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Highlights

The Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and others are involved in economic development activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. In June 2006, DOD established the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (Task Force) to support its related efforts. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2011 required that DOD, State, and USAID jointly develop a plan to transition Task Force activities to State, with a focus on potentially transitioning activities to USAID. Under the authority of the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct work on his own initiative and with additional congressional direction, GAO identified (1) factors to consider in planning any transition of Task Force activities and (2) the extent to which the Task Force established guidance to manage its activities and has shared information with other federal agencies. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed multiple agency officials in Washington, D.C., Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. To ensure effective project management, oversight, and accountability, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Task Force to develop written guidance that documents, as appropriate, its management processes and practices, including elements such as criteria for project selection, requirements for establishing metrics and project documentation, and project monitoring and evaluation processes.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation the Task Force implemented a Project Management Operating Model in January 2012. The guidance establishes a project proposal vetting process and a project board which meets monthly to reviews project proposals and makes recommendations to the Task Force director. The guidance also establishes monitoring and evaluation procedures by requiring project metrics that track cost, status, milestones, and risks and project metrics and by holding quarterly program reviews. Task Force officials stated that this operating model will allow them to more effectively and efficiently execute programs while ensuring accountability. We believe that DOD?s actions in finalizing the agreement meet the intent of our recommendation.
Department of Defense 2. To improve information sharing among the Task Force and other federal agencies involved with stabilization and economic development efforts in Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Administrator of USAID should determine the most appropriate mechanism for integrating Task Force participation. Such mechanisms could include formalizing the process previously used to obtain State concurrence on Task Force projects, participating in appropriate working groups in Afghanistan, and/or including Task Force project and activity information in existing databases.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, Congress included language in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 section 1534 which required the concurrence of the Secretary of State on Task Force projects. On February 7, 2012, DOD and the Task Force formally requested concurrence for its fiscal year 2012 plan. The State Department's response provided concurrence for the Task Force's proposed projects. In addition, DOD, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) agreed to setup a joint planning process, including a quarterly review, to facilitate implementation of Task Force programs. An initial steering conference was held on January 17, 2012, and officials from State, USAID, and DOD met to provide policy guidance for Task Force efforts and to ensure that Task Force activities complement other U.S. government civilian and military activities. Subsequent coordination meetings will be held quarterly by the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs (CDDEA) in the U.S. Embassy-Kabul. USAID and DOD representatives in Kabul will attend these review board meetings to receive updates on Task Force activities, ensure coordination between civilian and military programs, and enhance the complementary nature of such activities. According to the Deputy Director of the CDDEA, the first review occurred on March 3, 2012 and during this meeting several issues regarding a gem cutting training initiative and agricultural plans were de-conflicted. Moreover, the Task Force also participates in the bi-weekly meetings of the Economic and Infrastructure Working Group, which include representatives from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce, the Export Import Bank, as well as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. We believe that the actions taken by DOD and State meet the intent of our recommendation.

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