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The Drug Enforcement Administration's Implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act

Report No. 03-35
September 2003
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix 2
Summary of
Special Agent-In-Charge
Questionnaire Results

  1. How would you rate the use of priority target organizations as a source of measuring performance (Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent)? Explain your rating?

    Response 1: Good.

    Response 2: Good. The Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) success involved using priority targeting in combination with wiretaps, the Special Operations Division (SOD), and information and cooperation with State and local police and multi-jurisdictional investigations.

    Response 3: Excellent. The DEA has successfully connected priority targeting with the use of wiretaps, the Special Operations Division (SOD), multi-jurisdictional investigations, and State and local programs.

    Response 4: Excellent. The Priority Target Resource and Reporting System (PTARRS) has enhanced the DEA's systems of reporting performance and encourages the input from the various field divisions.

    Response 5: Good to Excellent. Agent man-hours were also critical to the measurement.

  2. Assuming that priority targets are the best way to measure the DEA's performance, how can this system be enhanced to provide a better reflection of the DEA's performance, while also allowing you the flexibility to deal with other issues that may arise in the office?

    Response 1: Standards or required elements should be developed for priority target organizations and every priority target organization in the respective field division should be evaluated against those standards or elements. The organizations could then be categorized based on how they stack up against those standards. Organizations meeting the most or all the elements would be submitted as priority target organizations and would receive the greater case agent work load, while the remaining agents would continue to develop the cases that had not met all the required elements to qualify as a priority target. This would also provide the SACs the flexibility to work other assignments. The DEA should develop: 1) guidelines for the number of agents that should generally be assigned to a priority target, and 2) a goal of priority target organizations that each field division should disrupt and dismantle in a fiscal year based on location and staffing of the field division.

    Response 2: Dismantlements are not the only way to measure success. The PTARRS needs to reflect effort. Wiretaps may go on for a long time before sufficient information is obtained that results in arrests. Also, leads may be passed on to other offices or jurisdictions.

    Response 3: In order for the field division management to have the ability to see the "big picture" (manage resources and provide a better reflection of the DEA's performance), data fields need to be established in the PTARRS to identify drugs seized, wiretaps set-up, leads passed to other sub-offices or other field divisions that result in cases, number of arrests, resources (funding), and justification for the priority target (such as threat posed by organization, leadership of the organization, investigative activity to date, and anticipated investigative activity).

    Response 4: A better means of tracking man-hours on a given priority target organization will provide more flexibility to work other cases and offer assistance to other offices.

    Response 5: Additional resources would result in better performance.

  3. Does the use of priority target organizations as a source of measuring performance provide an accurate view of the DEA's success at accomplishing its mission? Explain?

    Response 1: No, not completely. Some harder to measure results should also be counted as accomplishments. For example, if a local drug gang is put out of commission and driven out of a neighborhood, the relief and feelings of safety for the residents should be counted as a positive result. By eliminating a bad influence in a neighborhood, younger children have more opportunity to learn better values and see better adults as models to emulate. If children only see drug dealers driving big fancy cars, that is who they will imitate.

    Response 2: Yes. That is the DEA's focus and mission.

    Response 3: Yes. Priority targeting provides an accurate view of the DEA's success because the field divisions have greater participation and everyone is a player. For example, the DEA's use of the Class 1 system offered a very rigid definition of a Class 1 violator. Small offices and locations would never have a Class 1 case, which would result in the DEA having a less accurate measure of performance from all entities. The priority targeting system offers a much greater degree of participation, which in the end provides a more accurate picture of performance.

    Response 4: Yes. In order to show the impact of the results, priority targets should be the priority.

  4. Does the use of priority target organizations provide an effective means of communicating case linkages? Why or why not?

    Response 1: Yes. The DEA field divisions and other police forces now share information and work together to connect the dots of drug connections to other parts of the country and the world.

    Response 2: Yes. In concert with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operations and the SOD, priority target organizations provide and encourage an effective case linkage system.

    Response 3: Yes. A lot of the information given to the SOD on priority target organizations has provided linkages to both Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and United States Customs situations.

    Response 4: Yes. We are beginning to look at the case linkage. In addition, the Consolidated Priority Organization Target list, OCDETF, and non-OCDETF sources have assisted with case linkages.

  5. How has the use of priority targets as a performance measurement improved the interaction among the field offices as related to providing leads to cases?

    Response 1: It has forced the field divisions to share leads in order to determine how drug dealers are connected and how the drugs move from overseas to this country and then to various locations for ultimate sale. The field divisions are working better as a team. The SOD sends leads to field divisions and the field divisions work the leads and share the information with other field divisions when the drug connections lead to the other division.

