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Drug Control: Counternarcotics Efforts in Colombia Face Continuing Challenges (Testimony, 02/26/98, GAO/T-NSIAD-98-103).

GAO discussed its review of counternarcotics efforts in Colombia,
focusing on: (1) the nature of the drug-trafficking threat in and from
Colombia; (2) the political, economic, and operational implications of
the U.S. decisions to decertify Colombia in 1996 and 1997; and (3) U.S.
efforts to plan and manage counternarcotics activities in Colombia.

GAO noted that: (1) the narcotics threat from Colombia continues and may
be expanding, as Colombia remains the world's leading manufacturer and
distributor of cocaine; (2) according to recent reports, the cultivation
of coca leaf in Colombia increased by 50 percent between 1994 and 1996,
and the prevalence of Colombian heroin on the streets of the United
States has steadily increased; (3) significant obstacles, such as
corruption, violence, and involvement of Colombian insurgent groups in
drug-trafficking, impede U.S. and Colombian counternarcotics efforts;
(4) since the initial decertification decision in March 1996, Colombia
has taken several actions to address U.S. concerns, but U.S. officials
believe Colombia must now fully implement newly passed laws on asset
forfeiture, money-laundering, and trafficker sentencing and show a
willingness to investigate and punish corrupt officials; (5)
decertification had little impact on Colombia's economy because
discretionary sanctions were not applied by the President; (6) however,
mandatory economic sanctions required by the decertification decisions
led to the termination of some U.S. economic aid and resulted in actions
that may have hurt some U.S. businesses; (7) when the initial
decertification decision was made in March 1996, the Department of State
was not prepared to determine whether some assistance intended for
Colombian police and military could continue to be provided; (8) it took
State, in conjunction with other executive branch agencies, about 8
months to make this decision, resulting in the delay or cancellation of
about $35 million in programmed counternarcotics assistance; (9) the
U.S. counternarcotics program in Colombia has continued to experience
management challenges, (10) State and the U.S. Embassy were unprepared
for the financial consequences of State's 1996 decision to expand aerial
crop eradication; (11) due to unplanned expenditures to support the
effort, other Embassy counternarcotics activities, including
interdiction efforts, demand reduction within Colombia, and efforts to
strengthen Colombian law enforcement institutions, were scaled back or
lost support; (12) State did not take adequate steps to ensure that
equipment included in a $40 million assistance package from Department
of Defense inventories could be integrated into the Embassy's plans and
strategies to support the Colombian forces; (13) as a result, the
package included items that had limited usefulness; and (14) assistance
was delayed for months while State and the Embassy sought to ensure that
assistance was not going to units suspected of human rights violations.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  T-NSIAD-98-103
     TITLE:  Drug Control: Counternarcotics Efforts in Colombia Face 
             Continuing Challenges
      DATE:  02/26/98
   SUBJECT:  Narcotics
             Drug trafficking
             Law enforcement
             International cooperation
             Foreign economic assistance
             International economic relations
             Foreign military assistance
             Foreign governments
             International trade restriction
IDENTIFIER:  Colombia
             Dept. of State International Narcotics Control Program
             UH-1H Helicopter
             C-26 Aircraft
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Before the Committee on International Relations
House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
11:00 a.m.  EDT
Thursday,
February 26, 1998

DRUG CONTROL - COUNTERNARCOTICS
EFFORTS IN COLOMBIA FACE
CONTINUING CHALLENGES

Statement of Henry L.  Hinton, Assistant Comptroller General,
National Security and International Affairs Division

GAO/T-NSIAD-98-103

GAO/NSIAD-98-103T


(711328)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV


============================================================ Chapter 0

Mr.  Chairman and Members of the Committee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the results of our review of
counternarcotics efforts in Colombia.  At the request of the
Committee, we focused our review on (1) the nature of the
drug-trafficking threat in and from Colombia; (2) the political,
economic, and operational implications of the U.S.  decisions to
decertify Colombia in 1996 and 1997; and (3) U.S.  efforts to plan
and manage counternarcotics activities in Colombia.  Our report on
this review is being released today.\1 My statement will highlight
the principal findings and observations from the report as well as
other relevant issues from our previous reports.\2


--------------------
\1 Drug Control:  U.S.  Counternarcotics Efforts in Colombia Face
Continuing Challenges (GAO/NSIAD-98-60, Feb.  12, 1998). 

