The Drug Enforcement Administration's International Operations (Redacted)

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

Executive Summary

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the primary federal agency responsible for investigating illicit drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States. The ultimate goal of the DEA’s efforts is to significantly disrupt drug trafficking operations and to dismantle the criminal organizations entirely, while ultimately bringing their leaders to prosecution, either in the United States or through another country’s judicial system.

In order to combat the highest priority drug trafficking organizations, the DEA must extend its operations to other countries where major drug traffickers live and preside over illegal operations. As a result, the DEA has 751 employees in 59 other countries who work with foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as with other U.S. agencies operating in the international arena, to accomplish its mission.1 To support its personnel and operations abroad, in fiscal year (FY) 2006 the DEA had a budget of $312 million for its international operations.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted this audit of the DEA’s international operations. The objectives of the audit were to: (1) review the DEA’s foreign office performance, including its efforts to track operational activity and its internal mechanisms for evaluating the performance of its foreign operations; (2) examine the DEA’s involvement and management of international investigative activity; (3) assess the DEA’s relationships with its law enforcement counterparts abroad, including its liaison associations and the exchange of information; (4) analyze the DEA’s processes and controls over foreign administrative functions, including those related to security, firearms, property management, and fiscal matters; and (5) review the training provided or coordinated by the DEA to its foreign counterparts and DEA personnel stationed abroad.

Our review included work at DEA headquarters components and at 10 DEA foreign offices in 5 countries: Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, and Turkey. Our methodology involved selecting locations that would provide a broad overall perspective of DEA’s international operations, including diverse geographic location, jurisdiction, operational activity, and personnel composition. During our field visits abroad, we interviewed DEA personnel as well as representatives from U.S. and foreign agencies who work with the DEA internationally. We also reviewed pertinent DEA documentation and analyzed data from DEA databases. Appendix I contains additional details related to our audit objectives, scope, and methodology.


In 2002, DOJ created a register of the United State’s most significant illicit drug trafficking targets called the Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) list. According to DOJ officials, this list is updated at least annually based on a collection of intelligence from various agencies, and since its inception the CPOT list has contained a total of 80 targets, none of whom resided in the United States. As of June 2006, the list included 46 targets.

Since the current DEA Administrator took office in 2003, the DEA has increased its number of foreign offices, bolstered its international funding, and augmented the number of personnel assigned to combat foreign drug trafficking and organizations. Since 1997, the DEA has increased its foreign allocated personnel by 195 positions, from 556 to 751. The DEA’s foreign budget has increased from $201 million in FY 2000 to $312 million in FY 2006. Moreover, the percentage growth in the DEA’s international operations budget has outpaced that of its overall budget, as shown in the following graph.


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Source: OIG analysis of Drug Enforcement Administration budget figures

According to the DEA, it only opens offices in countries that are in some way tied to the flow of illegal drugs into the United States. This includes countries that are a source of drugs or precursor chemicals, countries where significant money laundering occurs, or countries that are linked to drug trafficking organizations that threaten the United States.2 The host country, the U.S. Chief of Mission, and Congress must authorize the DEA to open a new foreign office. As a sovereign state, any host country may withdraw this permission at any time. In addition, the DEA’s legal operating ability in other countries is much different than in its domestic offices because DEA agents stationed overseas do not have law enforcement jurisdiction. DEA’s authorities differ from country to country depending on host-country laws, agreements between governments, international treaties, and local policies issued to U.S. agencies by the U.S. Ambassador. Despite different working environments in its foreign offices, the DEA maintains five principal objectives for working with foreign counterpart agencies: (1) participate in bilateral investigations, (2) cultivate and maintain quality liaison relations, (3) promote and contribute to foreign institution building, (4) support intelligence gathering and sharing efforts, and (5) provide training opportunities.

In 2007, the DEA intends to open new offices in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In addition, the DEA has received congressional approval to open an office in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The DEA is also working with the government of Mexico to obtain its authorization for the opening of congressionally approved offices in Matamoros, Nogales, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The placement of DEA’s international offices as of June 2006 is shown on the following map.

