DOD Should Fully Address Security Assistance Planning Elements in Global Train and Equip Project Proposals
GAO-18-449: Published: May 30, 2018. Publicly Released: May 30, 2018.
Providing training and equipment to the nation's foreign partners is one of the Department of Defense's approaches to fighting terrorism.
We reviewed the Global Train and Equip program and found that DOD allocated $4.1 billion for the program in fiscal years 2009 through 2017.
In addition, we looked at how thoroughly proposals for Global Train and Equip projects addressed security assistance planning requirements. We recommended improving guidance and formalizing a quality review process for proposals. This can help decision-makers ensure that program funding is used efficiently.
Jordan Special Operations Training on a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter in Amman, Jordan
A photograph of Jordanian soldiers doing training exercises in a military helicopter. The Global Train and Equip program can provide this type of equipment to foreign partners.
What GAO Found
The Department of Defense (DOD) obligated $3.7 billion of $4.1 billion allocated for the Global Train and Equip program in fiscal years 2009 through 2017 to build partner nations' capacity to counter terrorism. DOD increased allocations for the program in 2016, responding to an influx of funding from appropriations to the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund. As of December 2017, DOD had disbursed about $2.5 billion of the obligated funds.
Global Train and Equip project proposals for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 consistently addressed only one of four elements of security assistance planning outlined in Presidential Policy Directive 23 . GAO found all 72 proposals in those years included the first element, project objectives. From 2016 to 2017, the percentage of proposals addressing the second element—absorptive capacity—rose from 32 percent to 84 percent. Most 2016 and 2017 proposals included the third element, baseline assessments, but less than three-quarters included complete sustainment plans, the fourth element. DOD guidance for 2016 and 2017 did not include instructions for addressing project sustainment when sustainment was not anticipated, though the 2017 guidance included instructions for addressing the other three planning elements. According to DOD officials, they have developed an informal quality review process to better ensure that 2018 project proposals address all four planning elements. However, DOD has not formalized this informal process as written policy. Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government calls for documenting internal control activities and policies. Formalizing the proposal review process would help DOD provide consistent oversight of project development and ensure access to complete information about each planning element, including sustainment needs. Such information is critical in helping decision makers ensure efficient use of funding to build partners' capacity.
Percentages of Global Train and Equip Project Proposals Addressing Four Required Planning Elements, Fiscal Years 2016-2017
DOD reporting for 2016 and 2017 indicates progress in building partner capacity to combat terrorism and conduct stability operations as well as factors affecting the progress achieved. According to DOD documents, partner nation recipient units' overall capabilities were greater after implementation of 8 of 21 Global Train and Equip projects, and some of the remaining 13 projects produced some positive results. DOD documents and officials also identified factors—such as equipment suitability and procurement issues—that may have limited the achievement of project objectives.
Why GAO Did This Study
The United States has undertaken several efforts, including DOD's Global Train and Equip program, to help foreign partners strengthen their security capacity. Presidential Policy Directive 23 states that agencies should target security assistance where it can be effective and highlights the importance of addressing several planning elements in project proposals. DOD develops proposals, using guidance implementing the directive, and selects projects with the Department of State.
The fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision for GAO to review the Global Train and Equip program. In this report, GAO examines (1) the status of funding DOD allocated for Global Train and Equip projects in fiscal years 2009 through 2017, (2) the extent to which DOD addressed key security assistance planning elements in project proposals in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and (3) DOD's reporting on the achievement of Global Train and Equip project objectives and any factors affecting its ability to achieve those objectives. GAO analyzed agency data and program documents and interviewed DOD and State Department officials in Washington, D.C., and at selected combatant commands and embassies.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends DOD (1) update project proposal guidance to include instructions for documenting sustainment planning and (2) formalize as written policy its informal process for ensuring Global Train and Equip project proposals fully document the four required planning elements. DOD agreed with the recommendations.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In May 2018, GAO reported that the Department of Defense (DOD) guidance no longer includes instructions for addressing sustainment planning in proposals for projects for which DOD does not intend or anticipate sustainment. Updating its guidance to include such instructions would help ensure decision makers' access to complete information on annual sustainment costs, even costs anticipated to be negligible. GAO recommended that the Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) should update guidance for project proposal packages to require an explanation when sustainment plans are not documented for projects for which sustainment is not intended or anticipated. DOD agreed with the findings in the GAO report and has implemented corrective actions to resolve the cited deficiencies. In response to GAO's recommendation, DSCA updated its fiscal year 2020 security assistance planning guidance to include information about planning for sustainment when it is not intended or anticipated.
Recommendation: The Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency should update guidance for project proposal packages to require an explanation when sustainment plans are not documented for projects for which sustainment is not intended or anticipated. (Recommendation 1)
Agency Affected: Department of Defense
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: In May 2018, GAO reported that while Department of Defense (DOD) officials reported having developed an informal quality review process designed to ensure that proposal packages address all required security assistance planning elements, DOD had not formalized this process as a written policy. GAO recommended that formalizing the process would enhance DOD's ability to provide consistent oversight of project development and to ensure that decision makers have access to complete information about each planning element for proposed projects. This information would, in turn, help DOD and State decision makers ensure the efficient use of funding under the new Section 333 authority to build partner capacity. DOD agreed with the findings in the GAO report and has implemented actions to address the recommendation. In response to GAO's recommendation, DSCA updated its fiscal year 2020 Security Cooperation Planning Guidance to include the four elements in planning and concept development. In addition, DOD updated the project proposal templates to require that the four required security cooperation elements are addressed.
Recommendation: The Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency should formalize as written policy its informal process for ensuring that project proposal packages fully address and document all four required security assistance planning elements. (Recommendation 2)
Agency Affected: Department of Defense