Drug Control:

Status of U.S. International Counternarcotics Activities

T-NSIAD-98-116: Published: Mar 12, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1998.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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GAO discussed its observations on the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to combat drug production and the movement of drugs into the United States, focusing on: (1) the challenges of addressing international counternarcotics issues; (2) obstacles to implementation of U.S. drug control efforts; and (3) areas requiring attention to improve the operational effectiveness of U.S. drug control efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) despite long-standing efforts and expenditures of billions of dollars, illegal drugs still flood the United States; (2) although U.S. counternarcotics efforts have resulted in the arrest of major drug traffickers, the seizure of large amounts of drugs, and the eradication of illicit drug crops, they have not materially reduced the availability of drugs in the United States; (3) the United States and drug-producing and -transiting nations face a number of obstacles in attempting to reduce the production of and trafficking in illegal drugs; (4) international drug-trafficking organizations are sophisticated, multibillion-dollar industries that quickly adapt to new U.S. drug control efforts; (5) as success is achieved in one area, the drug-trafficking organizations change tactics, thwarting U.S. efforts; (6) there are also other obstacles that impede U.S. and drug producing and -transiting countries' drug control efforts; (7) in the drug-producing and -transiting countries, counternarcotics efforts are constrained by corruption, competing economic and political policies, inadequate laws, limited resources and institutional capabilities, and internal problems such as terrorism and civil unrest; (8) morever, drug traffickers are increasingly resourceful in corrupting the countries' institutions; (9) for its part, the United States has not been able to maintain a well-organized and consistently funded international counternarcotics program; (10) U.S. efforts have also been hampered by competing U.S. foreign policy objectives, organizational and operational limitations, and the lack of clear goals and objectives; (11) since GAO's February 1997 report, some countries, with U.S. assistance, have taken steps to improve their capacity to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the United States; (12) these countries have taken action to extradite drug criminals; enacted legislation to control organized crime, money laundering, and chemicals used in the production of illicit drugs; and instituted reforms to reduce corruption; and (13) while these actions represent positive steps, it is too early to determine their impact, and challenges remain.

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