The Drug Enforcement Administration's International Operations (Redacted)

Audit Report 07-19
February 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Chapter 6: International Training

The DEA’s success overseas, as discussed in Chapter 4, often relies on the quality of its relationships with foreign counterpart agencies and the investigative capabilities of these foreign partners. The DEA views training as an important means for building international partnerships and enhancing the technical ability of foreign law enforcement. Additionally, the DEA must ensure it is properly training its personnel for duties and responsibilities in foreign offices.

Our review found that the DEA provided extensive training opportunities to foreign counterparts, and these counterparts complimented the DEA on the training received and noted the DEA as an important source for drug enforcement knowledge and expertise. However, we found room for improvement in the DEA’s coordination of its international training, particularly between the DEA and other agencies that provide similar opportunities for training. Additionally, we determined that DEA personnel stationed in foreign offices did not receive appropriate training on certain administrative functions important to the effective maintenance of DEA foreign office operations, specifically on imprest fund administration.

International Training Section

The DEA’s Training Division includes the International Training Section, which is responsible for managing DEA foreign-related training endeavors. According to the DEA, it has offered counternarcotics training to its foreign counterparts since its inception, providing instruction internationally and in the United States, usually at the DEA Training Academy located in Quantico, Virginia. DEA officials further stated that the DEA currently trains approximately 2,500 foreign law enforcement officers each year. The intent of DEA international training is to develop lasting working relationships between countries and to build institutional infrastructure within foreign law enforcement agencies and judicial systems. The DEA’s International Training Section identified five objectives for its international training:

The International Training Section provides training to foreign counterpart agencies through three instructional teams specializing in different types of training. As of June 2006, the three units, named Mobile Team A, Mobile Team B, and Mobile Team C, had 20 authorized positions, of which 18 personnel were on board and 2 Special Agent positions were vacant. These figures represent a decrease in personnel resources allocated to international training endeavors. In FY 1995, a total of 30 positions were allocated to five mobile training teams. DEA Training Division representatives stated that the DEA is providing more instruction with its three mobile teams than it did with the previous five instructional teams, even though they are operating with a third fewer positions. The five teams put on about 35 classes per year, whereas the three teams now provide about 70 classes.

Mobile Team A

The International Training Section’s Mobile Team A provides training for foreign law enforcement officials who are part of the DEA’s Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU) Program.70 SIU Basic Training, the unit’s 5‑week class held at the DEA’s Training Academy, typically includes instruction in interviewing, raid planning, first aid, technical training, wire intercept, and computer training, among other topics. When a specific need arises, the DEA also provides specialized training to its SIUs, usually in the host country. Examples of these subject-focused classes include training on topics such as asset forfeiture, money laundering, and intelligence collection and analysis methods.

When possible, the SIU Basic Training course is composed of participants from a single country. In other cases, the DEA may combine SIUs, or portions of SIUs, from the same country or from different countries. For example, the DEA presented a concurrent SIU Basic Training course to SIU members from Guatemala and Mexico. The DEA reports to have trained over 1,600 foreign personnel in its SIU Basic Training course between October 1996 and June 2006.

During our fieldwork at DEA foreign offices, we met with SIU personnel who attended the SIU Basic Training course. Overall, these representatives generally indicated that the training was beneficial and important to professional and technical development. However, although most SIU commanders in Mexico and Colombia noted that the training instilled professionalism and motivation in their units, a few SIU members we interviewed believed the SIU training could be improved. For example, some SIU commanders in Mexico and Colombia stated that their units would benefit from training in sophisticated investigative techniques. An SIU commander in Colombia commented that he relayed his sentiments to DEA Training Division management, and he felt comfortable that his suggestions would be considered. International Training Section management commented to us that each SIU Basic Training class is specially designed according to the SIU’s needs and country environment in an effort to alleviate unnecessary instruction. Also, each participant completes a course evaluation form and the course instructor prepares an after-action report. Adjustments are made incrementally to the course content based on the feedback provided in these reporting mechanisms. Further, the International Training Section conducts a curriculum conference every 2 years to review all course curriculum and to make changes to course content as necessary.