DEA Foreign Offices
(as of June 2006)3

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Source: Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of International Programs

In foreign countries, DEA offices are part of the U.S. Embassy mission and may be housed within or outside the Embassy or the Consulate. The primary DEA office in another country is referred to as the DEA Country Office and secondary offices are called Resident Offices. A typical DEA foreign office is staffed by Special Agents, Intelligence Research Specialists, administrative support personnel, and foreign national hires, also known as foreign service nationals (FSNs).4 The senior DEA position in each Country Office is the DEA Country Attaché. In addition to reporting to DEA management, the DEA Country Attaché must also report to the U.S. Ambassador on DEA matters and activities within the host country.

The DEA has divided its foreign offices into seven regions that were established based upon the trafficking trends and environments of the various countries. These regions are managed by Regional Directors who are located within certain DEA foreign offices. A Regional Director has overall responsibility for the activities of DEA Country Offices and Resident Offices in multiple countries. For example, the DEA Regional Director for the Andean Region is located in Bogotá, Colombia, and is responsible for countries predominantly located along the northern portion of the Andes mountain range in South America, including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The seven regions and the location of the Regional Director’s office are shown below.

DEA Foreign Region Regional Director Location


Bogotá, Colombia


Rome, Italy

Mexico/Central America

Mexico City, Mexico

Far East

Bangkok, Thailand

Middle East

Ankara, Turkey

Southern Cone

La Paz, Bolivia


San Juan, Puerto Rico5

Performance Management

In this audit, we reviewed DEA data related to the success of its foreign offices’ highest priority cases, which are labeled Priority Target Organizations (PTO).6 According to this data, as of June 2006 the DEA’s international offices were actively targeting a total of 212 PTOs. The data indicates that the DEA foreign offices were pursuing high-priority cases and had succeeded in disrupting or dismantling a significant portion of these organizations.

DEA Foreign Offices
Priority Target Organizations Disrupted and Dismantled
March 2002 through June 2006


(active &



(active and


(only closed

Percent of
Total PTO

(active and

Percent of
Total Cases

(active and






















Far East







Central America







Middle East







Southern Cone














Source: OIG analysis of Drug Enforcement Administration Priority Target Activity and Resource Reporting System data

Further, our review of DEA work hours data for foreign offices demonstrated that DEA foreign offices, on average, were spending a significant proportion of its investigative effort on priority target cases. For FY 2006 (through July 14, 2006), DEA Special Agents and Intelligence Research Specialists (or intelligence analysts) stationed in foreign offices were, in total, expending 44 percent of their investigative work hours on priority target cases. The following chart illustrates the percentage of work hours in total that DEA agents and intelligence analysts spent on investigative cases from October 2005 through mid-July 2006.

DEA Foreign Office Special Agents and Intelligence Research Specialists
Percentage of Investigative Work Hours by Case Type
October 2005 through mid-July 20068

44% Priority Target Organization, 20% Undefined Case Type, 18% Transportation/Smuggling, 13% Structured Criminal Organization, 3% Independent Trafficker, 2% Money Laundering, 1% Other.

Source: OIG analysis of Drug Enforcement Administration work hours data

Using analyses similar to ours, DEA management in the field and at headquarters can assess the percentage of time that foreign field personnel spend on particular types of cases (e.g., a PTO, a money laundering enterprise, a non-PTO narcotic trafficking organization). However, in our discussion with DEA Headquarters management on tools used to evaluate foreign office operational activity, work hours data was not noted as a measure used in such assessments. Further, only two of the five Regional Directors with whom we met stated that they actually used work hours data to identify the focal areas of investigative activity in the region. For example, the Regional Director in Bogotá, Colombia, used work hours data to evaluate the types of activity on which offices in the region were focusing. This Regional Director instituted a goal that 65‑75 percent of the case activity in the region should be related to PTO investigations.

