Drug Control

Long-Standing Problems Hinder U.S. International Efforts Gao ID: NSIAD-97-75 February 27, 1997

The United States has spent billions of dollars on international drug control and interdiction efforts but illegal drugs still flow into this country. A major factor is that international drug-trafficking organizations have become sophisticated, multibillion-dollar industries capable of changing tactics to elude new U.S. drug control efforts and corrupting the institutions of drug-producing and transit countries. U.S. efforts have also been hampered by competing foreign policy objectives, inconsistent funding for U.S. international drug control plans, and a lack of ways to measure the success of counternarcotics efforts. Although no panacea exists that will curb illegal drug trafficking, a multiyear plan that sets out funding needs linked to goals and objectives would provide a more consistent approach to drug control efforts. GAO also believes that improved used of technology and intelligence and the development of a centralized "lessons learned" system could bolster counternarcotics efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) despite long-standing efforts and expenditures of billions of dollars, illegal drugs still flood the United States; (2) although these efforts have resulted in some successes, including the arrest of traffickers and the eradication, seizure, and disruption in the transport of illegal drugs, they have not materially reduced the availability of drugs; (3) a key reason for U.S. counternarcotics programs' lack of success is that international drug-trafficking organizations have become sophisticated, multi-billion dollar industries that quickly adapt to new U.S. drug control efforts; (4) as success is achieved in one area, the drug-trafficking organizations change tactics, thwarting U.S. efforts; (5) other significant, long-standing obstacles also impede U.S. and drug-producing and transit countries' drug control efforts; (6) in the drug-producing and transit countries, counternarcotics control efforts are constrained by competing economic and political policies, inadequate laws, limited resources and institutional capabilities, and internal problems such as terrorism and civil unrest; (7) moreover, drug traffickers are increasingly resourceful in corrupting the countries' institutions; (8) U.S. efforts have been hampered by competing U.S. foreign policy objectives, organizational and operational limitations, difficulty in obtaining bilateral and multilateral support for U.S. drug control efforts, inconsistency in the funding for U.S. international drug-control efforts, and the lack of ways to tell whether or how well counternarcotics efforts are contributing to the goals and objectives of the national drug control strategy, which results in an inability to prioritize the use of limited resources; (9) there is no panacea for resolving all of the problems associated with illegal drug trafficking; (10) however, a multiyear plan that describes where, when, and how U.S. agencies intend to apply resources would provide a more consistent approach; (11) this plan should include performance measures and long-term funding needs linked to the goals and objectives of the international drug control strategy; (12) the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) should, at least annually, review the plan and make appropriate adjustments; (13) with this multiyear plan, program managers and policymakers can make more-informed decisions on prioritizing funding levels based on performance and results; and (14) GAO believes improved use of intelligence and technology and the development of a centralized system of "lessons learned" could enhance counternarcotics efforts.


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