Drug Control: U.S. Assistance Has Helped Mexican Counternarcotics Efforts, but Tons of Illicit Drugs Continue to Flow into the United States

GAO-07-1018 Published: Aug 17, 2007. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2007.
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The overall goal of the U.S. National Drug Control Strategy, which is prepared by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), is to reduce illicit drug use in the United States. One of the strategy's priorities is to disrupt the illicit drug marketplace. To this end, since fiscal year 2000, the United States has provided about $397 million to support Mexican counternarcotics efforts. According to the Department of State (State), much of the illicit drugs consumed in the United States flows through or is produced in Mexico. GAO examined (1) developments in Mexican drug production and trafficking since calendar year 2000 and (2) U.S. counternarcotics support for Mexico since fiscal year 2000.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of National Drug Control Policy To help counter the increasing threat of illicit drugs reaching the United States from Mexico, the Director of ONDCP should, as the lead agency for U.S. drug policy, in conjunction with the cognizant departments and agencies in the U.S. counternarcotics interagency community, coordinate with the appropriate Mexican officials before completing the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy's implementation plan to help ensure Mexico's cooperation with any efforts that require it and address the cooperation issues we identified. To help maximize ongoing U.S. assistance programs, such efforts should include, but not be limited to (1) promoting greater cooperation and coordination between Defense and the Mexican military services; (2) agreeing to a maritime cooperation agreement; (3) resolving the personnel status issue to allow aerial patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border to resume; and (4) reviewing Mexico's overall aviation requirements for interdiction purposes and determining how best the United States can assist.
Closed - Implemented
In a June 2011 letter to GAO, ONDCP provided an update of how the recommendations from our August 2007 report were implemented. According to ONDCP, since the publication of this report, the United States has made great strides in cooperating with Mexico, both through the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy and the Merida Initiative, a program of assistance begun in October 2007. For instance, in response to our first recommendation, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the Mexican Departments of the Army (which includes the Air Force) and Navy signed agreements in 2008 and 2010 to share intelligence. In response to the second recommendation, in 2008 DOD, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy signed a letter of intent to define maritime operational procedures. According to testimony presented by the U.S. Coast Guard in July 2011, the Coast Guard has developed non-binding operational procedures with Mexico to facilitate communications for obtaining permission to stop, board, and search vessels. In response to the third recommendation, ONDCP reported positive movement on resolving aerial patrol issues. With respect to the fourth recommendation, ONDCP noted the coordination between the State Department, DOD and the Mexican military and law enforcement with respect to the procurement of fixed and rotary-wing aviation assets.

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