oversight

Drug Control: Specific Performance Measures and Long-Term Costs for U.S. Programs in Colombia Have Not Been Developed

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-06-16.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Committees




June 2003
             DRUG CONTROL
             Specific Performance
             Measures and
             Long-Term Costs for
             U.S. Programs in
             Colombia Have Not
             Been Developed




GAO-03-783
             a
                                               June 2003


                                               DRUG CONTROL

                                               Specific Performance Measures and
Highlights of GAO-03-783, a report to          Long-Term Costs for U.S. Programs in
congressional committees
                                               Colombia Have Not Been Developed



The United States has been                     In fiscal years 2000-03, the United States provided about $640 million in
providing assistance to Colombia               assistance to train and equip a Colombian Army counternarcotics brigade and
since the early 1970s to help reduce           supply the army with 72 helicopters and related support. Nearly all this
illegal drug activities. In fiscal             assistance has been delivered and is being used for counternarcotics operations.
years 2000-03 alone, the United                However, the Colombian Army cannot operate and maintain the U.S.-provided
States provided over $2.5 billion.             helicopters at current levels without U.S. support because it does not yet have
Despite this assistance, Colombia              sufficient numbers of qualified pilots and mechanics. U.S. officials estimate that
remains the world’s leading                    up to $150 million a year is needed to sustain the ongoing programs.
producer and distributor of cocaine
and a major source of the heroin               In recent years, the Colombian National Police aerial eradication program has
used in the United States.                     had mixed results. Since 1995, coca cultivation rose in every year until 2002 and
                                               opium poppy cultivation remained relatively steady until 2001. But, for 2002, the
The report discusses the status of             U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy reported that net coca cultivation in
U.S. counternarcotics assistance to
                                               Colombia decreased 15 percent, and net opium poppy cultivation decreased
the Colombian Army and for a U.S.-
                                               25 percent—the second yearly decline in a row. U.S. officials attributed this
supported Colombian police aerial
                                               success primarily to the Colombian government’s willingness to spray coca and
eradication program. It also
addresses challenges Colombia and              poppy plants without restriction. These officials estimate that about $80 million
the United States face in sustaining           a year is needed to continue the program at its current pace.
these programs.
                                               Although the U.S.-backed counternarcotics program in Colombia has begun to
                                               achieve some of the results originally envisioned, Colombia and the United
                                               States must deal with financial and management challenges. As GAO noted in
                                               2000, the total costs of the counternarcotics programs in Colombia were
GAO recommends that the                        unknown. Nearly 3 years later, the Departments of State and Defense have still
Secretary of State, in consultation            not developed estimates of future program costs, defined their future roles in
with the Secretary of Defense,                 Colombia, identified a proposed end state, or determined how they plan to
establish clear objectives, including          achieve it. Colombia’s ability to contribute more is limited, and it continues to
developing specific performance                face challenges associated with its long-standing insurgency and the need to
measures, and estimate future U.S.             ensure it complies with human rights standards and other requirements in order
funding requirements for the                   for U.S. assistance to continue.
programs with the Colombian
Army and the Colombian National                Net Hectares of Coca under Cultivation in Colombia, 1995-2002
Police.




www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-783.

To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Jess T. Ford,
(202) 512-4268, FordJ@gao.gov.
Contents



Letter                                                                                                   1
                             Results in Brief                                                            3
                             Background                                                                  6
                             U.S. Assistance to the Colombian Army Has Been Delivered, but
                               Problems Were Encountered                                                 9
                             Colombia’s Aerial Eradication Program Has Had Mixed Results                17
                             Financial and Management Challenges Continue to Complicate
                               Efforts to Reduce Illicit Drug Activities                                24
                             Conclusions                                                                29
                             Recommendation for Executive Action                                        29
                             Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                         30
                             Scope and Methodology                                                      30


Appendixes
              Appendix I:    Comments from the Department of State                                      33
             Appendix II:    Comments from the Department of Defense                                    36
             Appendix III:   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                      39
                             GAO Contact                                                                39
                             Acknowledgments                                                            39


Tables                       Table 1: U.S. Counternarcotics Assistance to Colombia, Fiscal
                                      Years 2000-03                                                      8
                             Table 2: U.S. Support for the Aerial Eradication Program, Fiscal
                                      Years 1998-2004                                                   21


Figures                      Figure 1: Coca- and Poppy-Growing Areas in Colombia, 2001-02                7
                             Figure 2: Net Hectares of Coca under Cultivation and Hectares
                                       Eradicated in Colombia, 1995-2002                                18
                             Figure 3: Net Hectares of Poppy under Cultivation and Hectares
                                       Eradicated in Colombia, 1995-2002                                19




                             Page i                                     GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Contents




Abbreviations

EPA          Environmental Protection Agency
NAS          Narcotics Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy, Bogotá
USAID        U.S. Agency for International Development


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Page ii                                              GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
A
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548



                                    June 16, 2003                                                                                Lert




                                    The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Chairman
                                    The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, Ranking Minority Member
                                    Subcommittee on Foreign Operations,
                                    Committee on Appropriations
                                    United States Senate

                                    The Honorable Charles E. Grassley, Chairman
                                    Caucus on International Narcotics Control
                                    United States Senate

                                    The United States has been providing assistance to Colombia since the
                                    early 1970s to help reduce illegal drug production and trafficking activities.
                                    Despite this assistance, Colombia remains the world’s leading producer
                                    and distributor of cocaine and a major source of the heroin used in the
                                    United States. Recognizing that illicit drug activities are a serious problem
                                    in Colombia, the Colombian government in October 1999 announced a
                                    $7.5 billion plan, known as Plan Colombia, which among other things
                                    proposed reducing the cultivation, processing, and distribution of illegal
                                    narcotics by 50 percent over 6 years.1 In fiscal years 2000 through 2003, the
                                    United States provided over $2.5 billion to Colombia for counternarcotics
                                    assistance.2 For fiscal year 2004, the administration has proposed an
                                    additional $700 million in assistance to address many of the same purposes.
                                    However, insurgent groups involved in illicit drug activities control more
                                    than 40 percent of Colombia’s territory, making Colombian government and
                                    U.S. interdiction and eradication operations immensely difficult and




                                    1
                                     Although the government of Colombia announced Plan Colombia in 1999, U.S. funding for
                                    counternarcotics purposes was not approved until July 2000, leading to some uncertainty
                                    about when the 6-year goal was to be achieved. The current Colombian government has
                                    announced that it intends to eliminate coca cultivation by August 2006.
                                    2
                                     For a more complete explanation of U.S. assistance originally planned for Plan Colombia,
                                    see our report titled Drug Control: U.S. Assistance to Colombia Will Take Years to Produce
                                    Results, GAO-01-26 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 17, 2000).




                                    Page 1                                               GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
dangerous and leaving illicit-drug growers with few legal alternatives to
earn a living.3

A key component of the Colombian-U.S. counternarcotics strategy was
forming a Colombian Army 2,285-man counternarcotics brigade and
providing it with helicopters to move the troops around southern Colombia
where much of the coca was being grown.4 The brigade’s primary mission
was to plan and conduct interdiction operations against cocaine producers
and traffickers. Closely allied with the brigade’s objective was the
Colombian National Police’s goal to significantly reduce, if not eliminate,
coca and opium poppy cultivation through aerial eradication.5 In some of
the insurgent-controlled areas of the country, the brigade was supposed to
provide security for the eradication program. Various components of the
Department of Defense—primarily with funding from the Department of
State—provided the training and equipment for the counternarcotics
brigade conditional on the Colombian military’s respect for human rights.
State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
has supported the police aerial eradication program.

You expressed concern that U.S. counternarcotics assistance provided to
the Colombian Army was slow to arrive and has not been used as originally
envisioned and that the aerial eradication program has little to show for its
efforts. In response to your concerns, we determined (1) the status of U.S.
counternarcotics assistance provided to the Colombian Army in fiscal
years 2000-03, and how this assistance is being used; (2) what the U.S.-
supported Colombian National Police aerial eradication program has
accomplished in recent years; and (3) what challenges Colombia and the
United States face in sustaining these programs.