Mobile Team B

International training unit Mobile Team B is mainly responsible for providing training at the State Department’s International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs) located in: (1) Bangkok, Thailand; (2) Budapest, Hungary; (3) Gaborone, Botswana; and (4) San Salvador, El Salvador.71 The leadership of these ILEAs is shared among participating U.S. agencies. The DEA holds the Directorship post at ILEA Bangkok and the Deputy Director position at ILEA San Salvador. As of March 2005, the State Department reported that the ILEAs trained over 13,000 officials from 68 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

During our fieldwork, we toured the ILEA Bangkok facility and interviewed the DEA Program Director. In his opinion, being heavily involved in ILEA Bangkok raises the DEA’s profile and provides the agency with useful contacts, while the foreign governments receive needed training from the DEA. According to the Program Director, the facility was staffed by 37 persons and had an annual operating budget of about $3 million, provided by the State Department and the DEA, to cover the costs of equipment, supplies, and trainer and trainee travel‑related expenses.72 The government of Thailand provided land for the facility and supports the ILEA by paying for its vehicles, guard service, and facility maintenance. We were informed that the government of Thailand also plans to provide $2 million to construct dormitories for ILEA training participants.

Mobile Team B also provides training outside the ILEAs in its International Narcotics Enforcement Management Seminar, a 3‑week course that stresses narcotics enforcement principles and techniques for the management level. The seminar has been provided since 1969 to high-level managers of foreign operational anti-narcotic units. Country officials in attendance are expected to present a synopsis of the narcotics situation in their home country. According to DEA officials, the seminar is held in the United States and was held several times per year when there were five mobile teams. Now, with three mobile teams, the International Training Section conducts the seminar once a year. The 84th International Narcotics Enforcement Management Seminar was recently held in Hawaii and was co‑sponsored by the Department of Defense’s Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) West. It was attended by 19 foreign representatives from 16 countries.73

Mobile Team C

Mobile Team C is responsible for providing training for the International Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Program, which is funded by the State Department. The DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, attorneys from the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and occasionally representatives from other agencies present courses in money laundering and asset forfeiture to foreign governments and their personnel. Each year, Mobile Team C participates in 25 to 30 courses around the world. In FY 2006, Team C provided seminars on advanced international asset forfeitures in the Netherlands, Brazil, Singapore, and South Korea.

Funding International Training

Funding for the DEA’s international training comes from both internal and external sources. Internally, the DEA supports international training by: (1) allocating a portion of its budget to the International Training Section, and (2) allowing DEA foreign offices to use their discretionary funds for training-related purposes. Externally, the DEA receives resources for training from the U.S. Departments of Justice, State, and Defense (DOD). For example, DOJ provides funding for the international asset forfeiture seminars and SIU basic classes, while the State Department supplies funding used for DEA training at the ILEAs and for basic and advanced drug enforcement seminars.

We attempted to determine the total amount of funds (from all sources) the DEA expended on international training each fiscal year. However, the DEA informed us that it may not completely capture all the training that it provided or arranged to be provided to its foreign counterparts because of the decentralized fashion in which other agencies distribute funding for international training opportunities. For instance, the State Department recently changed its practice of providing training funding in a lump sum to the DEA International Training Section and now allocates this funding to international field components of the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), which in turn directly supports training at the field level through its Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS). According to the data provided, the DEA expended approximately $3.2 million to supply training to foreign government personnel in FY 2005. The DEA’s portion of this funding amounted to 40 percent and DOJ provided 18 percent. External sources such as DOD and the State Department provided the remaining 42 percent, as shown in the following exhibit.


Department of State $1320,514/42%, Drug Enforcement Administration $1,258,217/40%, Department of Justice $589,215/18%, Department of Defense $4,624/0%.


OIG analysis of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s International Training Section budget data

Including DEA funding, DOJ provides 58 percent of the financial support for DEA foreign training. The State Department provides most of the remaining funding. However, State Department headquarters representatives informed us that budget rescissions will severely limit the resources it will be able to provide the DEA in the future. For example, we were told that the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey called the State Department asking for additional training funding for the DEA and his request was denied because of budget shortages.

