The Drug Enforcement Administration's International Operations (Redacted)
Audit Report 07-19
Office of the Inspector General
In response to our audit report, the DEA concurred with the majority of our recommendations and discussed the actions it has already taken and others it will implement in response to our findings. However, the DEA also took issue with various aspects of the report and claimed it did not provide an accurate assessment of the DEA’s international operations. Before addressing the DEA’s response to each of the OIG recommendations and the actions necessary to close those recommendations, we provide the following comments on the DEA’s response to the draft report.
The DEA contends that our audit focused primarily on “administrative” as opposed to “operational” issues. We disagree. Our report dedicates significant discussion to DEA investigative strategies and policies regarding DEA international operations, as well as DEA foreign office performance planning and measurement. Throughout our audit and at the audit close-out meeting, DEA officials stated that the primary means of evaluating overall agency performance is through an assessment of the number of significant drug trafficking organizations that the agency disrupts and dismantles. Internally, the DEA identifies these organizations as Priority Target Organizations (PTO). Our report includes data on PTO disruption and dismantlement data for DEA foreign offices, as well as an analysis of the percentage of DEA foreign personnel work hours spent on PTO investigations.
We also included a summary of DEA accomplishments related to Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOT) and terrorist organizations. In addition, we report on the DEA’s SIU Program, which was cited by many DEA personnel as a critical investigative tool in its international operations. Another chapter of the report discusses the operational relationships the DEA maintains abroad, and we also provide information on the DEA’s efforts to provide training to its foreign partners.
However, the DEA did not collect or provide additional data to assess the results of its international operations. We analyzed and reported on the data provided to us by the DEA during the audit. Subsequently, as part of its formal response to our audit, the DEA attached a 32-page document entitled Analysis of DEA’s International Operations, which summarizes highlights from various cases and large operations. But the information provided contains virtually no analytical elements or data to assess the DEA’s performance. Generally, the DEA does not appear to have objectively analyzed the collective impact its international activities have had on the illicit drug trade in the United States.
Moreover, we found significant problems in the management of DEA international operations. The DEA labels these issues as “administrative deficiencies.” Yet, we believe that these findings are important issues that directly affect the DEA’s international operations. For example, we found deficiencies in the DEA’s SIU Program [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED].
The DEA’s response also provides comments on a variety of specific matters. We address these comments in turn.
Report’s Focus and Primary Objective
The DEA correctly stated in its response that the OIG requested to be provided with documents related to any comprehensive analyses performed of DEA’s international activities. Specifically, the OIG requested that the DEA provide: “any DEA internal, comprehensive analysis of the DEA's international activities and the impact on the illegal drug trade in the United States.” The DEA acknowledged during our audit work that it did not have such an assessment. However, after receiving our draft report and in discussions following the audit close-out meeting DEA officials stated that they were compiling information from multiple sources to fulfill our request.
Subsequently, as part of its formal response to our audit, the DEA attached the 32-page document entitled: Analysis of DEA’s International Operations. As noted above, this document principally provides insight into the type and level of drug trafficking organizations the DEA is targeting, and summarizes highlights from various cases and large operations. But again, this document contains virtually no analysis or data to assess the DEA’s overall performance in its international operations.
Further, in its response to the OIG audit, which is attached to this audit report, the DEA highlights certain items from the 32-page document. However, several of the items are already noted in our report, such as PTO investigations linked to terrorist organizations, the DEA’s focus on the CPOT list, and its implementation of the International Drug Flow Prevention Strategy. Many of the remaining examples are simply listings or highlights of particular cases or descriptions of activities within specific countries, and the DEA does not connect these events with an impact on the illicit drug trade within the United States. For example, the DEA’s response to our report states that the DEA has “successfully contributed to the reduction in drug use.” However, nowhere in its response or in its 32-page attachment does the DEA provide data to validate that assertion.