3
 The United States has supported alternative development programs in Colombia, but
because of the lack of security in the illicit-drug growing regions, these efforts have been
slow to get started. See our report titled Drug Control: Efforts to Develop Alternatives to
Illicit Crops in Colombia Have Made Little Progress and Face Serious Obstacles, GAO-02-
291 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 8, 2002).
4
 The leaves of the coca plant are the raw ingredient of cocaine, and opium poppy is used to
produce heroin.
5
 The aerial eradication program involves spraying the coca and poppy plants from low-flying
airplanes with an herbicide that attacks the root system and kills the plant.




Page 2                                                GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                   To address these objectives, we reviewed pertinent planning,
                   implementation, and related documentation and met with cognizant U.S.
                   officials at the Departments of State and Defense, Washington, D.C.; the
                   U.S. Southern Command headquarters, Miami, Florida; and the U.S.
                   Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia. In Colombia, we interviewed Colombian
                   military, police, and government officials and visited Colombian Army
                   bases at Larandia, Tolemaida, and Tres Esquinas and aerial eradication
                   operational sites in the primary coca-growing regions of Colombia. In
                   addition, we observed a Colombian Army counternarcotics brigade airlift
                   operation and several aerial eradication missions.



Results in Brief   In fiscal years 2000-03, the United States provided about $640 million in
                   assistance to train and equip a Colombian Army counternarcotics brigade
                   and supply the army with 72 helicopters and related training, maintenance,
                   and operational support. Nearly all this assistance has been delivered and
                   is being used for counternarcotics operations. However, some problems
                   were encountered. For example,

                   • After having a successful first year of operations during 2001, the
                     counternarcotics brigade’s success trailed off in 2002. According to U.S.
                     and Colombian officials, this was due in part to the coca growers and
                     producers moving out of the brigade’s range. In late 2002, the Colombian
                     Army, with U.S. assistance, reorganized the brigade and gave it authority
                     to operate anywhere in the country rather than just in its formerly
                     limited area of responsibility in southern Colombia.

                   • The United States delayed the start of entry-level helicopter pilot
                     training nearly 6 months due to uncertainty over who would conduct the
                     training and how it would be funded. To resolve the issue, Defense used
                     $20 million from other counternarcotics projects to pay for the training.

                   • The delivery of 25 UH-II helicopters was delayed 5 months while the
                     Colombian military considered using a different engine from the one
                     usually installed. After numerous discussions, Colombia decided to use
                     the more common engine.

                   • U.S. funds for the brigade were not available for a total of about
                     5 months in 2002 because State did not meet congressional deadlines for
                     reporting on Colombia’s progress in addressing human rights violations.
                     This slowed the brigade’s operations and helicopter pilot training.




                   Page 3                                      GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
• The Colombian Army cannot operate and maintain the U.S.-provided
  helicopters at current levels without continued U.S. contractor support
  because it does not yet have sufficient numbers of qualified pilots and
  mechanics. U.S. Embassy Bogotá officials estimate that up to
  $150 million a year is needed to sustain the ongoing programs;
  additional assistance may be needed for other recently initiated efforts.

In recent years, the Colombian National Police aerial eradication program
has had mixed results. Since 1995, net coca cultivation rose in every year
until 2002 and net opium poppy cultivation remained between 6,100 to
7,500 hectares. But, in recent months, the Office of National Drug Control
Policy reported that

• net coca cultivation in Colombia decreased 15 percent in 2002, from
  169,800 hectares to 144,450 hectares, and

• net opium poppy cultivation in Colombia decreased 25 percent in 2002,
  from 6,500 hectares to 4,900 hectares—the second yearly decline in a
  row.

U.S. Embassy Bogotá officials attributed this recent success primarily to
the current Colombian government’s willingness to spray coca and poppy
plants without restriction in all areas of the country. They also noted that
the number of spray aircraft available had increased from 10 in July 2001 to
17 in January 2003, and a U.S. contractor began helping the Colombian
National Police to, among other things, maintain its aircraft, resulting in
greater availability for spray missions. These officials estimate that about
$80 million a year is needed to continue the program at its current pace.




Page 4                                      GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Although the U.S.-backed counternarcotics program in Colombia has
recently begun to achieve some of the results envisioned in 1999-2000,
Colombia and the United States must continue to deal with financial and
management challenges. As we reported in 2000, the total costs and
specific programs required to meet Plan Colombia’s counternarcotics goals
were unknown, and a significant reduction in illicit drug production and
trafficking activities would likely take years.6 Nearly 3 years later,
Colombia and the United States have not established specific performance
measures for assessing progress and time frames for achieving stated
objectives nor have they identified sources of funding for sustaining
ongoing programs. Until recently, Colombia had not provided any
significant new funding for its defense needs, and anticipated international
assistance for Plan Colombia—apart from that provided by the United
States—did not materialize as envisioned.7 Because of economic
problems, the government of Colombia’s ability to contribute more is
limited. Moreover, Colombia faces continuing challenges associated with
its long-standing insurgency and the need to ensure it complies with human
rights standards and other requirements in order for U.S. assistance to
continue.

We are recommending that the Secretary of State, in consultation with the
Secretary of Defense, establish clear objectives, including developing
specific performance measures, and estimate future U.S. funding
requirements for the programs with the Colombian Army and the
Colombian National Police.




6
GAO-01-26.
7
 Under the original concept of Plan Colombia, the Colombian government pledged $4 billion
and called on the international community to provide $3.5 billion.




Page 5                                              GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Background   The United States has supported Colombia’s efforts to reduce drug-
             trafficking activities and stem the flow of illegal drugs entering the United
             States for more than 2 decades. Despite Colombian and U.S. efforts to
             disrupt drug-trafficking activities, the U.S. government has not reported
             any net reduction in the processing or export of refined cocaine to the
             United States.8 According to State, Colombia provides 90 percent of the
             cocaine and approximately 40 percent of the heroin entering the United
             States. To further complicate matters, the country’s two largest insurgent
             groups—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National
             Liberation Army—and paramilitary groups have expanded their
             involvement in drug trafficking. According to a State official, the
             Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the paramilitary United Self-
             Defense Forces of Colombia are involved in every facet of narcotics
             trafficking, including cultivating, processing, and transporting. The
             insurgents exercise some degree of control over 40 percent of Colombia’s
             territory east and south of the Andes—which, as illustrated in figure 1,
             includes the primary coca-growing regions of Colombia. According to the
             Drug Enforcement Administration, several billion dollars flow into
             Colombia each year from the cocaine trade alone. This vast amount of drug
             money has made it possible for these organizations to gain unprecedented
             economic, political, and social power and influence.




             8
              Estimates of the amount of cocaine produced in Colombia have almost tripled since 1995—
             from 230 metric tons to 730 metric tons in 2001.




             Page 6                                             GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Figure 1: Coca- and Poppy-Growing Areas in Colombia, 2001-02a




a
 The growing areas for coca are based on 2002 estimates; the growing areas for poppy are based on
2001 estimates.




Page 7                                                   GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
In an effort to address the influx of cocaine and heroin from Colombia, the
United States has funded a counternarcotics strategy in Colombia that
includes programs for interdiction, eradication, and alternative
development which must be carefully coordinated to achieve mutually
reinforcing results. Besides assistance for the Colombian Army
counternarcotics brigade and the Colombian National Police aerial
eradication program, the United States has supported Colombian efforts to
interdict illicit-drug trafficking along rivers and in the air and alternative
development, judicial sector reform, and internally displaced persons
programs.

State and Defense have provided most of the counternarcotics funding and
State, through its Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs and Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) in the U.S. Embassy Bogotá,
oversees the program. In addition, the Military Group in the U.S. Embassy
Bogotá manages much of the assistance to the Colombian military. Since
the introduction of Plan Colombia in fiscal year 2000, the United States has
provided more than $2.5 billion in assistance. (See table 1.)