\2 Drug Control:  U.S.-Supported Efforts in Colombia and Bolivia
(GAO/NSIAD-89-24, Nov.  1, 1988); Drug War:  Observations on
Counternarcotics Aid to Colombia (GAO/NSIAD-91-296, Sept.  30, 1991);
The Drug War:  Colombia Is Undertaking Antidrug Programs, but Impact
Is Uncertain (GAO/NSIAD-93-158, Aug.  10, 1993); and Drug War: 
Observations on the U.S.  International Drug Control Strategy
(GAO/T-NSIAD-95-182, June 27, 1995). 


   SUMMARY
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:1

The narcotics threat from Colombia continues and may be expanding, as
Colombia remains the world's leading manufacturer and distributor of
cocaine.  According to recent State Department and Drug Enforcement
Administration reports, the cultivation of coca leaf in Colombia
increased by 50 percent between 1994 and 1996, and the prevalence of
Colombian heroin on the streets of the United States has steadily
increased.  Significant obstacles, including widespread corruption
and extensive violence, impede U.S.  and Colombian counternarcotics
efforts.  Colombian insurgent groups have further complicated the
situation, as they are increasingly involved in drug-trafficking
activities, making it difficult for Colombian police and military
forces to reduce drug-trafficking activities within their borders. 

Since the initial decertification decision in March 1996, Colombia
has taken several actions to address U.S.  concerns, including
passing laws to hinder drug-trafficking; eradicating illicit drug
crops; interdicting drugs; and combating drug-trafficking activities
and organizations.  U.S.  officials believe Colombia must now fully
implement newly passed laws on asset forfeiture, money laundering,
and trafficker sentencing and show a willingness to investigate and
punish corrupt officials.  Decertification had little impact on
Colombia's economy because the President chose not to apply
discretionary sanctions against Colombia.  However, mandatory
economic sanctions required by the decertification decisions led to
the termination of some U.S.  economic aid and resulted in actions
that may have hurt some U.S.  businesses. 

When the initial decertification decision was made in March 1996, the
Department of State was not prepared to determine whether some
programmed assistance intended for the Colombian police and military
could continue to be provided.  It took State, in conjunction with
other executive branch agencies, about 8 months to make this
decision, and as a result, about $35 million in programmed
counternarcotics assistance was canceled or delayed.  The overall
operational implications of the cutoff on U.S.  and Colombian
counternarcotics programs are not clear.  The Colombian police and
military were able to maintain or increase some types of operations
by purchasing parts and equipment on the commercial market that were
once available through the Department of Defense.  Also, the U.S. 
Embassy helped fund some of the activities with resources taken from
other projects.  However, Colombian police officials told us that
some operations could not be conducted because certain types of
assistance, such as aviation spare parts and explosives, were not
available. 

The U.S.  counternarcotics program in Colombia has continued to
experience management challenges.  For example, State and the U.S. 
Embassy were unprepared for the financial consequences of State's
1996 decision to expand aerial crop eradication.  Due to unplanned
expenditures to support the eradication effort, other Embassy
counternarcotics activities, including interdiction efforts, demand
reduction within Colombia, and efforts to strengthen Colombian law
enforcement institutions, were scaled back or lost support. 
Moreover, State did not take adequate steps to ensure that equipment
included in a 1996 $40-million assistance package from Defense
Department inventories could be integrated into the Embassy's plans
and strategies to support the Colombian police and military
counternarcotics forces.  As a result, the package included items
that had limited immediate usefulness to the Colombian police and
military and will require substantial additional funding to become
operational.  Examples include five C-26 aircraft, six river patrol
boats, and 12 UH-1H helicopters.  Moreover, the assistance was also
delayed for 10 months because State and the Embassy could not reach
an agreement with the government of Colombia over acceptable end-use
provisions to ensure that the assistance was not being provided to
units suspected of human rights violations. 

