Military Training:

Management and Oversight of Joint Combined Exchange Training

NSIAD-99-173: Published: Jul 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 1999.

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Raymond J. Decker
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the management and oversight of the U.S. Special Operations Forces' overseas deployments to train with the armed forces and other security forces of friendly foreign countries, focusing on: (1) whether the Department of Defense (DOD) has implemented the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program in accordance with legislation; (2) whether DOD and the Department of State are providing civilian oversight to ensure that JCET activities are consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives in countries that GAO included in its review; and (3) how DOD is implementing recent legislation that restricts it from training with foreign forces involved in human rights abuses.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's review of available JCET files, attendance at command training conferences, observations of pre-event meetings, and discussions with DOD officials confirmed that DOD has complied with the statutory requirement that JCET's primary purpose be the training of U.S. special operations forces; (2) GAO found a direct link between the training special operations forces indicated they needed and the training conducted; (3) however, DOD has not accurately reported to Congress the number of JCETs that were conducted, their costs, or their relationship to counternarcotics and counterterrorism, as also required by statute; (4) inaccuracies in reporting have arisen because of confusion in the field regarding how to define a JCET, how to pay for and report costs incurred by host countries, and how to interpret the legislative requirement to report JCETs' relationship to counternarcotics and counterterrorism; (5) DOD's recent changes in the JCET approval process and more explicit guidance, which it plans to issue shortly, should improve the accuracy of the reports to Congress; (6) regarding oversight of JCET activities in the six countries GAO visited--Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand--DOD conducted JCETs with the knowledge and support of U.S. ambassadors who believed that these activities were consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives in each country; (7) while embassy officials were involved prior to November 1998, neither State nor DOD headquarters' officials were routinely involved in overseeing JCETs; (8) neither DOD personnel overseas nor U.S. ambassadors believed that any problems occurred because of the lack of headquarters oversight; (9) DOD's new JCET approval procedures, which require Secretary of Defense approval and State notification, will provide greater headquarters oversight and assurance that all factors are weighed in determining whether a JCET should proceed; (10) State and Defense have each issued guidance for implementing October 1998 legislation that restricts the use of DOD funds to train with members of foreign security force units who have been credibly alleged to have committed a gross violation of human rights unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken; (11) in the same six countries GAO visited, State and DOD personnel have instituted procedures to implement the new legislation; and (12) however, a number of issues in implementing the law still remain.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On July 16, 2002, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) issued a directive (Number 350-3) entitled Joint Combined Exchange Training which addressed GAO's recommendations. In that Directive, SOCOM requires a clear statement of the Mission Essential Tasks Lists which will be addressed in the training which will more clearly identify if the JCET is counterterrorism or counternarcotics related. Moreover, SOCOM has established a computerized reporting system to alleviate the reporting deficiencies GAO noted in its report.

    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting to Congress on JCETs, the Secretary of Defense should issue guidance that provides criteria to use in determining whether JCETs are related to counterterrorism or counternarcotics and therefore need to be reported as such.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SOCOM Directive 350-3, dated July 16, 2002, laid out policy for the funding of JCETS to include which activities may be funded under JCET funding authority, and how to fund developing country participation. Moreover, funding policy guidance is directly tied to DOD Financial Management Regulation (Volume 11A, Chapter 15, Training of Special Operations Forces with Friendly Foreign forces, dated October 2000). In conjunction, this directive and regulation provide sufficient guidance to address GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve financial management and the accuracy of the reporting of JCET costs, the Secretary of Defense should issue guidance: (1) articulating the criteria for selecting the proper appropriation to charge for each JCET expense; (2) specifying that any such selection must be documented; and (3) clarifying that the selection must be consistently applied throughout the applicable fiscal year.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD set a milestone of summer 2002 for implementation of the actions needed to address GAO's recommendations, and met all milestones by issuing the final Instruction in July 2002.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should set a milestone for the issuance of final guidance on these issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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