The DEA also does not have a comprehensive evaluation of the impact that its foreign office activities and operations collectively have had on the illicit drug trade in the United States. During our review, DEA personnel primarily cited highlights of individual case accomplishments as evidence of the success of the agency’s international efforts. Subsequent to our audit close-out meeting, the DEA provided the following information concerning its international-related enforcement efforts during FY 2006:

Strategic Planning

The DEA has a strategic plan that is tied to DOJ’s Strategic Goal II to “enforce federal laws and represent the rights and interests of the American people.” The DEA has pursued its strategic goals with various initiatives for combating drug trafficking.

The DEA’s strategic plan includes operational goals and measures to use in evaluating its achievements, as well as a description of the means and resources believed necessary to accomplish these goals. According to DEA’s planning process, this agency-wide strategic document is supposed to be complemented by performance plans for DEA field components. However, the DEA did not require its foreign regions and offices to prepare annual performance plans for FYs 2004 through 2006. During this period, the DEA did not employ structured planning instruments for its foreign offices to use in complementing the DEA’s organization-wide, strategic plan. We found that, as a result, DEA foreign regional management employed disparate planning strategies and evaluated performance inconsistently.

DEA headquarters provided a draft version of its Foreign Regional Management Plan Annual Guidelines subsequent to our audit close-out meeting and stated that it would soon finalize these guidelines for use by its Regional Directors in annual performance planning. We reviewed this document and consider it a sound performance planning instrument. However, a DEA headquarters executive manager acknowledged that even after the DEA promulgated its new regional planning instrument the agency’s planning protocol would still be deficient because it had not yet established practices for developing performance plans at the Country Office level. We believe that a top-to-bottom performance planning design is necessary for the DEA to sufficiently assess the performance of its foreign offices’ operations and activities.

Lead Tracking System

The DEA could not provide us with fundamental objective data related to assistance its foreign offices provided to other DEA offices and counterpart agencies because it does not have an agency-wide system for tracking the requests for assistance received by its foreign offices. An essential objective for DEA foreign offices is to provide support to existing DEA cases, to the investigative needs of other DEA offices, and to foreign counterparts in their anti-drug efforts. Without a system to track leads, DEA Regional Directors, Assistant Regional Directors, Country Attachés, and other managers in the foreign offices cannot adequately monitor or oversee the efforts of foreign offices to provide such assistance.

We found that, in the absence of a universal tracking system, 6 of the 10 foreign DEA offices we visited had mechanisms or processes to track requests for assistance. DEA offices in Rome and Milan, Italy; Guadalajara, Mexico; Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey; and Bangkok, Thailand; had developed mechanisms to help manage work requests submitted to their respective offices. The practices in Guadalajara and Bangkok represented the beginnings of a cataloging system. The most complete tracking systems existed in the Ankara, Milan, and Rome offices. These offices employed correspondence logs for tracking requests for assistance between foreign counterparts and the DEA. The Milan office went one step further and developed an action log that recorded all non-foreign assistance requests, including DEA investigative leads and other U.S. agency requests for assistance.

One Assistant Regional Director in an office without a local lead-tracking system with whom we spoke stated that some leads probably get lost or fall through the cracks. This manager further stated that the office relied on the requesting domestic offices to follow up on matters for which they did not receive a response. Another DEA manager acknowledged that requests from all sources should be tracked to ensure that the foreign offices take appropriate action in response to all action items.

In our judgment, DEA foreign office managers need a standardized tracking system to use in prioritizing and tracking investigative lead and assistance requests. Moreover, the DEA could also use data within such a system to evaluate the effectiveness of a foreign office’s ability to support domestic office cases and assist foreign counterparts. The absence of such a system means that the DEA can only estimate the number of investigative leads or requests for information that are handled by its foreign offices, which prevents the DEA from tracking the amount or type of tasks being requested of its offices and ensuring that these requests have been met.

Investigative Activity

Our audit revealed significant deficiencies with the DEA’s management and oversight of its investigative activities within its vetted unit program, an initiative that involves screening and training foreign law enforcement personnel and funding them to perform work on behalf of the DEA. [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED].

