Fast Facts

The U.S. government and Caribbean countries formally launched the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative in 2010 to try to reduce drug trafficking, increase public safety, and promote social justice in the region. U.S. agencies allocated more than $560 million from 2010 through 2018 for this collaborative effort with 13 nations.

Is it working?

The State Department doesn’t know. We found that while U.S. agencies plan and report on their activities with specific countries, the State Department hasn’t established a way to assess overall progress.

We recommended that State improve its ability to monitor, evaluate, and report on the Initiative.

State Department funds paid for the purchase of boats for the Government of Jamaica.

Photo of a boat moored in the water.

Photo of a boat moored in the water.

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Highlights

What GAO Found

U.S. agencies have allocated more than $560 million for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) from fiscal years 2010 through 2018 for activities related to the three pillars of CBSI—reduce illicit trafficking (such as in narcotics and firearms), improve public safety and security, and promote social justice. For example, State Department's (State) Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has ongoing activities such as advisory programs and equipment procurements, while the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has activities aimed at increasing economic opportunities for at-risk youth and improving the skills of prosecutors.

Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Funding Supported the Refurbishment of Aircraft (left) and the Purchase of Boats (right) to Reduce Illicit Trafficking

Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Funding Supported the Refurbishment of Aircraft (left) and the Purchase of Boats (right) to Reduce Illicit Trafficking

The U.S. government has undertaken some planning and reporting of CBSI activities, but State has not created an initiative-wide planning and reporting mechanism. Agencies individually set strategic goals and priorities with CBSI countries and plan and report on their CBSI activities on a country-specific basis. However, State has not created an initiative-wide planning and reporting mechanism that facilitates interagency coordination or establishes consistent performance indicators across agencies, countries, and activities—key elements for effectively aligning foreign assistance strategies. Without such a planning and reporting mechanism, overall progress of the initiative cannot be assessed.

State and USAID have established objectives and performance indicators for selected CBSI activities, and INL is taking steps to improve identified weaknesses in its program monitoring. State and USAID had established objectives and performance indicators for the 25 activities in our sample. However, INL cannot ensure the reliability of its program monitoring data because collection and maintenance of this data is conducted differently in each country and there is no centralized data storage system. INL recently contracted to improve and standardize its program monitoring data for Western Hemisphere activities, but according to INL officials, data challenges remain—in particular, how to collect standardized data from each of the embassies and how to build a data management system that is compatible with State requirements. Without reliable data, INL may continue to struggle with program monitoring of CBSI activities.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Caribbean region, which shares geographic proximity and common interests with the United States, faces high rates of crime and violence. In 2010, the United States and Caribbean countries formally launched CBSI, which aims to increase citizen safety. GAO was asked to examine U.S. assistance through CBSI. This report (1) discusses U.S. funding for CBSI activities, (2) examines the extent to which there is a planning and reporting process for CBSI, and (3) examines the extent to which State and USAID have established objectives and performance indicators to measure progress of their CBSI activities. GAO analyzed State and USAID data; assessed government strategies and performance reports; selected a non-generalizable sample of 25 CBSI activities and analyzed State and USAID documentation related to those activities; interviewed relevant officials; and conducted fieldwork in Barbados, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, which are the countries generally receiving the most CBSI funding.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends that State (1) create an initiative-wide planning and reporting mechanism for CBSI that includes the ability to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of collaborative efforts, and (2) ensure that INL develops and implements a data management system for centrally collecting reliable CBSI data. State agreed with the recommendations, noting that it plans to develop an updated Results Framework for initiative-wide planning and reporting and to improve centralized data collection through an enhanced data management system.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State The Secretary of State should, in consultation with USAID and other stakeholders as appropriate, create an initiative-wide planning and reporting mechanism for CBSI that includes the ability to monitor, evaluate, and report the results of their collaborative efforts (Recommendation 1).
Closed - Implemented
State agreed to develop an updated CBSI Results Framework to provide the basis for initiative-wide planning and reporting, as GAO recommended in February 2019. In May 2020, State instructed all U.S. embassies in CBSI countries to implement a new planning and reporting process, in part to address GAO's recommendation. As part of the new process, State updated the CBSI Results Framework. These tools will enable posts to plan projects in alignment with goals and allow State to monitor, evaluate, and report on CBSI efforts. In addition, State's guidance instructs CBSI posts to report on a quarterly basis, and includes reporting data from USAID. The updated CBSI Results Framework and reporting requirements provide an initiative-wide planning and reporting mechanism, which should allow State to strengthen performance management and assess the initiative's results.
Department of State The Secretary of State should ensure that INLs Office of Western Hemisphere Programs develops and implements a data management system for centrally collecting reliable program monitoring data for all INL-funded CBSI activities through its current program monitoring contract or by some other means (Recommendation 2).
Closed - Implemented
State agreed with the recommendation, noting that INL's Office of Western Hemisphere Programs worked through its existing monitoring and evaluation contract to improve centralized data collection and developed plans for an enhanced data management system that will facilitate the collection and management of data. In August 2020, INL entered into a monitoring and evaluation contract that would continue to develop region-wide strategic measures to populate its data visualization platform and support the expansion of monitoring and evaluation efforts for INL implementing mechanisms. INL indicated that monitoring data on key indicators is now centrally maintained and that each INL section and office in the Caribbean will provide the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs indicator information as part of its quarterly reporting. This indicates that INL is centrally collecting program monitoring data for INL-funded CBSI activities that will allow for more reliable and consistent data.

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