oversight

Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-05-01.

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

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the National Security, International Affiars and
                          Criminal Justic Subcommittee, committee on Government
                          Reform and Oversight, House of Representatives


For Release on Delivery
Expected at 11:00 a.m.
on Thursday
                          DRUG CONTROL
May 1, 1997


                          Reauthorization of the
                          Office of National Drug
                          Control Policy
                          Statement of Norman J. Rabkin
                          Director, Administration of Justice Issues
                          General Government Division




GAO/T-GGD-97-97
Summary

Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy

               Over the years, GAO has issued numerous reports on the nation’s drug
               control efforts. These reports show a consistent theme: the nation’s effort
               to control illegal drugs is complex, fragmented among many agencies, and
               hindered by the absence of meaningful performance measures to gauge
               progress and to guide decisionmaking to better ensure that limited
               resources are put to the best use.

               In 1983, GAO concluded that there was a need to coordinate the nation’s
               drug control efforts and recommended that the President make a clear
               delegation of responsibility to one individual to strengthen oversight of
               federal drug enforcement programs. Since then, GAO has periodically
               concluded that there is a continuing need for a central planning agency.
               Congress addressed this issue through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988,
               which created the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to better
               plan a nationwide drug control effort and assist Congress in overseeing
               that effort. ONDCP was initially authorized through November 1993 and
               later reauthorized through September 30, 1997.

               GAO’s recent work shows that there are some promising initial research
               results in the area of demand reduction but that international supply
               reduction efforts have not reduced the availability of drugs. GAO’s work
               also shows that the nation still lacks meaningful performance measures to
               help guide decisionmaking. GAO has acknowledged that performance
               measurement in the area of drug control is particularly difficult for a
               variety of reasons. Notwithstanding, GAO has concluded over the years that
               better performance measures than the ones in place were needed. In 1993,
               GAO recommended that Congress, as part of its reauthorization of ONDCP,
               direct the agency to develop additional performance measures.

               In reauthorizing ONDCP in 1994, Congress specified that ONDCP’s
               performance measurement system should assess changes in drug use, drug
               availability, the consequences of drug use, drug treatment capacity, and
               the adequacy of drug treatment systems. ONDCP’s initial effort, with a
               private contractor, did not prove fruitful, and, in the summer of 1996, it
               began a new effort involving working groups composed of representatives
               from federal drug control agencies and state, local, and private
               organizations. The working groups have been tasked with establishing
               performance measures for the goals set forth in the 1997 national strategy
               articulated by ONDCP. As of April 15, 1997, no new measures had been
               approved by the ONDCP Director.




               Page 1                                                      GAO/T-GGD-97-97
Summary
Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy




Given the complexity of the issues and the fragmentation of the approach
to the national drug strategy among more than 50 federal agencies, GAO
continues to believe that there is a need for a central planning agency,
such as ONDCP, to coordinate the nation’s efforts. GAO notes that, while it is
difficult to gauge ONDCP’s effectiveness given the absence of good
performance measures, GAO has found no compelling evidence that would
lead it to advise against ONDCP’s reauthorization for a finite period of time.




Page 2                                                         GAO/T-GGD-97-97
Statement

Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy

               Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

               I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Office of National Drug
               Control Policy (ONDCP). My testimony focuses on (1) our recent work on
               federal drug control efforts; (2) ONDCP’s efforts to implement
               performance measures; (3) ONDCP’s anticipated actions to lead the
               development of a centralized lessons-learned data system for drug control
               activities; and (4) whether ONDCP, which is scheduled to expire in
               September of this year, should be reauthorized.


               In 1988, Congress created ONDCP to better plan the federal drug control
Background     effort and assist it in overseeing that effort. ONDCP was initially authorized
               for 5 years—until November 1993. With the enactment of the Violent
               Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322 (1994)),
               ONDCP was reauthorized until September 30, 1997.


               ONDCP is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the drug control
               efforts of over 50 federal agencies and programs. ONDCP is also charged
               with coordinating and reviewing the drug control activities of hundreds of
               state and local governments as well as private organizations to ensure that
               the drug control effort is well coordinated and effective at all levels.1

               Under the 1988 act, ONDCP is to (1) develop a national drug control strategy
               with short- and long-term objectives and annually revise and issue a new
               strategy to take into account what has been learned and accomplished
               during the previous year, (2) develop an annual consolidated budget
               providing funding estimates for implementing the strategy, and (3) oversee
               and coordinate implementation of the strategy by federal agencies. Since
               its inception, ONDCP has published nine annual national drug control
               strategies.

