U.S. Cavalry troopers from 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles” and Australian instructors show an Iraqi brigadier general the new M120 mortar system on Sep. 5, 2018. (DoD photo)

GAO: Federal Agencies Must Formally Document Collaboration in Overseas Conflict Operations

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has examined how three federal agencies and an independent institute support conflict prevention, mitigation, and stabilization efforts, such as removing explosives hidden near homes.

The departments of State and Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent, federally funded institute, reported conducting various efforts to address conflict prevention, mitigation, and stabilization for Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria in fiscal year 2017.

For example, in Iraq, State supported efforts to remove improvised explosive devices from homes and infrastructure, USAID contributed to the United Nations to restore essential services, DOD provided immediate medical trauma supplies to the World Health Organization to treat injured civilians, and USIP conducted facilitated dialogue to enable local reconciliation in areas liberated from ISIS.

In conducting U.S. conflict prevention, mitigation, and stabilization efforts, State, USAID, DOD, and USIP have addressed aspects of key collaboration practices such as elements of bridging organizational cultures and leadership. However, the GAO report found that the agencies have not formally documented their agreement on coordination for U.S. stabilization efforts through formal written guidance and agreements that address key collaboration practices. GAO found the following, for example, with regard to the extent key collaboration practices have been used by these entities.

According to the GAO report, one or more agencies have established some common outcomes and accountability mechanisms for their stabilization efforts in Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria. Moreover, through an interagency review of U.S. stabilization assistance, State, USAID, and DOD identified a need to develop an outcome-based political strategy outlining end states for U.S. stabilization efforts and strategic analytics to track and measure progress, among other needs.

However, although State, USAID, and DOD have developed a framework for stabilization, the report says they “have not documented their agreement on the key collaboration practices identified, such as defining outcomes and accountability and clarifying roles and responsibilities”. According to key practices for enhancing interagency collaboration, articulating agreements in formal documents can strengthen collaborative efforts, and reduce the potential for duplication, overlap, and fragmentation.

GAO therefore recommends State, USAID, and DOD document agreement on their coordination for U.S. stabilization efforts though formal written guidance and agreements addressing key collaboration practices. The agencies have concurred with the recommendations.

Read the GAO report

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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