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Highlights

What GAO Found

Progress toward U.S. strategic goals for Yemen has been mixed. The Departments of State (State) and Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have conducted numerous civilian and security assistance activities in support of these strategic goals. Although some progress has been made since the civil unrest in 2011, obstacles remain to achieving each goal. For example, while there has been an orderly political transition to a new president, key milestones—such as convening a national dialogue to promote reconciliation—have been delayed. In addition, while Yemeni security forces have retaken territory seized by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2011, the security situation remains unstable.

USAID data indicate that the Food for Peace program exceeded most of its annual targets between fiscal years 2008 and 2011 for the number of individuals in Yemen benefiting from food donations. However, reports to Congress about the program have lacked timeliness, accuracy, clarity, and consistency. With regard to the Section 1206 and 1207(n) programs, DOD has developed an evaluation process to assess the programs’ effectiveness but has not conducted an evaluation in Yemen, citing security concerns. Consequently, limited information exists for decision makers to use in conducting oversight of these assistance programs and making future funding decisions.

Security conditions and political divisions in Yemen pose key challenges to U.S. assistance efforts. First, Yemen’s unstable security situation constrains U.S. training of Yemeni security forces, restricts oversight of civilian assistance projects, and endangers Yemeni nationals who work for the United States. For example, a Yemeni employee of the U.S. embassy was murdered in October 2012, and other Yemeni staff at the embassy, as well as their families, face threats. Second, because of leadership and coordination challenges within the Yemeni government, key recipients of U.S. security assistance made limited use of this assistance until recently to combat AQAP in support of the U.S. strategic goal of improving Yemen’s security. However, according to DOD officials, recent actions by the Yemeni government to replace key leaders of security force units and reorganize security ministries have addressed some of these challenges.

Why GAO Did This Study

The terrorist group AQAP, one of the top threats to U.S. national security, is based in Yemen—a country facing serious economic and social challenges and undergoing a difficult political transition following civil unrest in 2011. Since 2007, State, DOD, and USAID have allocated over $1 billion in assistance to help Yemen counter AQAP and address other challenges. The three largest U.S. assistance programs in Yemen are USAID’s Food for Peace program, which has provided emergency food aid, and DOD’s Section 1206 and 1207(n) programs, which have provided training and equipment to Yemeni security forces.

In response to a Senate report that directed GAO to review U.S. assistance to Yemen, and following up on GAO’s February 2012 report on the types and amounts of such assistance, GAO examined (1) the extent of progress made toward U.S. strategic goals for Yemen, (2) the extent of progress made by the Food for Peace and Section 1206 and 1207(n) programs, and (3) key challenges to U.S. assistance efforts. GAO reviewed agency documents and met with U.S. and Yemeni officials and implementing partners in Washington, D.C., and Sana’a, Yemen.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends that USAID improve performance reporting on Food for Peace efforts in Yemen and that DOD collect and analyze data on the effectiveness of the Section 1206 and 1207(n) programs in Yemen until security conditions permit an evaluation of these programs. USAID and DOD concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Agency for International Development 1. To enable congressional and agency oversight of U.S. assistance programs in Yemen, inform future funding decisions, and enhance U.S. assistance efforts, the Administrator of USAID should improve reporting to Congress on Food for Peace (FFP) efforts in Yemen, such as by improving the accuracy, clarity, and consistency of data reported.
Closed - Implemented
In commenting on the GAO report, USAID indicated that it had taken steps to improve clarity in its reporting to Congress by including actual beneficiaries as reported by awardees as well as actual tonnage delivered. In April 2013, USAID released its 2011 International Food Assistance Report, which incorporated improved data. Specifically, USAID provided improved data on beneficiaries, to include a definition, and a note clarifying that these data reflected actual results.
Department of Defense 2. To enable congressional and agency oversight of U.S. assistance programs in Yemen, inform future funding decisions, and enhance U.S. assistance efforts, until DOD is able to conduct an assessment of the Section 1206 program in Yemen, the Secretary of Defense should collect and analyze available data regarding the extent to which Section 1206 assistance has built the capacity of Yemeni security forces, such as information from U.S. personnel posted in Yemen or Yemeni government officials.
Closed - Implemented
GAO's recommendation has been overtaken by events in Yemen. DOD has provided assistance to the Yemeni security forces (Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior) through a variety of programs, including Section 1206 and 1207(n). However, as the security situation in Yemen deteriorated in 2014, culminating in the President of Yemen fleeing the country, such assistance became impossible. Specifically, in February 2015, the Department of State suspended operations and removed all staff from the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. In March 2015, the Department of Defense (DOD) removed its last remaining staff in Yemen. As a result, all U.S. security assistance programs in Yemen, including Section 1206, 1207(n), and Foreign Military Financing have been suspended.
Department of Defense 3. To enable congressional and agency oversight of U.S. assistance programs in Yemen, inform future funding decisions, and enhance U.S. assistance efforts, until DOD is able to conduct an assessment of the Section 1207(n) program in Yemen, the Secretary of Defense should collect and analyze available data regarding the extent to which Section 1207(n) assistance has built the capacity of Yemeni security forces, such as information from U.S. personnel posted in Yemen or Yemeni government officials.
Closed - Implemented
GAO's recommendation has been overtaken by events in Yemen. DOD has provided assistance to the Yemeni security forces (Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior) through a variety of programs, including Section 1206 and 1207(n). However, as the security situation in Yemen deteriorated in 2014, culminating in the President of Yemen fleeing the country, such assistance became impossible. Specifically, in February 2015, the Department of State suspended operations and removed all staff from the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. In March 2015, the Department of Defense (DOD) removed its last remaining staff in Yemen. As a result, all U.S. security assistance programs in Yemen, including Section 1206, 1207(n), and Foreign Military Financing have been suspended.

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