Strategic Objective 2.3: Advance and Protect U.S. International Interests

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Draft GAO Strategic Plan 2004-2009                                                                                         Printable PDF Version PrintablePDF Version





Strategic Objective 2.3: Advance and Protect U.S. International InterestsComment on this TopicQuestions and Comments

Performance Goal 2.3.1: Analyze the Plans, Strategies, Roles, Costs, and Results of the United States and Its Allies in Conflict Interventions

Key Efforts

  • Assess the roles and capabilities of the United States, coalitions of other nations, and international organizations such as the United Nations in peacekeeping and similar military interventions in areas of conflict
  • Evaluate U.S. and multilateral activities intended to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq and manage their transition to a secure, sustainable desired outcome

Significance

Military interventions meant to maintain peace between nations, stabilize states, or end terrorist regimes are major activities for the United States, some of its allies, and regional organizations that address security concerns. The United States has employed its armed forces and civilian agencies, often in conjunction with U.S. allies and the international community, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union, to address territorial disputes, armed ethnic and nationalistic conflicts, civil wars, and terrorist threats that endanger regional and international peace and stability. Successful interventions often require multidimensional operations involving political and diplomatic efforts and sophisticated intelligence and communications capabilities and security measures. In the 1990s, the United States participated in such operations in the Balkans, Cambodia, Haiti, and Somalia. In addition, the United States and its allies continue to maintain a significant military presence in South Korea to deter an outbreak of war and could possibly play a role in enforcing a future political settlement to what has essentially been a 50-year cease-fire. These conflict interventions are intended to defend the United States and advance its interests. They are also costly, particularly when the military role is extensive or prolonged. For example, the United States spent more than $23 billion in the Balkans during the 1990s.

More recently, the United States is playing a major role in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States plans to spend about $817 million in Afghanistan in fiscal year 2003, and the Congress appropriated $79 billion in fiscal year 2003 emergency supplemental funds for military operations and rebuilding efforts in Iraq. The complexities and high costs of these operations raise concerns about how interventions are planned, executed, and coordinated and whether resources are being used efficiently.

Potential Outcomes

  • Improved planning, execution, and coordination of U.S. and multilateral operations and more efficient use of military and civilian resources in current and future conflict interventions
  • Improved congressional oversight of U.S. and international efforts to bring security to Afghanistan and Iraq

Performance Goal 2.3.2: Analyze the Effectiveness and Management of U.S. Foreign Aid and Developmental and Humanitarian Programs and the Tools Used to Implement Them

Key Efforts

  • Monitor and evaluate U.S. efforts to provide postconflict developmental and humanitarian assistance, including assistance to Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Determine the accountability for and effectiveness of U.S. humanitarian and development assistance, including assistance funded through the proposed Millennium Challenge Account
  • Assess U.S. efforts to conduct nation-building activities, including programs to enhance the rule of law, democracy, and governance and to combat crime and corruption
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. programs to combat HIV/AIDS and other emerging infectious diseases

Significance

U.S. foreign assistance policy has been revised in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and others that followed. The September 2002 National Security Strategy elevated development assistance to the third pillar of U.S. national security, along with defense and diplomacy. In 2001 and 2003, the United States took military action against Afghanistan and Iraq, and multibillion-dollar, multiyear efforts to rebuild these countries have begun. In fiscal year 2003, the Congress appropriated about $2.5 billion in emergency supplemental funds for reconstruction and humanitarian relief for Iraq alone. The United States currently spends approximately $10 billion annually on humanitarian and developmental assistance programs around the world. The proposed Millennium Challenge Account would increase assistance levels up to $15 billion annually by fiscal year 2006--representing one of the largest increases in foreign aid in half a century. In an effort to advance democracy and support good government around the world, the United States implements assistance programs to fight corruption in foreign countries and to combat transnational crime and drug trafficking.

In addition to causing tremendous human suffering, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is viewed as a threat to global economic growth and security. The President has signed a 5-year, $15 billion emergency plan for AIDS relief and established the State Department as the coordinator of the global effort. In light of concerns about the effectiveness of U.S. assistance, continued attention must be given to evaluating assistance program accountability and management, determining whether foreign assistance efforts are achieving their intended objectives, and assessing whether U.S. foreign aid programs are being managed effectively to advance U.S. policy goals.

Potential Outcomes

  • Increased accountability for U.S. funds and greater focus on achieving results that advance U.S. policy objectives
  • Better informed government decisions about the best options for delivering foreign assistance
  • Improved effectiveness and efficiency of foreign assistance programs
  • More informed congressional evaluations of the options for U.S. and multilateral assistance and their advantages and disadvantages

Performance Goal 2.3.3: Analyze the Plans, Costs, and Outcomes of Responding to Challenges to U.S. Strategic Interests

Key Efforts

  • Analyze the implications and costs of evolving U.S. military alliances and international security arrangements, including efforts to transform and augment regional and international security organizations, such as NATO
  • Assess the management, costs, and benefits of U.S. bilateral security assistance programs, such as foreign military financing and international military education and training
  • Evaluate U.S. programs and initiatives to counter transnational threats and global forces affecting U.S. interests, such as international terrorism and illegal trafficking in drugs and persons
  • Examine efforts of U.S. and international agencies to locate, freeze, and seize illegitimate financial assets of terrorist or criminal groups or corrupt regimes

Significance

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have highlighted serious challenges to U.S. efforts for building a stable and secure world. Despite the accomplishments of the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has yet to fully disable terrorist networks that threaten U.S. and world security. Furthermore, other security challenges continue to arise; for example, the United States faces threats from a possibly nuclear-armed rogue state (North Korea) and competition from China’s emerging economic and military capabilities.