The use and management of vetted units varies from country to country. The DEA typically provides financial support for the vetted units’ activities, and the vetted units are typically managed on a day‑to‑day basis by a senior foreign police officer, with a DEA advisor providing general oversight. Generally, in the countries where the DEA operates vetted units, these units are a vital means of pursuing its investigative needs in that location.

The DEA uses two types of vetted units: (1) vetted units that are part of the DEA’s Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU) Program and (2) non-SIU vetted units. The DEA’s SIU program was created in FY 1997 when Congress appropriated $20 million for the creation of vetted units in Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. In FY 2006, the budget to support the SIU Program was $18.3 million. The DEA FY 2007 budget proposes an expansion of the SIUs into four additional countries. The DEA does not separately budget for expenses related to its non-SIU vetted units.

There are distinct differences between how the two types of foreign vetted units are organized, trained, and funded. First, with regard to SIU vetted units, Congress has designated specific locations, and the DEA allocates funds specifically to its SIU Program. Also, SIU members participate in a specially designed training course at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The DEA has also developed an SIU Program Manual detailing guidelines for administering the SIU Program, and it concluded an internal assessment of the SIU Program in FY 2005. By contrast, the non-SIU vetted units are not congressionally designated, are not allocated funding from DEA headquarters, do not have a manual, and do not receive standardized training at the DEA Training Academy.

Non-SIU Vetted Units

We queried DEA headquarters staff for records related to its non‑SIU vetted units. DEA headquarters personnel acknowledged that the DEA did not maintain any centralized records of the non-SIU vetted units. According to DEA headquarters management, these units are not part of a formal DEA program. Their proliferation is the result of foreign managers recognizing the utility of the vetted unit concept and implementing good business practices in their offices.

At our request, the DEA surveyed its foreign offices to obtain information related to its non-SIU vetted units. According to the data received, DEA offices in 16 countries operated non-SIU vetted units comprised of 888 foreign personnel. However, the DEA noted at the audit close-out meeting that its foreign offices forwarded incorrect information on the number of non‑SIU vetted unit members.9 The DEA acknowledged that its foreign offices needed tighter controls in this area.

SIU Vetted Units

According to the DEA, its offices in Colombia were the first to use vetted units. The DEA Regional Director in Colombia credited its SIU operation with supporting the vast majority of the DEA’s investigations in that country. Many DEA personnel with whom we spoke considered the SIUs critical to accomplishing the DEA’s foreign mission, increasing the safety of DEA personnel, helping to reduce the chance of sensitive information being compromised, and most importantly providing the DEA with an operational arm in foreign countries. For example, in May 2006, SIUs in Colombia and Brazil, working with several other DEA domestic and foreign offices, completed a 3‑year investigation that resulted in over 100 arrests, including an individual identified on the CPOT list. The operation also resulted in the seizure of about 52 tons of cocaine and nearly $70 million in assets.

In February 2006 a Mexican SIU unit conducted a surveillance operation with assistance from the DEA that resulted in the arrest of a CPOT residing in Mexico. Additionally, the SIU program in Mexico was instrumental in the successful completion of a major methamphetamine investigation that resulted in the seizure of 15 methamphetamine labs and over 130 pounds of methamphetamine with a potential street value of over $1 million.

DEA management in Thailand told us of an SIU-assisted investigation that resulted in the indictment of the leader and seven top lieutenants of a worldwide heroin and methamphetamine-trafficking organization that was believed to have been responsible for $1 billion in heroin trafficking into the United States since 1985. The investigation involved the execution of 26 search warrants that resulted in the seizure of 18,000 methamphetamine tablets, $25.6 million in cash, 86 kilograms of heroin, and various weapons and explosives.

However, although the DEA was able to provide us with these and other examples of individual SIU accomplishments, we found that the DEA was unable to empirically demonstrate the accomplishments of its SIU program as a whole. For example, the DEA does not collect and analyze activity statistics attributable to its SIU Program, such as arrests, the number of surveillance operations, or efforts tied to a CPOT or a PTO investigation. Additionally, the DEA has not evaluated the collective effect of the SIU Program. While we recognize that the investigative activities of the SIUs are often run by the host country, we believe the DEA should collect and analyze appropriate empirical data relating to the accomplishments of the SIUs.