Annual Performance Plan
Our audit found that the DEA operated without a performance planning instrument for DEA foreign offices for fiscal years (FY) 2004 through 2006. In June 2006, during our audit work, we were told that the DEA was circulating a draft foreign office planning instrument through its Regional Directors and DEA headquarters management and that we could obtain a copy once the document was finalized. At the audit close-out meeting, the DEA again informed us that its Foreign Region Management Plan was not yet finalized and that DEA executive management would have to approve our review of this document in draft form. Subsequent to the close-out meeting, we were provided with a copy of the plan and, as a result, we were able to comment on the draft plan in our report.
The DEA states that it informed the OIG that its Foreign Region Management Plan would be composed of individual country plans. The DEA also states in its response that information in our report related to the DEA’s performance planning is inaccurate. Both of these statements are misleading. Following issuance of the draft audit report, a senior DEA official explained to the audit team that individual, documented country office plans would not be required by DEA headquarters, as we recommend in our report. Instead, we were told that it would be obvious to Regional Directors that they should hold discussions with their various Country Attachés and they would consider these discussions when developing the official, documented plan for the region. Following lengthy discussions with the audit team on the matter, this DEA executive informed the OIG that the DEA would agree to augment the instructions for its Foreign Region Management Plan to include an instruction to its Regional Directors to have its country offices submit annual country plans for consolidation into an overall region plan. We told this DEA official that we would consider this action sufficient to resolve our recommendation to implement performance planning instructions and guidelines at both the region and country office-level, and we instructed the DEA to include these actions in the DEA’s official response to our report. Therefore, the DEA’s Corrective Action Plan states that it will require its Regional Directors to perform annual performance planning in the manner discussed above.
The DEA also contends that the OIG did not interview appropriate personnel about the agency’s performance planning instruments and that some of the information in our report about this topic is inaccurate. We believe that all information related to DEA foreign performance planning in our report is accurate and supported. We also note that during the audit we interviewed the DEA officials who were identified as knowledgeable on the issues by other senior DEA officials. In this audit, we made it clear to DEA officials that we were reviewing the agency’s performance evaluation activities, and we were directed to certain individuals, all of whom we interviewed at length about the subject. Additionally, we provided the DEA’s Executive Policy and Strategic Planning Staff ample opportunity in discussions following the audit close-out meeting to present its perspective on the performance planning efforts of the DEA’s foreign offices.
Principal Objectives for Working with Foreign Counterpart Agencies
The DEA states in its response that the OIG identified the DEA’s five principal objectives for working with foreign counterpart agencies, and the DEA response states that the report did not address its objectives on foreign institution building and the gathering and sharing of intelligence.
While the focus of our audit was not on the DEA’s “institution building,” our report does include elements related to DEA’s intelligence sharing and institution building in foreign countries. For example, our discussion on the DEA’s efforts with foreign counterparts to create and maintain working relationships, to provide opportunities for training, and to effectively operate its SIU Program addresses aspects of the DEA’s intelligence sharing and institution building efforts.
Sensitive Investigative Units (SIUs)
Our report contains significant discussion on the DEA’s vetted unit concept and its SIU Program specifically. We reported that the DEA performed an internal assessment of its SIU Program in FY 2005 and, as a result of this review, promulgated revisions to the DEA SIU operating protocol. We also note that we included these policy changes in the criteria we used in our evaluation of the SIU Program. Although the DEA performed an internal assessment in 2005 and promulgated revisions to its SIU operating protocol, our review identified ongoing deficiencies with the management of the program and its practices that were either not corrected by the prior review or were not identified in the DEA’s internal assessment.
The DEA response also states that the OIG failed to properly recognize the SIU Program as a successful and critical foreign institution building effort. We noted in our report that DEA believes vetted units are critical to its foreign activities and we identified operational highlights of its SIU Program in Colombia, Mexico, and Thailand. However, our ability to further report on the accomplishments of the SIU Program was hindered by the fact that the DEA does not collect data of the results directly attributable to the efforts of its SIUs. As a result, we recommend in our report that the DEA “identify performance measurements and implement a methodology to track and evaluate the activities and accomplishments of its SIU Program.”