To address the problems in planning and coordinating assistance
packages drawn from Defense Department inventories, we recommended
that State Department, in close consultation with the Defense
Department and the National Security Council, ensure that future
assistance is compatible with the priority needs of the Colombian
government and that adequate support resources are available to
maximize the benefits of the assistance.  Defense and State agreed
with our recommendation. 


   THE DRUG THREAT FROM COLOMBIA
   CONTINUES AND MAY BE EXPANDING
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:2

Colombia provides almost three-quarters of the cocaine consumed in
the United States.  While Colombia accounts for 1.5 percent of the
world's illicit opium production, recent data shows that 62 percent
of all heroin seizures in the United States that were tested by the
Drug Enforcement Administration during 1995 were of Colombian origin. 
The Department of State reported in March 1997 that the amount of
coca under cultivation in Colombia increased from 44,700 hectares to
67,200 hectares, or about 50 percent, between 1994 and 1996.  U.S. 
officials attribute this increase partially to successes in shutting
down drug-trafficking activities in Peru. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, new cartels and
drug-trafficking groups have emerged as major drug-trafficking
organizations in Colombia.  Furthermore, insurgent groups have
increasingly funded their activities through drug trafficking.  The
two groups posing the most serious threats to internal security are
the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and the National
Liberation Army (ELN), with a combined strength of 10,000 to 15,000
personnel.  According to a 1997 U.S.  interagency report, FARC units
are involved in growing coca, protecting coca fields from
eradication, and providing security for drug-processing facilities of
various drug-trafficking organizations.  Recent reports also indicate
that the two insurgent groups are enhancing their capabilities and
are gaining strength throughout the country. 


   THE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, AND
   OPERATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE
   U.S.  DECERTIFICATION OF
   COLOMBIA
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3


      COLOMBIA HAS TAKEN SOME
      ACTIONS TO ADDRESS U.S. 
      CONCERNS
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3.1

Since the initial presidential decertification decision in March
1996, Colombia has addressed some U.S.  concerns by (1) enacting a
new law allowing for the seizure of drug traffickers' assets, (2)
approving legislation increasing sentences for those convicted of
drug-trafficking and money-laundering activities, (3) signing a
maritime agreement allowing the United States to pursue suspected
drug traffickers, and (4) passing a new extradition law.  However,
State Department and U.S.  law enforcement officials believe that
Colombia must demonstrate greater political will by

  -- addressing the pervasive public corruption that continues to
     weaken the government and undermine law enforcement activities;

  -- improving prison security to prevent convicted traffickers from
     directing drug-trafficking activities from prison; and

  -- fully implementing the newly passed laws on asset forfeiture,
     money laundering, and trafficker sentencing. 

According to State officials, these factors will be considered as
part of the 1998 certification process. 


      ECONOMIC SANCTIONS MAY HAVE
      HURT U.S.  COMMERCIAL
      INTERESTS
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3.2

The mandatory sanctions from decertification required the termination
of official U.S.  export and investment support of certain
transactions and may have resulted in business losses.  The Foreign
Assistance Act of 1961 and the Narcotics Control Trade Act of 1974
contain both mandatory and discretionary sanctions that the President
can invoke when denying certification to a drug-producing or
drug-transiting nation.  Mandatory sanctions include the termination
of most forms of foreign assistance and bilateral loans and a U.S. 
vote against multilateral development bank loans to the decertified
country.  Counternarcotics assistance provided through State's
International Narcotics Control Program and disaster and humanitarian
aid are not subject to the sanctions.  Discretionary sanctions
include the loss of trade preferences, the suspension of sugar
quotas, tariff penalties, and the curtailment of transportation
arrangements.  According to State and U.S.  Embassy officials, there
was no intention to use discretionary economic sanctions to harm
Colombia's economy because the Colombian private sector is viewed as
a positive influence in strengthening the government of Colombia's
resolve to combat drug-trafficking activities. 