Table 1: U.S. Counternarcotics Assistance to Colombia, Fiscal Years 2000-03

Dollars in millions

                                                   Fiscal years
                                                                                               2003b
  Agency                          2000a                  2001                 2002       (estimated)         Total
State                           $774.9                  $48.0              $275.4               $452.0    $1,550.3
Defense                           128.5                 190.2                119.1                149.9    $587.7
USAIDc                            123.5                       0              104.5                151.0    $379.0
Total                        $1,026.9                 $238.2               $499.0               $752.9    $2,517.0
Source: Departments of State and Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
a
 Includes funds appropriated for Plan Colombia through the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations
Act, Fiscal Year 2000 (Division B of P.L. 106-246).
b
 Includes $93 million in Foreign Military Financing funds appropriated in the Foreign Operations,
Export Financing, and Related Appropriations Act, 2003 (Division E, Title III of P.L. 108-7); $34 million
appropriated to State and $34 million appropriated to Defense in the Supplemental Appropriations Act
to Support Department of Defense Operations in Iraq for Fiscal Year 2003 (P.L. 108-11); and
$37.1 million for Foreign Military Financing allotted from fiscal year 2003 supplemental appropriations.
c
  In fiscal years 2000-03, State transferred $375 million to USAID for alternative development, judicial
sector reform, and internally displaced persons programs.




Page 8                                                                     GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                         In response to increased violence in Colombia during early 2002 and the
                         recognition that the insurgents and illicit drug activities are inextricably
                         linked, the Congress provided “expanded authority” for the use of the U.S.
                         assistance to Colombia. This authority enables the government of
                         Colombia to use the U.S.-trained and -equipped counternarcotics brigade,
                         the U.S.-provided helicopters, and other U.S.-provided counternarcotics
                         assistance to fight groups designated as terrorist organizations as well as to
                         fight drug trafficking. 9 Similar authority was provided for fiscal year 200310
                         and is being sought for fiscal year 2004. For fiscal year 2004, the
                         administration has requested about $700 million in funding for Colombia.



U.S. Assistance to the   During fiscal years 2000-03, the United States provided about $640 million
                         in assistance to the Colombian Army for initial training and equipment for
Colombian Army Has       the counternarcotics brigade and for 72 helicopters and related
Been Delivered, but      operational, maintenance, and training support. These helicopters were
                         intended to transport the counternarcotics brigade on counternarcotics
Problems Were            missions. Nearly all this assistance has been delivered and is being utilized
Encountered              by the counternarcotics brigade in conducting operations. However, both
                         the United States and the Colombian Army experienced some
                         unanticipated problems that delayed the operational use of the helicopters.
                         In addition, U.S. support will be needed for the foreseeable future to
                         sustain operations.



Status of the Brigade    The United States originally agreed to provide training and equipment for a
                         Colombian Army counternarcotics brigade made up of three battalions and
                         a headquarters staff with a total of about 2,285 professional and
                         conscripted soldiers. The battalions became operational in December 1999,
                         December 2000, and May 2001, respectively. The counternarcotics brigade
                         was assigned to the Colombian military’s Joint Task Force-South, which


                         9
                          The 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act for Further Recovery From and Response to
                         Terrorist Attacks on the United States (P.L. 107-206, Aug. 2, 2002). Similar language was
                         included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (P.L. 107-306, Nov. 27,
                         2002) for intelligence assistance provided in fiscal years 2002 and 2003 as well as any
                         unobligated funds available to the intelligence community for prior fiscal years.
                         10
                          Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act for
                         Fiscal Year 2003 (P.L. 108-7, Feb. 20, 2003).




                         Page 9                                                 GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
was headquartered at Tres Esquinas in Caqueta—one of the principal coca-
growing regions of Colombia. The task force comprised units from the
Colombian Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps and was tasked with the
overall military mission of regaining government control over southern
Colombia, primarily in the Putumayo and Caqueta departments.

The United States provided the counternarcotics brigade with about
$45 million in training and equipment—from weapons and ammunition to
rations, uniforms, and canteens. The brigade’s primary mission was to plan
and conduct interdiction operations against drug trafficking activities,
including destroying illicit drug-producing facilities, and, when called upon,
to provide security in insurgent-controlled areas where aerial eradication
operations were planned.

Although the Colombian Army’s counternarcotics brigade has achieved
some success, the Colombian military has not regained control over large
parts of the country where coca and opium poppy are grown. According to
U.S. and Colombian officials, the counternarcotics brigade was highly
effective during 2001 but somewhat less effective during 2002. For
example, during 2001 the brigade destroyed 25 cocaine hydrochloride
laboratories while in 2002 it destroyed only 4 laboratories.11 U.S. embassy
officials stated that the brigade became less effective because the
insurgents moved their drug producing activities, such as the laboratories,
beyond the reach of the brigade. In addition, according to these officials,
the brigade became more involved in protecting infrastructure, such as
bridges and power stations, and performing base security. Moreover, the
aerial eradication program did not call on the brigade to provide ground
security on very many occasions, essentially planning spray missions in the
less threatening areas.

In August 2002, U.S. embassy and Colombian military officials agreed to
restructure the brigade to make it a rapid reaction force capable of making
quick, tactical strikes on a few days’ notice. As part of this restructuring,
the Colombian Army designated the brigade a national asset capable of
operating anywhere in Colombia rather than just in its prior area of
responsibility in southern Colombia. The newly restructured brigade
consists of three combat battalions and a support battalion with a total of
about 1,900 soldiers, all of whom are professional. Two of the combat


11
 Hydrochloride laboratories are used in the final stages of processing coca into cocaine and
are considered high-value targets.




Page 10                                               GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                            battalions have been retrained. The third combat battalion should be
                            retrained by mid-June 2003. This change, according to NAS, Military Group,
                            and Colombian Army officials, will improve the brigade’s ability to conduct
                            operations against high-value, drug-trafficking targets, such as laboratories
                            containing cocaine and the leadership of insurgent groups involved in drug-
                            trafficking activities. One of the retrained battalions has been operating in
                            Narino department since early May.



Status of the Helicopters   A key component of U.S. assistance for Plan Colombia was enhancing the
                            air mobility of the counternarcotics brigade. To accomplish this, the United
                            States provided the Colombian Army with 33 UH-1N helicopters, 14 UH-60
                            Black Hawk helicopters, and 25 UH-II helicopters.12 The helicopters were
                            provided to give the brigade the airlift needed to transport its personnel in
                            the Joint Task Force-South’s area of responsibility in southern Colombia.
                            Both the UH-1Ns and the UH-60 Black Hawks are operational; the UH-IIs
                            are scheduled for full operations later this year. However, the Colombian
                            Army continues to need U.S. assistance and contractor pilots and
                            mechanics to fly the aircraft.

UH-1Ns                      In September 1999, State and Defense initiated a plan to provide the
                            Colombian Army with 33 UH-1N helicopters that State had purchased from
                            Canada to support the counternarcotics brigade. The helicopters were
                            intended to serve as interim aircraft until the UH-60 and UH-II helicopters
                            funded by the United States as part of Plan Colombia were delivered. The
                            UH-1N helicopters were delivered in various stages between November
                            1999 and March 2001.13 According to the U.S. embassy, the helicopters flew
                            their first mission in December 2000. Since then, the helicopters have flown
                            19,500 hours in combat and have supported more than 430
                            counternarcotics operations for the brigade. Although Colombian Army
                            personnel are qualified as pilots and mechanics, many of the experienced
                            pilots and mechanics who operate and maintain the helicopters are
                            provided through a U.S.-funded contractor. For example, 20 contractor
                            personnel serve as pilots-in-command when flying operations.

                            12
                             Of the 33 UH-IN helicopters, 28 remain available for use by the counternarcotics brigade.
                            One crashed on a mission and four were transferred to support the aerial eradication
                            program.
                            13
                             State sent 18 helicopters prior to the approval of U.S. assistance for Plan Colombia. Plan
                            Colombia provided $60 million to complete the delivery and support of the remaining 15
                            helicopters.