However, the DEA responded in its Corrective Action Plan that it did not concur with this recommendation. The DEA dedicates about $18 million each year to its SIU Program, not including the DEA personnel resources it spends on SIU-related activities in foreign countries. Also, in its FY 2007 budget request, the DEA requested an additional $11 million to expand the SIU Program to four additional countries. We believe the DEA is remiss in not collecting data to analyze the accomplishments specific to a program it considers critical to its international success and to which it dedicates substantial resources each year. We also found it troubling that the DEA touts the success of the program, and criticizes the OIG audit for not confirming these successes, when the DEA declines to collect data that would accurately measure the impact of the program.
Personnel Utilization Data and Investigative Work Hours
In its response, the DEA disputes the OIG’s reporting that DEA management stated that it does not use personnel utilization data as a measure to evaluate foreign office activity. In response, the DEA comments that the DEA Chief of Operations states that many high-level managers use personnel utilization data to assess how DEA foreign office personnel spend their time on different types of investigative activity. Yet, the DEA official’s comment is contrary to what several DEA personnel told us directly. In addition, other DEA officials did not mention this type of analysis when commenting on the evaluation techniques they used to assess performance. During our audit, DEA headquarters personnel also gave conflicting accounts on the use of such data and only two of five foreign Regional Directors indicated to us that they actually used personnel utilization data to identify the focal areas of investigative activity in their region.
Additionally, the DEA notes in its Corrective Action Plan that in the second quarter of FY 2007, the agency will begin to prepare and distribute quarterly office work-hour statistical reports to appropriate DEA headquarters management and to Regional Directors “to facilitate the monitoring of foreign office performance against established regional priorities and office goals.” By stating that it will begin this process in the second quarter of FY 2007, the DEA indicates that it was not performing such reviews previous to our recommendation.
Imprest Fund Transactions
At the audit close-out meeting we agreed to provide samples of our imprest fund findings to assist the DEA in resolving identified deficiencies. We later forwarded the sample documents to the appropriate DEA headquarters personnel, and the audit team worked extensively with DEA personnel to clarify the exceptions noted during our review. Additionally, the audit team agreed with the DEA’s decision to make further inquiries of the foreign offices to resolve the deficiencies that we identified during our fieldwork.
As a result, after the audit close-out meeting we received and reviewed additional DEA documentation that had not been provided to us during our fieldwork in two foreign offices. In one of the two offices, some of the documents were apparently obtained from a secondary filing system that we were not informed of during our field testing.
However, contrary to the DEA’s response, the overall finding in our report about the weaknesses in the DEA’s management of imprest funds in foreign offices remains accurate and troubling. In total, we identified 165 exceptions in the 233 imprest fund transactions that we tested, and we reviewed each of these exceptions with DEA financial personnel prior to the issuance of our final report.81
The DEA also commented in its response that it wished to review documentation related to operational advance account transactions that we identified as exceptions. We explained to DEA headquarters personnel on several occasions that for the majority of these expenditures our finding related to a lack of documentation and therefore we could not provide documentation that was not available to us. We also reiterated to DEA headquarters personnel that this finding was discussed with the appropriate DEA foreign office management who agreed with our results. As a result, we were told by the Chief of the DEA’s Financial Operations Section that DEA headquarters personnel did not need to view information related to our operational account findings.
However, if the DEA has reversed its position and now wishes to obtain such information, the OIG will work with the appropriate DEA headquarters personnel and provide available information to assist the DEA in resolving this issue.
We believe that the OIG’s report on the DEA’s international operations is an objective, independent representation of the work performed, and is in accordance with the audit’s stated objectives. It contains accurate and supported information. We appreciate the DEA’s attention to our findings and recommendations and, where appropriate, have made changes to our report based on its comments. We look forward to working with the DEA to improve its international operations through the resolution and closure of each of the 22 recommendations in our report.
The DEA also provided an attachment containing numerous editorial comments on the draft report. We considered these comments and, where appropriate, made minor adjustments to our report language. These adjustments related to the DEA’s imprest fund activities, the specificity of the types of sophisticated training requested by foreign counterpart agencies, and the organization of DEA’s foreign offices. These adjustments were technical in nature and do not affect the validity of our findings and recommendations.
