Tucked within the United States’ annual budget is the Building Partner Capacity (BPC) fund. Established in the 1990s, BPC allows the Pentagon to contribute aid directly to foreign militaries. While this began as a way to help Central American governments combat drug cartels, it has expanded dramatically since 9/11.
Funneling US taxpayer money to at least 70 different authorities throughout the world, the BPC has spent over $122 billion in the past 15 years.
Despite those high costs, it’s impossible to tell whether BPC is effective, largely because the US Department of Defense (DoD) is exempt from submitting annual budget justifications.
"Despite the increasing emphasis on, and centrality of, BPC in national security strategy and military operations, the assumption that building foreign security forces will have tangible US national security benefits remains a relatively untested proposition," the Congressional Research Service oversight body wrote in a report last December.
The report notes that "identifying how much money DoD actually spends on BPC activities is nearly impossible at present."
Research conducted by the non-profit group Saferworld found that BPC programs can work against US national security. In Yemen, for example, America’s ostensible effort to promote stability actually led to the unrest.
"The use of airstrikes to attack al-Qaeda in Yemen did kill some al-Qaeda operatives, but ultimately generated huge resentment and fed support for anti-Western militants," Larry Attree writes for Saferworld.
"In the wake of military approaches, crucial drivers of conflict were neglected. The West kept partners on board by compromising its opposition to abuse, corruption and bad governance."
The covert nature of the BPC grants are especially susceptible to theft by corrupt officials.
"The militaries in countries where public corruption is pervasive make unreliable allies. As defense funding is siphoned off to the purses of the powerful, armies are often poorly trained and equipped, their rosters full of 'ghost soldiers,'" reads a 2014 corruption report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"Military professionalism and capabilities are inadequate to protect borders, leaving such countries vulnerable to attack."
While a law forcing the DoD to disclose its budget would help, it is arguably $122 billion too late.