                            Page 11                                               GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
UH-60s                  With the $208 million provided as U.S. assistance under Plan Colombia for
                        UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, State and Defense procured 14 helicopters,
                        a 2-year spare parts package, and a 1-year contractor support package. The
                        helicopters were delivered between July 2001 and December 2001.
                        However, the helicopters did not begin to support operations of the
                        counternarcotics brigade until November 2002 because of the lack of
                        Colombian Army pilots who met the minimum qualifications needed to
                        operate the helicopters. Forty-two Colombian Army personnel have
                        completed the minimum UH-60 pilot training, 13 have qualified as pilot-in-
                        command. U.S.-funded contract pilots fill in as pilots-in-command. In
                        addition, a U.S.-funded contractor continues to maintain the helicopters
                        and provide maintenance training.

UH-IIs                  With the $60 million provided as U.S. assistance under Plan Colombia for
                        UH-II helicopters, State procured 25 aircraft. The original plan was to
                        deliver the UH-II helicopters to the Colombian Army between November
                        2001 and June 2002. However, the 25 helicopters were delivered between
                        March 2002 and November 2002. This 5-month delay occurred because the
                        Colombian military considered using a different engine than the one
                        usually installed because it may have been easier to maintain. After
                        numerous discussions, Colombia decided to use the more commonly used
                        engine.

                        According to NAS officials, although some of the UH-II helicopters are
                        being used for missions, all the helicopters will not be operational until
                        June 2003. As of January 2003, 25 Colombian Army pilots had completed
                        their initial training and 21 of these pilots are completing the training
                        needed to qualify for operational missions. However, contractor pilots
                        continue to supplement Colombian Army pilots and a U.S.-funded
                        contractor continues to provide maintenance support.



Problems in Training    Although all the U.S.-provided helicopters are in Colombia, a number of
Helicopter Pilots and   unanticipated problems were encountered in training Colombian Army
                        pilots and mechanics to operate and maintain the helicopters. Some of
Mechanics               these problems continue to limit the Colombian Army’s ability to operate
                        and maintain the aircraft. Primarily, the Colombian Army will have to
                        continue to rely on contractor support because it will not have enough
                        trained pilots-in-command and senior mechanics for the foreseeable future.




                        Page 12                                     GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Funding for Initial Training Was   When the United States agreed to provide the UH-60 and UH-II helicopters
Not Provided                       for the Colombian Army in July 2000, the assistance for Plan Colombia did
                                   not include any funds to train the Colombian pilots and mechanics needed
                                   to operate and maintain the helicopters. In October 2000—about 3 months
                                   after passage of U.S. assistance for Plan Colombia—State reported that,
                                   although the Colombian military had qualified pilots and support
                                   personnel, it did not have the numbers of personnel required to field and
                                   operate the new helicopters. State requested that Defense provide the
                                   training needed for the pilots and mechanics. Although Defense agreed to
                                   provide the training, it took an additional 3 months to decide that the U.S.
                                   Army would be responsible and to identify a funding source. In February
                                   2001, Defense reported that it would transfer up to $20 million from other
                                   counternarcotics projects in Colombia for this training.

Training Has Not Been              A training plan was approved in mid-2001. Although the plan provided
Completed                          training for Colombian Army personnel to meet the minimum qualifications
                                   for a pilot and mechanic, it did not include the additional training necessary
                                   to fly missions in a unit or to become a senior mechanic. Basic training for
                                   117 helicopter pilots—known as initial entry rotary wing training—began in
                                   November 2001 and is projected to be completed by December 2004. This
                                   training is intended to provide a pool or pipeline of pilots for more
                                   advanced training to fly specific helicopters. In addition, according to NAS
                                   officials, a new pilot takes an average of 2 to 3 years to progress to pilot-in-
                                   command.

                                   • Specific UH-60 pilot training for 42 personnel began in August 2001 and
                                     was completed in September 2002.

                                   • Specific UH-II pilot training for 75 personnel began in May 2002 and is
                                     projected to be completed in December 2003.

                                   In addition, according to NAS and U.S. contractor officials, 105 out of 159
                                   Colombian Army personnel have completed the basic UH-60 and UH-II
                                   maintenance training and are taking more advanced training to qualify as
                                   senior mechanics. These officials told us that the remaining 54 personnel
                                   will receive the contractor-provided basic training in the near future, but
                                   they did not know when it would begin. NAS and U.S. contractor officials
                                   also told us that it typically takes 3 to 5 years for mechanics to gain the
                                   experience necessary to become fully qualified on specific helicopter
                                   systems, in particular the UH-60 Black Hawks.




                                   Page 13                                        GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Colombian Army Support Is    The Colombian Army Aviation Battalion is responsible for providing
Limited                      helicopters and other aircraft and personnel for all Colombian Army
                             missions with an aviation component, including counternarcotics and
                             counterinsurgency operations throughout Colombia. Information provided
                             by the Colombian Aviation Battalion shows that it is staffed at only
                             80 percent of its required levels and, over the past several years, it has
                             received between 60 percent to 70 percent of its requested budget for
                             logistics and maintenance. According to Colombian Army personnel,
                             current plans indicate that the missions the battalion needs to support will
                             be expanding, but they do not know if they will have sufficient resources to
                             meet these demands.

                             The decision by the Colombian military to continue using the UH-1N
                             helicopters in addition to the UH-60 and UH-II helicopters will make it
                             more difficult for the Aviation Battalion to provide the numbers of
                             personnel needed to operate and maintain the helicopters. State originally
                             intended that the UH-1N helicopters would only be used by the
                             counternarcotics brigade until the UH-60 and UH-II helicopters were
                             available to support operations. However, in 2002, the Colombian military
                             requested and received approval from the United States to continue using
                             these helicopters. NAS and Military Group officials stated that this means
                             the number of pilots and mechanics needed to operate all the aircraft
                             increases the total requirement for the Aviation Battalion. For example, the
                             battalion will have to have a total of 84 additional Colombian Army
                             personnel qualified to serve as pilots-in-command (42) and co-pilots (42).
                             Even though the U.S.-funded contractor has trained Colombian Army
                             personnel since the UH-1N’s initial delivery in 1999, only 61 Colombian
                             Army personnel remain in the program.

Trained Personnel Were Not   According to bilateral agreements between Colombia and the United
Available                    States, the Colombian Army must ensure that pilots and mechanics who
                             receive U.S. training be assigned to positions using their training for a
                             minimum of 2 years. This has not always been the case. For example,

                             • According to U.S. embassy data, at least 105 Colombian Army personnel
                               have completed the basic helicopter maintenance course. As of January
                               2003, 65 of these individuals were scheduled to receive additional
                               training that would enable them to become fully qualified mechanics
                               who can perform maintenance without U.S.-contractor oversight. Of
                               these, 22 had not reported for training. Neither the Military Group nor
                               the Aviation Battalion could provide us the location of these individuals.




                             Page 14                                     GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                                 • According to U.S. contractor personnel, at least 10 pilots-in-command
                                   should be available to fly missions.14 Although 19 Colombian Army
                                   personnel were qualified to serve as pilots-in-command on UH-1N
                                   helicopters, as of January 2003, only one pilot was assigned to serve in
                                   this position. The remaining nine pilots-in-command were provided by
                                   the U.S. contractor. Again, neither the Military Group nor the Aviation
                                   Battalion could provide us the location of these individuals.

Operations and Training Slowed   Of the funds appropriated for fiscal year 2002, $140 million was used to
for 5 Months                     support Colombian Army counternarcotics efforts. Most of this went to
                                 support U.S.-provided helicopter operations, maintenance, logistical, and
                                 training support. However, not all the funding could be released until the
                                 Secretary of State certified, in two separate reports to appropriate
                                 congressional committees,15 that the Colombian military was making
                                 progress meeting certain human rights conditions. According to U.S.
                                 embassy political section personnel, they encountered difficulties
                                 developing the information required to make the human rights
                                 determination and certification. Because State was late in providing these
                                 reports, the U.S. embassy could not use this funding for operations and




                                 14
                                  Although 14 helicopters are available for operations during a given time period, 10 or fewer
                                 are typically used to support an operation.
                                 15
                                  Section 567 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs
                                 Appropriations Act, 2002 (P.L. 107-115). Specifically, the act provided that not more than 60
                                 percent of the funds could be obligated until after the Secretary of State made a
                                 determination and certification that the Colombian Military was (1) suspending members of
                                 the Colombian Armed Forces who have been creditably alleged to have committed gross
                                 violations of human rights, (2) cooperating with civilian prosecutors and investigators, and
                                 (3) severing links between the Armed Forces and paramilitary groups. In addition, the
                                 remaining 40 percent of the funds could be obligated only after June 1, 2002, and after the
                                 Secretary of State made a second determination and certification with respect to the same
                                 conditions.




