Foreign Assistance: Reporting of Defense Articles and Services Provided through Drawdowns Needs to Be Improved

GAO-02-1027 Published: Sep 20, 2002. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2002.
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Since 1961, the President has had special statutory authority to order the "drawdown" of defense articles--such as aircraft, vehicles, various weapons, and spare parts--and services or military education and training from Department of Defense (DOD) and military service inventories and transfer them to foreign countries or international organizations. Drawdowns give the President the ability to respond to U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives, such as counternarcotics efforts, peacekeeping needs, and unforeseen military and nonmilitary emergencies, by providing military assistance without first seeking additional legislative authority or appropriations from Congress. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency's reports to Congress on the costs and delivery status of drawdowns are inaccurate and incomplete. Two principal problems contribute to the agency's inability to meet the reporting requirements. First, its information system for recording drawdown data is outmoded and difficult to use--service drawdown reports are in different formats, and any conversion errors have to be manually corrected. Second, the services do not regularly provide updates to the agency on drawdown costs and deliveries, and available information sometimes does not get into the system. Drawdowns benefit the United States and foreign recipients primarily by providing the President the flexibility to address foreign policy and national security objectives quickly. Drawdowns also allow the President to provide defense articles and services to improve foreign recipients' capability to conduct military and police missions in support of U.S. foreign policy. Other benefits cited include improved military-to-military relations between the U.S. military services and the foreign recipients and expanded markets for U.S. defense firms. According to U.S. and foreign military officials, the use of drawdowns presents some concerns. Because drawdowns are used to quickly address U.S. national interests and emergencies, the costs associated with a drawdown, such as refurbishment and transportation, are not budgeted for by the services and are not reimbursed.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To help ensure that Congress has accurate and complete information on the use of drawdowns, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and the Secretaries of the military services, should develop a system that will enable DSCA to report to Congress on the cost, type, quantity, and delivery status of defense articles and services transferred to foreign recipients through drawdowns, as required.
Closed – Implemented
In a November 29, 2004, memorandum to DOD's Office of Inspector General, Technical Director for Audit Follow-up and GAO Affairs, the Deputy Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) reported that DSCA had addressed our recommendation to report more accurate and timely information on drawdowns. In our report (Foreign Assistance: Reporting of Defense Articles and Services Provided Through Drawdowns Needs to Be Improved, GAO-02-1027, 09/20/02), we concluded that DSCA's congressionally mandated reports to the Congress on drawdowns were inaccurate and incomplete. We noted at the time that DSCA relied on the military services for its data, but the services did not regularly provide updates to DSCA. In addition, when the services provided drawdown data to DSCA it was in various formats and DSCA staff had to convert it into DSCA's drawdown records (the 1000 System). As a result, errors occurred. To address our recommendation, DSCA updated its Drawdown Handbook (DSCA H-1) in June 2004. The Handbook now specially directs the military services to update their drawdown programming and delivery data at least monthly and enter it directly into the 1000 System (para. C11-5). In a recent exchange of e-mails with the DSCA point of contact for Operations and Administration, she confirmed that the military services are updating their information as required. In addition, she noted that DSCA reviews and approves all transactions.

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