    Response 2: Priority targets coupled with the intelligence and resources of the SOD have forced the field divisions to focus and work together for the common cause of taking down the most significant drug trafficking organizations. For example, in the past, one field division may provide a lead on a priority target organization to another field division. The field division that received the priority target lead may just make note of that particular lead instead of looking at how that lead may be used to develop another priority target or aid in dismantling or disrupting the priority target organization from the field division that provided the lead.

    Response 3: The case linkage feature in the PTARRS has offered added value to the communication level between the field divisions. Also, there is an added bonus in that the PTARRS rejects cases when links are entered twice, which prompts the field divisions to interact with each other for information on the cases.

    Response 4: Priority targets have helped the existing relationship between the field divisions.

  6. Are priority target organizations selected in sub-offices that would not otherwise be selected as a priority target in the field division?? If so, why?

    Response 1: Yes. Some cases have a great local impact, but are not priority targets. The DEA cannot ignore a bad situation merely because it does not have immediately identifiable international connections. Each city has its own unique problems. We cannot fail to fund local drug cases just because they are not OCDETF cases.

    Response 2: No. Priority target organizations in sub-offices have an essential role in meeting the DEA's mission. Major drug trafficking organizations are not always identified in the major metropolitan cities and disrupted or dismantled from the top of the organization and then working down to the distribution level. Many investigations begin in the rural DEA sub-offices where major drug trafficking organizations are infiltrated through the smaller street level dealers.

    Response 3: It would be hard to make the distinction simply because of the differences in locations. Each field division is allowed to seek the biggest organization in their respective area.

    Response 4: The SAC provided no answer to this question.

  7. What areas of weaknesses do you see in the use of priority targets?

    Response 1: By focusing the DEA's assets on priority targets, there are less resources available for other cases, such as local targets. Money from special funds such as paying for evidence and information is now going to priority targets.

    Response 2: If the field division managers and Headquarters do not use seized drugs, wiretaps set-up, leads passed to other field divisons, and number of arrests in combination with priority target organizations dismantled and disrupted, then priority targets will not be an effective tool to manage resources and demonstrate the DEA's performance not only within the DEA, but also to Congress.

    Response 3: The perception of outside agencies such as the United States Attorney's office, sheriff's departments, and police departments relative to the understanding of priority targeting is that they will not get assistance from the DEA because of the focus on priority targets.

    Response 4: Because of the SOD funding factor, money should be maintained for non-priority cases. Also, the criteria for establishing priority target organizations should have been marketed better initially.

  8. Do resources, ratio of available case agents, the identification and arrest of drug traffickers, etc., have any effect or influence on your selection of priority targets? If so, how?

    Response 1: No.

    Response 2: No. We focus on the organization and the impact that organization has on the area. Once we identify a priority target, it is always a priority target regardless. The case may be removed from the priority target list at any time, but not because of any of the circumstances mentioned above.

    Response 3: Yes. Resources have an effect or influence on the selection of priority target organizations because a field division with 8 agents and 10 task force officers (18 total) would require more man hours that would result in more resources and the ability to work more priority targets. Also, every enforcement element should have at least one priority target, as well as one on the shelf when the other one is either disrupted or dismantled. In addition, the field division's threat assessment would be the basis for selecting priority targets.

    Response 4: Yes. Resources should be considered when you manage priority target organizations as the number increases. You would like to know the status of the existing priority target organizations as you manage your case workload.

  9. Do you think that priority targeting, if established and reported consistently among field divisions, could be used as an effective tool to request and bring resources to the areas of most significant trafficking (such as priority targets)? How?

    Response 1: Yes. Once we identify the priority targets, then we can demonstrate where the resources are needed. If the number of priority target organizations is greater than our resources, then we can show the need for more resources.

    Response 2: Yes. If the DEA field divisions and Headquarters: 1) clearly define what a priority target organization is, 2) develop general standardized criteria for selecting priority target organizations regardless of the area, and 3) consistently apply the definition and criteria, then the DEA can use this information to demonstrate and justify additional resources, especially in those areas of most significant trafficking. What we actually report to DEA Headquarters is: 1) the number of most significant priority target organizations that can be investigated based on the respective field divisions current available resources, and 2) the number (percentage) of additional priority target organizations that could be investigated if we had additional resources. We have an agreement with DEA Headquarters to report priority target organizations based on the aforementioned criteria. We cannot identify priority target organizations by just going through all our case files and categorizing them as either a non-priority target organization or a priority target organization. There are some priority target organizations that can be identified without having the available resources to work the cases (such as name of suspected drug trafficker and wire tap numbers). However, most priority target organizations are identified through case agents working and developing the cases until they can be classified and reported as a priority target organization.

