International Food Assistance:

U.S. Nonemergency Food Aid Programs Have Similar Objectives but Some Planning Helps Limit Overlap

GAO-13-141R: Published: Dec 12, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2012.

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Thomas Melito
(202) 512-9601


Office of Public Affairs
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What GAO Found

USAID and USDA share broad objectives for nonemergency food aid programs; however, the agencies have established some planning processes to limit overlap in these programs. For example, both USAID and USDA have objectives that address financial services, infrastructure, agricultural productivity, agribusiness development, and child and maternal nutrition needs in food insecure countries. Some of these shared objectives are the result of authorizing legislation, through which Congress outlines nonemergency food aid objectives, while others are included in presidential initiatives and agency strategies. We also found that USAID and USDA nonemergency food aid programs shared common geographic focus areas in which they implemented similar activities. For example, in fiscal year 2011, both USAID and USDA had nonemergency food aid programs in Guatemala and Uganda and both programs were providing agricultural training. Furthermore, implementing partners in Guatemala and Uganda administering programs for both agencies told us that USAID and USDA have parallel administrative structures in the field and distinct requirements for performance management. However, we found that these agencies have established some processes to plan and coordinate country activities in efforts to limit overlap. For example, to improve coordination in nonemergency food aid programs, USAID and USDA officials told us that they exchange information on program proposals during the solicitation phase and seek comments from one another. In addition, both agencies share country program information that includes organization, beneficiary, commodities, and total costs for programs in an effort to better coordinate activities.

Why GAO Did This Study

In fiscal years 2008 through 2011, U.S. agencies obligated about $3 billion toward nonemergency food aid programs. The primary goal of these programs is to increase agricultural capacity and reduce malnutrition. Nonemergency food aid programs are primarily development assistance programs that address long-term chronic hunger (food insecurity). The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administer these programs. In 2008, we identified factors that contribute to food insecurity--such as low agricultural productivity, limited rural development, government policy disincentives, and poor health among agricultural workers. We previously reported that efforts to mitigate these factors have been fragmented and uncoordinated across the U.S. government. In response to your concerns about fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in USAID and USDA nonemergency food aid programs, we examined the extent to which these agencies' nonemergency food aid programs pursue similar objectives.

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