While Mexico’s drug cartel violence continues to mount and the recent sophisticated car bombing in Ciudad Juarez indicate possible foreign assistance to the drug lords, the Obama Administration received a less than stellar grade from the Government Accounting Office on its handling of delivery of help to the embattled Mexicans.

The latest report from the Government Accounting Office presented in Congress on July 21 reported:

The pace of delivery of the supplies had picked up, the Washington Post, summarized, with the U.S. government providing five Bell helicopters, biometric equipment, forensics material and canine teams to the Mexicans. The U.S. government has helped train over 4,000 officers at Mexico’s federal police academy.  But it concluded, “a significant amount of equipment and training intended to be provided under the initiative is still pending delivery.  This includes at least a dozen helicopters, four airplanes, 200 polygraph units and “multiple professionalization programs and projects.”

The GAO report also criticized an absence of performance guidelines and a solid timeline for delivery of goods and services.  Concluded Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere sub-committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) “nearly three years and $1.6 billion later, our counter-narcotics assistance to Mexico and Central America lacks fundamental measurements of success.”

The 2007 Merida Initiative remains is the focal point of U.S.-Mexico counterdrug cooperation.  Begun under the Bush Administration, despite a steady chorus of Democratic criticism, it is hampered today by shortfalls and delays that are the responsibility of the Obama White House and Clinton State Department.   The situation regarding Mexico is not unlike that of Haiti which six months after the devastating January 12 earthquake is tangled in convoluted cooperation wrangles and delivery shortfalls.  In neither Mexico nor Haiti is promise matched by performance.

The Obama Administration can ill-afford to slow up working and aiding the government of President Calderon as it goes head-to-head with the kingpins of the deadly drug business.  The emergence of a “narco-state” in Mexico remains one of  Washington’s worst security nightmares. Therefore the White House cannot backburner the assistance or let it be straight- jacketed by bureaucratic red tape and congressional tinkering.  It needs to undertake additional steps — building a cross-border anti-drug coalition, strengthening military-to-military ties, and engaging in effective public diplomacy along with other measures — outlined in a recent Heritage Backgrounder on Mexico.