SIU Management and Oversight

We also evaluated the DEA’s management of, and selected practices governing, its SIU Program, both at DEA headquarters and at DEA foreign offices in Colombia, Mexico, and Thailand. Our examination of the DEA’s SIU Program revealed significant deficiencies, including: (1) poor recordkeeping, (2) [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED], (3) inadequate control over SIU equipment, (4) inadequate practices for supplying salary supplement payments to unit members, (5) excessive span of control ratios for management of the units, (6) insufficient evidence of training, and (7) failure to perform exit briefings of outgoing SIU members.




We also queried DEA management and operational personnel assigned to DEA foreign offices in three countries regarding exit briefings of outgoing SIU members, which are required by DEA guidelines covering the program.10 [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED]. We found that the DEA generally had not conducted exit briefings in the countries we visited.



A crucial aspect contributing to the success or failure of DEA investigative activity abroad is the relationships DEA personnel stationed overseas develop and maintain with counterpart agencies. These relationships include those with: (1) other DEA offices – both foreign and domestic, (2) other U.S. law enforcement agencies abroad, and (3) foreign governments and their law enforcement components charged with combating illicit drug trafficking.

During our interviews, we were told that as a result of the cultural attitudes in many foreign countries, personal bonds between individuals first need to be developed and are very significant in fostering a mutually beneficial professional working relationship. DEA personnel commented that having formed a good relationship with their foreign counterparts often resulted in more timely cooperation in response to DEA requests for information. DEA officials told us that they spend a great deal of effort developing and fostering relationships with their counterparts.

During our fieldwork, we met with 31 personnel from foreign counterpart agencies to discuss their relationships with the DEA. The overall consensus was that DEA personnel had established excellent relationships with their foreign counterparts and that working with the DEA was beneficial to foreign law enforcement efforts, particularly in building international partnerships, providing training opportunities, and supplying useful investigative equipment.

We also found that DEA domestic personnel were pleased with the relationships they had with DEA foreign offices and with the feedback received from these offices. Further, the DEA foreign offices generally maintained good partnerships with the other U.S. agencies operating abroad.

Foreign Administrative Functions

Our review included an evaluation of certain administrative functions for DEA foreign offices, including an assessment of the DEA’s administration of its imprest funds and its security and firearms practices and records. We found certain deficiencies in these areas due to weak management oversight and poor implementation of established rules and procedures.

Imprest Funds

Imprest funds are fixed or petty-cash funds held in the form of currency or coins that are advanced to designated cashiers, who in turn advance the funds to employees to cover investigative expenses, to make small purchases, to pay informants, and for other uses. At the time of our fieldwork, the imprest funds in DEA foreign offices totaled approximately $3.18 million.

We reviewed selected imprest fund activities at 7 of the 10 foreign offices we visited. These seven offices were accountable for $963,000 in imprest fund monies. At these offices, we interviewed cashiers about their responsibilities, observed a count of the respective office’s imprest fund, and tested a sample of transactions.

At six of the seven offices where we observed the imprest fund count, the cash, expenditure documents, and reimbursement checks equaled the total amount authorized for the imprest funds. In one office, our cash count observations revealed minor irregularities.

We also reviewed a sample of FY 2005 and 2006 imprest fund transactions at seven DEA foreign offices. We selected and reviewed a sample of 233 transactions out of a universe of 3,266 transactions. Based on our testing, we identified numerous discrepancies, including missing supporting documentation, untimely return of “flashroll” currency, omitted signatures, and untimely clearing of advanced funds.12


While conducting our fieldwork in DEA foreign offices, we performed observational walk-throughs of DEA work space, observed office and personnel security practices, reviewed safe and door combination change records, and examined firearms storage practices. We identified poor security practices in each of these areas. For example, in two DEA foreign offices we observed DEA personnel communicating on cellular phones inside a controlled access area in violation of Department of State (State Department) policy. We also found that DEA management in two offices had not ensured that the combinations to doors and safes were changed regularly as required.


