Security Force Assistance: DOD's Consideration of Unintended Consequences, Perverse Incentives, and Moral Hazards

GAO-13-241R Published: Jan 08, 2013. Publicly Released: Jan 08, 2013.
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What GAO Found

In summary, we identified three DOD joint publications and two guidance documents that call for the consideration of unintended consequences, moral hazards, or risk mitigation procedures in planning for security force assistance. For example, Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Operations Planning, explicitly advises commanders to consider undesired consequences when planning operations and to refine plans to mitigate any undesired effects. This joint publication also includes procedures, such as the mission analysis and course of action analysis, to mitigate risks, which could include unintended consequences. Further, the Security Force Assistance Handbook, a guidance document, explains that site surveys serve to determine the suitability of the foreign security force for training, which may include considerations for potential unintended consequences and moral hazards, according to DOD officials. In addition to DOD joint publications and guidance, we reviewed a DOD directive and an instruction that DOD identified as relevant for our review and found that neither document specifically calls for consideration of unintended consequences or similar risks. However, DOD officials noted that they may incorporate considerations for unintended consequences and similar risks in a subsequent update to DOD Directive 5132.03, DOD Policy and Responsibilities Relating to Security Cooperation.

In addition, we found that DOD receives input from State for the seven authorities we reviewed that can yield security force assistance benefits: four required concurrence of the Secretary of State or the Chief of Mission; one required consultation between DOD and State; and two relied on coordination mechanisms other than concurrence or consultation. According to State officials, authorities that require the concurrence of the Secretary of State are reviewed by all of the department's relevant experts and bureaus, and thus have the best chance of identifying and considering the potential for unintended consequences compared to other forms of coordination. See the enclosed briefing slides for additional information.

Why GAO Did This Study

The House Committee on Armed Services report 112-479 accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 directed GAO to review the procedures the Department of Defense (DOD) has in place to control for the challenges inherent to the provision of military-to-military and security force assistance to foreign partners. In response to the mandate, we addressed the following objectives: (a) What policies, procedures, and guidance does DOD use to consider certain potential risks, such as unintended consequences and perverse incentives, when planning for security force assistance? (b) To what extent does DOD consider the input of the Department of State (State) in evaluating certain potential risks, such as unintended consequences and perverse incentives, when planning for security force assistance?

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