               Some highlights of the 1997 strategy include: (1) explicit recognition that
               demand reduction must be the centerpiece of the national antidrug effort;
               (2) a commitment to robust international drug interdiction programs; and
               (3) making prevention of drug use by youth the top priority. The 1997
               strategy sets forth five goals, including both supply and demand drug
               control efforts:


               1
                ONDCP is also responsible for designating and providing overall policy guidance and oversight for the
               High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program and operating the Counterdrug Technology
               Assessment Center (CTAC), which serves as the counterdrug enforcement research and development
               center for the federal government.



               Page 3                                                                            GAO/T-GGD-97-97
                       Statement
                       Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
                       of National Drug Control Policy




                       “1. Educate and enable America’s youth to reject illegal drugs as well as
                       the use of alcohol and tobacco.

                       “2. Increase the safety of America’s citizens by substantially reducing
                       drug-related crime and violence.

                       “3. Reduce health and social costs to the public of illegal drug use.

                       “4. Shield America’s air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug threat.

                       “5. Break foreign and domestic sources of supply.”

                       The administration’s drug control budget request for fiscal year 1998 is
                       approximately $16 billion, an increase of $818 million over the 1997
                       budget. Approximately $5.5 billion is targeted for demand reduction, an
                       increase of 10 percent over the 1997 budget and $10.5 billion for supply
                       reduction, an increase of 3.2 percent over the 1997 budget.2


                       At the request of the Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation and
Recent GAO Work on     Related Agencies and the Chairman, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and
Federal Drug Control   Human Services, and Education, House Committee on Appropriations, on
Efforts                the demand reduction side we recently identified findings of current
                       research on promising approaches in drug abuse prevention targeted at
                       school-age youth and described promising drug treatment strategies for
                       cocaine addiction. On the supply reduction side, we summarized our
                       recent work assessing the effectiveness of international efforts, including
                       interdiction, to reduce illegal drug availability.3

                       We reported that recent research points to two types of promising drug
                       prevention approaches for school-age youth. The first approach
                       emphasizes drug resistance skills, generic
                       problem-solving/decisionmaking training, and modification of attitudes
                       and norms that encourage drug use (the psychosocial approach). The
                       second approach involves the coordinated use of multiple societal
                       institutions, such as family, community, and schools, for delivering
                       prevention programs (the comprehensive approach). Early research has

                       2
                        As defined in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, P.L. 100-690, demand reduction includes drug abuse
                       education, prevention, treatment, research, and rehabilitation. Supply reduction includes international
                       drug control; foreign and domestic drug enforcement intelligence; interdiction; and domestic drug law
                       enforcement, including law enforcement directed at drug users.
                       3
                       Drug Control: Observations on Elements of the Federal Drug Control Strategy (GAO/GGD-97-42,
                       Mar. 14, 1997).



                       Page 4                                                                             GAO/T-GGD-97-97
Statement
Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy




demonstrated that both approaches have shown some success in reducing
student drug use as well as strengthened individuals’ ability to resist drugs
in both short- and longer-term programs.

Three approaches have been found to be potentially promising in the
treatment of cocaine use. These approaches include (1) avoidance or
better management of drug-triggering situations (relapse prevention
therapy); (2) exposure to community support programs, drug sanctions,
and necessary employment counseling (community
reinforcement/contingency management); and (3) use of a coordinated
behavioral, emotional, and cognitive treatment approach (neurobehavioral
therapy). Research shows that many drug dependent clients using these
approaches have maintained extended periods of cocaine abstinence and
greater retention in treatment programs.

While these prevention and treatment approaches have shown promising
outcomes in some programs, further evaluative research would have to be
conducted to determine their effectiveness and their applicability among
different populations in varied settings. Such research should help
policymakers better focus efforts and resources in an overall drug control
strategy.

Regarding international drug control efforts, our work has shown that,
despite some successes, efforts have not materially reduced the
availability of drugs in the United States for several reasons. First,
international drug trafficking organizations have become sophisticated,
multibillion dollar industries that quickly adapt to new U.S. drug control
efforts. Second, the United States faces other significant and long-standing
obstacles, such as inconsistent funding, competing foreign policy
objectives, organizational and operational limitations, and a lack of ways
to tell whether or how well counternarcotics efforts are contributing to the
goals and objectives of the national drug control strategy, and the resulting
inability to prioritize the use of limited resources. Third, in drug-producing
and transit countries, counternarcotics efforts are constrained by
competing economic and political policies, inadequate laws, limited
resources and institutional capabilities, and internal problems such as
terrorism and civil unrest.

