Drug Control:

Observations on U.S. Counternarcotics Activities

T-NSIAD-98-249: Published: Sep 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 16, 1998.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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GAO discussed the U.S. counternarcotics efforts in the Caribbean, Colombia, and Mexico, focusing on the: (1) challenges of addressing international counternarcotics issues; and (2) obstacles to implementing U.S. and host-nation drug control efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) its work over the past 10 years indicates that there is no panacea for resolving all of the problems associated with illegal drug trafficking; (2) despite long-standing efforts and expenditures of billions of dollars, illegal drugs still flood the United States; (3) although U.S. and host-nation counternarcotics efforts have resulted in the arrest of major drug traffickers and the seizure of large amounts of drugs, they have not materially reduced the availability of drugs in the United States; (4) a key reason for the lack of success of U.S. counternarcotics programs is that international drug-trafficking organizations have become 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 quickly change tactics, thwarting U.S. efforts; (6) other significant long-standing obstacles also impede U.S. and source and transit countries drug control efforts; (7) in the drug-producing and -transiting countries, counternarcotics efforts are constrained by corruption, limited law enforcement resources, institutional capabilities, and internal problems such as insurgencies and civil unrest; (8) moreover, drug traffickers are increasingly resourceful in corrupting the countries' institutions; (9) some countries, with U.S. assistance, have taken steps to improve their capacity to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the United States; (10) among other things, these countries have taken action to extradite criminals, enacted legislation to control organized crime, money laundering, and chemicals used in the production of illicit drugs, and instituted reforms to reduce corruption; (11) while these actions represent positive steps, it is too early to determine their impact, and challenges remain; (12) U.S. counternarcotics efforts have also faced obstacles that limit their effectiveness; (13) these include: (a) organizational and operational limitations; and (b) planning and management problems; (14) over the years, GAO has reported on problems related to competing foreign policy priorities, poor operational planning and coordination, and inadequate oversight over U.S. counternarcotics assistance; (15) GAO has also criticized the Office of National Drug Control Policy and U.S. agencies for not having good performance measures to evaluate results; and (16) GAO's work has identified ways to improve U.S. counternarcotics efforts through better planning, sharing of intelligence, and the development of measurable performance goals.

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