Coordinating International Training

According to a June 2005 memorandum, the DEA Administrator directed all international training conducted by DEA worldwide to be coordinated with the International Training Section, which plans in advance the courses it will provide using its mobile training units. DEA foreign offices wanting to use their discretionary funds to provide training to foreign counterparts are required to submit to the International Training Section a memorandum showing the date of the proposed training, the course curriculum, and a professional biography of instructors and their subject matter expertise. According to Training Division officials, they review the curriculum and instructor credentials and either approve or deny the field‑developed training courses.

To examine the DEA’s coordination on training matters, we met with personnel from the Training Division, the DEA foreign offices we visited, and applicable components in the State Department’s INL. As a result of our inquiries, INL surveyed its NAS components on their relationships overseas with the DEA. INL representatives reported that they received six responses from offices other than those we visited, and none commented on any discontent with the DEA. A NAS entity was in three of the five countries that we visited: Colombia, Mexico, and Thailand. We evaluated the relationship between NAS components and the DEA foreign offices in these countries and generally found that good communication and coordination existed. However, NAS personnel in Colombia informed us that their office had resources to provide additional anti-narcotic and law enforcement-related training to foreign counterparts, but the DEA had not approached the NAS office regarding such possibilities. DEA personnel in Colombia told us that they were in need of additional training resources.

In each foreign office, one DEA employee is assigned the collateral duty of training coordinator. This individual is responsible for arranging training opportunities for foreign counterparts and coordinating with the International Training Section on such matters. The success of DEA training coordinators will become even more important if overall U.S. government funds for international training are reduced, as mentioned by the State Department officials with whom we spoke. Thus, locating alternative funding sources will be crucial to the DEA achieving its international training objectives. DEA foreign office managers must also ensure training coordinators consult with the International Training Section on courses being planned, supported, or performed by a DEA foreign office and its personnel.

Other International Initiatives

In addition to its instructional training to foreign counterparts, the DEA seeks to improve international drug enforcement capabilities by sponsoring information-sharing opportunities. One such initiative is the annual International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC), which the DEA founded, co-sponsors, and coordinates. The first IDEC was held in 1983 in Panama City, Panama. During that first conference, fewer than 10 countries participated. Subsequent conferences have been held annually in various countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, and Canada, which hosted 76 countries at IDEC XXIV in May 2006. The DEA Administrator serves as the permanent IDEC co‑President. The DEA requires foreign attendees to be in policy‑making positions for drug regulation and enforcement within their countries. The IDEC’s agenda is centered on working group sessions where country officials discuss common targets as well as regional and global attack strategies.

In addition to the annual IDEC conference, DEA headquarters developed the International Visitors Program. This initiative sponsors the delivery of briefings to foreign officials and U.S. diplomats on drug-trafficking trends and worldwide anti-drug activities. According to the DEA’s records, 4,517 officials had participated in the program as of June 2006, including over 800 U.S. officials working overseas.

Another DEA initiative is the Training Division’s Executive Observation Program. Representatives from other countries interested in starting training facilities similar to the DEA’s Training Academy are invited to visit the school. The DEA estimates that it hosts about 125 foreign visitors each year, who observe the workings of the Training Academy.

Preparatory Training for Foreign Assignments

Upon selection for an overseas position, DEA personnel must participate in certain training programs before reporting to a foreign post. Principally, these programs involve foreign language instruction and an orientation to working internationally.

Foreign Language Training

To work in most DEA foreign offices, Special Agents, Intelligence Research Specialists, and Diversion Investigators are required to have a basic fluency rating in the native language of the country in which they are stationed. Some personnel already have such proficiency and require no training. However, many employees do not have the requisite fluency and must participate in one-on-one language training courses, which cost the DEA, on average, around $65,000 per employee. The DEA considers one-on-one language training an effective method of instruction for learning a foreign language. We received no negative feedback regarding language training for operational personnel, and during our fieldwork we observed DEA operational personnel successfully engaged in one-on-one conversations in the host-country national language in Mexico, Colombia, and Italy.

