oversight

Drug Control: Certain DOD and DHS Joint Task Forces Should Enhance Their Performance Measures to Better Assess Counterdrug Activities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2019-07-09.

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

             United States Government Accountability Office
             Report to Congressional Requesters




             DRUG CONTROL
July 2019




             Certain DOD and
             DHS Joint Task
             Forces Should
             Enhance Their
             Performance
             Measures to Better
             Assess Counterdrug
             Activities




GAO-19-441
                                               July 2019

                                               DRUG CONTROL
                                               Certain DOD and DHS Joint Task Forces Should
                                               Enhance Their Performance Measures to Better
Highlights of GAO-19-441, a report to
                                               Assess Counterdrug Activities
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
The U.S. government has identified             Many federal agencies are involved in efforts to reduce the availability of illicit
illicit drugs, as well as the criminal         drugs by countering the flow of such drugs into the United States. Among them
organizations that traffic them, as            are the Department of Defense (DOD), which has lead responsibility for
significant threats to the United States.      detecting and monitoring illicit drug trafficking into the country, and the
In 2017, over 70,000 people died from          Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is responsible for securing U.S.
drug overdoses, according to the               borders to prevent illegal activity. DOD and DHS lead and operate task forces—
Centers for Disease Control and                Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF)-South, JIATF-West, and three DHS Joint
Prevention. DOD and DHS created                Task Forces (JTF)—to coordinate and conduct counterdrug missions and
joint task forces to help facilitate and
                                               activities. Task force officials reported that the task forces coordinated effectively
strengthen interagency efforts in
                                               with each other when they had shared purposes and overlapping or shared
combating the flow of illicit drugs,
particularly in the maritime domain.
                                               geographical boundaries (see map). The task forces also used coordination
                                               mechanisms that align with best practices, such as working groups and liaison
GAO was asked to review the structure          officers, to minimize duplication of their missions and activities.
of these task forces and their ability to
                                               Map of the Areas of Responsibility for the Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Interagency
coordinate and conduct missions                Task Forces (JIATF) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Joint Task Forces
effectively. Among other objectives,
this report (1) assesses the extent to
which the task forces coordinate
effectively to minimize duplication, and
(2) examines how the task forces
measure the effectiveness of their
missions and activities. GAO reviewed
and assessed documentation on the
task forces’ missions, coordination
efforts, and performance assessments
and compared them to best practices
from prior work, departmental
guidance, and federal internal control
standards. GAO also met with task
force officials to discuss and observe
planning and coordination activities.

What GAO Recommends
GAO is making three                            Note: DHS also has JTF-Investigations, which is a functional task force with no geographic area of
recommendations, including that                responsibility.
JIATF-West establish a vital few,              Each of the five task forces GAO reviewed has performance measures, but only
consistent performance measures for            JIATF-South uses output (e.g., number of detected smuggling events) and
its overall performance; and that DHS          outcome-based measures to assess the effectiveness of its activities.
develop outcome-based performance
                                               Specifically, JIATF-South developed an outcome-based measure of its overall
measures for the JTFs’ activities. DOD
                                               effectiveness: the percentage of smuggling events it detected and provided to
and DHS concurred with the three
recommendations.                               law enforcement that resulted in disrupted or seized illicit drugs. JIATF-West
                                               evaluates its numerous initiatives and activities, for instance, by determining if
                                               they were executed as planned, but has not established a vital few performance
                                               measures that consistently convey the overall effectiveness of its activities.
View GAO-19-441. For more information,         Lastly, the DHS JTFs’ performance measures are not outcome-based and do not
contact Nathan Anderson at (202) 512-3841 or   fully assess the effectiveness of the task forces’ activities. Enhancing their
AndersonN@gao.gov.                             measures would better position JIATF-West and the JTFs to demonstrate
                                               contributions and convey trends in the overall effectiveness of their activities.

                                                                                                United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                             1
                       Background                                                                 5
                       Each of the Five Task Forces in Our Review Has a Counterdrug
                         Mission, and Its Activities Vary Based on Threats in Its Area of
                         Responsibility and Available Resources                                  11
                       The Five Task Forces in Our Review Generally Coordinated
                         Effectively to Help Minimize Duplication of Counterdrug
                         Missions and Activities, Using Various Mechanisms                       14
                       Four of the Five Task Forces’ Performance Measures Do Not
                         Allow Them to Determine the Effectiveness of Their
                         Counterdrug Activities                                                  19
                       Conclusions                                                               29
                       Recommendations for Executive Action                                      29
                       Agency Comments                                                           30

Appendix I             Fiscal Year 2018 Performance Measures and Targets for the
                       Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces                         31



Appendix II            Comments from the Department of Defense                                   32



Appendix III           Comments from the Department of Homeland Security                         34



Appendix IV            GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                     37



Related GAO Products                                                                             38


Tables
                       Table 1: Information on the Department of Defense Joint
                               Interagency Task Forces’ and Department of Homeland
                               Security Joint Task Forces’ Locations, Leadership, and
                               Number of Staff                                                    9
                       Table 2: Joint Interagency Task Force–South (JIATF-South)
                               Interdiction Continuum Measures                                   20



                       Page i                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
          Table 3: Evolution of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
                  Joint Task Forces’ (JTF) Performance Measures from
                  Fiscal Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2018                           26
          Table 4: Performance Measures for the Department of Homeland
                  Security (DHS) Joint Task Forces (JTF), Fiscal Year 2018       27
          Table 5: Performance Measures and Targets for the Department
                  of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces, Fiscal Year 2018       31

Figures
          Figure 1: Primary Federal Departments and Components Involved
                   in Counterdrug Missions and Activities and Their
                   Respective Responsibilities                                    6
          Figure 2: Map of the Joint Interagency Task Forces’ and
                   Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces’
                   Geographical Areas of Responsibility                          10
          Figure 3: Joint Task Force Officials’ Views on the Extent and
                   Effectiveness of Coordination Efforts                         15




          Page ii                                        GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Abbreviations

AMO                        Air and Marine Operations
CBP                        U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Coast Guard                U.S. Coast Guard
DHS                        U.S. Department of Homeland Security
DOD                        U.S. Department of Defense
DOJ                        U.S. Department of Justice
FBI                        Federal Bureau of Investigation
HOMECORT                   Homeland Criminal Organization Target
HSI                        Homeland Security Investigations
ICE                        U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
JIATF                      Joint Interagency Task Force
JTF                        Joint Task Force
ONDCP                      Office of National Drug Control Policy



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Page iii                                                     GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                       Letter




441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548




                       July 9, 2019

                       The Honorable Roger Wicker
                       Chairman
                       Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
                       United States Senate

                       The Honorable John Thune
                       United States Senate

                       The Honorable Brian Schatz
                       United States Senate

                       The U.S. government has identified illicit drugs, as well as the
                       transnational and domestic criminal organizations that traffic and smuggle
                       them, as significant threats to the public, law enforcement, and the
                       national security of the United States. Deaths related to the use of drugs,
                       including illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and other
                       synthetic opioids, have risen in recent years. For example, according to
                       the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for
                       Health Statistics, in 2017, over 70,000 people died from drug overdoses
                       compared to approximately 47,000 such deaths in 2014.

                       For the past decade, one key priority of U.S. efforts to combat the effects
                       of illicit drugs has been to reduce their availability. Many federal
                       departments and agencies are involved in efforts to reduce the availability
                       of drugs by countering the trafficking and flow of illicit drugs into the
                       United States. 1 Among them are the Department of Defense (DOD) and
                       the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Regarding counterdrug
                       efforts, DOD is the lead department responsible for detecting and
                       monitoring (tracking) illicit drug trafficking into the United States and DHS
                       is responsible for securing the U.S. air, land, and sea borders to prevent
                       illegal activity. Both DOD and DHS created and lead interagency task
                       forces to help facilitate and strengthen efforts across federal agencies to
                       conduct counterdrug missions and activities to combat the flow of illicit

                       1
                        For more information on some other agencies’ efforts, see GAO, Counternarcotics:
                       Overview of the U.S. Efforts in the Western Hemisphere, GAO-18-10 (Washington, D.C.:
                       Oct. 13, 2017); and Illicit Opioids: While Greater Attention Given to Combating Synthetic
                       Opioids, Agencies Need to Better Assess their Efforts, GAO-18-205 (Washington, D.C.:
                       Mar. 29, 2018).




