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