Drug Control:

DOD Allocates Fewer Assets to Drug Control Efforts

T-NSIAD-00-77: Published: Jan 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 2000.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the role of the Department of Defense (DOD) in reducing the supply of illegal drugs entering the United States, focusing on: (1) the decline in DOD's aerial and maritime support allocated to counterdrug activities from fiscal years 1992 through 1999 and some of the consequences and reasons for the decline; (2) the obstacles DOD faces in helping foreign governments counter illegal drug activities; and (3) DOD's counterdrug strategy and the need for performance measures to judge its counterdrug program effectiveness.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD has lead responsibility for aerial and maritime detection and monitoring of illegal drug shipments to the United States; (2) it also provides assistance and training to foreign governments to combat drug-trafficking activities; (3) DOD supplies the ships, aircraft, and radar to detect drug shipments, and training, equipment, and other assistance to foreign governments; (4) DOD's counterdrug activities support the efforts of U.S. law enforcement agencies, such as the Customs Service and Coast Guard, and foreign governments to stem the flow of illegal narcotics to the United States; (5) in fiscal year (FY) 1998, DOD spent about $635 million to support these supply reduction efforts; (6) since 1992, DOD's level of support to counter drug-trafficking in Central and South America and the Caribbean has significantly declined; (7) in FY 1999, U.S. Southern Command reported that DOD was unable to meet 57 percent of the Command's requests for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights to support its detection and monitoring responsibilities; (8) according to the Southern Command, the lack of assets hurts their ability to quickly respond to changing drug-trafficking patterns; (9) as a result, coverage in key drug-trafficking routes to the United States is lower, leaving gaps in detection areas; (10) DOD acknowledges that its coverage of key drug-trafficking areas in South America and the Caribbean has gaps and ascribes the decline in its support to the lower priority of the counterdrug mission as compared to others such as war, peacekeeping, and training, as well as decreases in its overall budget and force structure during the 1990s; (11) DOD believes that despite the reduction in its level of assets, its overall operations are more efficient, but DOD lacks data to support this position; (12) DOD faces obstacles in providing support to foreign government counterdrug efforts such as: (a) the limited capabilities of foreign military and law enforcement organizations to operate and repair the equipment and effectively use the training provided by DOD; and (b) training and intelligence restrictions to some foreign military units and foreign counterdrug organizations based on their record on human rights abuses and evidence of corruption within these organizations; (13) DOD has plans and strategies that directly support the goals of the U.S. National Drug Control Strategy to reduce the demand and supply of illegal drugs; and (14) however, DOD does not have a set of performance measures to evaluate its counterdrug activities.

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