Some U.S.  businesses operating in Colombia believe that the
mandatory sanctions required by decertification have harmed their
business activities there.  The State Department reported that the
1996 decision required the Overseas Private Investment Corporation
and the Export-Import Bank to freeze about $1.5 billion in investment
credits and loans for U.S.  companies investing in Colombia.  Also, a
1996 survey by the Council of American Enterprises--an American
business consortium in Colombia--indicated that its member companies
lost $875 million in sales because of the sanctions.  State officials
indicated they have not conducted an in-depth assessment of the
economic consequences of decertification and could not validate the
information in the survey by the Council. 


      OVERALL OPERATIONAL IMPACT
      OF DELAYS OF ASSISTANCE IS
      UNCLEAR
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3.3

The initial decertification decision resulted in the delay or
cancellation of approximately $35 million in U.S.  counternarcotics
assistance to Colombia.  The overall impact of the delays and
cancellations on Colombian counternarcotics operations is unclear. 
We do know that the State Department, in conjunction with other
executive branch agencies, took about 8 months to decide what aid
could be provided under decertification.  During this period, the
United States did not provide Colombia with, among other things,

  -- almost $30 million in counternarcotics Foreign Military
     Financing grant assistance (helicopter spare parts, ammunition,
     and explosives),

  -- about $1.4 million in planned U.S.  International Military
     Education and Training assistance for Colombian police and
     military units involved in counternarcotics operations, and

  -- about $3.6 million in counternarcotics assistance to the
     Colombian police and military units to be provided under the
     U.S.  Foreign Military Sales Program and the State Department
     International Narcotics Control Program. 

The Foreign Military Sales and State assistance was released in
October 1996, but the Foreign Military Financing grant aid and some
military training was frozen until August 1997, when the President
released it as part of a national security waiver. 

According to U.S.  Embassy and Colombian officials, the assistance
delays prevented Colombian police and military units from receiving
some U.S.-funded military training and from conducting some planned
counternarcotics activities.  However, data from the Colombian
National Police shows that they were able to operate their
interdiction and eradication helicopters at higher levels from March
1996 to June 1997, compared to the 2 months before decertification. 
U.S.  military reports indicated that each of the services conducted
more counternarcotics operations and seized more narcotics during
1996 than in 1995. 

The impacts from assistance delays were minimized because the
Departments of State and Defense and the Colombian police and
military used other funding and procurement sources to obtain
critical support necessary to continue operations.  Both the
Colombian police and military purchased spare parts directly from
various commercial sources and used their existing inventories to
maintain operational readiness rates for their aircraft.  These spare
parts, however, were substantially more expensive than they would
have been had the Colombians had access to U.S.  military assistance
and spare parts.  For example, the Colombian police reported that
certain helicopter parts bought commercially cost 150 percent more
than parts obtained through U.S.  military sources.  In addition, the
U.S.  Embassy used some State and Defense funds to support Colombian
police and military eradication and interdiction efforts. 

U.S.  Embassy officials said that while the use of commercial and
other sources had enabled the Colombian police and military to
continue counternarcotics operations after the suspension of U.S. 
assistance, the higher expenditures for items and effectiveness of
operations could not be sustained over a long period. 


   PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT
   PROBLEMS HAMPER U.S. 
   COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS IN
   COLOMBIA
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4


      STATE AND THE U.S.  EMBASSY
      WERE NOT PREPARED TO MANAGE
      INCREASES IN AERIAL
      ERADICATION
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.1

In October 1996, the Department of State, through its Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, decided to
significantly increase the level of U.S.  support for and
participation in Colombia's aerial eradication of coca and opium
poppy, primarily to improve upon the eradication results of 1995 and
1996.  However, the Narcotics Affairs Section at the U.S.  Embassy
was unprepared for the escalation in costs to support this effort and
was unable to fully support other planned counternarcotics programs
meant to achieve all of the Embassy's counternarcotics objectives. 