                       Page 1                                                       GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
drugs into the United States. Given the number of federal counterdrug
task forces that exist, we focused this review on the two DOD and three
DHS joint task forces that conduct counterdrug missions and activities
and have overlapping areas of responsibility, particularly in the maritime
domain. 2 In particular, for DOD we included Joint Interagency Task
Forces (JIATF)—JIATF-South and JIATF-West. These interagency task
forces were formed in 1989 as partnerships between military and federal
law enforcement agencies to coordinate and conduct counterdrug
operations. 3 For DHS, we included three Joint Task Forces (JTFs)—JTF-
East, JTF-West, and JTF-Investigations—that were created in 2014 to
enhance and unify DHS efforts, and those of its component agencies
(components), to secure the U.S. southern border and approaches to the
United States via land, sea, or air.

These five task forces have a role in U.S. counterdrug efforts, such as by
supporting the removal of cocaine bound for the United States and
strengthening interagency and foreign partners’ counterdrug capabilities.
However, questions have been raised about their effectiveness and the
extent of coordination between them, including potential duplication of
counterdrug missions and activities. You asked us to review these five
task forces’ coordination efforts, and their ability to conduct operations
effectively. In this report, we (1) describe the missions of JIATF-South,
JIATF-West, and the three DHS JTFs; (2) assess the extent to which
these task forces coordinate effectively with one another to minimize
duplication of missions and activities; and (3) examine how these task
forces measure the effectiveness of their missions and activities.

To describe the missions of the task forces, we collected and reviewed
documentation related to each task force’s missions and activities, such
as mission statements, guidance, memoranda, policies, and prior reports.
We also interviewed officials from each of the task forces, as well as key
components and offices, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection
(CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Coast
Guard (Coast Guard). We obtained from these officials additional details

2
 While there are other joint task forces within DOD that conduct counterdrug missions and
activities, such as Joint Task Force–North, we did not include this task force in our review
because it is comprised solely of DOD personnel and it does not generally operate in the
maritime domain.
3
 This includes federal law enforcement agency representation from DHS components,
such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Department of Justice (DOJ)
components, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).




Page 2                                                        GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
related to the task forces’ missions and activities, including information on
any task force reorganization efforts that have taken place since fiscal
year 2014, such as the JIATF-West reorganization in early 2016. 4 We
analyzed similarities and differences across the task forces, including the
departments and agencies that provide staff to support the tasks forces,
as well as the varied agency representation on the task forces’ leadership
positions.

To assess the effectiveness of the task forces’ coordination, we examined
documentation related to task force coordination, such as strategic plans,
guidance, and memoranda of understanding and agreement. Additionally,
we collected and reviewed documentation on the extent to which the task
forces coordinated with one another, such as joint operations plans and
joint investigation reports; as well as the mechanisms used for
coordination, such as joint meetings and the use of liaisons. We also met
with officials at each of the five task forces to discuss and observe the
task forces’ planning and coordination efforts. 5 Further, we developed a
set of 17 structured interview questions—which we derived from our
Duplication, Overlap, and Fragmentation guide and our prior work on
collaboration and coordination best practices—to interview a group of
knowledgeable officials at each of the five task forces on their
coordination efforts. 6 Specifically, we asked officials in each of the task
forces to describe the nature of the task force’s coordination efforts, to
include: (1) the presence of a collaborative relationship with each of the
other task forces; (2) the circumstances under which it coordinates; (3)
the various mechanisms used to coordinate; and (4) views on the
effectiveness of the coordination with each of the other task forces. To
quantify these results, we conducted a network analysis in which we
aggregated the responses to our structured interview questions about the

4
 We selected fiscal years 2014 through 2018 to review because they were the most
recent fiscal years for which data were available and also included the time frame during
which there was a task force reorganization effort at JIATF-West.
5
 We met with officials from DOD, DHS, and DOJ and their component agencies, who
were representatives of these task forces.
6
 GAO, Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication: An Evaluation and Management Guide,
GAO-15-49SP (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 14, 2015); Standards for Internal Control in the
Federal Government, GAO-14-704G (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 2014); Managing for
Results: Implementation Approaches Used to Enhance Collaboration in Interagency
Groups, GAO-14-220 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 14, 2014); and Managing for Results: Key
Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms, GAO-12-1022
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 27, 2012).




Page 3                                                       GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
nature and mechanisms used by the task forces to communicate and
coordinate with one another and developed a representation of the
patterns of collaboration among the task forces. 7 We then analyzed these
networks to determine the extent to which the task forces were using
mechanisms our prior work had identified as best practices for effective
coordination. We then used task force documentation, such as joint
operations after action reports, to validate the responses regarding the
coordination mechanisms used. We also assessed the interview
responses we received from the task forces regarding their interactions
with the other joint task forces as a means to corroborate each task
force’s responses.

To examine how the task forces measure the effectiveness of their
missions and activities, we identified performance measures the task
forces used for assessing the effectiveness of their missions and activities
from fiscal years 2014 through 2018. 8 Specifically, we reviewed each of
the task forces’ annual performance measures and reports and any
available results for this time period. We assessed the task forces’
performance measures against criteria, such as departmental
performance assessment standard operating procedures, best practices
to enhance performance management and measurement processes we
have identified in our prior work, and federal internal control standards
related to monitoring performance. 9 Additionally, we examined measures
against relevant requirements in the 2017 National Defense Authorization
Act. 10 To assess the reliability of the performance measures and any
underlying data used to inform the performance assessments from fiscal
years 2014 through 2018, we reviewed documentation, such as data
7
 Network analysis is a set of quantitative and graphical methods to identify the underlying
patterns and structures in a complex set of relationships among entities such as countries,
organizations, or individuals.
8
We selected the most recent 5 fiscal years to assess the task forces’ performance.
9
 GAO-14-704G; Office of Management and Budget, Performance Management
Challenges and Strategies (Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2003); GAO, Designing
Evaluations: 2012 Revision, GAO-12-208G (Washington, D.C.: January 2012); GAO,
Performance Measurement and Evaluation: Definitions and Relationships,
GAO-11-646SP (Washington, D.C.: May 2011); GAO, Executive Guide: Effectively
Implementing the Government Performance and Results Act, GAO/GGD-96-118
(Washington, D.C.: June 1, 1996); and Department of Defense Office of the Deputy
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, Counternarcotics
and Global Threats Performance Metrics System Standard Operating Procedures
(January 2012).
10
    Pub. L. No. 114-328, § 1901, 130 Stat. 2000, 2665-70 (2016). See 6 U.S.C. § 348(b)(9).




Page 4                                                       GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                             dictionaries, system manuals, and user guides. We also interviewed task
                             force officials to better understand the processes for inputting and
                             monitoring the quality of the data and inputs, and how they identify and
                             address any deficiencies. Additionally, we interviewed task force officials
                             about how the data and other inputs were used, and the methodologies
                             for assessing the task forces’ missions and activities. We found the data
                             to be sufficiently reliable for the purposes of reporting how task forces
                             measure the effectiveness of their missions and activities.

                             We conducted this performance audit from May 2018 to July 2019 in
                             accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
                             Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
                             sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
                             findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
                             the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
                             conclusions based on our audit objectives.



Background
Roles and Responsibilities   As previously mentioned, multiple federal departments and components
in Federal Counterdrug       have responsibilities for combating the flow of illicit drugs into the United
                             States. Figure 1 summarizes the missions and responsibilities of the
Missions and Activities
                             federal departments and components primarily responsible for combating
                             the trafficking of illicit drugs.




                             Page 5                                              GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Figure 1: Primary Federal Departments and Components Involved in Counterdrug Missions and Activities and Their
Respective Responsibilities




                                        Page 6                                               GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
DOD and DHS Joint Task
Forces Involved in
Counterdrug Missions and
Activities

DOD Joint Interagency Task   In 1989, DOD created several joint task forces, which aimed to bridge the
Forces                       military’s counterdrug efforts with those of civilian, federal law
                             enforcement agencies. These task forces have evolved since then and
                             eventually developed into the present-day iterations of JIATF-South under
                             the U.S. Southern Command and JIATF-West under the U.S. Indo-Pacific
                             Command.

                             JIATF-South and JIATF-West both consist of representatives from DOD,
                             DHS, and DOJ components, among others. Coast Guard admirals
                             currently serve as the Directors of both of the JIATFs. Previously, DOD
                             service components have led JIATF-South; however, while DOD is
                             responsible for detection and monitoring of drug flow, it is precluded from
                             taking law enforcement actions in counterdrug efforts. 11 Task force
                             officials stated that Coast Guard leadership encourages participation from
                             both DOD and DHS because the Coast Guard is both a military and a law
                             enforcement agency. 12 The deputy and vice leadership positions at the
                             JIATFs are held by officers and civilians from DOD, DHS, and DOJ
                             components, which allow the task forces to leverage various experiences
                             and authorities across these components, according to task force
                             officials.