Recognizing that there is no panacea for resolving all of the problems
associated with illegal drug trafficking, and consistent with the intent of




Page 5                                                        GAO/T-GGD-97-97
                     Statement
                     Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
                     of National Drug Control Policy




                     the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA),4 we recently made
                     several recommendations to the Director of ONDCP to better comply with
                     the 1988 Anti Drug Abuse Act’s requirements. We recommended that
                     ONDCP complete the development of a long-term plan with meaningful
                     performance measures and multiyear funding needs that are linked to the
                     goals and objectives of the international drug control strategy. In
                     particular, such a plan would permit ONDCP to better carry out its
                     responsibility to at least annually review the progress made and adjust its
                     plan, as appropriate. Further, we recommended that ONDCP enhance
                     support for the increased use of intelligence and technology to (1) improve
                     U.S. and other nations’ efforts to reduce supplies of and interdict illegal
                     drugs and (2) take the lead in developing a centralized lessons-learned
                     data system to aid agency planners and operators in developing more
                     effective counterdrug efforts.5


                     We have acknowledged for many years that performance measurement in
ONDCP’s Efforts to   the area of drug control has been difficult. In 1988 and again in 1990, we
Implement            reported that (1) it was difficult to isolate the full impact and effectiveness
Performance          of a single program, such as drug interdiction, on reducing drug use
                     without considering the impact of prevention and treatment efforts; (2) the
Measures             clandestine nature of drug production, trafficking, and use had limited the
                     quality and quantity of data that could be collected to measure program
                     success; and (3) the data that were collected—for example, the data used
                     to prepare estimates of drug availability and consumption—were generally
                     not designed to measure program effectiveness.6




                     4
                      GPRA (P.L. 103-62 (1993)) was enacted to improve performance measurement by federal agencies. It
                     provides a useful framework for assessing the effectiveness of federal drug control efforts. Under
                     GPRA, it is envisioned that each federal agency—defined as an executive department, government
                     corporation, and an independent establishment—will move away from its concentration on traditional
                     workload measures, such as staffing and activity levels, and move toward a focused assessment of
                     results. GPRA requires each federal agency to develop two types of plans—a strategic plan and annual
                     performance plans. Strategic plans are to cover a period of at least 5 years and include the agency’s
                     mission statement; identify the agency’s long-term strategic goals; and describe how the agency
                     intends to achieve those goals through its activities and through its human, capital, information, and
                     other resources. Annual performance plans provide the direct linkage between the strategic goals
                     outlined in the agency’s strategic plan and what managers and employees do day to day. In addition,
                     the performance plan is to contain the performance goals the agency will use to gauge its progress
                     toward accomplishing its strategic goals and identify the performance measures the agency will use to
                     assess its progress.
                     5
                      Drug Control: Long-Standing Problems Hinder U.S. International Efforts (GAO/NSIAD-97-75, Feb. 27,
                     1997).
                     6
                      Controlling Drug Abuse: A Status Report (GAO/GGD-88-39, Mar. 1, 1988) and Drug Interdiction:
                     Funding Continues to Increase but Program Effectiveness Is Unknown (GAO/GGD-91-10, Dec. 11,
                     1990).


                     Page 6                                                                            GAO/T-GGD-97-97
Statement
Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
of National Drug Control Policy




In a 1993 report,7 we concluded that although difficulties, such as the
interrelated nature of programs, may have precluded the development of
“perfect” or “precise” performance measures, these difficulties should not
have stopped antidrug policymakers from developing the best alternative
measures—measures that could provide general indicators of what was
being accomplished over the long term.

We also reported in 1993 that ONDCP’s national strategies did not contain
adequate measures for assessing the contributions of component
programs for reducing the nation’s drug problems. In addition, we found
little information on which to assess the contributions made by individual
drug control agencies. As a result, we recommended that, as part of its
reauthorization of ONDCP, Congress direct the agency to develop additional
performance measures. In reauthorizing ONDCP in 1994, Congress specified
that ONDCP’s performance measurement system should assess changes in
drug use, drug availability, the consequences of drug use,8 drug treatment
capacity, and the adequacy of drug treatment systems.

Similarly, in our most recent report,9 we found it still difficult to assess the
performance of individual drug control agencies. For example, increased
Customs Service inspections and use of technology to detect drugs being
smuggled through ports of entry may cause smugglers to seek other
routes; this would put more pressure on drug interdiction activities of
other agencies, such as the Coast Guard. We concluded that it was
important to consider both ONDCP and operational agency data together
because results achieved by one agency in reducing the use of drugs may
be offset by less favorable results by another agency.

According to ONDCP officials, around January 1994, they, in collaboration
with the Department of Defense, entered into a contract with a private
contractor to develop “measures of effectiveness” in the international
arena. According to ONDCP officials, overall the results of the contractor’s
efforts did not prove useful in developing performance measures for
ONDCP. The efforts of the contractor were eventually abandoned, and in the
summer of 1996 ONDCP began a new effort to develop performance
measures for all drug control operations.

