WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report he commissioned on U.S. counternarcotics spending in the Western Hemisphere. The report is the first comprehensive look at how U.S. counternarcotics dollars are spent in the Americas and represents a positive step for transparency and accountability in this area.

GAO found that approximately $39 billion was spent on counternarcotics efforts in the Western Hemisphere between Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2015, with the bulk of it spent by Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and certain Department of Justice entities.

“With drug overdoses killing a staggering 64,000 Americans last year, it is long past time for the United States to take a fresh look at how we approach drug policy both at home and abroad. We must invest much more in domestic drug treatment and prevention programs, and make sure that our international counternarcotics efforts are as effective as possible. Accurate data is crucial as we assess the future of U.S. drug policy, and I commend GAO for reporting precisely how our government is spending taxpayer dollars to fight the illegal drug trade and for making this information publicly available,” said Rep. Engel.

On December 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017 (P.L. 114-323) which included the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission Act authored by Rep. Engel. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission is an independent U.S. government commission that will evaluate U.S. drug policies and programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, assess which efforts are succeeding and which are not and make recommendations to the President and Congress on future counternarcotics policies. Today’s report will aid the Commission in its important work.

The report finds the following:

  • Between FY 2010 and FY 2015, the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development reported spending nearly $5 billion for counternarcotics activities in the Americas;
  • During that same period, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration and certain Department of Justice entities reported spending $34 billion on counternarcotics activities, the bulk of them in the Western Hemisphere; and
  • Seven of the ten agencies GAO reviewed described processes they have in place for identifying best practices or lessons learned from counternarcotics activities in the Western Hemisphere.

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