Objectives: To review the history and goals of the US Department of Defense's largest civilian assistance program, the Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid Program and to describe the number, geographic regions, years, key words, countries, and types of projects carried out under this program since 2001.
Methods: Using the program's central database, we reviewed all approved projects since 2001 and tabulated them by year, combatant command, country, and key word. We also reviewed the project descriptions of projects funded between January 1, 2006, and February 9, 2008, and examined how their activities varied by combatant command and year.
Results: Of the 5395 projects in the database, 2097 were funded. Projects took place in more than 90 countries, with Southern, Pacific, and Africa Command hosting the greatest number. The most common types of projects were school, health, disaster response, and water infrastructure construction, and disaster-response training. The “global war on terror” was the key word most frequently tagged to project descriptions. Project descriptions lacked stated goals as well as implementation and coordination strategies with potential partners, and did not report outcome or impact indicators.
Conclusion: The geographic reach of the program is vast and projects take place in a wide variety of public sectors. Yet their security and civilian assistance value remains unclear given the lack of stated project goals, implementation strategies, or measures of effectiveness. To facilitate transparency and policy discussion, we recommend project proposals include hypotheses as to how they will enhance US security, their relevance to the public sector they address, and outcome and impact indicators that can assess their value and effectiveness.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:66-73)