According to the DEA Agents Manual, all Special Agents (except those assigned to headquarters staff positions) must qualify semi-annually with their DEA‑issued handguns and any approved personally owned handguns they seek to have authorization to carry. The manual allows for an exemption to these requirements for personnel stationed in foreign offices without appropriate local firearms training facilities. In these instances, the policy requires the agents to qualify at a DEA training facility on their next return to the United States.

Our review of DEA firearms files in foreign offices and qualification data at DEA headquarters demonstrated that the DEA was not ensuring firearms certification and many agents were long overdue in weapons qualifications. Further, at least one agent that was overdue for weapons qualification stated that he did not re-certify his weapons proficiency when last in the United States. This exemplifies a lack of emphasis that the DEA placed on firearms proficiency for its personnel located overseas.

The DEA informed us at the audit close-out meeting that it recognized a need for improvement in this area and planned to better enforce its policy requiring foreign office employees to qualify when on official or personal travel in the United States, including any approved home leave. However, we believe that this requirement still allows for the possibility of agents not certifying proficiency on a weapon issued in a foreign office if during their foreign tenure they are stationed in an area without an available DEA-approved qualification facility and they do not return to the United States on official or personal travel. For example, we found DEA agents in one foreign office had never qualified on the weapons they received at post, and these agents had been stationed in the country for 2 to 4 years.

We also noted that certain DEA offices employed foreign service nationals (FSNs) as Investigative Assistants, allowing them to carry weapons in their capacity as DEA employees. For example, one FSN has been carrying a weapon with the DEA’s tacit consent for more than 20 years. Allowing FSNs to carry a weapon without determining their weapons proficiency could result in a significant liability for the agency. The DEA stated that it recognized this vulnerability, which prompted the agency to develop a policy addressing FSNs carrying firearms during official DEA duty. The DEA promulgated this policy in July 2006, and we were provided this policy subsequent to our audit close-out meeting. Our review of the policy revealed that it allows for an FSN stationed in a country without a DEA-approved firearms facility to be exempt from qualification standards.

Additionally, we followed up with the DEA regarding how the policy applied specifically to FSNs carrying personally owned firearms during official duty, [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED].13 The DEA responded that FSNs are prohibited from carrying personally owned firearms while on official DEA duty. Moreover, the DEA also stated that the intent of the policy was for firearms and ammunition to be issued to FSNs only on a day‑to‑day basis, unless the Regional Director specifically approves an exemption and allows the FSN to carry the DEA-issued weapon on a 24‑hour basis. We believe the DEA should review its policy and ensure that this temporary authorization element and the prohibition of carrying personally owned firearms is addressed in the agency’s FSN firearms policy.

International Training Endeavors

We found that the DEA provided training opportunities to its foreign law enforcement counterparts and these efforts contributed to the DEA’s good reputation for cooperation and assistance. However, we found some room for improvement in the DEA’s coordination of its international training with other agencies that provide similar opportunities for training. Additionally, DEA personnel stationed in foreign offices did not receive appropriate training on certain administrative functions important to the maintenance of DEA foreign office operations, such as imprest fund administration and accountable property management.

According to the DEA, it has offered counternarcotics training to its foreign counterparts since its inception in 1973, providing instruction internationally and in the United States, usually at the DEA Training Academy located in Quantico, Virginia. DEA officials 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.

During our numerous interviews with personnel from foreign law enforcement agencies, we were repeatedly told that they greatly valued the training opportunities that the DEA provided to them. In addition, many of these individuals commented that the DEA is an important source for drug enforcement knowledge and expertise.

The DEA’s international training efforts are varied and include basic and advanced training for foreign law enforcement officials who are part of the DEA’s SIU Program, as well as various regular seminars and conferences. The DEA also provides training at the State Department’s International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA).14 The leadership of these ILEAs is shared among participating U.S. agencies, and as of July 2006, the DEA held executive management positions at two of the facilities.

