Drug Control:

U.S. Assistance to Colombia Will Take Years to Produce Results

GAO-01-26: Published: Oct 17, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 17, 2000.

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The United States has been providing assistance to Colombia since the early 1970s to help the Colombian National Police and other law enforcement agencies, the military, and civilian agencies reduce illegal drug production and trafficking. Recognizing that illegal drug activities are a serious problem, the Colombian government announced a counternarcotics plan known as Plan Colombia. This report reviews the U.S. counternarcotics efforts in Colombia. Although U.S.-provided assistance has enhanced Colombian counternarcotics capabilities, its usefulness has sometimes been limited because of long-standing problems in planning and implementation. For example, little progress has been made in launching a plan to have Colombia's National Police assume a larger role in managing the aerial eradication program, which requires costly U.S. contractor assistance. The governments of the United States and Colombia face continuing and new financial and management challenges in implementing Plan Colombia. The costs and activities needed to implement the plan are unknown at this time, and it will take years before any significant reduction in the drug trade is seen. Colombia must resolve problems with its political and economic stability and improve its management of counternarcotics funding in order to successfully implement Plan Colombia. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Drug Control: Challenges in Implementing Plan Colombia, by Jess T. Ford, Associate Director for International Affairs and Trade, before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, House Committee on Government Reform. GAO-01-76T, Oct. 12 (13 pages).

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure that U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Colombia is used most effectively and problems in supporting U.S.-provided equipment do not recur, the Secretaries of State and Defense should determine training and logistical support requirements and identify future funding sources to support the U.S.-provided helicopters and other major equipment items already delivered to Colombia.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response, by April 2004, the Departments of State and Defense provided a report to Congress entitled "Training of Colombian Nationals for Helicopter Operations and Maintenance Programs". This report details support, including funding, training, maintenance, and logistics for the U.S.-provided helicopters. A June 2005 U.S. Southern Command "white paper" also outlines timelines, planning and coordination to eventually turn operations and maintenance responsibilities over to the Colombians.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Colombia is used most effectively and problems in supporting U.S.-provided equipment do not recur, the Secretaries of State and Defense should complete U.S. implementation plans and coordinate with Colombian plans for Plan Colombia so that any future U.S. assistance is adequately supported and plans for its use are clearly identified and agreed to.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response, by April 2004, the Departments of State and Defense provided a report to Congress entitled "Training of Colombian Nationals for Helicopter Operations and Maintenance Programs". This report details support, including funding, training, maintenance, and logistics for the U.S.-provided helicopters. A June 2005 U.S. Southern Command "white paper" also outlines timelines, planning and coordination to eventually turn operations and maintenance responsibilities over to the Colombians.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that U.S. counternarcotics assistance to Colombia is used most effectively and problems in supporting U.S.-provided equipment do not recur, the Secretaries of State and Defense should complete U.S. implementation plans and coordinate with Colombian plans for Plan Colombia so that any future U.S. assistance is adequately supported and plans for its use are clearly identified and agreed to.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response, by April 2004, the Departments of State and Defense provided a report to Congress entitled "Training of Colombian Nationals for Helicopter Operations and Maintenance Programs". This report details support, including funding, training, maintenance, and logistics for the U.S.-provided helicopters. A June 2005 U.S. Southern Command "white paper" also outlines timelines, planning and coordination to eventually turn operations and maintenance responsibilities over to the Colombians.

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