DoD, State Dept. Must Improve Oversight of Human Rights Training for Foreign Militaries: GAO

A U.S. Marine gives directions to a Guatemalan Marine during a training exercise March 9, 2016, Guatemala. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Westin Warburton)
A U.S. Marine gives directions to a Guatemalan Marine during a training exercise March 9, 2016, Guatemala. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Westin Warburton)

The Defense and State Departments have yet to evaluate whether the millions spent on training programs for foreign militaries and police to protect human rights are having any effect, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In a report released Monday, the GAO said that the DoD and State Department share responsibility for programs aimed at allied and partner foreign security forces, but neither has "evaluated the effectiveness of their human rights training."

In addition, they "are unable to provide a comprehensive accounting of the full array of human rights training they support," although the demand for such training from foreign militaries and law enforcement is increasing, the report states.

It notes that advancing human rights and the rule of law worldwide are primary goals of U.S. foreign policy that could be promoted by training programs for foreign troops and police.

However, "only limited information is available on the provision of and funding for these activities" from the DoD despite the specific requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in 2017, according to the report.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which manages the DoD's efforts to strengthen foreign militaries, was short on data to track the effectiveness of the human rights programs, the GAO said.

"Without a process to ensure systematic and accurate tracking of human rights training data, DSCA is limited in its ability to monitor its compliance with the training-related provision" of the NDAA, the report states.

According to the report, the State Department relies on the DoD to track human rights training for foreign military forces and also partially relies on it to track funding and data for foreign police training.

For fiscal years 2015 to 2017, the State Department reported that $34.4 million was spent on law enforcement training related to human rights at International Law Enforcement Academies administered by it, the GAO report states.

The overall spending on human rights training for foreign militaries is more difficult to estimate, according to the DoD, since some of the military training programs touch on human rights while others don't, according to the report.

However, the report includes a footnote on Expanded International Military Education and Training programs (E-IMET) run by the DoD.

The footnote says: "According to DoD officials, DoD and State spent nearly $150 million on certified E-IMET courses for just over 19,000 students from various countries from fiscal years 2015 through 2018."

The report recommends that the secretary of defense establish a process to systematically track mandated human rights training and come up with a timeline for implementation.

The Pentagon concurred with the recommendation, but the State Department disagreed with a similar recommendation for the secretary of state. The GAO stood by its recommendation to State, and suggested possible ways for compliance.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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