                                 Page 15                                               GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                         training on two occasions for a total of about 5 months during 2002.16
                         According to NAS, these delays resulted in fewer counternarcotics
                         operations and limited the training and experience Colombian Army pilots
                         could obtain to qualify as pilots-in-command.



Continued U.S. Support   U.S. assistance to support the helicopters provided as part of Plan
Needed to Sustain        Colombia was originally planned to end in 2006 with the Colombian Army
                         taking over these responsibilities. However, NAS, Military Group, and
Operations
                         Colombian Army officials stated that a continued level of U.S. contractor
                         presence will be needed beyond this date because the Aviation Battalion is
                         not expected to have the personnel trained or the resources necessary.
                         Although Military Group officials stated that they have not officially
                         estimated what this assistance level will be, they tentatively projected that
                         it would cost between $100 million and $150 million annually to sustain the
                         U.S.-supported counternarcotics programs. Moreover, other recently
                         initiated U.S. programs will likely require U.S. assistance and contractor
                         support, but the long-term costs of sustaining such programs are not
                         known.

Infrastructure Units     In 2002, the United States agreed to provide $104 million in training and
                         equipment to Colombian Army units whose primary mission is to protect
                         important infrastructure but whose initial mission is to minimize terrorist
                         attacks along 110 miles of the Cano Limon pipeline in the Arauca
                         department. The units will focus on patrolling, reconnaissance, and
                         immediate reaction in the area of the pipeline and key facilities.

                         Of the $104 million, $6 million is for ongoing U.S. Special Forces training
                         and $98 million is for procuring 2 UH-60 and 4 UH-II helicopters and
                         associated training and ground support. NAS and Military Group officials
                         indicated that some level of contractor support will likely be needed for the
                         foreseeable future because the Colombian Army Aviation Battalion does
                         not have sufficient numbers of trained pilots and mechanics to operate and
                         maintain the helicopters.



                         16
                           The first report was issued on May 1, 2002—almost 2 months later than State’s target date.
                         The second report was issued on September 9, 2002—almost 3 months later than State’s
                         target date.




                         Page 16                                               GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Commando Battalion          In 2002, the Colombian military decided to form a Commando Battalion
                            whose mission will be to conduct operations against high-value targets
                            including the capture of high-level leaders of insurgent and paramilitary
                            units. The United States has agreed to provide the battalion with training
                            and equipment. Although the costs of training are not readily available,
                            Military Group officials estimated that the United States will provide about
                            $5 million in equipment, including weapons and ammunition,
                            communication equipment, night-vision devices, and other individual
                            equipment.

Planning Assistance Teams   Also in early 2003, the United States began assigning U.S. military
                            personnel to selected Colombian military units for up to 179 days. These
                            personnel advise the commander and help plan attacks on drug trafficking
                            and related insurgent targets. Military Group officials did not know when—
                            or if—personnel or funds would be approved for all the planned teams
                            because of other priorities, such as deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
                            According to Military Group officials, these teams could cost about
                            $8 million annually if all become operational.



Colombia’s Aerial           Since the early 1990s, State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law
                            Enforcement Affairs (through the U.S. Embassy Bogotá NAS and the
Eradication Program         bureau’s Office of Aviation) has supported the Colombian National Police’s
Has Had Mixed Results       efforts to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the cultivation of coca and
                            opium poppy. However, for the most part, the net hectares of coca under
                            cultivation in Colombia continued to rise until 2002, and the net hectares of
                            opium poppy under cultivation remained relatively steady until 2001-02.17
                            In addition, the U.S. Embassy Bogotá has made little progress in having the
                            Colombian National Police assume more responsibility for the aerial
                            eradication program, which requires costly U.S. contractor assistance to
                            carry out.




                            17
                             The estimates of net hectares of coca and opium poppy under cultivation are prepared
                            annually by the U.S. Director of Central Intelligence, Crime and Narcotics Center. See also
                            our report Drug Control: Coca Cultivation and Eradication Estimates in Colombia, GAO-
                            03-319R (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 8, 2003).




                            Page 17                                              GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Recent Progress in            As shown in figure 2, the number of hectares under coca cultivation rose
Reducing Net Cultivation of   more than threefold from 1995 to 2001—from 50,900 hectares to 169,800
                              hectares—despite substantially increased eradication efforts.18 But in 2002,
Coca and Poppy                the Office of Aviation estimated that the program eradicated 102,225
                              hectares of coca—a record high. In March 2003, the Office of National Drug
                              Control Policy reported for the first time since before 1995 a net reduction
                              in coca cultivation in Colombia—from 169,800 hectares to 144,450
                              hectaresa 15 percent decline.



                              Figure 2: Net Hectares of Coca under Cultivation and Hectares Eradicated in
                              Colombia, 1995-2002




                              As shown in figure 3, the net hectares of opium poppy under cultivation
                              varied between 6,100 and 6,600 for the period 1995-98 but rose to 7,500
                              hectares in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, the net hectares of poppy estimated



                              18
                               The number of hectares eradicated is provided by the Office of Aviation and is based on
                              the number of net hectares sprayed multiplied by an estimated “kill rate.” Although many
                              thousands of hectares of coca and poppy are killed, coca and poppy farmers often replant in
                              the same or other areas, which helps explain why the number of hectares under cultivation
                              often does not decline.




                              Page 18                                              GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
under cultivation declined to 6,500 and, in 2002, further declined to 4,900—
nearly a 35 percent reduction in net cultivation over the past 2 years.



Figure 3: Net Hectares of Poppy under Cultivation and Hectares Eradicated in
Colombia, 1995-2002




NAS and Office of Aviation officials attributed the recent unprecedented
reductions in both coca and poppy cultivation primarily to the current
Colombian government’s willingness to allow the aerial eradication
program to operate in all areas of the country. They also noted that

• the number of spray aircraft had increased from 10 in July 2001 to 17 in
  January 2003;

• recently acquired spray aircraft can carry up to twice the herbicide as
  the older aircraft; and

• as of January 2003, aircraft were flying spray missions from three
  forward operating locations—a first for the program, according to NAS
  officials.




Page 19                                         GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                            The ability to keep an increased number of spray aircraft operating out of
                            three bases was made possible, at least in part, because NAS hired a
                            contractor to work with the Colombian National Police to, among other
                            things, help maintain their aircraft. As a result, the availability of the police
                            aircraft needed for the spray program increased. Moreover, in August 2002,
                            the Colombian government allowed the police to return to a higher strength
                            herbicide mixture which, according to NAS officials, improved the spray’s
                            effectiveness.19 NAS officials project that the aerial eradication program
                            can reduce the amount of coca and poppy cultivation to 30,000 hectares
                            and 5,000 hectares, respectively, by 2005 or 2006, assuming the police
                            continue the current pace and can spray in all areas of Colombia.



Colombian National Police   As we reported in 2000,20 beginning in 1998, U.S. embassy officials became
Have Not Assumed Control    concerned with the rising U.S. presence in Colombia and associated costs
                            of the aerial eradication program. At the time, the embassy began
over Aerial Eradication
                            developing a 3-year plan to have the Colombian National Police assume
Operations                  increased operational control over the program. But for various reasons,
                            the police never agreed to the plan. Since then, contractor involvement and
                            the associated costs have continued to rise and the Colombian National
                            Police are not yet able to assume more control of the aerial eradication
                            program.

