GAO-19-106: U.S. Counternarcotics Assistance to Colombia

Speeches Shim

U.S. Counternarcotics Assistance Achieved Some Positive Results but State Needs to Review the Overall U.S. Approach

Report to the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, U.S. Senate

GAO-19-106: Published: Dec 12, 2018. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2018.

The U.S. government has invested over $10 billion in counternarcotics and security efforts in Colombia since 1999. Security has improved but cocaine production has more than tripled from 2013 through 2017.

The U.S. counternarcotics approach in Colombia includes disrupting drug trafficking, destroying coca crops, and supporting alternative livelihoods for coca farmers. We found the State Department has not comprehensively reviewed this approach. Such a review could help State ensure U.S. agencies are pursuing the mix of activities with the greatest likelihood of long-term success.

We recommended State comprehensively review the U.S. approach.

Comments from the U.S. Agency for International Development

Jennifer Grover
Director, International Affairs and Trade
United States Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20226

Dear Ms. Grover:

I am pleased to provide the formal response of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the draft report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) etitled, "COLOMBIA: U S. Counter-narcotics Assistance Achieved Some Positive Results, but State Needs to Review the Overall US. Approach" (GAO-19-106). USAID worked closely with the Department of State and the interagency on the Department of State's formal response to this draft report. USAID concurs with the GAO's recommendation that the Department of State lead a comprehensive interagency review of U.S.-funded counter-narcotics programs in the Republic of Colombia, and welcomes the opportunity to participate in the process.

Under the leadership of the Department of State, USAID participates in a whole-of-Government counter-narcotics effort in Colombia. USAID believes a comprehensive review of the U.S. counter-nrn.•cotics approach in Colombia can help identify what changes, if any, are necessary to make to the types and combination of U.S. activities, while taking into consideration how the relative benefits and limitations of eradication, interdiction, and alternative development could affect the effectiveness of these efforts. USAID will cooperate fully in this review process.

We appreciate the GAO's acknowledgement of the success of USAID-funded alternative- development programs in Colombia that have provided legal economic opportunities to some rural communities that were previously involved in the production of illicit crops. The Agency agrees that achieving a long-term, sustainable reduction in the production of cocoa requires a comprehensive strategy (after the adequate resolution of security issues), including creating linkages to licit markets, generating economic opportunities, addressing land-tenure property rights, and expanding financial inclusion.

In July of 2018, USAID Administrator Mark Green travelled to Colombia to visit programs funded by the U.S. Government. During a speech to Colombian legislators, he said, "We should aggressively pursue eradication as our governments have agreed, but we must also offer alternative livelihoods." The Government of Colombia (GOC) has demonstrated its commitment and willingness to remain a strong ally of the United States. To date, the GOC has contributed 95 percent of the costs of counternarcotic efforts in-country. USAID appreciates that the GAO recognized the complex market dynamics that face fa1mers in Colombia by mentioning several of the different incentives that drive the increase in the production of coca, such as decreasing investment costs, more-frequent harvests, minimal field-maintenance costs, and negligible transportation expenses. As the draft repo1i mentions, the average annual profit for Colombian farmers who produce coca has increased by more than 120 percent between 2012 and 2016, which makes counter-narcotics effo1is even more difficult. USAID's programs are having an impact, as the draft report recognizes, but we know more work is necessary.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your draft report, and for the courtesies extended by your staff while conducting this engagement.


Angelique M. Crumbly
Acting Assistant Administrator
Bureau for Management

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 2:45pm