From Fiscal Years 2004 through 2014, The National Guard Bureau (NGB) counterdrug program’s budget remained relatively static, “but in FY 2015, funding was reduced substantially,” according to a new 46-page Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit report.
GAO reported to Congress that, “Based on Department of Defense (DOD) data, every year since 2004, Congress has directed funding above the requested amount, thus keeping program amounts steady through 2014.”
Funding has ranged from about $219.3 million to $242.1 million in Fiscal Years 2004 through 2014–with a peak of $247 million in fiscal year 2013, for which DOD had requested a paltry $117 million for the program, or about a 40 percent decrease from the prior year’s request.
“While DOD reduced its request, however, Congress in Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014 directed funding at generally comparable amounts from prior years,” GAO reported, adding, “In fiscal year 2015, Congress directed less of an increase above DOD’s request, leaving the program with lower total funding of $175.5 million."
Furthermore, GAO determined, “In his fiscal year 2016 budget, the President requested approximately $850.6 million … to support DOD-wide drug interdiction efforts,” but budget data provided by DOD to GAO identified only $87.9 million that was intended for the National Guard counterdrug program’s state-specific projects—about 10 percent of the overall Fiscal Year 2016 Drug Interdiction account request.
GAO stated that, “Since 1989, the National Guard has received hundreds of millions of dollars to help enhance the effectiveness of state-level counterdrug efforts by providing military support to assist interagency partners with their counterdrug activities. The program funds the drug interdiction priorities of each state governor; counterdrug-related training to interagency partners at five counterdrug schools; and state-level counter-threat finance investigations, all of which are part of DOD’s broader counterdrug efforts.”
However, GAO reported, “Based on DOD data, in every year since Fiscal Year 2004, Congress has directed funding above DOD’s requested amount, keeping program amounts generally steady through 2014. In fiscal year 2013, when DOD began to reduce the amount of funding within the budget request for this program in order to prioritize funding for other DOD counterdrug programs, Congress directed program amounts generally comparable to those of prior years.”
“Specifically,” GAO found in Fiscal Year 2013, DOD requested $117 million for the National Guard counterdrug program, about a 40 percent decrease from the prior year’s request. From Fiscal Years 2013 to 2016, DOD reduced its budget request for counterdrug intelligence and technology support, as well as domestic efforts such as those supported by the National Guard more than international interdiction support activities."
DOD officials told GAO auditors "that by decreasing requested funding for the counterdrug program, they planned to addressspending limits required by the Budget Control Act of 2011and to fund counternarcotics programs in locations deemed a priority, such as Central and South America. According to DOD’s data, Congress directed $130 million more than requested in Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. These additions offset DOD’s reduced request and kept overall counterdrug program funding generally steady. DOD’s data show that DOD’s budget request for the counterdrug program continued to decline from $112.1 million in Fiscal Year 2014 to $89.5 million in fiscal year 2015. In Fiscal Year 2015, Congress directed $86 million more than DOD requested for the program, ultimately leaving the program with a lower total funding of $175.5 million.”
According to DOD’s data, in recent years the program has not obligated all of the funding allocated to it from DOD’s Drug Interdiction account.
“In Fiscal Years 2004 through 2010, the program obligated at least 95 percent of its allocation,” GAO found, noting, however, that “from Fiscal Years 2011 through 2014, the program’s obligations fluctuated between 83 percent and 96 percent of DOD’s allocations, partly due to the timing and amount of allocations received by the program. Funds transferred or allocated from the Drug Interdiction account to various other DOD drug interdiction accounts or programs, including the National Guard program, can be transferred back to the account upon a determination that all or part of the funds are not necessary and remain unobligated. Once funds are returned to the Drug Interdiction account, they are available for reallocation to other DOD counterdrug programs for obligation.”
NGB and state counterdrug programs officials told GAO auditors “that DOD’s internal transfer process for the Drug Interdiction account causes delays when funds become available for the program, thereby impacting the program’s ability to obligate funds for planned activities.”
For example, GAO said “state program officials stated that in many cases the program cannot provide long-term analytical support, such as investigative and counterthreat finance analysts, throughout the year, and must wait for additional funding before assigning personnel. In some instances, the program can offer partial-year support, but some interagency partners may not accept support for only part of the year because it is difficult for them to provide the necessary training and access to appropriate databases necessary for investigative case work to be assigned before the Fiscal Year ends and the funding for the position is no longer available. DOD is examining whether it can improve upon the transfer process in order to reduce delays.”
GAO concluded that, “In recent years DOD has sought to focus its counterdrug efforts on international interdiction support activities with less emphasis on other activities including supporting domestic efforts like the National Guard’s counterdrug program,” but that, “Congress has resisted the reductions to domestic efforts, and has directed increased funding to the program.”
“Given the resources that the program offers to individual states and the interagency partners it supports, it is important to ensure that the program uses these resources efficiently and effectively,” GAO stated, nothing that, “While threat is an important factor to consider in funding distributions, performance information can also be used to better inform such decisions. DOD and NGB have taken steps to develop performance measures, but DOD has used performance information only in an ad hoc basis to inform the funding request for the Drug Interdiction transfer account, and has not used performance information to evaluate the effectiveness of individual state programs or to oversee training offered by the counterdrug schools.”
Therefore, GAO concluded, “the effectiveness of state efforts is not being considered in DOD’s funding distribution decisions, and useful information is not being collected to support oversight of the counterdrug schools’ training.”
Thus, “Without an approach that enables decision makers to objectively judge the performance of all elements of the program, neither DOD nor Congress will have assurance that the counterdrug program is achieving its goals in an effective manner,” GAO stated.
GAO told lawmakers that, “The NGB has developed performance measures to report on its counterdrug program; however, the information collected is not used to evaluate and inform funding for state-level programs or oversee the counterdrug schools’ training.”
GAO said it “previously reported that setting useful measures is important for oversight” – that without these measures, “managers cannot monitor and evaluate the performance of programs’ activities.”
NGB officials told GAO’s auditors that they “developed the current measures in response to DOD guidance to report on the program’s aggregate performance and did not fully consider the types of measures or information that would be useful to evaluate individual state-level programs and oversee the counterdrug schools.”
But, “Without collecting and using useful performance information to evaluate state-level programs and oversee the counterdrug schools, DOD and Congress cannot ensure that the counterdrug program is achieving its desired results and is distributing its funding most efficiently.”
GAO recommend DOD identify additional information needed to evaluate the performance of state programs and oversee counterdrug schools’ training; and subsequently collect and use performance information to help inform funding distribution decisions to state programs and to conduct oversight of the training offered by the counterdrug schools.
DOD concurred with GAO’s recommendations.