Section 1206 Security Assistance Program--Findings on Criteria, Coordination, and Implementation
GAO-07-416R, Feb 28, 2007
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Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 established a new program that gives the Department of Defense (DOD) the authority to spend up to $200 million of its own appropriations to train and equip foreign militaries to undertake counterterrorism or stability operations. Department of State (State) and DOD officials have cited the importance of this program in building capacity among partner nations to help fight the global war on terror. Moreover, they believe that compared with traditional security assistance programs funded by State, Section 1206 assistance will provide greater flexibility to respond quickly to emerging threats and opportunities. However, some believe that such a program should be funded in the foreign affairs budget, which is administered by State, to ensure that the Secretary of State has the authority to manage foreign policy decisions and bilateral relationships. To address Congress's questions about the new Section 1206 security assistance program, we examined (1) what criteria State and DOD use to select recipient countries and types of assistance, (2) how State and DOD coordinate the formulation and approval of Section 1206 programs, and (3) how State and DOD implement Section 1206 programs. As part of our audit work, we interviewed State and DOD headquarters officials involved in the Section 1206 program and officials involved in formulating fiscal year 2006 proposals at embassies and combatant commands. We also reviewed the program's authorizing legislation and State and DOD guidance.
State and DOD select Section 1206 projects based on criteria established in the authorizing legislation and departmental guidance to combatant commands and embassies. State and DOD reviewers stated that they examine all proposals to ensure that no country participates in a Section 1206 project if it is ineligible to receive security assistance under other U.S. laws. Reviewers also stated that they reject proposals involving assistance to units under the authority of the ministry of interior rather than the ministry of defense. State and DOD guidance requires embassies and combatant commands to explain how their proposals support U.S. national security objectives and address urgent or emerging threats or opportunities. Proposals also must explain whether other sources of funds are available and how the project will be sustained in future years. Additionally, in considering proposals involving their host country, the embassy country team and ambassador typically weigh such factors as compatibility of the proposed project with U.S. foreign policy goals and the partner country's willingness to participate in the project and ability to absorb the assistance. State and DOD have developed a coordinated process for jointly reviewing and selecting proposals for Section 1206 projects; however, coordination in formulating proposals did not occur consistently between combatant commands and embassy country teams. Once project proposals are received from combatant commands and embassies, several State and DOD offices or bureaus examine all proposals and then meet to jointly decide which ones they recommend for funding. A final list of projects is presented concurrently to the Secretaries of Defense and State for their approval. DOD fiscal year 2007 guidance to combatant commands specifies that programs must be developed jointly with embassy country teams and that ambassadors should have full knowledge of proposed projects from their inception. However, we found that for projects funded in fiscal year 2006 prior to the issuance of formal guidance, this coordination occurred in only 5 of 14 instances before proposals were submitted for joint DOD and State review. In 9 of the 14 instances, coordination efforts took place before the departments notified Congress about the proposals. Ultimately, no project would be implemented without the support of the ambassador, according to State and DOD officials. The combatant commands and embassies we contacted reported better coordination in the formulation of fiscal year 2007 proposals. They attributed this improvement to having more time to develop proposals and more explicit guidance from State and DOD. DOD's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and security assistance officers at embassies implement Section 1206 assistance using the same processes established for other traditional State-funded security assistance programs. For example, for each equipment transfer to a partner country, DSCA establishes the terms and conditions of the transfer and provides fiscal oversight. At the embassy, the security assistance officer is the primary point of contact to ensure delivery to and proper use by the recipient country. According to embassy and combatant command officials we contacted, DOD and State meet the requirement to coordinate implementation of Section 1206 projects through embassy-based security assistance officers, who report to both their combatant commanders and ambassadors.