State Department:

Need to Reassess U.S. Participation in the International Joint Commission

NSIAD-89-164: Published: Jun 29, 1989. Publicly Released: Aug 8, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed U.S. participation in the International Joint Commission (IJC), focusing on the extent to which U.S. agencies have implemented IJC recommendations.

GAO found that U.S. agencies did not: (1) fully implement at least 43 percent of IJC recommendations in biennial reports on water quality; or (2) acknowledge or respond to many IJC recommendations. GAO also found that U.S. agencies have not thoroughly reviewed U.S. participation in IJC since 1972, even though the scope of the IJC mission has changed substantially since that time.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to State officials, written responses will be provided to IJC biennial report recommendations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, in conjunction with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Army Corps of Engineers, and other involved technical agencies, should establish a formal mechanism to provide prompt U.S. responses to IJC recommendations. Such responses should include either a confirmation that the U.S. agencies plan to implement a recommendation or an explanation of their rationale for rejecting the recommended course of action.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As noted in State's response to Congress, it essentially disagreed that a major review of IJC is in order. State believes that IJC is working as intended and plans no further actions to review it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State, with the assistance of officials from EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other involved technical agencies, should reevaluate U.S. participation in IJC. Among the issues that should be included in this assessment are whether: (1) the U.S. commissioners should be required to have technical backgrounds or expertise; (2) the size and composition of the IJC staff are appropriate for the current IJC mission; (3) improvements can be made in the methods used for collecting and aggregating data from the states; and (4) greater public involvement would help to achieve IJC goals and, if so, what the nature and extent of that involvement should be.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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