Foreign Orientation Program

All individuals selected for overseas positions are required to participate in the DEA’s 1‑week Foreign Orientation Program, which costs the DEA about $3,000 per person. Unless there are significant budget constraints, as there were in FY 2005, spouses of DEA employees are also invited to attend the program at the DEA’s expense. For FY 2006, the DEA planned to provide one orientation course every 3 months and more would be added if necessary. The orientation courses incorporate 3 days of DEA‑provided instruction, including an introduction to living in another country, a discussion on DEA benefits and allowances, and briefings by different DEA components that support international functions. The remainder of the instruction includes the State Department’s Security Abroad for Families and Employees (SAFE) School, which provides instruction in such topics as personal safety, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism. All U.S. government employees in permanent foreign assignments must attend the SAFE School at least every 5 years.

Training on Foreign Administrative Functions

Often, DEA Special Agents, Intelligence Research Specialists, and support staff stationed in foreign offices are assigned collateral duties, such as administering an imprest fund or accounting for equipment and maintaining inventories. In some cases, these personnel had never previously performed these tasks. Therefore, a certain amount of training is required for the duty to be fulfilled in accordance with policy and regulations. Based on our fieldwork, we observed that DEA foreign personnel would benefit from training in certain administrative functions.

Imprest Funds

As we discussed in Chapter 5, we found several compliance issues involving the administration and management of the DEA’s imprest funds. As previously noted, imprest funds are administered by one or more employees within an office who are formally designated as cashiers, and who are ultimately accountable for these funds. Imprest funds are used to make a variety of payments to various recipients and are typically used for operational expenses, to make small purchases, and to pay informants. Both DEA personnel responsible for the office imprest fund (or alternate imprest fund) and DEA foreign office managers commented that training on imprest fund policy and procedures was greatly needed. For the first time in nearly 5 years, the DEA provided imprest fund training to foreign imprest fund cashiers in February 2006. We encourage the DEA to continue providing training to all imprest fund cashiers to ensure foreign personnel are being instructed on sound cash management practices.

Accountable Property Management

In addition to imprest fund training, DEA foreign managers and operational personnel commented that training was needed on accountable property management. In several foreign offices, DEA staff charged with maintaining accountable property inventories stated that they had not received training in inventorying property or instruction on how to use the DEA’s centralized accountable property database system.

Headquarters staff informed us that the DEA used to present a course entitled “Administrative Training” that presented policy information through workshop instruction methods and included the participation of both foreign administrative staff and foreign office managers. Although DEA officials stated that they intended to provide this course every 2 years, it has not been offered since FY 2003. We were told that this administrative training symposium is provided only when funding is left after all necessary language training and Foreign Orientation Program costs have been obligated.

Although we agree that operational training is a higher priority, administrative training is also important. The DEA’s lean administrative staff sizes in foreign offices, compounded by the intricacies of the foreign working environment, make training in administrative duties a necessary element in the DEA’s management of its international operations. We encourage the DEA to provide its Administrative Training course more regularly and ensure that the course properly trains its staff who are given collateral administrative duties.


We recommend that the Drug Enforcement Administration:

  1. Ensure that personnel assigned collateral administrative duties receive training necessary to correctly perform these functions, particularly in the areas of imprest fund administration and accountable property management.

  1. We discussed the DEA’s SIU Program in Chapter 3.

  2. The State Department developed the ILEA Program and opened the first ILEA in Budapest, Hungary, in 1995. A fifth ILEA is located in Roswell, New Mexico, which is a “graduate school” for ILEA participants. The total ILEA budget averages approximately $16 million annually.

  3. The DEA Program Director stated that this ILEA does not maintain a full-time set of instructors at the site because there is not enough work between courses to keep a team occupied on a permanent basis.

  4. JIATF West was formed in 1989 to provide support to U.S. counter-drug efforts by conducting operations to detect, disrupt, and dismantle drug-related transnational threats in Asia and the Pacific by providing interagency intelligence fusion and supporting U.S. law enforcement abroad.

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