                            As shown in table 2, in fiscal year 1998, the Office of Aviation reported that
                            the direct cost for the U.S. contractor providing aircraft maintenance and
                            logistical support and many of the pilots was $37.8 million. In addition, NAS
                            provided $10.7 million for fuel, herbicide, and related support for a total of
                            $48.5 million. For fiscal year 2003, the comparable estimates for contractor
                            and NAS-provided support were $41.5 million and $44.8 million,
                            respectively, for a total of $86.3 million. Most of this increase occurred
                            between fiscal years 2002 and 2003 to support the additional spray aircraft,
                            multiple operating locations, and the anticipated continuation of spray
                            operations throughout Colombia. According to NAS and Office of Aviation
                            officials, these costs are expected to remain relatively constant for the next
                            several years.



                            19
                             In March 2002, the previous Colombian government reduced the strength of the spray
                            mixture because of environmental concerns.
                            20
                                 GAO-01-26.




                            Page 20                                            GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                             Table 2: U.S. Support for the Aerial Eradication Program, Fiscal Years 1998-2004

                             Dollars in millions
                                                                                       Fiscal years
                             State                                                                              2003        2004
                             office                1998         1999        2000         2001        2002 (estimated) (proposed)                             Total
                             Office of
                             Aviation              $37.8       $36.8 $52.5a             $38.0       $38.2               $41.5               $45.0           $289.8
                             Narcotics
                             Affairs
                             Section                10.7         14.1        20.9        11.1         17.6               44.8b                44.2          $163.4
                             Total                 $48.5       $50.9       $73.4        $49.1       $55.8               $86.3               $89.2           $453.2
                             Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs and the Office of Aviation.
                             a
                             Includes $20 million for additional spray aircraft.
                             b
                              In addition, NAS paid $38.8 million for a contractor to support the Colombian National Police Aviation
                             Service. NAS could not readily identify the proportion of this contract that is related to aerial
                             eradication. NAS officials stated that they expect this expenditure to continue for the next 2 years and
                             possibly up to 4 years.


                             The Colombian National Police do not provide funding per se for the aerial
                             eradication program and, therefore, the value of its contributions are more
                             difficult to quantify. In recent years, the police have provided helicopters
                             and fixed-wing aircraft for spray mission support and the use of many of its
                             facilities throughout Colombia. In addition, the police have about 3,600
                             personnel assigned to counternarcotics missions and estimate that 84 are
                             directly supporting the aerial eradication program.



U.S. Efforts to Improve      To help the Colombian National Police increase its capacity to assume
Police Capacity for Aerial   more responsibility for the aerial eradication program, NAS has initiated
                             several efforts. In addition to hiring a contractor to help with the Aviation
Eradication
                             Service’s operations, NAS has initiated a program to train T-65 spray plane
                             pilots and plans to begin training search and rescue personnel so they can
                             accompany the aerial eradication missions. NAS officials stated that the
                             contractor presence should decline and the police should be able to take
                             over more of the eradication program by 2006, when NAS estimates that
                             coca and poppy cultivation will be reduced to “maintenance levels”—
                             30,000 hectares and 5,000 hectares, respectively.




                             Page 21                                                                       GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Aviation Service Operations   In February and March 2002, the Office of Aviation conducted an Aviation
                              Resource Management Survey of the Colombian National Police Aviation
                              Service.21 According to Office of Aviation officials, these surveys are
                              intended to provide a stringent on-site assessment of flight operations from
                              management and safety to logistics and maintenance. The study noted that
                              the Aviation Service has some unique circumstances that have made its
                              operations difficult to manage. In particular, it grew from 579 personnel in
                              1995 to 1,232 in 2002 and operates 8 different types of rotary-wing and 9
                              different types of fixed-wing aircraft. Nevertheless, the team made a
                              number of critical observations. For example,

                              • The Aviation Service’s organizational structure, lines of authority, and
                                levels of responsibility were not clear. In most cases, only the
                                commanding general was allowed to commit resources and make
                                operational decisions. This reliance on an overly centralized command
                                structure resulted in unnecessary delays and, NAS officials told us, the
                                cancellation of some planned aerial eradication missions because the
                                commanding general could not be reached.

                              • The Aviation Service did not have a formal flying hour program. A flying
                                hour program is used to forecast budgetary requirements. It takes into
                                account the operational use and training requirements for each aircraft
                                and the various missions it performs and equates each flight hour to a
                                cost average for fuel and spare parts, which constitute the majority of an
                                aviation organization's annual expenses. The lack of a flying hour
                                program has prevented the police from more accurately forecasting
                                budgetary requirements. Moreover, according to NAS, maintenance
                                scheduling is enhanced when the number of flight hours can be
                                projected, which contributes to higher aircraft availability rates.

                              • About 35 percent of the maintenance staff were inexperienced.
                                According to the survey team, this could result in improper maintenance
                                procedures being performed, which could adversely affect flight safety
                                and endanger lives. In addition, all locations the team visited had
                                deficiencies in standard maintenance procedures and practices. For
                                example, the survey team found that a UH-60 Black Hawk with gunshot


                              21
                                At about the same time, State began an investigation into a reported diversion of $2 million
                              in U.S. funding for the police. According to NAS officials, the police had resisted having the
                              Aviation Resource Management Survey done until news of the alleged diversion became
                              public.




                              Page 22                                                GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                         damage to a fuel cell was used in several local area flights. While fuel
                         cells are self-sealing to enable an aircraft to return to base for repairs
                         after sustaining damage, aircraft are not supposed to be routinely flown
                         in this condition.

                      • Management of items needing repair and control of spare parts was
                        deficient. The survey team found 236 items awaiting repair—some from
                        August 1998. The team also found more than $4 million in UH-1H
                        helicopter blades and parts stored outside and unprotected.

                      • The Aviation Service’s safety program did not have formal risk
                        management practices to ensure that all risk factors—such as weather,
                        crew experience, and mission complexity—are taken into account. In
                        addition, the team observed a majority of helicopter gunners failing to
                        take basic safety precautions, such as ensuring that their machine guns
                        and mini-guns were rendered harmless when personnel were around the
                        aircraft, especially during refueling and rearming operations.

                      To help correct these and other deficiencies, the survey team made
                      numerous recommendations for specific improvements. Overall, the team
                      rated the Aviation Service’s operational and maintenance procedures as
                      poor but concluded that it had an excellent chance for improvement over
                      the next 2 to 3 years due to the dedication of its young officers.

                      As a result of the survey, in July 2002, a NAS contractor (a $38.8 million,
                      1-year contract with options for 4 additional years) began providing on-the-
                      job maintenance and logistical training to the Aviation Service and helping
                      the police address many of the issues raised by the Aviation Resource
                      Management Survey team. NAS officials already noted that a more formal
                      flying hour program has improved the availability rates of many of the
                      aircraft in the Aviation Service’s inventory. For example, the availability
                      rate of the Aviation Service’s UH-II helicopters—often used to support
                      aerial eradication missions—increased from 67 percent in January 2002 to
                      87 percent in December 2002. Similar improvements also occurred for
                      other Aviation Service aircraft, such as UH-60 Black Hawk and Bell 212
                      helicopters. According to NAS, the improved availability rates made it
                      easier to schedule and conduct spray missions.

T-65 Pilot Training   According to NAS officials, the police managed the T-65 pilot program prior
                      to July 2002, but the police repeatedly violated Office of Aviation standard
                      operating procedures by requiring pilots to fly without adequate rest and in
                      poor weather. As a result, NAS took tighter control of the program in April



                      Page 23                                      GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                             2003. As currently planned, the program will train 21 Colombian pilots, 4 of
                             whom will eventually be hired to fly the T-65s. The training will enable
                             pilots to fly T-65 spray missions in both flat and mountainous areas.

Search and Rescue Training   NAS is also planning to initiate a program in mid-2003 to standardize and
                             modernize the police’s search and rescue capabilities. Currently, the Office
                             of Aviation contractor provides all search and rescue coverage for the
                             aerial eradication program. The training will make it possible for the police
                             to provide search and rescue coverage for some spray missions by
                             standardizing its operating procedures to make them compatible with the
                             Office of Aviation’s. The program will also allow the police to replace much
                             of its current equipment, which is antiquated or not standard. According to
                             NAS officials, the program should be fully operational in about a year and
                             self-sufficient in about 3 to 5 years.



