Some countries in Central America have struggled with high levels of poverty and unemployment, fragile political and judicial systems, widespread drug trafficking and violence, and high homicide rates. The region has become a significant source of migration to the U.S.
To help address these challenges, key U.S. agencies—the departments of State, Agriculture, and Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development—provide assistance to the region. For example, for FY 2013 through 2018, these agencies allocated about $3.7 billion in assistance. This included funding efforts to reduce violence and increase economic opportunity.
Map showing Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama
What GAO Found
Key U.S. government agencies, consisting of the Departments of State (State), Agriculture, and Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) allocated a total of about $3.7 billion in assistance for Central America from fiscal years 2013 through 2018. (State and USAID allocated $3.2 billion, or 86 percent of funding allocations.) Of the $3.7 billion allocated, about $1.7 billion remained unexpended as unobligated balances or unliquidated obligations. The agencies allocated 92 percent of the unexpended funds during the most recent years, fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2018. The agencies allocated the largest amount of funds for regional programs as well as to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. In this report, GAO presents this funding data by agency, country, and funding account. In March 2019, the administration announced a change in the execution of the congressionally appropriated funds providing assistance for Central America. Any actions the administration took pursuant to this announcement may have affected the amounts of assistance for Central America that the agencies allocated, obligated, and disbursed. The administration made these decisions after the period covered by our review; therefore, our report does not reflect the impact of these decisions.
Why GAO Did This Study
Several Central American countries have struggled for many years with high levels of poverty and unemployment, fragile political and judicial systems, widespread drug trafficking and violence, and high homicide rates. The region has also become a significant source of migration to the United States. To help address these challenges, the U.S. Government has provided assistance through multiple initiatives to Central American countries: the Central America Regional Security Initiative (2010) and the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America (2014). Through these initiatives, U.S. government agencies have allocated billions in assistance. In this report, GAO examines how U.S. agencies allocate, obligate, and disburse funds for assistance in support of Central America.
For more information, contact Chelsa Gurkin at (202) 512-2964 or GurkinC@gao.gov.