Publicly Released: June 12, 2020
The objective of this evaluation was to review the operations and practices of the DoD Regional Centers for Security Studies (RCs) related to the vetting of foreign faculty, nondisclosure agreements, travel, and the payment of fees for guest lecturers (honoraria). We also determined whether the DoD and the RCs implemented the recommendations from prior Government Accountability Office oversight report to develop measures of effectiveness.
The Secretary of Defense is authorized by law to operate DoD RCs as “international venues for bilateral and multilateral research, communication, exchange of ideas, and training involving military and civilian participants,” relating to specified geographic regions of the world.
The five RCs are:
- George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies–Garmisch, Germany, established in 1993;
- Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies–Honolulu, Hawaii, established in 1995;
- William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies–Washington, D.C., established in 1997;
- Africa Center for Strategic Studies–Washington, D.C., established in 1999; and
- Near East - South Asia Center for Strategic Studies–Washington, D.C., established in 2000.
DoD Directive 5200.41E, “DoD Regional Centers for Security Studies,” June 30, 2016, states that the RCs support U.S. defense strategy objectives and policy priorities through:
- offering executive development, strategic security studies (to program participants), research, and outreach that foster long-term collaborative relationships;
- developing and sustaining relationships and communities of interest throughout the regions among security practitioners and national security establishments; and
- enhancing enduring partnerships among the nations of the regions with which the regional centers are associated.
The RCs seek to accomplish their mission primarily through resident and in-region programs, including seminars, courses, bilateral workshops, outreach events for alumni of the RC programs, and research publications.
In the DoD, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy is responsible for the RCs’ policies and activities, providing guidance, direction, and oversight, and coordinating with the geographic combatant commanders on RC-related activities. The regional Assistant Secretaries for Defense are responsible for the development of indicators of success for each of the RCs and for monitoring the centers’ progress toward achieving those indicators. The Under Secretary of Defense f or Policy is responsible for providing the RCs with the programming, budgeting, and financial management necessary to support their operations through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director, acting as the Executive Agent for the RCs.
We determined that the RCs did not have measures of effectiveness to indicate progress toward achievement of the RCs’ stated goals, objectives, or strategic outcomes. This occurred because the RCs did not request, and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency did not provide, the RCs with the technical assistance and subject matter expertise as required by Instruction 5132.14, “Assessment, Monitoring, and Evaluation Policy for the Security Cooperation Enterprise,” January 13, 2017, to develop, use, and report measures of effectiveness. As a result, the RCs could not quantify their contributions to DoD strategic objectives, and the DoD was unable to assess RC progress in supporting DoD and geographic combatant command priorities.
We also determined that the RCs did not follow regulations for the management of their travel programs. We reviewed a random sample of 212 of 2,915 reported trips taken by staff and faculty and determined that all five centers inconsistently complied with certain DoD travel regulations, including not appointing certifying officers to approve travel vouchers and not training certifying officers and routing officials. This occurred because the five RC Directors did not manage their travel programs to ensure consistent compliance. Furthermore, the DSCA Director, as the executive agent for the RCs, did not direct the necessary oversight of the travel programs, leading to the systemic problems with inconsistent compliance at all five RCs. As a result, certifying officers at the RCs assumed financial liability for travel payments without proper authority or training, increasing the risk of improper payments.
We also reviewed RC compliance with regulations governing vetting, non-disclosure agreements, and honoraria, from 2014 through 2018, and determined that:
- the three RCs that employed foreign nationals followed vetting requirements;
- none of the RCs issued a non-disclosure agreement other than the Standard Form 312, “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” which contained a version of the language required by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012; and
- none of the RCs had paid an honorarium for any single event above the $2,000 threshold that requires higher-level approval.
We recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in coordination with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director, provide the Regional Centers with the technical assistance and subject matter expertise, required by DoD Instruction 5132.14, “Assessment, Monitoring, and Evaluation Policy for the Security Cooperation Enterprise,” to develop and implement measures of effectiveness that track progress on achieving program outcomes.
We further recommend that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director develop and implement a plan to execute its executive agent responsibilities over the Regional Centers’ travel program, as required by DoD Directive 5200.41E.
We recommend that the Directors of the Regional Centers for Security Studies develop an inspections process to verify that their travel program comply with DoD regulations.
Management Comments and Our Response
We did not receive comments from the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Therefore, the recommendation to provide the Regional Centers with the technical assistance and subject matter expertise to develop and implement performance measures to track progress on achieving program outputs and outcomes remains open and unresolved. We request that the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy provide comments in response to the final report by July 9, 2020.
While not required to comment on the finding related to the development of performance measures, all five Regional Centers for Security Studies provided comments in response to the draft report. To review summaries of regional centers comments on this finding, please refer to the Management Comments and Our Response section of this report.
The Directors of the Africa Center, Asia-Pacific Center, Marshall Center, and Near East-South Asia Center agreed with the overall finding on their travel programs. The Director of the Perry Center partially agreed with the finding. Specifically, the Perry Center Director stated that the tone and tenor of our analysis gave the impression that the training of routing officials and certifying officers was lacking and deficient and that this put the Government at risk for fraud, waste, and abuse. We considered the Perry Center Director’s comments and updated language in the finding to reflect that some routing officials could document required travel training.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director agreed with the recommendation to develop and implement a plan to execute executive agent responsibilities over the Regional Centers’ travel program. Furthermore, the Director proposed a corrective action plan, which states that an immediate data call will ensure compliance with the appointments and training documents at the Regional Centers and that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency has drafted an update to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency Travel Directive 7002.5. These proposed actions resolve the recommendation. We will close the recommendation when the Defense Security Cooperation Agency provides documentation to verify that corrective actions are taken.
All five Directors of the Regional Centers for Security Studies agreed with the recommendation to develop an inspections process to verify that their travel programs comply with DoD regulations and described corrective actions to their travel programs that their respective organizations already completed as well as additional planned future actions. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close the recommendation when we verify that the Regional Centers for Security Studies took corrective actions.
This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D00SPO-0141.000.