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Thursday, September 21, 2023

GAO: State, USAID Should Assess Effectiveness of Transnational Crime and Law Enforcement Assistance to Mexico

Among the challenges, according to the agencies, are political corruption and impunity in Mexico and a growing U.S. drug demand that fuels transnational criminal organizations.

The United States has provided Mexico over $3 billion in assistance since 2008 to address transnational organized crime and violence, enhance the rule of law, and reduce drug trafficking. Despite U.S. assistance, Mexico’s security situation has worsened significantly, with the country’s murder rate more than tripling.

The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have reported some outcomes of their assistance projects—such as amounts of trainings and equipment provided—but the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that they haven’t assessed results against the bigger goals.

Since 2008, the goals of U.S. assistance to Mexico have generally focused on promoting the rule of law and countering the drug trade. In 2021, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities (Bicentennial Framework), which expands the scope of the Mérida Initiative by adding new U.S. commitments to reduce drug demand in the United States and the flow of illegal firearms from the U.S. to Mexico.

The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (State/INL) and USAID have reported project-level results of assistance despite numerous challenges. Among these challenges, according to the agencies, are political corruption and impunity in Mexico and a growing U.S. drug demand that fuels transnational criminal organizations. State/INL project results include developing forensic investigation capabilities in Mexico, and USAID results include providing at-risk youth with educational opportunities.

State/INL has addressed two of five key elements GAO previously identified as important to assessing progress by defining desired results and establishing a hierarchy of goals and objectives. However, for the Bicentennial Framework, State/INL has not 1) identified the specific projects designed to achieve their goals, 2) outlined which milestones and performance indicators should be used to gauge results, or 3) established monitoring and evaluation plans to assess progress toward their goals. State/INL officials said the bureau has not yet begun to assess progress toward the shared goals of the Bicentennial Framework because it is currently negotiating with the Mexican government on a set of performance indicators, which is one of three key elements critical to assess progress. Without incorporating all key elements for assessing progress, GAO says the U.S. government cannot demonstrate that it is achieving its goals in Mexico and that its investments, at over $3 billion since 2008, have been spent effectively.

GAO is making three recommendations related to assessing progress, including that State, in consultation with USAID, identifies projects to achieve results, outlines performance indicators used to gauge progress, and establishes plans to assess goals. State agreed with the recommendations.

Read the full report at GAO

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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