House Committee Requests a Comprehensive Review of DoD Military Aid

In an unprecedented move, the House Armed Services Committee is seeking a broad strategic review of all Defense Department foreign military or security assistance as part of its agreed bill to advance U.S. military programs for FY 2016. The bill, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2016 (H.R. 1753), was approved by the Committee last Wednesday and will be considered by the full House this coming Tuesday.

Since September 11, 2001, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have significantly increased the creation of new Defense Department authorities or programs to train and equip foreign security forces around the world, mostly for counterterrorism reasons. Prior to 9/11, almost of all U.S. security assistance programs were funded through the State Department. By FY 2007, the Pentagon was allocating more than double the amount that the State Department was allocating on security assistance per year (See Figure 1).

While the Defense Department’s (DoD) security assistance programs have certainly come under fire in the past, including a lack of coordination with the State Department on several programs, there has rarely, if ever, been a request for a broad review of the goals and objectives for all such programs. Last year’s NDAA (Section 1211) did require the Defense Department to report on the metrics it uses for evaluating success of DoD security assistance programs, but it didn’t touch on the objectives.

According to the House Armed Services Committee’s report on H.R. 1753, the Committee is seeking this broad review of U.S. security assistance programs for three main reasons. The Committee is concerned that “Department of Defense security cooperation programs lack strategic direction, may not act in concert with other programs, and are not resourced for long-term sustainability.” In an earlier Chairman’s version of the bill, the Chairman also highlighted that the DoD is increasingly prioritizing the use of security assistance in its guidance documents.

In order to support the House Committee’s “deep dive review” on DoD’s security assistance programs, the Committee’s bill requires the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report to relevant congressional committees on all Defense Department security assistance programs by January 28, 2016. According to the bill, the report should include the following: “(1) The name of the program; (2) The program’s goals, objectives, and activities; (3) The executive branch organizations with responsibility for implementing the program; (4) The legislative authority for the program; and (5) The amount of funds expended for the program in each of the past 3 fiscal years.”

Although it’s unclear whether this broad review will be approved in the upcoming full House vote of the bill or included in the forthcoming Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA, the House Committee’s support for it is a clear indicator of concern about DoD’s current security assistance strategy. As the Committee moves forward with their “deep dive” on this concern, it will be an important issue to watch for those interested in DoD military aid efforts.

Colby Goodman is a Senior Research Associate with the Security Assistance Monitor and covers a range of U.S. military and police aid, arms sales and training issues.