Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page
Return to the Table of Contents

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

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



The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for enforcing Federal laws and regulations that relate to controlled substances. That responsibility includes identifying and targeting organizations and individuals involved in growing, manufacturing, or distributing controlled substances appearing in or destined for the United States. The DEA also is responsible for taking actions to: 1) reduce the availability of and demand for illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets, and 2) control the diversion of legitimately manufactured controlled substances from their lawful purpose into the illicit drug traffic. The DEA's performance in carrying out these responsibilities is essential to curb the amount of controlled substances available in the United States. Our audit focused on evaluating whether the DEA had: 1) developed an adequate strategic goal and objectives that are consistent with the Department of Justice's (Department) strategic goals and objectives, 2) established performance indicators for all the decision units included in the DEA's budget requests,3 and 3) established an effective system of controls to collect, analyze, and report data related to its performance indicators.

Government Performance and Results Act of 1993

Congress mandated performance-based management in Federal agencies through a series of statutory reforms, the centerpiece of which is the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA). It seeks to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability of Federal programs by establishing a system for agencies to set goals for program performance and to measure results. GPRA requires agencies to develop strategic plans that identify their long-range strategic goals and objectives, annual performance plans that set forth corresponding annual goals and indicators of performance, and annual performance reports that describe the actual levels of performance achieved compared to the annual goals. The Justice Management Division (JMD) has oversight responsibility for implementation of GPRA within the Department.

The Department of Justice's Implementation of GPRA

Strategic planning is the first step in the ongoing planning and implementation cycle for GPRA. This cycle, which is at the heart of the Department's efforts to implement performance-based management, involves setting long-term goals and objectives; translating those goals and objectives into budgets and program plans; implementing programs and monitoring their performance; and evaluating results. In this cycle, the Department's overall strategic plan provides the framework for component and function-specific plans as well as annual performance plans, budgets, and reports. At the heart of performance-based management is the idea that focusing on mission, agreeing on goals, and reporting results are keys to improved performance. Performance-based management was on the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) list of Top Management Challenges in the Department of Justice (2002). This list of top challenges was originally prepared in response to congressional requests and is now required by the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000 to be included in the Department's annual Performance and Accountability Report.

The DEA's Implementation of GPRA

The DEA's Executive Policy and Strategic Planning Staff has responsibility for implementation of GPRA within the DEA relating to developing its strategic goal and objectives. The DEA's Office of Resource Management has responsibility for developing performance indicators to evaluate the DEA's performance against the goal and objectives, and for reporting the performance results in the DEA's annual budget requests.

The DEA's strategic goal is to identify, target, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle the international, national, state, and local drug trafficking organizations that are having the most significant impact on America. The DEA describes these organizations as "priority targets." This strategic goal underscores the DEA's belief that most drug trafficking organizations are part of a web linking international with national/regional and state and local organizations. The DEA further believes that effective enforcement operations can be developed and simultaneously directed against targeted organizations in each sector, thereby disrupting the networks that link them.

For each of the four strategic areas identified in the DEA's strategic plan, the DEA developed performance indicators for each of the its four decision units as follows:

Decision Unit Performance Indicators
Domestic Enforcement Number of priority target organizations disrupted/dismantled

Contribution to reduction in drug use and availability
International Enforcement Number of priority target organizations disrupted/dismantled

Contribution to reduction in drug use and availability
Diversion Control Number of suppliers disrupted/dismantled
State and Local Assistance Contribution to reduction in drug use and availability
Source: DEA's FY 2004 Congressional Budget Request

From April 2001 to April 2002, the DEA tracked its progress in disrupting and dismantling priority target organizations using a labor intensive and time consuming manual system. In April 2002, the DEA implemented a computer application known as the Priority Target Resource and Reporting System (PTARRS). PTARRS automates the process of nominating, reviewing, and approving organizations as priority targets and provides the domestic field divisions and domestic Headquarters Operations the capability to track the progress made and resources expended against priority target organizations. The DEA is in the process of upgrading PTARRS to enhance the usefulness and flexibility of the system. The contract for upgrading PTARRS was awarded in September 2002, and the DEA is currently working with the contractor to develop a timeline for implementing the upgrade.