During fiscal year 1997, State increased the number of aircraft and
U.S.  contractor personnel involved in the aerial eradication
program.  The role of the contractor also changed from being
primarily responsible for training Colombian pilots and mechanics to
directly maintaining aircraft and actively participating in planning
and conducting eradication operations. 

Throughout fiscal year 1997, the Narcotics Affairs Section
continually adjusted its estimates for the amount of funding needed
to support its program efforts from about $19 million in the
beginning of the fiscal year to $34 million by July 1997.  According
to various U.S.  Embassy reports, these changes were caused by
unforeseen costs that the Embassy incurred as the result of the State
Department's decision to increase support for aerial eradication. 
For example, the Narcotics Affairs Section identified $3 million to
$4 million needed to upgrade security for contractor personnel that
was not included in the Embassy's original budget. 

In July 1997, the Embassy's Narcotics Affairs Section informed the
State Department that because of the expanded aerial eradication
effort, it had to reallocate $11 million from other planned
counternarcotics programs.  The Section also reported that it could
not continue to support programs for Colombian police interdiction
units, demand reduction, and efforts to strengthen Colombian law
enforcement institutions.  Each of these programs supports the
Embassy's program plan to fulfill U.S.  counternarcotics objectives
in Colombia. 


      ASSISTANCE PACKAGE WAS
      POORLY PLANNED
-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.2

On September 30, 1996, the President, in accordance with section
506(a)(2) of the Foreign Assistance Act, notified Congress that
Colombia would be provided about $40 million in assistance from
Defense Department inventories.  However, the package was hastily
developed and did not include sufficient information on specific
Colombian requirements, the ability of the host country to operate
and maintain the equipment, or the funding necessary from the United
States or Colombia to support it.  For example, Defense Department
and Embassy officials said they were given little time by the
National Security Council to determine what equipment was best suited
to meet the needs of the Colombian police and military
counternarcotics forces.  The package contained several items (C-26
aircraft, patrol boats, and utility landing craft) that did not meet
the priority needs of the Colombian police and military.  In
addition, because much of the equipment was not operationally ready
for use, substantial unbudgeted funding would be required for the
equipment to be of value to the Colombians.  For example: 

  -- Five C-26 aircraft included in the package could cost at least
     $3 million each to modify to perform the surveillance mission
     desired by the Colombian police and another $1 million to
     operate and maintain annually. 

  -- Twelve UH-1H helicopters, delivered to the Colombian National
     Police in May 1997, had an average of only 10 hours of available
     flying time left before substantial maintenance was required. 
     By July 1997, the Colombian police reported that only 2 of the
     12 helicopters were operational. 

  -- Six patrol boats required $600,000 to make them operational, and
     two of the boats were missing key parts and operational panels. 

In addition to these shortcomings, the assistance package was delayed
for 10 months while the State Department and the Embassy negotiated
end-use monitoring agreements with the government of Colombia to
ensure that the aid was not being provided to units suspected of
human rights violations.  According to Embassy officials, State took
4-1/2 months to provide guidance to the Embassy on the terms to be
presented to the Colombian government.  The delay was partially due
to the Colombian government's unwillingness to finalize an acceptable
end-use agreement. 

To address the problems in planning and coordinating assistance
authorized under section 506(a)(2) of the Foreign Assistance Act of
1961, we recommended that the Secretary of State, in close
consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the National Security
Council, take steps to ensure that future assistance is, to the
maximum extent possible, compatible with the priority requirements
identified in U.S.  counternarcotics programs and that adequate
support resources are available to maximize the benefits of the
assistance.  Defense and State agreed with our recommendation. 


-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.3

This concludes my prepared remarks.  I would be happy to respond to
any questions. 

*** End of document. ***