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What GAO Found

Human trafficking involves the exploitation of a person typically through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor, involuntary servitude, or commercial sex. Human trafficking victims include women, men and transgender individuals; adults and children; and foreign nationals and U.S. citizens or nationals who are diverse with respect to race, ethnicity, and sexuality, among other factors. Over the past 16 years, Congress has taken numerous legislative actions to help combat human trafficking and ensure that victims have access to needed services.  GAO identified 105 provisions across six statutes that called for the establishment of a program or initiative to combat human trafficking or assist victims of human trafficking. Many of the provisions identified more than one entity that is responsible for implementing the programs or initiatives. The breakdown of whether or not federal entities responsible for implementation reported taking actions to implement these provisions is as follows:

  • For 91 provisions, all responsible federal entities reported taking action to implement the provision.  

  • For 2 provisions, at least one of the responsible federal entities reported that they had not taken any action to implement the provision or they did not provide a response.

  • For 11 provisions, all responsible federal entities reported that they had not taken action to implement the provision. 

  • For 1 provision, none of the responsible federal entities provided a response. 

The provisions cover various types of activities to address human trafficking and related issues, including: Victim Services (28), Coordination and Information Sharing (29), Reporting Requirements (26), Training and Technical Assistance (25), Research (24), Public Awareness (14), Criminal Justice (20), and Penalties and Sanctions (7). Thirty-three provisions authorize or require a grant program, or grant programs, to be established, and officials reported taking action to implement 30 of these provisions. Agencies reported taking action to implement a total of 61 grant programs, contracts or cooperative agreements during 2014 and 2015 in response to these provisions as well as other provisions that did not explicitly authorize or require a grant program. One of the most common reasons entities provided for not implementing a provision was that funding had not yet been appropriated.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 includes two provisions for GAO to study efforts to combat human trafficking. Specifically, section 121 of the act includes a provision for GAO to review six statutes to identify duplicative programs or initiatives authorized under those statutes and make recommendations on how to achieve cost savings with respect to each duplicative program or initiative. We reviewed the six statutes and identified the provisions that called for the establishment of a program or initiative. We identified the federal entities designated as the lead or co-lead for implementing the provisions and asked them to identify any actions taken to implement the provisions and to provide supporting documentation of those actions. This report describes the final results of our analysis of agencies’ reported actions to implement the relevant provisions under these six statutes. In a separate report, GAO plans to include an assessment of federal and selected state law enforcement efforts and federal grant programs to combat trafficking and assist trafficking victims, as well as the extent to which there is any duplication across these grant programs. 

For more information, contact Gretta Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or

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