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Highlights

Since 1976, the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program has provided education and training to foreign military personnel. The program's objectives include professionalizing military forces and increasing respect for democratic values and human rights. In 2010, Congress appropriated $108 million in IMET funding for more than 120 countries. The Department of State (State) and the Department of Defense (DOD) share responsibility for IMET. In response to a mandate in the conference report accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, this report assesses (1) changes in the program from fiscal years 2000 to 2010, by funding levels, students trained, and recipient countries; (2) the program's provision of and emphasis on human rights training for its students; and (3) the extent to which State and DOD monitor IMET graduates and evaluate program effectiveness. GAO reviewed and analyzed agency funding, planning, and performance management documents, and interviewed U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., and overseas.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. The Secretaries of State and Defense should take several steps to emphasize human rights training and improve evaluations for the IMET program. Specifically, the Secretaries of State and Defense should take steps to ensure that human rights training is identified as a priority for those IMET recipient countries with known records of human rights concerns. These steps may include highlighting human rights and related concepts in country training plans.
Closed - Implemented
In their agency comments on this recommendation, the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State) stated that they concurred with our recommendation. In a January 2013 memo, DOD said that, in direct response to the GAO recommendations, DOD and State added a series of questions to the annual Combined Education and Training Programs Plan to emphasize human rights training; these plans are completed each year by security cooperation training officers for IMET recipient countries. The additional questions address whether specific countries have received poor marks on human rights from internationally recognized organizations, such as Freedom House, and, if yes, to what degree the military is part of the rationale for the poor marks. There is also a question on how IMET training for countries that receive poor marks can address human rights. In taking these actions, State and DOD have addressed our recommendation. In addition, State reported that, in fiscal year 2012, Security Cooperation Officers at post that execute IMET began collecting responses to these questions regarding human rights and providing them to State. State noted that it expected to collect additional responses, after which it plans to analyze them to develop a list of countries where additional human rights training may be warranted.
Department of State 2. The Secretaries of State and Defense should take several steps to emphasize human rights training and improve evaluations for the IMET program. Specifically, the Secretaries of State and Defense should take steps to ensure that human rights training is identified as a priority for those IMET recipient countries with known records of human rights concerns. These steps may include highlighting human rights and related concepts in country training plans.
Closed - Implemented
In their agency comments on this recommendation, the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State) stated that they concurred with our recommendation. In a January 2013 memo, DOD said that, in direct response to the GAO recommendations, DOD and State added a series of questions to the annual Combined Education and Training Programs Plan to emphasize human rights training; these plans are completed each year by security cooperation training officers for IMET recipient countries. The additional questions address whether specific countries have received poor marks on human rights from internationally recognized organizations, such as Freedom House, and, if yes, to what degree the military is part of the rationale for the poor marks. There is also a question on how IMET training for countries that receive poor marks can address human rights. In taking these actions, State and DOD have addressed our recommendation. In addition, State reported that, in fiscal year 2012, Security Cooperation Officers at post that execute IMET began collecting responses to these questions regarding human rights and providing them to State. State noted that it expected to collect additional responses, after which it plans to analyze them to develop a list of countries where additional human rights training may be warranted.
Department of Defense 3. The Secretaries of State and Defense should take several steps to emphasize human rights training and improve evaluations for the IMET program. Specifically, the Secretaries of State and Defense should take initial steps toward developing a system for evaluating the effectiveness of the IMET program. These steps should build on current efforts toward a more systematic collection of performance information--at multiple points in time, over several years, and for a set of objective performance measures--and should include: (1) adopting existing evaluation practices used by other State and DOD agencies, such as periodically surveying program participants to assess changes in knowledge or attitudes, and (2) soliciting ideas from training managers and applying their suggestions on improving program monitoring practices and evaluations, including for the development of objective performance measures that could assess program impact over time.
Closed - Implemented
In their agency comments on this recommendation, DOD and State stated that they concurred with our recommendation. In response, DOD and State have taken steps to more systematically collect performance information and monitor IMET graduates. In a January 2013 memo, DOD noted that, in direct response to the GAO recommendations, DOD and State developed a series of questions that were added to the Combined Education and Training Programs Plan that is required each year for IMET recipient countries. These included questions on whether countries' track their IMET graduates, and if IMET students are placed in follow on positions that allow them to use the skills gained through their IMET courses. DOD also told us that, in response to the GAO recommendation, it expanded a database to enable security cooperation training officers to collect information on all IMET graduates' career progression. Previously, these officers had tracked information on only the small percentage of IMET graduates who had attained a position of prominence within their host country military or civilian government. According to DOD, this effort will provide DOD and State with a more systematic collection of program performance information over time. In addition, DOD and State are undertaking an ongoing multi-year study of IMET graduates. This study intends to assess graduates' understanding of key IMET objectives including human rights, civilian control of the military, and democracy in the United States.
Department of State 4. The Secretaries of State and Defense should take several steps to emphasize human rights training and improve evaluations for the IMET program. Specifically, the Secretaries of State and Defense should take initial steps toward developing a system for evaluating the effectiveness of the IMET program. These steps should build on current efforts toward a more systematic collection of performance information--at multiple points in time, over several years, and for a set of objective performance measures--and should include: (1) adopting existing evaluation practices used by other State and DOD agencies, such as periodically surveying program participants to assess changes in knowledge or attitudes, and (2) soliciting ideas from training managers and applying their suggestions on improving program monitoring practices and evaluations, including for the development of objective performance measures that could assess program impact over time.
Closed - Implemented
In their agency comments on this recommendation, DOD and State stated that they concurred with our recommendation. In response, DOD and State have taken steps to more systematically collect performance information and monitor IMET graduates. In a January 2013 memo, DOD noted that, in direct response to the GAO recommendations, DOD and State developed a series of questions that were added to the Combined Education and Training Programs Plan that is required each year for IMET recipient countries. These included questions on whether countries' track their IMET graduates, and if IMET students are placed in follow on positions that allow them to use the skills gained through their IMET courses. DOD also told us that, in response to the GAO recommendation, it expanded a database to enable security cooperation training officers to collect information on all IMET graduates' career progression. Previously, these officers had tracked information on only the small percentage of IMET graduates who had attained a position of prominence within their host country military or civilian government. According to DOD, this effort will provide DOD and State with a more systematic collection of program performance information over time. In addition, DOD and State are undertaking an ongoing multi-year study of IMET graduates. This study intends to assess graduates' understanding of key IMET objectives including human rights, civilian control of the military, and democracy in the United States.

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