Terrorist Financing:

Agencies Can Improve Efforts to Deliver Counter-Terrorism-Financing Training and Technical Assistance Abroad

GAO-06-632T: Published: Apr 6, 2006. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2006.

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Disrupting terrorists' financing is necessary to impede their ability to organize, recruit, train, and equip adherents. U.S. efforts to strengthen domestic and global security include, among others, the provision of training and technical assistance in countering terrorist financing abroad. An interagency Terrorist Financing Working Group (TFWG), chaired by the U.S. Department of State (State), coordinates the delivery of this training and technical assistance to "priority" countries--those considered most vulnerable to terrorist financing schemes--as well as to other vulnerable countries. In addition, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) leads U.S. efforts to block access to designated terrorists' assets that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction. In response to multiple congressional requesters, GAO examined U.S. efforts to combat terrorist financing abroad, publishing the report in October 2005. In this testimony, GAO discusses the report's findings about challenges related to (1) TFWG's coordination of the counter-terrorism-financing training and technical assistance abroad and (2) Treasury's measurement of results and provision of information needed to assess OFAC's efforts to block terrorist assets.

Under State's leadership, TFWG has coordinated the interagency delivery of counter-terrorism-financing training and technical assistance--for example, providing training and placing resident advisors--in more than 20 priority countries as well as other vulnerable countries. However, TFWG's effort has been hampered by the absence of a strategic and integrated plan. GAO found that the effort lacks three elements that are critical to strategic planning for operations within and across agencies: (1) Key stakeholder acceptance of roles and practices; (2) strategic alignment of resources with countries' needs and risks; and (3) a process to measurement the effort's results For example, two key TFWG stakeholders, State and Treasury, disagree about the extent of State's leadership as chair of TFWG. GAO recommended that State and Treasury, with other government agencies, implement an integrated strategic plan that addresses these challenges and sign a Memorandum of Agreement to improve coordination of counter-terrorism-financing training and technical assistance abroad. State and Treasury responded that they are taking several steps to improve the interagency process, but they did not address all of GAO's recommendations. OFAC undertakes a number of efforts related to the blocking of terrorists' assets. For example, OFAC compiles evidence as a basis for designating terrorist groups and individuals. However, GAO found limitations regarding Treasury's measurement of results and provision of information about FAC's efforts. Inadequate measures. At the time of GAO's review, Treasury lacked adequate measures to assess the results of OFAC's efforts. OFAC was in the process of developing new measures, which it recently completed. Although GAO has not reviewed them, these measures may enable officials overseeing OFAC to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of its efforts as well as hold OFAC managers accountable. GAO recommended that, in addition, Treasury develop an OFAC-specific strategic plan that describes, among other things, how its performance measures relate to general program goals and objectives. As of March 30, Treasury had not yet finalized the strategic plan. Insufficient information. Treasury's yearly report to Congress on terrorist assets blocked does not provide sufficient information for Congress to assess OFAC's progress. For instance, the report shows the total dollar value of blocked terrorist assets held under U.S. jurisdictions but does not show changes from amounts of assets blocked in previous years. GAO recommended that Treasury provide information on such changes, along with other key performance metrics, in its annual Terrorist Assets Report. Treasury responded that it would discuss with Congress recrafting the report to address congressional interests.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A similar version of this Matter for Congressional Consideration appeared in our October 2005 report, Terrorist Financing: Better Strategic Planning Needed to Coordinate U.S. Efforts to Deliver Counter-Terrorism Financing Training and Technical Assistance Abroad (GAO-06-19). We restated it in this testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, where were held in response to GAO's October 2005 report. During the hearing, the Comptroller General of GAO testified and was asked a number of questions regarding GAO's matter to Congress. Committee members asked the Comptroller General about the conditions under which legislation would be needed, as well as the necessary facets of a strategic plan.

    Matter: In view of congressional interest in U.S. government efforts to deliver training and technical assistance abroad to combat terrorist financing and the difficulty of obtaining a systematic assessment of U.S. resources dedicated to this endeavor, as stated in our report, Congress may wish to consider requiring the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury to submit an annual report to Congress showing the status of interagency efforts to develop and implement an integrated strategic plan and Memorandum of Agreement to ensure TFWG's seamless functioning, particularly with respect to TFWG roles and procedures.


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