Formulation of U.S. International Energy Policies

Gao ID: ID-80-21 September 30, 1980

In establishing the Department of Energy (DOE), Congress gave it a central role in formulating international energy policy than its predecessors, recognizing that the complex international energy issues would require active involvement of other departments and agencies, as well as the Executive Office of the President (EOP). To find out how the United States develops international energy policy, GAO reviewed five major energy issues covering the period from early 1977 through 1979: (1) vulnerabilities to petroleum supply interruptions; (2) long-term national security strategy on imported oil prices; (3) export of U.S. oil and gas production equipment and technology to the Soviet Union; (4) World Bank initiatives to assist in financing oil and gas exploration and development in oil-importing developing countries; and (5) the role of gas imports relative to the Nation's future sources of gas.

GAO found that EOP, especially the National Security Council, is the focal point for major international energy policy formulation. Issues are typically dealt with through an interagency task force, on an ad hoc basis. The issues are complex and usually involve such interrelated matters as national security, foreign relations, trade, and international finance. Thus, it is clear that several departments, agencies, and offices need to be involved in developing an approach to particular issues or problems and that the formulation of policy needs to be managed at the highest levels of Government. A relatively small cadre of officials from agencies and offices regularly participate in policymaking. When policy formulation is conducted by an interagency task force, one agency may be assigned lead responsibility, or may share lead responsibility, with one or more of the other agencies. The working level is typically under the purview of a Deputy Assistant Secretary. Efforts to resolve interagency differences begin at the working level. That policy formulation is essentially an ad hoc process, does not mean that particular policy studies, when viewed separately, are narrow in scope. However, it may result in policies that, overall, are inconsistent, insufficiently coordinated, and based upon inadequate analyses. The fact that the same offices and individuals are frequently involved reduces the likelihood of this occurring.

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