State Dept’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program Costs Approx $1,800/Student Per Day of Training

The State Department’s OIG recently released its Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program for Countries Under the Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs (Report Number AUD/MERO-12-29, April 2012).

How much and where it went?

  • From FYs 2002 through 2010, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (DS/T/ATA) and the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) have been provided nearly $1.4 billion for ATA programs worldwide, with approximately 65 percent of that assistance ($873.3 million) going to programs in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia.
  • In FY 2011, the ATA program’s budget request was $205 million, with approximately $125 million designated for the 22 North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia countries.
  • In FY 2010 (or FY2009?), the ATA program expended approximately $62 million  trained nearly 2,700 participants from countries in North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia at a cost of approximately $1,800 per student per day of training.
  • The average training course lasted 13 days and was attended by 21 students, which equates to approximately $23,000 per student per class, or $1,800 per student per day of training.

The OIG report did not say where the training sessions were held but seriously — how do you rack up $1800 a day for training per trainee? Oops, sorry, how quickly we forget.  That’s almost as bad as the GSA scandal which cost federal taxpayers nearly $2750 per person.


Something about objectives, indicators and lots of strategeries:

  • OIG found that for 20 of the 22 countries, CT and DS/T/ATA did not develop specific or measurable strategic or performance objectives in the Country Assistance Plans.
  • OIG found that for eight of the 22 countries, CT provided broad strategic objectives that were vague or included an inordinate number of goals.
  • OIG found that nearly all of the performance indicators and targets used to define success or failure of a country program were ambiguous, were not measurable, or lacked meaning.

Let’s have some examples:

Lebanon: The strategic objectives for Lebanon directed the ATA program to help modernize and professionalize security forces “through basic and advanced training and equipment and operation upgrades.”

India: The strategic objectives for India directed the program to emphasize critical incident response; post-incident investigation; human rights; border security; international threat finance; extradition and prosecution; and the protection of critical infrastructure, including port, rail, and airport security.

Bahrain and Morocco: A performance objective for both Bahrain and Morocco is to enhance the country’s “capability in investigating, and responding to terrorism.”

Nepal: The two program objectives for Nepal are “to enhance the capabilities of Nepalese police to utilize ATA training” and to “improve capabilities of the Nepalese police to counter and respond to terrorism.”

And the Success Measurement Award goes to ATA Bangladesh where one performance indicator for measuring the success of the increasing protection capabilities for Bangladeshi leaders was regular updates from U.S. Embassy, ATA program visits, and feedback from Bangladesh’s law enforcement community on enhanced institutional management and procedures developed through ATA training to protect national leaders.”

If that’s a measure of success, we’d hate to see what failure is like.

So, cmon- is this program effective?

“Since 1983, DS/T/ATA has provided ATA program training to participants from North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. However, DS/T/ATA could not determine the program’s effectiveness because it had not developed specific, measurable, and outcome-oriented program objectives or implemented a mechanism for program evaluation. In addition, DS/T/ATA and CT were not consulting with DRL when selecting partner countries or when determining the assistance to be provided to those countries because DS/T/ATA and CT officials stated they were unaware of the requirement. As a result, the Department has no assurance that the ATA program is achieving its intended statutory purposes or that the overall or individual programs are successful. Further, DS/T/ATA has no basis for determining when partner countries are capable of sustaining their own ATA program without U.S. support.”

Bottom line answer is – since 1983

Who the heck knows?

But you’d be pleased to know that this has not kept State from pouring more money into a program that has not been proven to be effective since it has no idea how to measure its effectiveness.

Why don’t we just add the disbursement of funds as an indicator of success and make it easy on everyone?

Domani Spero



Read Before Burning: Debating the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act

Matt Armstrong has written a must-read piece on the Smith-Mundt Modernization debate. Something for those who did not get their Smith-Mundt Minute Maid boost before wading into the bush.

There’s this – Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

And then there’s this – Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’

Here is an excerpt from Matt Armstrong’s Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”:

The current debate on the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act is filled with misinformation about the history of Smith-Mundt, some of it verging on blatant propaganda, making the discussion overall rich in irony. In 1947, the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional committee assembled to give its recommendation on the Smith-Mundt Act declared that it was a necessary response to the danger posed “by the weapons of false propaganda and misinformation and the inability on the part of the United States to deal adequately with those weapons.” Today, it is the Smith-Mundt Act that is victim to “false propaganda” and “misinformation” that affect perceptions of, and potential support for, the Modernization Act.

Many of the negative narratives swirling around the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act are based on assumptions and myths that, like true propaganda, have an anchor in reality but stray from the facts to support false conclusions. These fabrications include the false assertion the Act ever applied to the whole of Government or the Defense Department as well as fundamental confusion, and lack of knowledge, of America’s public diplomacy with foreign audiences.
From the information programs to the programs for the “interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills,” the Congress made its clear its concerns that the State Department may intentionally, or inadvertently, undermine the American way of life for reasons ranging from Roosevelt and Truman “New Dealers” to the liberal culture of the State Department.
[T]he distrust of State remained. Rep. Fred Busbey (R-IL) sought to delay the bill until the State Department was cleaned up: “I believe there should be in the State Department an Office of Information and Cultural Affairs, but it should be free of communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences.” Congressman Clare Hoffman (R-MI) believed the exchange program was for the State Department to establish an espionage net directed against the United States.

Continue reading, Congress, the State Department, and “communistic, fascistic, and other alien influences”

We should note that a tiny twig of the federal government had been charged with appraising U.S. Government activities “intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics.” That’s the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD), created in 1948 and defunded by Congress on December 16, 2011.

On the issue of trust or in this case, distrust — distrust of the Department of State is a shadow that started stalking the organization soon after it came into being following the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Donald Warwick in his 1978 book on bureaucracy points out that the early image of State was influenced by its adoption of the European model of diplomacy and our country’s mistrust of foreign relations.

“As a concrete expression of concern with European contamination, the Continental Congress ruled that diplomats could remain overseas no more than three years. Rapid corruption thereafter was feared. […] Public mistrust of diplomacy in general and of its foreign-oriented practioners was to surface later in the McCarthy era.”

The limit on continuous duty overseas is alive and well. In the Foreign Service Act, Congress imagined that diplomats would still be contaminated but only after 15 years of continuous exposure abroad.

Domani Spero

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