DoD should consider unintended consequences of security forces

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Defense Department directives should mandate an analysis of unintended changes to the political landscape of a country that a security force enters before the force is deployed, says the Government Accountability Office.

In a Nov. 30 presentation to the House Committee on Armed Services, reproduced in a Jan. 8 report (.pdf), GAO says DoD already has guidance for considering unintended consequences and moral hazards when developing a security force, but needs a specific policy obligating such consideration.

A moral hazard is when security force assistance causes a country or its leaders to behave as if they were protected from the consequences of their actions--such as undertaking new oppression of citizens or military aggression against neighbors that would not happen a without security force presence.

In three joint doctrine publications, DoD outlines concerns for security force operations that support nation building and protect a society from insurgency, lawlessness and subversion.

Some input from the State Department is required by law and tied to the funding of security forces, but GAO suggests that DoD also update relevant directives to incorporate unintended risk considerations at similar levels regardless of the legal requirement.

The Afghan Security Forces and Coalition Support funds legally require concurrence from the secretary of state and are reviewed by the department's relevant experts and bureaus, which the report says gives these funds the best chance for identifying potential unintended consequences.

Counterdrug support funds for other nations legally requires a consultation, but GAO says this standard is vague and these actions typically do not receive the same level of review as those that require concurrence.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-241R (.pdf)

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