Financial and                The U.S.-supported counternarcotics program in Colombia has recently
                             begun to achieve some of the results envisioned in 1999-2000. However,
Management                   Colombia and the United States must continue to deal with financial and
Challenges Continue to       management challenges. In addition, Colombia faces continuing challenges
                             associated with its long-standing insurgency. Moreover, for U.S. assistance
Complicate Efforts to        to continue, Colombia needs to ensure that the army and police comply
Reduce Illicit Drug          with human rights standards, that the aerial eradication program meets
Activities                   certain environmental conditions, and that alternative development is
                             provided in areas subject to aerial eradication.



Performance Measures and     In 2000, we noted that the Colombian government had not finalized plans
Specific Time Frames Have    for funding, sequencing, and managing activities included in Plan Colombia
                             and that State and Defense had not completed their implementation plans
Not Been Developed           to support Plan Colombia. We concluded that if Colombia or the United
                             States did not follow through on its portion of Plan Colombia, including
                             identifying sources of funding, Plan Colombia could not succeed as
                             envisioned.22 Nearly 3 years later, Colombia and the United States still have
                             not defined performance measures or identified specific time frames for
                             completing ongoing counternarcotics programs.




                             22
                                  GAO-01-26.




                             Page 24                                      GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                        After the new Colombian administration was inaugurated in August 2002, it
                        drafted a National Security Strategy to define Colombia’s vital interests,
                        principal threats, and short- and long-term objectives. According to State
                        officials, as of April 2003, the National Security Strategy had not been
                        finalized and was being held up while the Colombian military and police
                        complete their strategy for dealing with the insurgents, including
                        reclaiming the insurgent-controlled areas of Colombia and stemming illicit
                        drug activities.

                        As for the United States, we were told that in 2002, the President tasked
                        State to prepare a comprehensive, fully integrated political-military
                        implementation plan to reflect appropriate U.S. support for Colombia’s
                        National Security Strategy. The plan is supposed to include a statement of
                        the overall mission, goals, objectives, performance standards, timelines,
                        measures of effectiveness, and desired end state and outcomes. However,
                        according to State officials, development of this plan has not begun
                        because Colombia has not released its National Security Strategy and the
                        related military and police strategy.



Colombian Financial     Under the original concept of Plan Colombia, the Colombian government
Resources Are Limited   pledged $4 billion and called on the international community to provide
                        $3.5 billion. Until recently, Colombia had not provided any significant new
                        funding for Plan Colombia and, according to U.S. embassy and Colombian
                        government officials, anticipated international assistance for Plan
                        Colombia—apart from that provided by the United States—did not
                        materialize as envisioned. But because of overall poor economic
                        conditions, the government of Colombia’s ability to contribute more is
                        limited.

                        Since 1999, a combination of domestic and foreign events has limited
                        Colombia’s economic growth. Domestically, insurgent and paramilitary
                        organizations remained active and derailed the peace process. According
                        to the International Monetary Fund, the insurgency’s threats and attacks
                        displaced thousands of people, hindered investment, affected oil
                        production, and forced the government to increase military expenditures.
                        Externally, the price of coffee—a traditionally major Colombian export—
                        reached historically low levels, trade with some neighboring countries fell
                        as their economies under performed, and foreign private financing to
                        Colombia was limited by the continuing insurgency and political
                        developments in the region during 2002. By mid-2002, Colombian finance
                        officials estimated that Colombia’s economic growth was below 2 percent



                        Page 25                                     GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                           and its combined public sector deficit would likely exceed 5 percent of
                           gross domestic product.

                           In August 2002, the new Colombian administration announced a series of
                           decrees and proposals to increase defense expenditures and strengthen the
                           overall economy. Initially, the administration issued a decree establishing a
                           one-time tax on wealth that was supposed to raise about $860 million.
                           According to State, about $320 million of this amount would likely be spent
                           on the military. To help maintain this increased revenue, the administration
                           also submitted to the Colombian Congress a package of economic and
                           administrative reforms. Most were approved in December 2002, but some
                           reforms also require approval through a public referendum planned for
                           later in 2003. The overall reform program calls for tax measures to raise
                           revenues and a freeze on most current expenditures for 2 years. In addition,
                           structural reforms, particularly changes in the government pension system
                           and organizational streamlining, are planned to reduce expenditures.23

                           However, passage of the reforms subject to referendum is far from certain
                           and, according to U.S. Embassy Bogotá and Colombian government
                           officials, Colombia’s ability to provide additional funding to sustain the
                           counternarcotics programs without a greatly improved economy is
                           virtually nonexistent.



Insurgency and Human       The Colombian government has stated that ending the civil conflict is
Rights Conditions          central to solving Colombia’s problems—from improving economic
                           conditions to stemming illicit drug activities. A peaceful resolution to the
Complicate
                           long-standing insurgency would help stabilize the nation, speed economic
Counternarcotics Efforts   recovery, help ensure the protection of human rights, and restore the
                           authority and control of the Colombian government in the coca-growing
                           regions. The continuing violence limits the government’s ability to institute
                           economic, social, and political improvements.




                           23
                             Colombia also entered into an arrangement with the International Monetary Fund in
                           January 2003. The fund agreed to provide $2.1 billion in stand-by credit through 2004 based
                           on the reforms taken and proposed. However, Colombian finance officials said they do not
                           intend to draw on these funds.




                           Page 26                                              GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                              The Colombian government has stated that it is committed to protecting
                              the human rights of its citizens. State and Defense officials reiterated that
                              they will not assist those who violate the basic tenets of human rights, and
                              State officials said they will apply the strictest human rights standards
                              before approving the provision of assistance to Colombian military and
                              police units. Nevertheless, human rights organizations continue to allege
                              that individuals in the Colombian armed forces have been involved with or
                              condoned human rights violations and that they do so with impunity. If this
                              is the case, Colombia’s failure to adhere to U.S. human rights policies could
                              delay or derail planned counternarcotics activities.

                              The appropriations act for fiscal year 2003 makes $700 million available for
                              Colombia and other Andean ridge countries, but it imposed some
                              restrictions on the availability of 25 percent of the funds provided for the
                              Colombian armed forces until the Secretary of State makes certain
                              certifications. The Secretary of State must certify that Colombia’s armed
                              forces are making progress in meeting human rights standards and, among
                              other things, executing orders to capture paramilitary leaders to lift the
                              restriction on 12.5 percent of the funds. To obligate the remaining
                              12.5 percent, the Secretary must certify after July 31, 2003, that Colombia
                              continues to make progress in meeting the conditions in the initial
                              certification.24



Environmental and             The appropriations act for fiscal year 2003 also requires that the aerial
Alternative Development       eradication program meet certain environmental conditions in its use of
                              herbicide and that alternative development programs be available in the
Conditions May Limit Aerial
                              areas affected by the spray program. Otherwise, funds provided in the act
Eradication Efforts           that are used to purchase herbicide for the aerial eradication program may
                              not be spent. State officials are still trying to determine the ramifications of
                              the restrictions, but State and NAS officials are concerned that these
                              requirements could delay funding needed to purchase herbicide and result
                              in a temporary suspension of the program, making it more difficult for the
                              program to achieve its ambitious goals. Such a suspension would also
                              likely undermine the progress made in 2002 by allowing the coca and poppy
                              farmers to reestablish their fields.



                              24
                                   P.L. 108-7, the Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003.




                              Page 27                                                  GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
The 2003 appropriations act’s environmental conditions require the
Secretary of State, after consultation with the Administrator of the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to certify that (1) the herbicide
mixture is being used in accordance with EPA requirements, the
Colombian Environmental Management Plan, and any additional controls
that EPA may recommend; (2) the mixture does not pose unreasonable
risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment; and (3) complaints
of harm to health or licit crops are evaluated and fair compensation is paid
for meritorious claims.25 According to NAS and Office of Aviation officials,
similar conditions in the fiscal year 2002 appropriations act almost resulted
in a suspension of the aerial eradication program in October 2002 because
of delays in finalizing the required reports. The program was able to
continue operations by using prior-year funds but, at one point, had only a
10-day supply of herbicide available.

