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Highlights

In September 1999, the government of Colombia announced a strategy, known as "Plan Colombia," to (1) reduce the production of illicit drugs (primarily cocaine) by 50 percent in 6 years and (2) improve security in Colombia by re-claiming control of areas held by illegal armed groups. Since fiscal year 2000, the United States has provided over $6 billion to support Plan Colombia. The Departments of State, Defense, and Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) manage the assistance. GAO examined (1) the progress made toward Plan Colombia's drug reduction and enhanced security objectives, (2) the results of U.S. aid for the military and police, (3) the results of U.S. aid for non-military programs, and (4) the status of efforts to "nationalize" or transfer operations and funding responsibilities for U.S.-supported programs to Colombia.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and Administrator of USAID, and in coordination with the government of Colombia, should develop an integrated nationalization plan that details plans for turning over operational and funding responsibilities for U.S.-supported programs to Colombia. This plan should define U.S. roles and responsibilities for all U.S.-supported military and non-military programs. Other key plan elements should include future funding requirements; a detailed assessment of Colombia's fiscal situation, spending priorities, and ability to assume additional funding responsibilities; and specific milestones for completing the transition to the Colombians.
Closed - Implemented
State agreed that it should continue to improve the coordination of nationalization efforts among Defense, other executive branch agencies, and the government of Colombia. State concurred with our recommendation for a coordinated U.S. government strategy to help the Colombian government gradually assume responsibility for U.S. supported programs. While State has not developed (as of September 2013) an integrated plan for turning over operational and funding responsibilities for U.S.-supported programs to Colombia, State has nationalized some of the key programs that formed the basis for the original Plan Colombia program of assistance. For example, State nationalized the Air Bridge Denial Program and the Plan Colombia Helicopter Program in fiscal year 2013. (The Air Bridge Denial program involved the provision of seven surveillance aircraft to the Colombian Air Force for use in monitoring Colombian airspace for suspicious traffic. The Plan Colombia Helicopter program was the single most important component of Plan Colombia, consisting of 61 fixed and rotary wing helicopters to the Colombian Army Aviation Brigade.) State nationalized the Infrastructure Brigade Program in fiscal year 2009. (The infrastructure brigade program included support for both an aviation component and a ground combat support element, as well as related logistics support and ground facilities.) As we have reported, State and the Department of Defense (DOD) are in the process of nationalizing additional programs. We reported in 2010 that State planned to transfer the cost of fueling and maintaining Colombian National Police helicopters to the Colombian government in fiscal year 2012. More recently, in July 2013, we reported that the DOD plans to nationalize the Regional Helicopter Training Center in 2018. In addition to nationalizing a number of the programs that formed the basis for Plan Colombia, State, DOD, USAID, and the Department of Justice have reduced their support for Colombia. In 2013, we reported that U.S. support for Colombia has decreased from about $601 million in fiscal year 2007 to about $470 million in fiscal year 2011.
United States Agency for International Development The Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID should develop performance measurements that will help USAID (1) assess whether alternative development assistance is reducing the production of illicit narcotics, and (2) determine to what extent the agency's alternative development projects are self-sustaining.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2012 USAID responded with a letter outlining steps it had taken in response to GAO's recommendation and a document detailing its programs and contributions to the Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI). The letter described performance indicators in the current program that address GAO's recommendations by enabling USAID to track illicit crop production in program areas--such as "the number and percentage of coca hectares in CSDI municipalities"--and measure various aspects of sustainability--such as "the number of rapid impact projects implemented by the Government of Colombia" and the "level of private sector funds leveraged in CSDI zones attributable to USG interventions." These measures, if properly implemented, appear to be responsive to our recommendation.
Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance The Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID should develop performance measurements that will help USAID (1) assess whether alternative development assistance is reducing the production of illicit narcotics, and (2) determine to what extent the agency's alternative development projects are self-sustaining.
Closed - Implemented
This recommendation has been closed based on the actions USAID took in response to the same recommendation that was made to USAID.

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