Status of Recommendations
Resolved. In its response to the draft report, the DEA concurred with our recommendation to implement a standardized system for foreign offices to use in tracking and prioritizing investigative leads and assistance requests received by these offices. The DEA stated that in an upcoming meeting with its Regional Directors it will develop a system and protocol to address this need.
As stated in our report, we determined the Milan Resident Office (not the Bogotá Country Office as erroneously noted by the DEA in its response) had the most comprehensive system for tracking and prioritizing leads and assistance requests, and we suggested the DEA review this system for possible use in the development of an agency-wide model.
To close this recommendation, please provide us with a template of the tracking system format and the associated protocol. In addition, please forward examples of the use of this tracking system covering a 3-month period from the following country offices: Mexico City, Bogotá, and Bangkok.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to implement performance planning instructions and guidelines for DEA Regional Directors to use in developing performance plans for its foreign regions and Country Offices. The DEA also indicated that it would require each Regional Director to provide a copy of the Foreign Region Management Plan (FRMP) to every Country Office within their area of responsibility, instructing them to complete the FRMP at the Country Office level for inclusion in a consolidated regional response to DEA headquarters.
To close this recommendation, please provide the finalized FMRP containing instructions for executing Country Office performance planning, a completed planning packet for one DEA foreign region (including the final regional plan and all associated country plans), and certification that all foreign regions complied with the planning requirements.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation and stated that appropriate headquarters executive management and Regional Directors will annually review the FMRPs to monitor foreign office performance against DEA’s goals and priorities. To close this recommendation, please provide us with evidence of this review by DEA headquarters management and by the Regional Directors.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation for DEA headquarters and foreign regional managers to routinely monitor work-hour data in evaluating foreign office performance against established regional and office goals. The DEA stated that beginning with the second quarter of FY 2007, DEA headquarters will generate quarterly foreign office work-hour statistical reports for review by executive management and distribute these reports to Regional Directors.
To close this recommendation, please provide us with the foreign office work-hour statistical reports for the second, third, and fourth quarters of FY 2007, as well as evidence that the reports were distributed to appropriate headquarters personnel and to the Regional Directors.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to incorporate in DEA internal reviews (such as its annual “rightsizing” review and routine on-site inspections) an assessment of the impact that increased regional responsibilities place on foreign offices. The DEA also indicated that it would forward to the OIG a copy of its next annual rightsizing report in April 2007.
To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the upcoming rightsizing report, along with the instructions that have been added to its internal review processes to address the impact of added regional responsibilities.
Unresolved. The DEA does not concur with our recommendation to identify performance measurements and implement a methodology to track and evaluate the activities and accomplishments of its SIU Program. The DEA contends that the SIU Program is an enforcement strategy and that evaluating SIU activity would not aid DEA local management in prioritizing the use of resources or evaluating office accomplishments. We agree that the vetting of foreign personnel is a strategy, but the use of SIUs and the policies governing SIU management and activity is programmatic. Additionally, Congress has provided the DEA with significant funding specifically tied to the SIU Program. Currently, the SIU Program receives over $18 million each year, and in its FY 2007 budget request the DEA asked Congress to increase funding by over 50 percent to expand the SIU Program to four new countries. In our opinion, the DEA needs to produce an objective assessment of the SIU Program because it receives substantial resources and the DEA considers it critical to its work overseas.
