Foreign Police Assistance:

Defined Roles and Improved Information Sharing Could Enhance Interagency Collaboration

GAO-12-534: Published: May 9, 2012. Publicly Released: May 17, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The United States provided an estimated $13.9 billion for foreign police assistance during fiscal years 2009 through 2011. Funds provided by U.S. agencies rose and then fell between fiscal years 2009 and 2011. During fiscal years 2009 through 2011, the United States provided the greatest amount of its foreign police assistance to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Mexico, and the Palestinian Territories. Department of Defense (DOD) and State (State) funds constituted about 97 percent of U.S. funds for police assistance in fiscal year 2009 and 98 percent in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

DOD and State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (State/INL) have acknowledged limitations in their procedures to assess and evaluate their foreign police assistance activities and are taking steps to address them. DOD assesses the performance of the police forces it trains and equips in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. However, the assessment process for Afghanistan does not provide data on civil policing effectiveness. DOD plans to expand its assessments to obtain data to assess the ability of these forces to conduct civil policing operations. In addition, recognizing that it had conducted only one evaluation of its foreign police assistance activities because it lacked guidelines, State/INL is developing an evaluation plan that is consistent with State’s February 2012 Evaluation Policy. This evaluation plan includes conducting evaluations for its largest programs in Iraq and Mexico.

U.S. agencies have implemented various mechanisms to coordinate their foreign police assistance activities as part of wider foreign assistance activities, such as the National Security Council’s (NSC)-led interagency policy committees that coordinate policies at a high level and various working groups at the overseas posts. However, GAO noted some areas for improvement. Specifically, NSC has not defined agencies’ roles and responsibilities for assisting foreign police. Further, DOD and State do not consistently share and document information. For example, DOD did not provide copies of its capability assessments of the Iraqi police to State, which is now responsible for police development in Iraq, because it destroyed the database containing the assessments at the end of its mission to train the police. Further, some U.S. embassies, including the one in Bogotá, Colombia, do not publish agendas or minutes of their proceedings.

Why GAO Did This Study

In April 2011, we reported that the United States provided an estimated $3.5 billion for foreign police assistance to 107 countries during fiscal year 2009. We agreed to follow up that report with a review of the extent to which U.S. agencies evaluated and coordinated their foreign police assistance activities.

As such, this report (1) updates our analysis of the funding U.S. agencies provided for foreign police assistance during fiscal years 2009 through 2011, (2) examines the extent to which DOD and State/INL assess or evaluate their activities for countries with the largest programs, and (3) examines the mechanisms U.S. agencies use to coordinate foreign police assistance activities. GAO focused on DOD and State because they have the largest foreign police assistance programs.

GAO analyzed program and budget documents and interviewed officials from DOD, State, Energy, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Justice, the Treasury, and Homeland Security.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that (1) NSC complete its efforts to define agency roles and responsibilities, and (2) the Secretaries of Defense and State establish mechanisms to better share and document information among various U.S. agencies. NSC provided technical comments, but did not comment on our recommendation. DOD concurred and State partially concurred, noting the importance of interagency collaboration.

For more information, contact Charles Michael Johnson Jr., at (202) 512-7331 or johnsoncm@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NSC did not comment on the report's recommendation, but provided technical comments that did not dispute GAO's finding that the NSC interagency policy committee on security sector assistance needed to complete its efforts to define agency roles and responsibilities. On April 5, 2013, the White House issued PPD 23 which, among other things, defines agency roles and responsibilities for providing security sector assistance. According to PPD 23, State is the lead agency responsible for policy, supervision, and general management of security sector assistance and the congressional appropriation for security sector assistance, with the exception of DOD security sector assistance appropriations, to include integration of interagency efforts and between other related assistance activities. In addition, DOD, DOJ, Treasury, DHS and USAID will participate in interagency strategic security sector assistance planning, assessment, program design, and implementation processes. According to PPD 23, these agencies will also coordinate the content of their security sector assistance programs with State.

    Recommendation: To better prioritize, evaluate, and avoid duplication of U.S. efforts to provide foreign police assistance, NSC should complete its efforts to define agency roles and responsibilities.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: National Security Council

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation and noted that, in its ongoing implementation of the 2013 Presidential Policy Directive on Security Sector Assistance (PPD-23), which includes foreign police assistance, it has taken steps to address the recommendation. For example, according to DOD officials, as part of its implementation of PPD-23, DOD has taken the following steps, which, in turn, address GAO's recommendation. First, since January 2014, DOD and Department of State (State) have worked together to establish a new coordinating position to improve oversight and information about international stability police training. Second, DOD officials said they began adding information on foreign police assistance to two existing data systems in order to better document and share information on such assistance, and took steps in the Fall of 2015 to communicate these resources to interagency stakeholders. Specifically, DOD has two databases--the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) and Joint Lessons Learned Information System (JLLIS)--that include observations and lessons learned related to security force assistance that it is now also using to include observations and lessons learned related to foreign police assistance. DOD officials reported that, as of April 2016, JCISFA includes 595 observations related to domestic and international police assistance as well as a handbook on how to assess security force assistance, including foreign police. These databases are accessible to interagency stakeholders; for example, DOD officials noted that State had at least 28 accounts across the two systems as of April 2016.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available for future U.S. foreign police assistance efforts, the Secretaries of Defense and State should establish mechanisms to better share and document information among various U.S. agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State partially concurred but noted that it would work with its interagency partners to identify ways to improve the sharing of best practices and lessons learned concerning U.S. foreign police assistance efforts. State subsequently took two steps to improve the sharing of foreign police assistance information that addressed GAO's recommendation. First, State created a clearing house for security sector assessments--including assessments on U.S. foreign police assistance efforts--and, on August 31, 2016, circulated a department wide notice requiring staff to post any completed assessments within 90 days of their publication. Posted assessments are made public on State's external website. When assessments contain sensitive information, State would post a summary of the assessments with contact information. Second, State, in coordination with the Department of Defense, established an oversight board on security sector assistance to serve as the mechanism to address misalignment of resources globally. The board, which covers foreign police assistance, is scheduled to convene for the first time in October 2016, according to State officials.

    Recommendation: To ensure that information is available for future U.S. foreign police assistance efforts, the Secretaries of Defense and State should establish mechanisms to better share and document information among various U.S. agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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