Military TrainingManagement and Oversight of Joint Combined Exchange Training Gao ID: NSIAD-99-173 July 23, 1999
Overseas activities of U.S. Special Operations Command forces have raised concerns on the part of Congress and others that U.S. forces may be training with foreign armies without adequate civilian oversight and engaging in activities that are inconsistent with U.S. policy. Human rights advocates have also questioned whether the United States may be training foreign military personnel who have committed human rights abuses. GAO's review of available files for joint combined exchange training, attendance at command training conferences, observations of pre-event meetings, and discussions with Defense Department (DOD) officials confirmed that DOD has complied with the statutory requirement that the primary purpose of joint combined exchange training is to train U.S. special operations forces. However, DOD has not accurately reported to Congress the number of joint combined exchange trainings that were done, their costs, or their relationships to counternarcotics and counterterrorism, as required by law. In the six countries GAO visited--Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand--DOD conducted training with the knowledge and support of U.S. ambassadors who believed that these activities were consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives in each country. Despite the involvement of embassy officials, neither State Department nor DOD headquarters' officials routinely oversaw joint combined exchange training. Both the State Department and DOD have each issued guidance for implementing legislation that restricts the use of DOD funds to train with members of foreign security force units if credible evidence of human rights abuses exists.
GAO noted that: (1) GAO's review of available JCET files, attendance at command training conferences, observations of pre-event meetings, and discussions with DOD officials confirmed that DOD has complied with the statutory requirement that JCET's primary purpose be the training of U.S. special operations forces; (2) GAO found a direct link between the training special operations forces indicated they needed and the training conducted; (3) however, DOD has not accurately reported to Congress the number of JCETs that were conducted, their costs, or their relationship to counternarcotics and counterterrorism, as also required by statute; (4) inaccuracies in reporting have arisen because of confusion in the field regarding how to define a JCET, how to pay for and report costs incurred by host countries, and how to interpret the legislative requirement to report JCETs' relationship to counternarcotics and counterterrorism; (5) DOD's recent changes in the JCET approval process and more explicit guidance, which it plans to issue shortly, should improve the accuracy of the reports to Congress; (6) regarding oversight of JCET activities in the six countries GAO visited--Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand--DOD conducted JCETs with the knowledge and support of U.S. ambassadors who believed that these activities were consistent with U.S. foreign policy objectives in each country; (7) while embassy officials were involved prior to November 1998, neither State nor DOD headquarters' officials were routinely involved in overseeing JCETs; (8) neither DOD personnel overseas nor U.S. ambassadors believed that any problems occurred because of the lack of headquarters oversight; (9) DOD's new JCET approval procedures, which require Secretary of Defense approval and State notification, will provide greater headquarters oversight and assurance that all factors are weighed in determining whether a JCET should proceed; (10) State and Defense have each issued guidance for implementing October 1998 legislation that restricts the use of DOD funds to train with members of foreign security force units who have been credibly alleged to have committed a gross violation of human rights unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken; (11) in the same six countries GAO visited, State and DOD personnel have instituted procedures to implement the new legislation; and (12) however, a number of issues in implementing the law still remain.Recommendations
Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.Director: Team: Phone: