SSR-RC Blog Archive

US Government Accountability Office Reviews Military Assistance By: Michael Lawrence | United States | Nov 2, 2011

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a report reviewing the US Government’s International Military Education and Training (IMET) program (available here). The objectives of this assistance “include professionalizing military forces and increasing respect for democratic values and human rights” and in these ways it broadly aligns with security sector reform. In practice, however, the GAO found that human rights training is often marginalized, and the Departments of State and Defense lack evaluation mechanisms with which to assess the impacts of the program.

These concerns are important given a variety of cases in which recipients of American training and assistance have put their skills to sinister and anti-democratic uses (for example, the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization in Mexico was founded by defectors of the elite GAFE unit who are believed to have received American training in counternarcotics and counterinsurgency). These concerns are also of urgent importance as the US attempts to re-establish military ties and cooperation with the new democracies of the Arab Spring – links that could promote democratic consolidation, or threaten it by strengthening repressive security institutions lingering from former authoritarian regimes.