DHS Joint Task Forces        In 2014, DHS established three new joint task forces — (1) JTF–East, (2)
                             JTF–West, and (3) JTF–Investigations—as pilot programs to, among
                             other things, address the smuggling of illicit drugs over the southern
                             border and approaches to the United States. Additionally, according to
                             the DHS Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan, the JTFs
                             were created to strengthen the unity of effort within DHS toward common
                             goals. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act subsequently
                             codified these task forces and established new JTF requirements, such
                             as establishing outcome-based and other appropriate performance



                             11
                              See 18 U.S.C. § 1385.
                             12
                              According to JIATF officials, the JIATF Directors operate under military authorities.




                             Page 7                                                       GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
measures to evaluate the effectiveness of each JTF. 13 In 2017, DHS also
created a JTF Coordination Cell to develop JTF performance measures
and enhance awareness among DHS components about the role of the
JTFs, among other things.

The DHS JTFs primarily consist of representatives from CBP, ICE, and
the Coast Guard, and a representative from each of these components
serves as the Director for each of the three JTFs. The deputy leadership
positions of each JTF are held by officers from the other two components.
For example, DHS JTF-West’s director is an officer from CBP, and the
deputy directors are officers from the Coast Guard and ICE. According to
a DHS memorandum, in establishing the JTFs, DHS wanted each JTF to
be led and supported by the different DHS components in order to
integrate their varied capabilities. For more information on the task forces’
leadership and compositions, see table 1.




13
  The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act also details DHS JTF responsibilities,
such as planning and executing joint task force activities and exercising operational
direction with personnel allocated to the JTFs, as well as personnel and resource
requirements and limitations. Pub. L. No. 114-328, § 1901, 130 Stat. 2000, 2665-70
(2016). See 6 U.S.C. § 348(b).




Page 8                                                      GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Table 1: Information on the Department of Defense Joint Interagency Task Forces’ and Department of Homeland Security
Joint Task Forces’ Locations, Leadership, and Number of Staff

Task force                                 Location                          Task force leadership                                                   Number of
                                                                                                                                                                a
                                                                                                                                                 assigned staff
Joint Interagency Task                     Key West, FL                      Director: U.S. Coast Guard                                                       408
Force-South
(JIATF-S)                                                                    Deputy Director: U.S. Navy

                                                                             Vice Directors: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
                                                                             (CBP) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Joint Interagency Task                     Honolulu, HI                      Director: U.S. Coast Guard                                                       126
Force-West
(JIATF-W)                                                                    Deputy Director: U.S. Navy (civilian)

                                                                             Chief of Staff: U.S. Marine Corps
Joint Task                                 Portsmouth, VA                    Director: U.S. Coast Guard                                                         44
Force-East
(JTF-E)
                                                                             Deputy Directors: CBP and Immigration and Customs
                                                                             Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations
                                                                             (HSI)
Joint Task                                 Washington, DC                    Director: ICE HSI                                                                  67
Force-Investigations
(JTF-I)                                                                      Deputy Directors: U.S. Coast Guard and CBP
Joint Task                                 San Antonio, TX                   Director: CBP                                                                      56
Force-West
(JTF-W)                                                                      Deputy Directors: U.S. Coast Guard and ICE HSI
Source: GAO summary of information provided by each joint task force. | GAO-19-441

                                                               a
                                                                According to task force officials, the number of assigned staff represent the number of permanent
                                                               staff for the JIATFs and the number of permanent and temporary duty staff for the DHS JTFs in fiscal
                                                               year 2018.




Organizational Structure                                       Each of the five task forces are similarly organized by functional areas
                                                               and all include areas such as administration and personnel, intelligence,
                                                               and operations. For example, JIATF-South, JIATF-West, and each of the
                                                               DHS JTFs have Planning sections, which help guide the task forces’
                                                               overarching strategic plans and operations, with input from other sections.
                                                               One task force—JIATF-West—further tailored its organizational structure
                                                               to its missions and activities. Specifically, JIATF-West reorganized in
                                                               January 2016, at the direction of the former U.S. Indo-Pacific Combatant
                                                               Commander, to operationalize and combine its Intelligence and
                                                               Operations functional areas into a Counternarcotics Operations Center.
                                                               According to JIATF-West leadership, the Counternarcotics Operations



                                                               Page 9                                                             GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                                        Center better reflects the nature of its intelligence gathering and sharing
                                        activities with other federal law enforcement agencies and foreign
                                        countries. JIATF-West officials also stated the task force merged its
                                        section that provided support and training of foreign law enforcement
                                        agencies into its Planning and Engagement section since that section
                                        directs activities related to JIATF-West’s engagement with partner
                                        nations.

Areas of Responsibility                 As shown in figure 2, the two DOD task forces (JIATF-South and JIATF-
                                        West) and two of the three DHS task forces (JTF-East and JTF-West)
                                        have geographical areas of responsibility. In contrast, the third DHS task
                                        force (JTF-Investigations) is focused on coordinating investigations and
                                        information sharing to support DHS and the other two DHS JTFs. As a
                                        result, it does not have a geographical area of responsibility.

Figure 2: Map of the Joint Interagency Task Forces’ and Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces’ Geographical
Areas of Responsibility




                                        Page 10                                                GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                                                         JIATF-South, JIATF-West, and the DHS JTFs all support or conduct
Each of the Five Task                                    missions and activities related to countering the flow of illicit drugs. The
Forces in Our Review                                     counterdrug missions and activities each task force engages in vary
                                                         based on the type of threats present in its area of responsibility, as well
Has a Counterdrug                                        as the physical assets available to it, according to task force documents
Mission, and Its                                         and officials. For the JIATFs, counterdrug activities in the maritime and air
                                                         domains are their primary focus, as their missions are focused on the
Activities Vary Based                                    detection and monitoring of illicit drug trafficking to support U.S. and
on Threats in Its Area                                   foreign partner law enforcement interdiction activities. In contrast, the
                                                         JTFs primarily coordinate counterdrug and other activities among the
of Responsibility and                                    DHS components. For example:
Available Resources

Example of Joint Interagency Task Force–                 •   JIATF-South: Focuses its activities on detecting, monitoring, and
South (JIATF-South) Activity to Combat                       supporting the interdiction of bulk cocaine movements being
Illicit Drug Trafficking                                     smuggled on noncommercial maritime vessels. According to JIATF-
When JIATF-South receives information about                  South officials, this focus is partly because the key coca-producing
a potential illicit drug smuggling event, it will
use available air and maritime assets                        countries are within its area of responsibility, and partly because
allocated to it to detect and monitor the                    cocaine is a key source of profit for transnational criminal
suspect smuggling vessel. Once JIATF-South
locates the suspect vessel and has assets in
                                                             organizations. JIATF-South is also allocated assets, such as ships
place, JIATF-South turns over control of the                 and surveillance aircraft, from DOD and DHS components (such as
assets to the relevant law enforcement                       the Coast Guard and CBP Air and Marine Operations), as well as
agencies (e.g., the Coast Guard, CBP, etc.) to
interdict the smuggling vessel and any illicit               from foreign partners. JIATF-South uses these maritime and air
drugs that may be on board.                                  assets, in conjunction with available intelligence, to detect and monitor
Source: GAO analysis of information provided by JIATF-
South. | GAO-19-441
                                                             the trafficking of illicit drugs, such as cocaine, being smuggled north
                                                             across its area of responsibility. Once JIATF-South detects a
                                                             smuggling event occurring, it passes this information and control of
                                                             the assets to law enforcement authorities to interdict the smuggling
                                                             event. For an example of how this occurs, see the sidebar.