7
 Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (GAO/GGD-93-144, Sept.
29, 1993).
8
 Consequences of drug use include burdens drug users place on hospital emergency rooms in the
United States, national health care costs of drug use, drug-related crime and criminal activity, and
contribution of drugs to the underground economy.
9
 GAO/GGD-97-42.



Page 7                                                                              GAO/T-GGD-97-97
                   Statement
                   Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
                   of National Drug Control Policy




                   The new effort relies on working groups, which consist of representatives
                   from federal drug control agencies and state, local, and private
                   organizations, to develop national drug control performance measures.
                   According to ONDCP officials, early in 1997, the ONDCP working groups
                   began developing performance targets (measurable milestones to track
                   progress) and performance measures (the data used to track each target)
                   for each of the objectives. As of April 1997, the plans for one of its five
                   goals—“shield America’s air, land, and sea frontiers from the drug
                   threat”—were ready for the Director’s approval, and they will be
                   distributed to the affected agencies for agreement. ONDCP officials told us
                   they are not yet that far along on the other four goals.


                   As previously mentioned, we recently recommended in our report on
Centralized Data   international antidrug activities that ONDCP strengthen its planning and
Systems: Lessons   implementation of antidrug activities through the development of an
Learned            after-action reporting system similar to the Department of Defense’s (DOD)
                   system.10 Under DOD’s system, operations reports describe an operation’s
                   strengths and weaknesses and contain recommendations for consideration
                   in future operations. A governmentwide after-action system for reporting
                   international antidrug activities should allow agencies to learn from the
                   problems and impediments encountered internally and by other federal
                   agencies in implementing past operations. With such information, the
                   agencies would be in a better position to develop plans that avoid past
                   problems or contingencies in known problem areas. This governmentwide
                   after-action system should go a long way toward meeting ONDCP’s basic
                   responsibility of taking into account what has been learned and
                   accomplished during the previous year and adjusting its plan accordingly.
                   As of April 15, 1997, ONDCP officials said they had not yet implemented this
                   recommendation. According to these officials, ONDCP is currently preparing
                   a formal response to the Subcommittee on National Security, International
                   Affairs, and Criminal Justice, Committee on Government Reform and
                   Oversight, explaining how it plans to implement this recommendation.




                   10
                     GAO/NSIAD-97-75.



                   Page 8                                                       GAO/T-GGD-97-97
                         Statement
                         Drug Control: Reauthorization of the Office
                         of National Drug Control Policy




                         Over the years, we have concluded there is a continuing need for a central
The Need Continues       planning agency, such as ONDCP, to coordinate the nation’s drug control
for a Central Planning   efforts. Before ONDCP existed, we recommended in 1983 that the President
Agency to Coordinate     make a clear delegation of responsibility to one individual to oversee
                         federal drug enforcement programs to strengthen central oversight of the
Drug Control Efforts     federal drug enforcement program.11 Again in 1988,12 we reported
                         problems caused by the fragmentation of federal antidrug efforts among
                         cabinet departments and agencies, and the resulting lack of coordination
                         of federal drug abuse control policies and programs. In 1993,13 we
                         concluded that given the severity of the drug problem and the large
                         number of federal, state, and local agencies working on the problem, there
                         was a continuing need for a central planning agency, such as ONDCP, to
                         provide leadership and coordination for the nation’s drug control efforts.
                         We recommended that Congress reauthorize ONDCP for an additional finite
                         period of time.

                         Coordinating the 5 goals of the national drug control strategy among more
                         than 50 federal agencies is a complex process. Our analysis of federal
                         agencies that contribute to the implementation of each of the 5 strategy
                         goals showed an average of 21 agencies were committing resources to
                         address specific strategy goals. For example, Goal 1 involves 18 agencies,
                         Goals 2 and 3 involve 24, Goal 4 involves 13, and Goal 5 involves 28.
                         Further, we found that more than 30 agencies are committing resources to
                         implement two or more of the five strategy goals.

                         Given the complexity of the issues and the fragmentation of the approach
                         to the national drug control strategy among more than 50 agencies, we
                         continue to believe there is a need for a central planning agency, such as
                         ONDCP, to coordinate the nation’s drug control efforts. In addition, we have
                         found no compelling evidence to lead us to advise against ONDCP’s
                         reauthorization for a finite period of time.


                         Mr. Chairman, this completes my statement. I would be pleased to answer
                         any questions you or the other Subcommittee members might have.




                         11
                           Federal Drug Interdiction Efforts Need Strong Central Oversight (GAO/GGD-83-52, June 13, 1983).
                         12
                           GAO/GGD-88-39.
                         13
                           GAO/GGD-93-144.



(186766)                 Page 9                                                                          GAO/T-GGD-97-97
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