To resolve this recommendation, please provide us with further information about how the DEA can objectively identify and evaluate the activities and accomplishments of its SIU Program.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to implement improvements in the vetting of SIU members.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation for foreign offices to maintain a record of equipment issued to SIU teams. The DEA stated that to ensure compliance with its policy, it will draft and issue procedures requiring country offices that participate in the SIU Program to submit annual certifications of equipment inventories. To close this recommendation, please provide us with the instructions issued to the field offices and evidence of the annual certifications of equipment inventories when completed.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation and is in the process of revising its SIU guidelines and controls for supplying salary supplement payments to unit members. To close this recommendation, please provide the OIG with the revised guidelines that are expected to be issued by October 2007. We believe these guidelines should include a requirement to obtain signed receipts and conduct periodic comparisons of the signatures on signed receipts to signature examples obtained from each SIU member.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to ensure that the span-of-control ratios for managing SIUs in Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, and Peru are in compliance with DEA guidelines. The DEA also stated that some Regional Directors may request an exception to this policy until the DEA can increase foreign staff to comply with the guidelines.
To close this recommendation, please provide us details of the SIU participants, advisors, and span of control ratios for each named country as of March 31 and September 30, 2007, as well as documentation of any requests and approvals for an exception to the stated policy. We believe that any exceptions granted to the DEA foreign offices in regards to this policy should include a justification for the reprieve and an assessment of risk associated with operating the SIU with an elevated span of control ratio.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to determine if all SIU members received the basic training course. The DEA indicated that it issued a directive requiring the Regional Directors to provide by November 15, 2006, a listing of SIU members who have not received basic training. This list will then be reconciled to the Office of Training’s records, and any members who have not received basic training will be scheduled to attend a class during FY 2007. To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the directive that was issued to the Regional Directors, evidence of the results of the reconciliation with the Office of Training’s records, the listing of SIU members who have not attended basic training, and confirmation that these individuals have completed the training.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation and said it plans to issue a teletype to all foreign offices re-emphasizing the importance of complying with DEA policy to conduct exit briefings of departing SIU members and to submit semi-annual reports of this activity to DEA headquarters. To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the issued teletype and the following two semi‑annual report submissions.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to issue guidance to assist foreign office management in creating and operating non-SIU foreign vetted units, [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED]. To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the teletype issued to all foreign offices providing the guidance discussed.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with this recommendation and included in its comments several additional planned actions as follows. First, the DEA said it plans to issue a teletype reminding all offices having imprest funds to strictly adhere to published imprest fund guidance. Second, the imprest fund audit program will be modified to include an additional requirement to sample the DEA-12s to ensure the cashier is signing as a witness. Third, the CFO will issue a reminder to all cashiers to maintain all appropriate supporting documentation and to comply with all policies and procedures identified in the cash management chapter of the DEA’s Financial Manual and Policy Handbook. To close this recommendation, please provide us: (1) the reminder teletype, (2) the modified imprest fund audit program, and (3) the CFO reminder to imprest fund cashiers.
Resolved. The DEA did not concur with this recommendation, but said that it will issue a reminder to all operational advance holders of policies and procedures in the DEA’s Financial Manual and Policy Handbook, which requires obtaining prior approval before incurring expenses. We believe this action satisfies the intent of our recommendation and we therefore consider this recommendation resolved. To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the DEA’s reminder to operational advance holders on proper fund control policies and procedures.
The DEA also commented in its response that the DEA asked the OIG to review documentation related to operational advance account transaction exceptions noted in the report. In discussions with DEA headquarters personnel, we explained that for many of these transactions there was no documentation available. We also informed DEA headquarters personnel that these exceptions were discussed with the appropriate DEA foreign office management who agreed with our findings. As a result, DEA headquarters personnel told us that they did not want to view documentation related to these transactions. However, if the DEA now wants to obtain and review such information, the OIG will provide all available transaction information to the DEA.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation and agreed to issue a teletype to all foreign offices reiterating the DEA and State Department policies on proper cell phone practices, the care and use of safes, and the changing of safe and door combinations. To close this recommendation, please provide us: (1) a copy of the issued teletype, and (2) certification (including the applicable Regional Security Officer’s signature) that safe and door lock combinations noted in the report as being overdue for a combination change have been addressed.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to direct firearms coordinators to forward an employee’s firearms file to their next post of duty or the Firearms Training Unit, and to ensure that firearms qualification files for existing agents are current. The DEA stated that its Office of Training would issue a teletype reinforcing these requirements. To close this recommendation, please provide us a copy of the issued teletype.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to revise its firearms qualification policy to address situations where a DEA agent is located in a country without a compliant firearms testing facility and who does not travel to the United States during his or her tenure at a foreign post. The DEA stated that the Office of Training will issue a teletype reinforcing or amending policies for ensuring that firearms qualification standards are maintained while in the foreign post. To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the teletype along with any revisions to the DEA firearms policy.