Prior Audits

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has issued numerous reports related to the Department's implementation of the GPRA from 1999 to 2003. The OIG also issued a report in 2000 that related to the Department's implementation of the GPRA. The following GAO reports and OIG report address issues specifically related to the DEA.

In a 1999 report, the GAO reported on the DEA's drug control strategies and operations.4 The GAO reported that the DEA had enhanced or changed important aspects of its operations (such as strategies, programs, initiatives, and approaches) and concluded that the DEA's strategic goal and objectives, and its enhanced programs and initiatives, had been consistent with the Federal government's National Drug Control Strategy. However, the GAO found that the DEA had not developed measurable performance targets for its programs and initiatives that were consistent with those adopted for the National Drug Control Strategy. As a result, it was difficult for the DEA, the Department, Congress, and the public to assess how effective the DEA had been in achieving its strategic goal and the effect its programs and initiative have had in reducing the illegal drug supply.

In a 2000 report, the OIG reported on the Department's FY 2000 Summary Performance Plan and concluded that the plan generally met the requirements of the GPRA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance. 5 However, the OIG reported that the DEA had either not established any numeric targets or the numeric targets were not realistic. The DEA also had not included several of the Department's performance goals in its performance plan.

In a 2000 report, the GAO made observations on the Department's FY 1999 Performance Report and the FY 2001 Performance Plan and concluded that the Department's progress in achieving desirable program outcomes could not be readily determined since the Department had not developed performance goals and indicators that objectively captured and described performance results.6 The GAO found that the Department's performance indicators: 1) were more output than outcome oriented, 2) did not capture all aspects of performance, and/or 3) had no stated performance targets. With respect to the DEA, the GAO found that its FY 1999 domestic drug-related performance goals were not directly measurable. Moreover, the indicators used by the DEA, while quantifiable, were more output than outcome oriented.

In a 2001 report, the GAO evaluated the Department's FY 2000 Performance Report and its progress towards achieving key outcomes and concluded that it was difficult to determine the Department's overall progress towards achieving selected key outcomes. The GAO stated that generally the Performance Report lacked: 1) fiscal year 2000 performance targets to measure success, and 2) a clear linkage between performance indicators and outcomes.7 With respect to the DEA and its availability and/or use of illegal drugs performance measure, the GAO reported that it was difficult to determine the DEA's progress because the Department did not have fiscal year performance targets for two of its five indicators, and the relationship of one measure to the outcome was not clear.

In a 2003 report, the GAO reported on the five major performance and accountability challenges and program risks facing the Department as it carries out its mission.8 One of the five major performance and accountability challenges discussed in this report is the Department's development of measurable performance targets to help the DEA determine its progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs. With respect to this issue, the GAO reported that the DEA had: 1) developed management plans to help measure program effectiveness and provided organizational accountability for priority performance targets; 2) established performance targets for disrupting and dismantling international and domestic drug trafficking organizations; and 3) developed a system to capture, verify, and validate data on all priority projects.


  1. A decision unit is a specific activity or project identified in an agency's annual budget.
  2. Drug Control, DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s (GAO/GGD-99-108, July 1999)
  3. Department of Justice FY 2000 Summary Performance Plan under GPRA (00-11, March 2000)
  4. Observations on the Department of Justice's Fiscal Year 1999 Performance Report and Fiscal Year 2001 Performance Plan (GAO/GGD-00-155R, June 2000)
  5. Department of Justice, Status of Achieving Key Outcomes and Addressing Major Management Challenges (GAO-01-729, June 2001)
  6. Major Management Challenges and Program Risks in the Department of Justice (GAO-03-105, January 2003)