In response to these and other challenges to its strategic interests, the United States has sought to achieve international security, on the one hand, by strengthening standing alliances such as NATO through expansion of its membership and capabilities, and on the other hand, by acting with an ad hoc “coalition of the willing,” as in Iraq. These approaches leave a variety of options for action open to the United States and its allies. They also raise questions about the most effective approaches for achieving international security today and the implications of these approaches for developing effective security arrangements and providing bilateral security assistance to other countries.

Less conventional transnational threats, such as terrorism, trafficking in drugs and persons, and water disputes, threaten regional stability in strategically important areas, including the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America. These threats create different challenges for developing effective security alliances; providing security assistance to other countries; and developing the means to deny terrorists, criminals, and corrupt regimes the ability to take advantage of the complexity of the world financial system to sustain their activities. The United States is working with the United Nations, the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, and other organizations to improve control over assets belonging to illegitimate regimes and criminals.

Potential Outcomes

  • Enhanced coordination among U.S. allies and greater support for U.S. national security interests
  • Improved congressional decision making and oversight concerning the costs and benefits of new security arrangements and changes in existing security institutions
  • More effective and coordinated implementation of programs to enhance U.S. security interests and promote more equitably shared costs between the United States and its allies
  • Greater oversight of how U.S. agencies cooperate with international agencies and the financial sector in locating and repatriating illegally obtained assets and revenues

Performance Goal 2.3.4: Evaluate the Extent to Which U.S. Interests Are Effectively Served by U.S. Participation in Multilateral Organizations

Key Efforts

  • Assess multilateral organizations’ capabilities and effectiveness in carrying out their missions
  • Evaluate U.S. efforts to fight global infectious diseases through financing and supporting multilateral organizations’ activities
  • Assess U.S. participation in and oversight of multilateral organizations, including efforts to reform United Nations’ management

Significance

The United States seeks to advance its interests by participating in a wide variety of multilateral organizations, including the United Nations and 11 related agencies (such as the World Intellectual Property Organization), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, four regional development banks, and others. These organizations facilitate international cooperation in many areas, including, promoting economic and social development; responding to security challenges; and addressing transnational threats such as terrorism, crime, and infectious diseases. For example, the United States is working with the World Health Organization; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to stem the spread of infectious diseases. These diseases are increasingly viewed as a threat to economic growth and political stability. Programs to fight these diseases depend on U.S. resources. The U.S. has been the largest contributor to the Fund, which is an international public-private partnership contributing over $620 million since 2001, which represents 43 percent of total contributions to date.

The United States is a strong advocate of action within multilateral institutions to (1) address today’s needs, threats, and opportunities; (2) become more efficient and effective; and (3) ensure financial and programmatic accountability for funds that member nations provide. For example, the United States has urged the United Nations and the multilateral development banks to focus on monitoring and evaluating performance, and to use information on performance when making funding decisions. The United States has also requested that the United Nations improve its human capital management practices.

Potential Outcomes

  • Enhanced congressional evaluation of multilateral organizations’ activities and the results that they produce and, therefore, the gains to be realized and the limitations implied by working through these organizations
  • Improved accountability, increased focus on results, and increased transparency at these organizations and more consideration of options to strengthen their capabilities and effectiveness
  • More effective use of resources to advance U.S. interests through participating in these organizations

Performance Goal 2.3.5: Assess the Strategies and Management Practices for U.S. Foreign Affairs Functions and Activities

Key Efforts

  • Assess efforts to improve U.S. diplomatic readiness and respond to human capital, technology, and other management challenges
  • Assess the effectiveness of visa issuance and border control efforts
  • Evaluate the efficacy of U.S. public diplomacy and other key programs
  • Evaluate U.S. government efforts to protect its overseas personnel and facilities and to enhance the safety of U.S. citizens abroad

Significance

The United States spends over $20 billion annually for traditional foreign affairs activities, including operating the State Department and providing foreign aid. Long-standing questions exist regarding the level of resources and human capital needed to maintain the network of about 260 U.S. embassies, consulates, and other facilities. Most federal policies have international aspects, and about 35 agencies have staff assigned overseas to implement a variety of programs and activities to support U.S. foreign policies and domestic interests. Agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development have significant overseas operations that cover a vast array of programs and functions. These are administered in coordination with State and its overseas embassy network. It is important that the resources expended to accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals are well managed. Setting priorities and reconciling the many competing interests the United States has in its relationships with foreign countries is a challenge, but is critical for an effective overall foreign policy.

In recent years, security threats at home and abroad have required the United States to rethink its foreign affairs functions and activities, and the U.S. government has expanded overseas staffing. In addition, the U.S. government has placed renewed emphasis on key programs designed to protect U.S. borders and promote U.S. foreign and domestic interests. The United States annually processes 9 million entry visas to foreign visitors, and several agencies work to prevent the entry of those who are a danger to the United States or who are likely to remain in the United States illegally. Furthermore, public diplomacy programs promoting U.S. national interests abroad and U.S. international broadcasting are once again at the forefront of a coordinated foreign policy. In addition, the United States recently began a $16 billion program to replace about 160 of its overseas facilities to provide secure, modern facilities for overseas workers. The Congress needs to ensure that these and other critical programs achieve their intended results and that the U.S. government is adequately addressing potential security threats.

Potential Outcomes

  • More effective and efficient use of federal resources and human capital to meet foreign policy objectives
  • Greater impact from key U.S. programs that directly and indirectly support the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens
  • Better coordination and synergy among U.S. foreign affairs agencies that are stakeholders in a given region or country

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