                                                         Page 11                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Example of Joint Interagency Task Force–           •    JIATF-West: Focuses its missions and activities on four priorities: (1)
West’s (JIATF-West) Capacity Building                   detecting precursor chemicals that can be used to manufacture illicit
Efforts to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking              drugs, such as synthetic opioids; (2) supporting allies and foreign
JIATF-West has helped countries in its area of          partners in combating illicit drug trafficking in its area of responsibility;
responsibility—such as Vanuatu—build their
financial investigative capacity by providing           (3) monitoring drug flows moving to, from, and through Asia and other
law enforcement training on topics such as              countries in the Indo-Pacific region; and (4) detecting the flow of
bank records analysis, money laundering
theory, and accounting. This training is
                                                        fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, according to JIATF-West
intended to help foreign law enforcement                documents. 14 According to JIATF-West officials, JIATF-West’s
agencies better detect transnational criminal           activities primarily consist of intelligence gathering and collaboration
organizations’ transactions, thus making it
more difficult for such organizations to operate        with law enforcement partners within foreign countries where
in their area of responsibility.                        precursor chemicals are manufactured or combined to manufacture
Source: GAO summary of JIATF-West information. |
GAO-19-441
                                                        illicit drugs. JIATF-West also engages in capacity building with law
                                                        enforcement authorities in foreign countries in the Pacific region, such
                                                        as the Philippines and Thailand. For an example of JIATF-West’s
                                                        capacity building efforts, see the sidebar.
                                                        Unlike JIATF-South, JIATF-West does not have assets, such as ships
                                                        or aircraft. However, JIATF-West officials stated that even if JIATF-
                                                        West had assets, it would not alter the focus of its missions and
                                                        activities because of the threat transnational criminal organizations
                                                        pose and the nature of the flow of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals
                                                        in its expansive area of responsibility. For example, JIATF-West
                                                        officials told us that precursor chemicals are typically shipped in
                                                        commercial cargo containers. Notably, all precursor chemicals are
                                                        legal to manufacture and sell for legitimate uses, such as the
                                                        production of pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides, and it is difficult to
                                                        determine when such chemicals have been diverted for illicit use.
                                                        Officials stated that JIATF-West would face legal and logistical
                                                        challenges if they were to directly disrupt precursor chemicals being
                                                        diverted, such as if the vessel was state-owned or was in a foreign
                                                        country’s territorial waters. Thus, even if JIATF-West had assets,
                                                        JIATF-West officials noted that the legal and logistical challenges
                                                        would not change how the task force approaches its missions and
                                                        activities.
                                                   •    DHS JTFs: Focus on coordinating with DHS components (e.g., CBP,
                                                        ICE HSI, Coast Guard) to facilitate awareness about cross-
                                                        component, cross-geographic homeland security issues. The JTFs
                                                        have broader missions than countering the flow of illicit drugs. For
                                                        example, the JTFs also have responsibilities for coordinating migrant

                                                   14
                                                     Illicit synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are manmade and chemically produced in a
                                                   laboratory to mimic the effects of opiates derived from the poppy plant, such as heroin and
                                                   morphine.




                                                   Page 12                                                      GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
     interdiction and counter-terrorism activities. 15 Further, given their
     areas of responsibility, JTF-East primarily focuses on threats along
     the southern maritime border of the United States and JTF-West
     primarily focuses on threats along the southwest land border. In
     contrast, JTF-Investigations focuses on supporting DHS-wide
     investigations and sharing information to support the other two task
     forces. Similar to JIATF-West, the JTFs do not have physical assets
     to support these activities. According to JTF officials, this is partly
     because the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requires the
     JTFs to be cost neutral. 16 Additionally, JTF officials stated the JTFs
     were not meant to serve a similar function as the DOD combatant
     commands and, instead, are meant to help with planning and
     coordinating missions and activities across joint operating areas.




15
   According to the DHS Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan, the DHS JTFs’
key objectives are to: (a) minimize the risk of terrorism; (b) increase the perceived risk of
engaging in or facilitating illegal transnational or cross-border activity; (c) interdict people
and goods attempting to enter illegally at and between U.S. ports of entry; (d) increase
situational awareness in the air, land, and sea border and approaches; (e) decrease or
disrupt the profitability and finances of transnational criminal activities at the optimal
points; (f) dismantle criminal and terrorist organizations and networks; (g) prevent the
illegal exploitation of legal flows; (h) maximize the resiliency of key nodes, conveyances,
pathways, and transportation infrastructure; (i) minimize the cost to travelers and delays to
shippers in being screened and vetted at ports of entry; and (j) maximize the number of
travelers and value of imported goods that undergo screening before arriving at ports of
entry. Further, the DHS Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan is to be
executed along six lines of effort that link to these objectives, such as reduce the terrorism
risk to the nation and combat transnational criminal organizations.
16
  Pub. L. No. 114-328, § 1901, 130 Stat. 2000, 2665-70 (2016). See 6 U.S.C. §
348(b)(6)(B).




Page 13                                                         GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                        Task force officials reported that the task forces effectively coordinated
The Five Task Forces    counterdrug missions and activities to minimize duplication of efforts. The
in Our Review           extent to which the task forces coordinate varied based on whether they
                        have (1) shared purposes and (2) areas of responsibility with overlapping
Generally               or shared geographical boundaries. In particular, those task forces that
Coordinated             have shared purposes and those task forces that have overlapping areas
                        of responsibility or shared boundaries tended to coordinate with one
Effectively to Help     another more than with the other task forces. We also found that the task
Minimize Duplication    forces use a variety of mechanisms to coordinate counterdrug missions
                        and activities, such as the use of working groups and liaison officers, that
of Counterdrug          our prior work has identified as best practices.
Missions and
Activities, Using
Various Mechanisms
Task Force Officials    Officials we met with from each of the task forces stated that they are
Reported Effective      satisfied with the level of coordination that takes place with other task
                        forces and that the coordination efforts have been effective. Our analysis
Coordination with the
                        of their responses found that of the five task forces, JTF-Investigations’
Other Task Forces       coordination activities were rated as the most effective by the other four
                        task forces. JIATF-South was rated the second highest task force in
                        terms of both the effectiveness of its coordination activities and the
                        number of other task forces with which it coordinated. Figure 3 provides a
                        visual representation of the task force officials’ views on the extent to
                        which the task forces coordinate with one another and the effectiveness
                        of the coordination efforts.




                        Page 14                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Figure 3: Joint Task Force Officials’ Views on the Extent and Effectiveness of
Coordination Efforts




Note: Some task forces may not have as many adjoining lines denoting the extent of coordination
based on their activities or geographical boundaries. For example, JTF-West and JIATF-West do not
share a geographic boundary and representatives from those task forces stated that because of this,
there is generally not a need to coordinate with each other. Consequently, they did not rate the
effectiveness of the coordination. The effectiveness of the coordination depicted above was derived
from the structured interview question that asked each task force to rate the effectiveness of its
coordination with the other task forces using a five-point scale to include “not effective,” “neither
effective nor ineffective,” “somewhat effective,” “moderately effective,” or “very effective.” The results
shown above represent the average score each task force received from the other task forces it
coordinates with.




Page 15                                                                 GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Joint Task Force–Investigation’s (JTF-I)                    The extent of the coordination between the task forces varies based on
Homeland Criminal Organization Target                       their purposes and geographical proximity to one another.
(HOMECORT) Process
When the JTFs were first established, JTF-I
developed a process to help ensure that the                 •   Shared purposes. Task force officials we spoke with told us the level
task forces were working strategically on the                   of coordination with the other task forces varies based on the extent to
highest priority homeland security issues.                      which the task forces have shared purposes. Of the five task forces,
In particular, JTF-I officials developed and                    JTF-Investigations was the one task force that coordinated with all the
implemented the HOMECORT process to
identify and coordinate DHS efforts to                          other task forces, which is consistent with its purpose to enhance
dismantle the top transnational criminal                        DHS investigations, coordinate priorities, and share information with
organizations impacting homeland security by:
                                                                the other joint task forces. As a part of its process in designating
1.    Soliciting and receiving cases nominated
                                                                cases as a Homeland Criminal Organization Target (HOMECORT),
      by the other JTFs and DHS components;
                                                                JTF-Investigations conducts a Comprehensive Criminal Network
2.    Analyzing the case submissions against
      a variety of criteria to assess the                       Analysis that identifies links between multiple cases and criminal
      methods criminal organizations use, and                   organizations that can cross geographical and task force boundaries
      sharing this information to enhance                       (see sidebar for more information on the HOMECORT process).
      investigators’ capabilities;
                                                                According to JTF-Investigations officials, this analysis helps identify
3.    Passing the cases to the HOMECORT
                                                                cases that may be related and helps to coordinate cases across task
      Board (which includes leaders of the
      investigative services and deputies of the                force jurisdictions to prevent duplication of missions and activities.
      components, among others) for a final
      decision on HOMECORT designation;
                                                            •   Geographical proximity. Officials we spoke with from the five task
      and                                                       forces told us that they coordinated more with those task forces with
4.    Bringing together all component officials                 which they had a shared border or joint operating area. For example,
      working on the newly designated                           JIATF-South shares a joint operating area or a geographical boundary
      HOMECORT cases to develop an                              with both JTF-East and JIATF-West and, as a result, officials from
      Integrated Action Plan to synchronize
      efforts, including identifying resources,
                                                                these three task forces provided more robust examples of
      actions to be taken, and desired                          coordination.
      outcomes to be achieved.
Source: GAO summary of information from Joint Task Force–
Investigations. | GAO-19-441