The 2003 appropriations act’s alternative development conditions require
that, in areas26 where security permits, USAID, Colombian government, or
other organizations implement alternative development programs for small
growers whose coca and poppy plants are targeted for spraying. According
to State, NAS, and USAID officials, alternative development programs are
not being implemented in all the specific areas sprayed because of
concerns about physical security and the economic feasibility of
implementing such programs in some locations.

As of March 31, 2003, USAID reported accrued expenditures of about
$51.6 million for alternative development projects and projected that
expenditures for April through June 2003 would exceed $13.5 million.
USAID officials also said that the agency had 247 alternative development
projects benefiting more than 22,800 families in 9 departments where coca
or opium poppy are grown.


25
  In addition, the conference report accompanying the legislation directs the Secretary of
State to submit a report, no later than 90 days after enactment, describing (1) the steps the
department is taking to enhance environmental safeguards of the fumigation program,
including implementing the recommendations of the EPA in a separate fiscal year 2002
fumigation report; (2) the department’s plan to conduct an independent, long-term program
to monitor the health and environmental effects of the fumigation program, including
conducting soil and water tests in areas sprayed, toxicity tests on the spray formulation, and
ground verification missions to evaluate over spray; and (3) steps taken to implement
environmental training programs for spray pilots.
26
 The term “areas” is not defined in the legislation. State is in the process of creating
guidelines for implementing and complying with the act.




Page 28                                                 GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Conclusions          Colombia is a long-time ally and significant trading partner of the United
                     States; therefore, its economic and political stability is important to the
                     United States as well as the Andean region. Colombia’s long-standing
                     insurgency and the insurgents’ links to the illicit drug trade complicate its
                     efforts to tap its natural resources and make systemic economic reforms.
                     Solving these problems is important to Colombia’s future stability.

                     Colombia and the United States continue to face financial and management
                     challenges in implementing and sustaining counternarcotics and counter-
                     insurgency programs in Colombia. Neither the Colombian Army nor the
                     Colombian National Police have the capacity to manage ongoing
                     counternarcotics programs without continued U.S. funding and contractor
                     support. Colombia’s financial resources are limited and its economy is
                     weak and thus will need U.S. assistance for the foreseeable future.
                     According to U.S. embassy officials, these programs alone may cost up to
                     $230 million per year, and future costs for some recently initiated army and
                     police programs have not been determined. In addition, we note that this
                     estimate does not include future funding needed for other U.S. programs in
                     Colombia, including other aerial and ground interdiction efforts; the police
                     Aviation Service’s U.S.-funded contractor; and alternative development,
                     judicial sector reform, and internally displaced persons programs.

                     In recent years, world events—from the global war on terrorism to the
                     wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—have diverted scarce U.S. resources and
                     made it paramount that the United States fully consider the resources
                     committed to its overseas assistance programs. As we noted in 2000, the
                     total costs of the counternarcotics programs in Colombia were unknown.
                     Nearly 3 years later, the Departments of State and Defense have still not
                     developed estimates of future program costs, defined their future roles in
                     Colombia, identified a proposed end state, or determined how they plan to
                     achieve it.



Recommendation for   Because Colombia continues to face serious obstacles in substantially
                     curtailing illicit narcotics activities and resolving its long-standing
Executive Action     insurgency, we recommend that the Secretary of State, in consultation with
                     the Secretary of Defense, examine the U.S. assistance programs to the
                     Colombian Army and the Colombian National Police to (1) establish clear
                     objectives for the programs reflecting these obstacles and (2) estimate
                     future annual funding requirements for U.S. support. This analysis should
                     designate specific performance measures for assessing progress, define the



                     Page 29                                       GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
                      roles of U.S. personnel and contractors, and develop a timeline for
                      achieving the stated objectives. The Secretary should provide this
                      information to the Congress for consideration in the fiscal year 2005
                      appropriations cycle.



Agency Comments and   State and Defense provided written comments on a draft of this report. See
                      appendixes I and II, respectively.
Our Evaluation
                      Both concurred with our recommendation. State said it very much agreed
                      with the overall findings and, in particular, the recognition that continued
                      U.S. programs will be needed for the foreseeable future to sustain
                      operations in Colombia and achieve U.S. foreign policy goals. It further said
                      that the time is appropriate for a comprehensive review of U.S. programs
                      with the Colombian Army and the Colombian National Police and intends
                      to address our recommendation for providing key program information to
                      the Congress beginning in the fiscal year 2005 appropriations cycle.
                      Defense stated that it would work with State to establish clear objectives
                      and would coordinate with State and other agencies involved to develop
                      performance measures. Defense added that, once performance measures
                      are established, it would augment staff at the U.S. Embassy Bogotá Military
                      Group to collect information for measuring progress.



Scope and             To determine the status of U.S. counternarcotics assistance provided to the
                      Colombian Army in fiscal years 2000-03, and how this assistance has been
Methodology           used, we reviewed pertinent planning, implementation, and related
                      documentation and met with cognizant U.S. officials at the Departments of
                      State and Defense, Washington, D.C.; the U.S. Southern Command
                      headquarters, Miami, Florida; and the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia.
                      We also met with U.S.-funded contractor representatives at various
                      Colombian Army bases; the Colombian Army Aviation Battalion
                      commander and his staff at Tolemaida; and the counternarcotics brigade
                      commander and his staff at Larandia and Tres Esquinas. In addition, we
                      observed a Colombian Army counternarcotics brigade airlift operation.

                      To determine what the U.S.-supported Colombian National Police aerial
                      eradication program has accomplished in recent years, we reviewed
                      pertinent documentation and met with cognizant officials at the
                      Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law
                      Enforcement Affairs in Washington, D.C., and the Office of Aviation



                      Page 30                                      GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
headquarters office at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. In Colombia, we met
with Office of Aviation officials and contractor representatives at the Office
of Aviation headquarters office at the El Dorado International Airport in
Bogotá; the Colombian National Police base at Guaymaral; and operational
sites at Larandia, San Jose del Guaviare, Santa Ana, and Villa Garzon in the
primary coca-growing regions of Colombia. We also met with the
Colombian National Police deputy commander and other police officials. In
addition, we observed several aerial eradication operations—from loading
the herbicide and refueling the spray planes to the actual spray missions.

To determine what challenges Colombia and the United States face in
sustaining these programs, we met with numerous U.S. and Colombian
officials to obtain their views on the issues discussed in this report. In
Colombia, we interviewed U.S. embassy officials, including the
Ambassador; Deputy Chief of Mission; and others from the Narcotics
Affairs Section, the Military Group, the U.S. Agency for International
Development, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. We also
interviewed Colombian Army, police, and other government officials,
including officials from the Colombian Ministries of Defense and Finance
and Colombia’s National Planning Department.

We conducted our work between July 2002 and May 2003 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards.


As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from the
date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies of this report to the
interested congressional committees and the Secretaries of State and
Defense. We will also make copies available to others upon request. In
addition, this report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at
http://www.gao.gov.




Page 31                                       GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please call
me at (202) 512-4268 or contact me at FordJ@gao.gov. An additional
contact and staff acknowledgments are listed in appendix III.




Jess T. Ford, Director
International Affairs and Trade




Page 32                                      GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix I

Comments from the Department of State                           A
                                                                A
                                                                ppep
                                                                   nen
                                                                     d
                                                                     xIeis




              Page 33         GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix I
Comments from the Department of State




Page 34                                 GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix I
Comments from the Department of State




Page 35                                 GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix II

Comments from the Department of Defense                        AppenIx
                                                                     di




              Page 36        GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix II
Comments from the Department of Defense




Page 37                                   GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix II
Comments from the Department of Defense




Page 38                                   GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
Appendix III

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                                           Appen
                                                                                                    Ix
                                                                                                     di




GAO Contact       A.H. Huntington, III (202) 512-4140



Acknowledgments   In addition to the above named individual, Jocelyn Cortese, Allen Fleener,
                  Ronald Hughes, Jose Pena, George Taylor, Kaya Taylor, and Janey Cohen.
                  Rick Barrett and Ernie Jackson provided technical assistance.




(320135)          Page 39                                     GAO-03-783 Drug Control in Colombia
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