    Response 3: Yes. Priority targeting could become an effective tool to request and bring resources if the DEA looked at how many priority target organizations were not worked because of the lack of resources (agents) and effectively measure the aspect of manpower to priority targets.

    Response 4: Yes.

  10. As illustrated in the table of statistics (See Appendix 3), why do you think certain field divisions show higher on-board staff, but such a low number and percentage of priority target organizations or vice versa? Are field divisions not reporting all the priority targets? Why?

    Response 1: The criteria to select priority target organizations is subjective. Each field division may have differing ideas on what constitutes a priority target. Perhaps field divisions are not reporting all the priority target organizations because of the subjectiveness of the criteria. Some field divisions may under report priority target organizations to show a higher success rate and some may over report priority target organizations to show a need for more resources or to look as if they are working harder.

    Response 2: Each field division has a different geographic drug connection (such as gateway for drugs entering and being distributed throughout the United States, and drug storage command centers), as well as a different drug threat. The field divisions are not reporting all their priority targets. However, based on the instructions provided by the DEA Headquarters (as discussed in the previous question), the field divisions are reporting all priority target organizations that can be investigated with the available resources.

    Response 3: The statistics illustrate where priority targeting was when the priority targeting concept first came about. The selection of priority target organizations was left to the discretion of the SAC. As such, every SAC selected their priority target organizations differently. There was no set criteria, no formula from headquarters. As the system has evolved, the selection process was revamped. All the field divisions are reporting their priority target organizations because the SACs are being evaluated based on the number of priority target organizations that are being disrupted and dismantled in their respective field division.

    Response 4: Initially, there was no established criteria for the priority targets. In some field divisions, sub-offices' cases were reported as priority targets, while the top cases were reported as priority target organizations in the New York field division.

  11. Does your field division use or have other performance indicators other than those currently reported that would better measure performance against DEA's overall mission?

    Response 1: No.

    Response 2: No. However, the DEA should look at other indicators that result from dismantled or disrupted priority target organizations (such as price of drugs, change in drug trafficking patterns, and sources of supply). The DEA should also take into account seizures, arrests, wiretaps set-up, impact on other areas of the country, and leads provided to sub-offices or other field divisions when evaluating DEA's overall performance. Furthermore, the DEA should report each field division's overall caseload for a fiscal year in addition to: 1) the number of most significant priority target organizations that could be investigated in a fiscal year based on the respective field divisions current available resources, and 2) the number or percentage of additional priority target organizations that could be worked if the field division had more resources. The reporting of the overall caseload should provide a more complete and accurate picture of DEA's performance, as well as demonstrate our needs. The field divisions should also have individual goals showing priority target organizations dismantled or disrupted, not just for the DEA overall. Using the threat assessment for each field division, goals could be set, not based on the number of priority target organizations disrupted or dismantled, but by type of organization dismantled or disrupted (such as chemical brokers and cocaine cartels).

    Response 3: No.

    Response 4: No. However the Field Management Plans identify what priorities are the focus within a division.

  12. What better tools could the DEA use to show Congress how well you are performing that would result in more personnel on-board to deal with the increased drug trafficking, distribution, and use of drugs?

    Response 1: The SAC could not think of any better tools to show Congress how the DEA is performing, but believed there were some.

    Response 2: Reporting the number of priority target organizations dismantled or disrupted in a given year cannot provide the true picture of the DEA's performance. Although the use of dismantled or disrupted priority target organizations is the key performance measure, the DEA must provide testimonial evidence to Congress with a package of success stories, as well as the statistical data. The statistical data must also provide a complete package of not only organizations dismantled or disrupted, but also drugs seized, wiretaps set-up, number of arrests, and leads passed to other sub-offices or other field divisions that results in cases. The DEA must also do a better job of using the media to inform the public of their work.

    Response 3: If the DEA could come up with a way to track the number of priority target organizations they could not work because of other responsibilities. For example, if the Border Patrol does a drug pickup, a DEA agent has to be called and the DEA agent is tied up with the logistics of that particular case. Also, the FBI recently pulled out their agents working within the DEA groups to focus more on terrorism. However, there are not enough DEA agents to fill the void. Both these areas limit the DEA's ability to work more priority targets.

    Response 4: Priority targeting is a good way to show Congress the DEA's performance. Other than inviting Congress members to different field divisions, the priority targeting system has credibility with Congress.


  1. During the survey phase of the audit, we conducted site work at one field division and our interview with the Special Agent-in-Charge (SAC) was limited to questions 1 and 2. During the verification phase of the audit, we interviewed the SACs in four other field divisions concerning those same two questions as well as additional questions 3 through 12. As a result, there are five responses for questions 1 and 2, and four responses for questions 3 through 12.