The Task Forces Use a                                       According to task force documentation, such as operational guidance,
Variety of Mechanisms to                                    and our discussions with task force officials, JIATF-South, JIATF-West,
                                                            and the DHS JTFs coordinated with each other on missions and activities
Coordinate Missions and
                                                            where they have a shared interest, such as a common illicit drug threat.
Activities                                                  These coordination activities include information sharing and joint
                                                            operations, as well as mechanisms, such as the use of working groups
                                                            and liaison officers, which our prior work has identified as best practices




                                                            Page 16                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                              for coordination. 17 According to task force officials, this coordination is
                              intended to enhance counterdrug efforts and avoid duplication of missions
                              and activities. As described earlier, the task forces have different mission
                              focuses that depend on their geographically defined areas of
                              responsibility, which also help the task forces avoid duplication of
                              missions and activities. However, as shown earlier in figure 2, there are
                              some areas of land, sea, and air in which more than one task force may
                              conduct missions and activities (e.g., between JIATF-South and JTF-
                              East). These areas of overlap are called joint operating areas. According
                              to our review of task force documents and discussions with task force
                              officials, within these joint operating areas, the task forces share
                              intelligence information, coordinate missions and activities with one
                              another, and sometimes conduct joint operations. For example, in 2018,
                              JTF-East led and coordinated with JIATF-South on an operation to
                              increase intelligence and targeting capabilities to disrupt illicit drug
                              trafficking organizations operating within their joint operating area in the
                              Caribbean. JTF-East personnel deployed to JIATF-South’s headquarters
                              to facilitate coordination and information sharing. As a result of this joint
                              operation, the law enforcement agencies involved seized over 3,700
                              pounds of cocaine and apprehended 69 migrants, one smuggler, and the
                              smuggling vessel, according to JTF-East documentation.

                              Officials from the task forces we spoke with reported coordinating most
                              frequently through meetings and working groups, and through liaison
                              officers, as detailed in examples below.

Meetings and Working Groups   •     JIATFs: In 2018, JIATF-South and JIATF-West officials developed a
                                    collaborative process to track and target shipments with potential illicit
                                    drugs and precursor chemicals moving between their respective areas
                                    of responsibility. For example, JIATF-West analysts traveled to JIATF-
                                    South to initiate the process, and officials stated they continue to work
                                    with JIATF-South analysts remotely on an ongoing basis on such
                                    collaborative efforts.
                              •     JTFs: The JTF Coordination Cell hosts quarterly “synchronization
                                    meetings” with the three DHS JTFs to discuss emerging drug and
                                    smuggling trends, ongoing coordination efforts, and investigations.




                              17
                                  GAO-12-1022.




                              Page 17                                               GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Liaison Officers     All five task forces utilize liaison officers to enhance coordination with the
                     other task forces and components. For example, in 2018, JIATF-West
                     sent an analyst to JTF-Investigations to coordinate on a HOMECORT
                     case related to drug threats in the Indo-Pacific region. Further, the five
                     task forces coordinate with each other and their participating components
                     through liaison officers that reside at the task forces. For example, JIATF-
                     South officials told us that they coordinate with JTF-East through a Coast
                     Guard liaison at JIATF-South. Liaison officers also provide direct access
                     to their components’ information systems, which task force officials said
                     further aids them in sharing information and coordinating missions and
                     activities.

Other Coordination   In addition to meetings, working groups, and liaison officers, the task
Mechanisms           forces utilize other coordination mechanisms, such as memoranda of
                     understanding and agreement, shared databases, and conferences, as
                     detailed below.

                     •    Memoranda of understanding or agreement: The two JIATFs have
                          nine separate formal memoranda of understanding or agreement with
                          various DHS and DOJ components, such as the Drug Enforcement
                          Administration and ICE, that detail how the task forces and agencies
                          will coordinate with one another and share resources.
                     •    Shared databases: Each of the five task forces, along with other
                          federal agencies, can submit information, sometimes known as a
                          “critical movement alert” to shared databases, to alert JIATF-South
                          about a potential drug event in its area of responsibility. 18 According to
                          JIATF-South officials we spoke with and our observations, JIATF-
                          South uses these critical movement alerts, along with other
                          intelligence that may exist, to determine whether it will dedicate assets
                          to target a smuggling event, in conjunction with other, relevant law
                          enforcement agencies.
                     •    Conferences: Each of the five task forces participates in periodic in-
                          person, telephone, or video conferences to coordinate with one
                          another and share information on key issues. For example, JIATF-
                          South officials stated they have ongoing discussions once a quarter

                     18
                       The five task forces, along with other federal agencies, can submit illicit drug events to
                     the U.S. National Consolidated Counterdrug Database, which tracks seizures of different
                     drugs worldwide to give a baseline of drug trafficking activity. JIATF-South manages the
                     module of the database related to cocaine. JIATF-West maintains the module on
                     amphetamine-type stimulants. Additionally, critical movement alerts reside within a JIATF-
                     South database, known as HELIOS, which all four of the other task forces have access to.




                     Page 18                                                       GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                                via video conference with JIATF-West officials and other federal
                                agencies and task forces to coordinate on illicit drug threats.



Four of the Five Task
Forces’ Performance
Measures Do Not
Allow Them to
Determine the
Effectiveness of Their
Counterdrug Activities
JIATF-South Uses Various   JIATF-South uses both output-based and outcome-based performance
Output and Outcome-        measures to gauge the effectiveness of its counterdrug missions and
                           activities, and it reports the results to the DOD Deputy Assistant
Based Measures to
                           Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats in JIATF-
Assess the Effectiveness   South’s annual Performance Summary Reports. 19 JIATF-South
of Its Counterdrug         consistently assesses four key performance measures, called interdiction
Activities                 continuum measures, using data from the Consolidated Counterdrug
                           Database to determine the effectiveness of its missions and activities.
                           Specifically, JIATF-South measures (1) total maritime smuggling events,
                           (2) targeted smuggling events, (3) detected smuggling events, and (4)
                           seized or disrupted smuggling events. According to JIATF-South officials,
                           data on these events allow JIATF-South to develop its primary measure
                           to determine the effectiveness of its counterdrug missions and activities:
                           the percentage of smuggling events JIATF-South detected that it handed
                           off to law enforcement agencies that resulted in disrupted or seized illicit
                           drugs. These measures and the results for fiscal years 2014 through
                           2018 are shown in table 2.

                           19
                             We have previously reported outputs are the direct products and services delivered by a
                           program. An example of an output-based performance measure is the number of times a
                           task force passes along information on potential illicit drug shipments to law enforcement
                           authorities. In contrast, outcomes are the results of those products and services. An
                           example of an outcome-based performance measure is the percentage of information
                           leads on illicit drug shipments sent to law enforcement authorities that resulted in
                           interdictions and seizures. For more information, see GAO, Designing Evaluations: 2012
                           Revision, GAO-12-208G (Washington, D.C.: January 2012).




                           Page 19                                                     GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Table 2: Joint Interagency Task Force–South (JIATF-South) Interdiction Continuum Measures

Fiscal year                 Total maritime                Targeted          Detected            Seized or              Percentage of              Department of
                               smuggling                 smuggling         smuggling            disrupted            detected events          Defense target (%)
                                          a                       b                 c
                                   events                  events            events            smuggling                handed-off to
                                                                                                         d
                                                                                                  events             interdiction and
                                                                                                                       apprehension
                                                                                                                                    e
                                                                                                                      resources (%)
2014                                      1,397                  383                 171                 135                           79                      None
2015                                      2,218                  526                 246                 192                           78                          90
2016                                      4,575                1,186                 451                 322                           71                          80
2017                                      4,251                1,071                 410                 309                           75                          80
2018                                      3,854                  793                 357                 245                           69                          80
Source: GAO analysis of JIATF-South data. | GAO-19-441
                                                           a
                                                           Total maritime smuggling events includes all known smuggling events reported in the Consolidated
                                                           Counterdrug Database (CCDB)
                                                           b
                                                            Targeted smuggling events includes the number of known smuggling events JIATF-South was able
                                                           to target with its available physical assets, such as sending ships, aircraft, etc. to attempt to locate the
                                                           smuggling event.
                                                           c
                                                             Detected smuggling events includes the number of targeted smuggling events that JIATF-South was
                                                           able to actually detect with its available physical assets.
                                                           d
                                                            Seized or disrupted smuggling events includes the number of detected smuggling events where law
                                                           enforcement partners were able to seize or disrupt illicit drugs.
                                                           e
                                                            JIATF-South determines this percentage by dividing the total number of “seized or disrupted” events
                                                           by the total number of “detected” events.




