Wednesday, August 14, 2019

GAO Report Finds US Government Lapses in Mandated Human Rights Trainings; State Department Baulks

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was charged with evaluating the U.S. government's programs for training foreign security forces on human rights, required under 10 U.S.C. s. 333.  The GAO's report was issued earlier this month.  Among other things, the report assesses the
extent to which the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department track the provision of and funding for such training, and examines the extent to which DOD and State have evaluated the effectiveness of the training. 

To reach its conclusions, the GAO reviewed laws, regulations, guidance, agency training and funding data, and course catalogs, and interviewed
agency officials.

The GAO found that that neither DOD nor State systematically track human rights training, and that they have also failed to assess the effectiveness of the trainings that are offered.  As the GAO noted, both agencies have ample funding to provide such trainings, and "[m]onitoring and evaluation would enable DOD and State to determine the effectiveness of U.S.–provided human rights training for foreign security forces."

The GAO made three recommendations; in an astonishing move, the State Department rejected the GAO recommendation directed to its trainings conducted under the International Military Education & Training Program (IMET).  According to one source, both the DOD and State Departments complained that it was too difficult to isolate and track the human rights content in the trainings.

The GAO's summary of the report states:  "GAO is making three recommendations, including that the Secretary of Defense establish a process to systematically track mandated human rights training and develop a timeline for implementing monitoring and evaluation. DOD agreed. GAO also recommends that the Secretary of State develop a plan with a timeline to monitor and evaluate such training. State disagreed. GAO continues to believe the recommendation is valid as discussed in the report."

The GAO's report begins with the statement:  "Promoting respect for human rights is a U.S. foreign policy goal."   What message does it send to the these foreign military forces when the DOD drags its feet and the State Department flatly refuses to conduct an adequate evaluation of their human rights trainings?

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