Resolved. The DEA does not indicate its concurrence with our recommendation for the DEA to determine why agents carrying firearms in foreign countries were not included on the DEA Training Division’s centralized list of foreign DEA personnel certified to carry weapons in foreign countries. Instead, the DEA states that it will review our sample data and determine the necessary procedural or policy adjustments to ensure information is provided to the Training Division on a timely and accurate basis. We believe this plan is sufficient to resolve this recommendation and, under separate cover we will forward to the DEA Training Division the names of the sampled DEA Special Agents carrying firearms in foreign offices who were not included on the DEA Training Division’s centralized list.
To close this recommendation, please provide us verification that the DEA has developed procedures to ensure that the DEA Training Division maintains accurate and current records of DEA foreign personnel weapons proficiency certifications. Additionally, we request that the DEA please forward a complete listing of DEA personnel carrying firearms in foreign offices, including the latest dates of their firearms qualification.
Unresolved. The DEA’s response indicates that the agency concurs with the first half of our recommendation, but does not concur with the remainder.
The DEA agreed to clarify its policy of firearms qualification requirements pertaining to foreign service nationals (FSN), stating it will require FSNs to qualify on a semi-annual basis. To close this portion of the recommendation, please forward a copy of the revised policy once it is finalized.
The DEA does not concur with our recommendation to clarify that FSNs are prohibited from carrying personal firearms during official DEA duty and that FSNs are to be issued weapons and ammunition on a day‑to‑day basis unless specifically authorized by a Regional Director to carry a DEA-issued firearm on a permanent basis. The DEA stated in its response that its policy allows FSNs to carry personally owned weapons and appears to infer that FSNs can carry DEA-issued firearms on a permanent basis.
Following the audit close-out meeting, we were provided a copy of the DEA FSN firearms policy. During our review of this policy we submitted the following inquiry through official DEA channels:
Is the policy's intent to apply to FSNs carrying personally owned firearms, as well as DEA-issued weapons?
The DEA replied with an answer from its Training Division, which oversees the DEA’s Firearms Training Unit:
The intent of this policy is for that FSN to have a DEA weapon and ammunition temporarily issued to the FSN on a daily basis. After the day is done the weapon and ammunition is returned to DEA. Unless the RD [Regional Director] specifically authorizes the FSN to carry the weapon on a 24 hour basis the FSN has to return the weapon and ammunition. No personally owned weapons are allowed. (emphasis added)
Comparing this response from the DEA Training Division to the DEA’s response on the draft report shows obvious conflict within the DEA on the interpretation of its FSN firearms policy. To resolve this recommendation, the DEA needs to develop a consistent position on its policy on FSNs carrying personal firearms during official DEA duty and also spell out the DEA’s position regarding the issuance of weapons to FSNs. In addition, the DEA needs to provide its plan for clarifying its FSN firearms policy so that it clearly addresses its intentions and to publicize its position to all employees. To resolve this portion of the recommendation, please forward us with additional comments on DEA’s final position on its policy on FSNs carrying personal firearms during official DEA duty.
Resolved. The DEA concurred with our recommendation to ensure that personnel assigned collateral administrative duties receive the necessary training to correctly perform these functions. According to the DEA’s comments, it will issue a teletype to all foreign offices to ensure that applicable personnel receive the necessary training. To close this recommendation, please provide us with a copy of the teletype and evidence that training was provided and will continue to be offered as necessary to foreign office personnel with assigned collateral duties.
For some transactions tested, more than one exception was noted. Additionally, the 165 exceptions do not include 2 findings related to flash rolls returned in an untimely manner.
|« Previous||Table of Contents||Next »|