                                                           From fiscal years 2014 through 2018, the rate at which JIATF-South
                                                           successfully detected and handed off smuggling events for interdiction
                                                           was generally 70 percent or higher. While JIATF-South officials
                                                           acknowledged they have not met the target set by DOD, they noted there
                                                           are many factors that influence the effectiveness of JIATF-South’s
                                                           counterdrug missions and activities in any given year that are outside of
                                                           its span of control. For example, drug trafficking organizations may adapt
                                                           their tactics in response to JIATF-South’s activities to make it more
                                                           difficult for the task force to target and detect their movements. This could
                                                           include changing their trafficking routes or altering the size or type of
                                                           smuggling conveyances the drug trafficking organizations use to transport
                                                           the illicit drugs.




                                                           Page 20                                                                 GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
JIATF-West Has a Well-          In September 2014, JIATF-West set up an Assessments Branch to
Documented Methodology          provide an annual assessment of the task force’s counterdrug efforts that
                                was intended to inform leadership about whether the task force was
for Assessing Its Activities,
                                undertaking the best activities to achieve its mission and implementing
but Its Measures Do Not         them effectively. According to JIATF-West officials, the nature of JIATF-
Allow It to Demonstrate         West’s missions and activities make it inherently more difficult to assess
the Overall Effectiveness       and quantify the effectiveness of its efforts relative to other task forces.
of Its Counterdrug              For example, unlike JIATF-South, which is annually allocated assets to
                                support its missions and activities and can measure results—such as tons
Activities                      of cocaine seized—JIATF-West’s initiatives and activities are primarily
                                focused on information sharing and helping partner nations improve their
                                counterdrug capabilities, activities for which results may be more difficult
                                to quantify.




                                Page 21                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Example of Joint Interagency Task Force-            To develop its annual assessment report, JIATF-West’s Assessments
West’s (JIATF-West) Initiative and Activity         Branch evaluates and assigns scores for each of the approximately 20
Assessment
                                                    counterdrug initiatives and more than 100 corresponding activities it
Initiative Assessment
                                                    conducts each year. (For an example of a JIATF-West initiative and a
In fiscal year 2017, JIATF-West undertook an
initiative to enhance maritime security in the      corresponding activity and a description of how they were assessed, see
Southern Philippines and assessed its               the sidebar.) In particular, JIATF-West evaluates its initiatives to
progress in achieving seven objectives, such
as:
                                                    determine the progress made toward achieving objectives defined in
•   Developing and approving tactics,
                                                    JIATF-West’s strategic documents, such as its Theater Counternarcotics
    techniques, procedures, and guidance.           Campaign Plan. Further, JIATF-West evaluates its activities to determine
•   Demonstrating a Philippine law                  whether they were executed as planned, including considerations of
    enforcement unit’s ability to sustain           whether the activities were done with the intended organizations, at the
    maintenance and logistics support for
    facilities and equipment.                       specified locations and times, and whether they met stated objectives. 20
Overall, JIATF-West determined that it              Nevertheless, we identified ways JIATF-West measures its performance
achieved many desired effects and objectives        that inhibit its ability to demonstrate its overall effectiveness of countering
but that some improvements were required
(with a score of 3.7 out of 5).                     the flow of illicit drugs. Specifically, we found that JIATF-West (1) lacks a
Activity Assessment                                 vital few performance measures that summarize its overall effectiveness
One activity JIATF-West undertook to support        that can be consistently assessed over time and (2) that it does not have
this initiative was a training course provided to   established targets for assessing the effectiveness of its numerous
a Philippine maritime law enforcement unit on
maritime security planning. To assess this          missions and activities.
activity, JIATF-West, among other things,
assessed whether the training:
•   Provided instruction on assessing the
    operational environment.
•   Provided instruction on operational
    planning and design, mission analysis,
    and orders preparation.
•   Provided instruction on briefing
    techniques.
JIATF-West rated its activity performance 4.4
and its effectiveness 2.5 (out of 5), concluding
that it successfully executed a mission
planning training course with the Philippine
maritime law enforcement unit, but could
improve the training in the future by
addressing challenges related to tactics,
techniques, and procedures.
Source: GAO description based on JIATF-West
documentation. | GAO-19-441




                                                    20
                                                      JIATF-West’s assessments of the activities that support its initiatives include both
                                                    measures of performance and measures of effectiveness where each is rated on a scale.
                                                    Measures of performance assess whether the activity went forward as scheduled,
                                                    included the appropriate organizations, and met its objectives. Measures of effectiveness
                                                    assess whether the activity met the broader intermediate objectives of the initiative that it
                                                    supports.




                                                    Page 22                                                        GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
JIATF-West Lacks a Vital Few,   JIATF-West has focused its performance measures on assessing its
Comprehensive Performance       numerous initiatives and activities; however, it has not developed a vital
Measures That Summarize Its     few, comprehensive performance measures that summarize the overall
Effectiveness and Are           effectiveness of its numerous initiatives and activities in a manner that
Consistent Over Time            would convey essential information on its counterdrug activities to
                                decision makers at the DOD command level and above. Such information
                                could help these decision makers better understand the overall
                                effectiveness of JIATF-West’s counterdrug missions and activities in
                                relation to broader U.S. counterdrug efforts. For example, JIATF-West
                                could develop a performance measure that calculates the percentage of
                                leads it provides to foreign partners that result in seizures or
                                apprehensions. Such a measure could demonstrate JIATF-West’s overall
                                effectiveness in supporting allies and foreign partners in combating illicit
                                drug trafficking in its area of responsibility, in keeping with one of its
                                operational priorities.

                                Guidance on performance measures from the DOD Office of the Deputy
                                Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats
                                states that agencies should develop a vital few measures, no more than
                                two or three, which convey essential information on counterdrug activities
                                to decision makers. 21 JIATF-West used to assess and report such
                                measures as recently as fiscal year 2015. For example, it reported scores
                                on the effectiveness of its mission and broader lines of effort, such as
                                countering illicit drug and precursor chemical flows in its area of
                                responsibility. However, JIATF-West officials told us they stopped
                                reporting on these performance measures in fiscal year 2015 because,
                                from the task force’s perspective, the measures did not provide
                                meaningful insights into the effectiveness of the task force’s operations.
                                However, such performance measures could provide meaningful
                                information on the effectiveness of JIATF-West’s counterdrug activities to
                                decision makers at the DOD command level and above, even if such
                                summary information might not affect the effectiveness of operations at
                                the task force level. We have previously reported on the importance of
                                developing performance measures that demonstrate broader
                                effectiveness and have also reported it is worthwhile for agencies to




                                21
                                 Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
                                Counternarcotics and Global Threats, Counternarcotics and Global Threats Performance
                                Metrics System Standard Operating Procedures (Jan. 26, 2012).




                                Page 23                                                  GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
develop them to better determine and understand the overall
effectiveness of their missions and activities. 22

Further, JIATF-West is also unable to assess the effectiveness of its
initiatives and activities over time because it has annually changed the
way it measures the effectiveness of more than 100 counterdrug
initiatives and activities. Specifically, JIATF-West has adjusted how it
assesses the initiatives and activities each year since 2014—for example,
by changing the weight scale for scoring its initiatives and activities to
give more emphasis to some over others. 23 These changes to the
methodology make it difficult to compare results and assess the
effectiveness of its activities over time. DOD guidance states that
agencies should have measures that are consistent over time to capture
trend results. 24 In discussing these issues with JIATF-West officials, they
stated that assessing the initiatives and activities provides valuable
information on the effectiveness of the task force’s efforts for internal, task
force management. They acknowledged that JIATF-West’s performance
measures could be improved to allow for assessments of the
effectiveness of the task force’s activities over time, but they added that
they plan to use the same methodology to calculate the task force’s
initiatives and activities scores in the future because this information is
still needed internally. Given that JIATF-West’s individual initiatives and
activities change year to year, however, it will be difficult for JIATF-West
to assess trends in the effectiveness of its initiatives and activities over
time. By also establishing a vital few, comprehensive performance
measures that can be assessed consistently over time, as appropriate,
JIATF-West will be able to better convey trends in the overall
effectiveness of its counterdrug missions and activities over time.



22
 GAO-12-208G; GAO-11-646SP; and GAO-18-205.
23
  In fiscal year 2014, JIATF-West scored its initiatives and activities on a 0 to 4 scale.
From fiscal year 2015 to the present, JIATF-West scores its initiatives on a scale of 1 to 5.
In addition, beginning in fiscal year 2015, JIATF-West changed its methodology by giving
more weight to some measures than others. For example, in calculating its overall activity
score, JIATF-West used to average the scores from its measures of performance and
measures of effectiveness, respectively. However, in 2015, JIATF-West calculated the
overall activity score using a weighted average to give more emphasis to its scores for
measures of effectiveness.
24
 Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Counternarcotics and Global Threats, Counternarcotics and Global Threats Performance
Metrics System Standard Operating Procedures (Jan. 26, 2012).




Page 24                                                       GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
JIATF-West Lacks Specific     JIATF-West has not developed specific performance targets (i.e.,
Performance Targets for Its   established acceptable levels of performance or outcomes) for its
Initiatives and Activities    initiatives and activities as part of its documented assessment
                              methodology, and no such targets appear in any of the task force’s
                              annual assessment reports. When assessing its initiatives and activities,
                              JIATF-West officials told us it aims to achieve the best possible
                              outcome—or the highest possible score—for each of the initiatives and
                              activities it undertakes and assesses. 25 DOD guidance states that targets
                              should be set for each performance measure to establish a minimum
                              level of performance to be accomplished within a given time frame. 26
                              Additionally, establishing specific performance measure targets that set a
                              minimum level of performance to achieve could better encourage the task
                              force to meet the targets and identify ways to improve, as needed.


The DHS JTF                   The DHS JTFs were fully operational in fiscal year 2016 and began
Performance Measures          assessing their performance and producing performance reports in fiscal
                              year 2017. Since they began reporting on their performance, the
Changed from Fiscal Year
                              measures the JTFs reported changed in fiscal year 2018 and, according
2017 to 2018 and Do Not       to JTF officials, will change again in fiscal year 2019. Specifically, in the
Reflect Outcomes              fiscal year 2017 performance report, the JTFs reported on activities, such
                              as the amounts of drugs seized, arrests made, and currency seized.
                              However, according to task force officials, the 2017 report’s performance
                              measures did not accurately reflect the strategic-level coordination the
                              JTFs performed. For example, the measures the JTFs reported in fiscal
                              year 2017 focused on drug seizures and arrests made by the DHS
                              components. While the drug seizures and arrests made by the DHS
                              components may have been made possible because of coordination
                              activities of the DHS JTFs, using data on drug seizures and arrests as
                              JTF performance measures resulted in double-counting because the
                              components reported on the same seizures and arrests for their
                              respective counterdrug programs.

                              To address these issues for fiscal year 2018, the JTFs and the DHS
                              Coordination Cell developed a new set of performance measures that
                              were intended to better reflect the JTFs’ coordination activities and
                              25
                                In fiscal year 2014, the best possible score an initiative or activity could achieve was a 4.
                              From fiscal years 2015 to 2017, the best possible score was a 5.
                              26
                               Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
                              Counternarcotics and Global Threats, Counternarcotics and Global Threats Performance
                              Metrics System Standard Operating Procedures (Jan. 26, 2012).




                              Page 25                                                        GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                                                               contributions. For example, a new JTF performance measure developed
                                                               for fiscal year 2018 included the number of leads that the JTFs provided
                                                               to a partner law enforcement agency, DHS component, or foreign
                                                               government partner for interdiction or investigative action. Table 3 shows
                                                               the evolution of the JTF performance measures from fiscal year 2017 to
                                                               fiscal year 2018.

Table 3: Evolution of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Joint Task Forces’ (JTF) Performance Measures from Fiscal
Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2018

 Fiscal year 2017 performance measures                                              Fiscal year 2018 performance measures
 •     Percent of transnational criminal organizations (TCOs)                       •   Number of disruptions and degradations of TCOs
       targeted by the JTFs that are disrupted                                      •   Number of operations executed against TCOs with assistance
       or dismantled                                                                    or coordination limited to DHS components
 •     Number of JTF operations executed against                                    •   Number of operations executed against TCOs with
       TCOs targeted by the JTFs                                                        interdepartmental (any non-DHS federal, state, or local entity)
 •     Number of criminal arrests linked to TCOs                                        assistance or coordination
       targeted by the JTFs                                                         •   Number of operations executed against TCOs with
 •     Pounds of drugs seized linked to TCOs targeted                                   international assistance or coordination
       by the JTFs                                                                  •   Number of joint intelligence products initiated or enhanced in
 •     Total amount of currency and/or monetary instruments                             alignment with the JTF operational priorities
       seized of TCOs targeted by the JTFs                                          •   Number of supportive efforts provided to or in response to a
                                                                                        partner agency, component, or foreign partner that are for
                                                                                        awareness only
                                                                                    •   Number of supportive efforts provided to a partner agency,
                                                                                        component, or foreign partner that are for interdiction or
                                                                                        investigative action
                                                                                    •   Number of individuals who satisfactorily completed a joint
                                                                                        training event provided by their respective JTF
                                                                                    •   Number of marketing efforts provided to stakeholders
                                                                                        regarding JTF capabilities, capacities, or processes for
                                                                                        awareness, collaboration, cooperation, and relationship
                                                                                        building
Source: DHS Joint Task Force performance information. | GAO-19-441




                                                               The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Secretary of
                                                               DHS to establish outcome-based and other appropriate performance
                                                               measures to evaluate the effectiveness of each joint task force. 27
                                                               Although the DHS JTF Coordination Cell and the JTFs developed
                                                               performance measures in fiscal year 2018 that better reflect the specific

                                                               27
                                                                 Pub. L. No. 114-328, § 1901, 130 Stat. 2000, 2665-70 (2016). See 6 U.S.C. §
                                                               348(b)(9).




                                                               Page 26                                                    GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                                             missions and activities of the three task forces, these measures are
                                             focused on outputs—such as the number of operations conducted in
                                             combating transnational criminal organizations—and not outcomes, such
                                             as the number or percentage of leads that resulted in seizures of illicit
                                             drugs. According to JTF Coordination Cell officials, the fiscal year 2018
                                             JTF performance measures are not outcome-based because it is difficult
                                             to quantify and capture the contributions of the JTFs through their roles
                                             as coordinators and facilitators of missions and activities that are
                                             conducted by DHS components. Table 4 illustrates each of the DHS JTF
                                             performance results for fiscal year 2018 under the revised measures. 28

Table 4: Performance Measures for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Joint Task Forces (JTF), Fiscal Year 2018

Performance measure                                                        Joint Task               Joint Task               Joint Task
                                                                          Force–West               Force–East                   Force–
                                                                                                                         Investigations
Number of disruptions and degradations of transnational                            217                       87                     270
criminal organizations (TCOs) within joint operating areas
Number of operations executed against TCOs with assistance                         179                      107                     178
or coordination limited to DHS components
Number of operations executed against TCOs with                                    137                      106                     174
interdepartmental (any non-DHS federal, state, or local entity)
assistance or coordination
Number of operations executed against TCOs with                                     18                       68                     160
international assistance or coordination
Number of joint intelligence products initiated or enhanced in                     120                      133                       87
alignment with the JTF operational priorities
Number of supportive efforts provided to or in response to a                       310                      166                  46,931
partner agency, component, or foreign partner that are for
awareness only
Number of supportive efforts provided to a partner agency,                         279                      246                   1,338
component, or foreign partner that are for interdiction or
investigative action



                                             28
                                               The JTFs and the DHS JTF Coordination Cell also established performance targets for
                                             each JTF and each of its measures. In fiscal year 2018, each of the JTFs met or
                                             exceeded the individual targets set for these measures. For example, DHS set a
                                             performance goal (or target) for JTF-Investigations to provide 15 personnel with joint duty
                                             training to promote workforce professional development and enhance coordination within
                                             DHS, and 17 JTF-Investigations personnel completed the training in fiscal year 2018. For
                                             JTF-West, it set a target of executing two operations against transnational criminal
                                             organizations with international assistance or coordination, and in fiscal year 2018 JTF-
                                             West executed 18 such operations. For the performance targets and results for each of
                                             the measures for each of the task forces in fiscal year 2018, see appendix I.




                                             Page 27                                                      GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
 Performance measure                                                                                       Joint Task       Joint Task                 Joint Task
                                                                                                          Force–West       Force–East                     Force–
                                                                                                                                                   Investigations
 Number of individuals who satisfactorily completed a joint                                                      891                 119                          17
 training event provided by their respective JTF
 Number of marketing efforts provided to stakeholders                                                            136                  60                        124
 regarding JTF capabilities, capacities, or processes for
 awareness, collaboration, cooperation, and relationship
 building
Source: GAO analysis based on information provided by the Department of Homeland Security. | GAO-19-441

                                                               Note: The JTFs report operations in each appropriate category and do not limit an operation to a
                                                               single description. For example, depending on the specific circumstances, a single JTF-led or
                                                               coordinated operation may be counted in both the measure for interdepartmental efforts, as well as
                                                               the measure for operations with international assistance or coordination. However, if an operation’s
                                                               engagement was limited to solely DHS components, it would only count toward the measure for
                                                               operations limited to DHS components.




                                                               In addition to the changes to the performance measures made from fiscal
                                                               years 2017 to 2018, JTF Coordination Cell officials told us in October
                                                               2018 they plan to further revise their performance measures for fiscal
                                                               year 2019, as they believe their measures could continue to improve to
                                                               better reflect the value added by the JTFs and their coordination and
                                                               information-sharing activities. JTF Coordination Cell officials further stated
                                                               that they had considered linking the fiscal year 2018 performance
                                                               measures to relevant strategic-level outcomes in DHS plans. However,
                                                               they noted that such outcomes—including the number of drug seizures
                                                               and apprehensions—are already reported by the individual DHS
                                                               components and they are trying to avoid the double-counting that
                                                               occurred in the fiscal year 2017 performance report.

                                                               We acknowledge that the types of coordination activities that the JTFs
                                                               perform are inherently more difficult to measure, but developing and
                                                               implementing outcome-based performance measures that reflect the
                                                               value the JTFs add would better position the JTFs to demonstrate the
                                                               effectiveness of their coordination efforts. For example, a performance
                                                               measure that calculates the percentage of leads provided to components,
                                                               partner law enforcement agencies, or foreign government partners that
                                                               result in a successful seizure or arrest could help demonstrate the JTFs’
                                                               contributions to DHS counterdrug efforts. Further, in designing its
                                                               outcome-based performance measures that are reflective of their
                                                               coordination and information sharing activities, establishing a consistent
                                                               set of performance measures across years, as appropriate, will allow the
                                                               JTFs to better assess and convey their progress over time.




                                                               Page 28                                                              GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                      In 2017, 70,237 Americans died from an overdose involving synthetic
Conclusions           opioids, heroin, cocaine, and other drugs. The number of annual
                      overdose deaths has nearly doubled over the past decade. Combating
                      the trafficking and availability of illicit drugs in the United States is a
                      government-wide priority that requires a coordinated effort by federal
                      departments and agencies with counterdrug responsibilities. JIATF-
                      South, JIATF-West, and the three DHS JTFs are five task forces that are
                      focused on strengthening interagency counterdrug efforts. While these
                      task forces have worked together to coordinate and avoid duplicative
                      activities, improvements to the performance measures used by four of the
                      five task forces could enable them to better determine the effectiveness of
                      their counterdrug missions and activities. In particular, by developing a
                      vital few, comprehensive measures that are consistent from one year to
                      the next, and establishing specific targets against which it can measure
                      its missions and activities, JIATF-West will be better able to determine the
                      effectiveness of its missions and activities and assess performance
                      trends across years. In addition, by developing outcome-based
                      performance measures that are consistent, the JTFs would be better
                      positioned to demonstrate the effectiveness of their counterdrug efforts
                      over time.


                      We are making a total of three recommendations: two for JIATF-West and
Recommendations for   one for DHS.
Executive Action
                      The Director of JIATF-West should establish a vital few performance
                      measures that are consistently measured over time. (Recommendation 1)

                      The Director of JIATF-West should establish specific targets that set a
                      minimal level of performance. (Recommendation 2)

                      The Secretary of Homeland Security should develop outcome-based
                      performance measures for the DHS JTFs that are consistent.
                      (Recommendation 3)




                      Page 29                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
                  In May 2019, we provided a copy of this report to DOD, DHS, DOJ, and
Agency Comments   the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for review and
                  comment. In written comments, which are included in appendix II, DOD
                  stated that it concurred with the two recommendations directed to JIATF-
                  West and noted that JIATF-West plans to conduct an internal evaluation
                  to establish a vital few performance measures to allow it to measure
                  performance over time. Additionally, JIATF-West has identified several
                  areas where it can establish specific targets that set a minimal level of
                  performance to support DOD priorities. In its written comments, which are
                  included in appendix III, DHS stated that it concurred with its
                  recommendation and plans to implement new performance measures in a
                  phased approach. DHS also provided technical comments, which we
                  have incorporated into the report, as appropriate. Additionally, ONDCP
                  provided technical comments, which we have incorporated into the report,
                  as appropriate. DOJ did not have any comments on the draft report.




                  We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
                  committees, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the Acting
                  Secretary of Defense, and other interested parties. In addition, the report
                  is available at no charge on the GAO website at www.gao.gov.

                  If you or your staffs have any questions about this report, please contact
                  me at (202) 512-3841or AndersonN@gao.gov. Contact points for our
                  Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
                  the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report are listed in
                  appendix IV.




                  Nathan Anderson
                  Acting Director
                  Homeland Security and Justice




                  Page 30                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix I: Fiscal Year 2018 Performance
                                                               Appendix I: Fiscal Year 2018 Performance
                                                               Measures and Targets for the Department of
                                                               Homeland Security Joint Task Forces


Measures and Targets for the Department of
Homeland Security Joint Task Forces
                                                               This appendix provides further details regarding the performance
                                                               measures and performance targets for the Department of Homeland
                                                               Security Joint Task Forces.

Table 5: Performance Measures and Targets for the Department of Homeland Security Joint Task Forces, Fiscal Year 2018

                                                                                 Joint Task                         Joint Task                        Joint Task
                                                                                Force–West                         Force–East               Force–Investigations
Performance measure                                                        Target              Result           Target      Result           Target         Result
Number of disruptions and degradations of                                          7                217            33             87               2            270
transnational criminal organizations (TCOs)
within joint operating areas
Number of operations executed against                                            21                 179            56            107             12             178
TCOs with assistance or coordination limited
to DHS components
Number of operations executed against                                            21                 137            74            106               8            174
TCOs with interdepartmental (any non-DHS
federal, state, or local entity) assistance or
coordination
Number of operations executed against                                              2                  18           35             68               4            160
TCOs with international assistance or
coordination
Number of joint intelligence products initiated                                    7                120            91            133             17              87
or enhanced in alignment with the Joint Task
Force (JTF) operational priorities
Number of supportive efforts provided to or in                                   10                 310            70            166               3        46,931
response to a partner agency, component, or
foreign partner that are for awareness only
Number of supportive efforts provided to a                                       10                 279            49            246               3          1,338
partner agency, component, or foreign
partner that are for interdiction or
investigative action
Number of individuals who satisfactorily                                       210                  891            63            119             10              17
completed a joint training event provided by
their respective JTF
Number of marketing efforts provided to                                          21                 136            42             60             14             124
stakeholders regarding JTF capabilities,
capacities, or processes for awareness,
collaboration, cooperation, and relationship
building
Source: GAO analysis based on information provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). | GAO-19-441

                                                               Note: The JTFs report operations in each appropriate category and do not limit an operation to a
                                                               single description. For example, depending on the specific circumstances, a single JTF-led or
                                                               coordinated operation may be counted in both the measure for interdepartmental efforts, as well as
                                                               the measure for operations with international assistance or coordination. However, if an operation’s
                                                               engagement was limited to solely DHS components, it would only count toward the measure for
                                                               operations limited to DHS components.




                                                               Page 31                                                                 GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             of Defense



of Defense




             Page 32                                     GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 33                                     GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix III: Comments from the
             Appendix III: Comments from the Department
             of Homeland Security



Department of Homeland Security




             Page 34                                      GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Homeland Security




Page 35                                      GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Homeland Security




Page 36                                      GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                    Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                    Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments


                    Nathan Anderson, (202) 512-3841 or AndersonN@gao.gov
GAO Contact:
                    In addition to the contact named above, Christopher Conrad (Assistant
Acknowledgements:   Director), Kelsey Hawley (Analyst-in-Charge), and Julia Vieweg made key
                    contributions to this report. Also contributing to the report were Billy
                    Commons, Pamela Davidson, David Dornisch, Eric Hauswirth, and Susan
                    Hsu.




                    Page 37                                         GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
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(102816)
             Page 38                                            GAO-19-441 Joint Task Forces
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