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). The IDEC was founded, sponsored, and coordinated by the DEA, and the DEA Administrator serves as the permanent IDEC co‑President. The IDEC XXIV was held in Montreal, Canada, in May 2006 and included representatives from 76 countries.

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 DEA International Training Section, and (2) allowing its foreign offices to use their discretionary funds for training-related purposes. Externally, the DEA receives resources for training from the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense (DOD).

We attempted to determine the total amount of funds from all sources that the DEA expended on international training matters each fiscal year. However, the DEA stated 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. The DEA did provide available funding information, and, according to this data, approximately $3.2 million was expended to supply training to DEA foreign counterpart personnel in FY 2005. The DEA’s portion of this funding amounted to 40 percent and DOJ provided another 18 percent. External sources such as the 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. State Department headquarters representatives informed us that budget rescissions will severely limit the resources the State Department will be able to provide the DEA in the future. This projected reduction in the resources available for international training increases the importance of the DEA’s efforts to coordinate its activities with others. During our fieldwork, State Department personnel in Colombia informed us that their office had resources to provide additional anti-drug and law enforcement-related training to foreign counterparts. Although DEA personnel in Colombia told us that they were in need of additional training resources, they had not approached the State Department to discuss such possibilities.

Another area of training that we examined was instruction provided to DEA foreign personnel. Due to the relatively small staff size of its foreign offices, many DEA Special Agents, Intelligence Research Specialists, and support staff are assigned collateral duties in foreign offices and may be given responsibility for administrative functions, such as maintaining the imprest fund, accounting for equipment, and maintaining inventories. Often, these personnel had never previously performed such tasks and reported having received no training for these responsibilities. As we noted earlier, we found several compliance issues involving certain administrative functions. We believe that the DEA needs to increase its efforts to provide training on administrative functions, particularly to DEA foreign personnel responsible for imprest fund administration and accountable property management.

Conclusion and Recommendations

We found that DEA has established valuable relationships with foreign counterparts who help its efforts to combat major drug trafficking organizations affecting the United States and has earned a good reputation for its training of foreign law enforcement personnel. DEA performance data indicates that the DEA’s international offices were pursuing high-priority cases and had succeeded in disrupting and dismantling many of these organizations.

However, the DEA could not provide us with basic data regarding the activity of its international offices. For example, the DEA does not have a standardized system for its foreign offices to use in tracking the leads and requests for assistance received. Additionally, we found that the DEA did not require its foreign regions and offices to develop annual performance plans for FYs 2004 through 2006. Moreover, DEA headquarters was not using available empirical data, such as work hours data, in its oversight of foreign office activity. The absence of established goals and essential management tools such as a lead tracking system hurts the DEA’s ability to monitor and evaluate the performance of its foreign offices.

Our audit also revealed significant deficiencies with the DEA’s management and oversight of its investigative activities within its vetted units. In addition, we identified deficiencies in the DEA’s management of imprest funds and practices and records for security and firearms.

We believe that improvements to administrative and management functions of DEA foreign offices and programs would remedy most of these findings. [SENSITIVE INFORMATION REDACTED]

In total, the OIG has made 22 recommendations to assist the DEA in improving its international operations.

  1. The 751 employee figure represents the number of allocated positions as of May 2006.

  2. Precursor chemicals are materials used in the manufacture of a controlled substance.

  3. The office in Warsaw, Poland, opened in 2006. The future offices identified in Mexico are pending approval from the government of Mexico.

  4. Foreign service nationals are non-U.S. citizens who enter into employment contracts with U.S. government offices abroad, including DEA foreign offices.

  5. The Caribbean Region is managed by the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s San Juan Division, which the DEA considers a domestic office with oversight responsibility for DEA domestic and foreign offices in the Caribbean. This Special Agent in Charge effectively performs the function of a Regional Director for the DEA’s Caribbean Region.

  6. The establishment of a PTO requires a nomination by the DEA case agent and approval by field and headquarters management. The case agent is responsible for updating information on the PTO case in the DEA’s Priority Target Activity and Resource Reporting System (PTARRS) at least once quarterly. The DEA began its use of the PTARRS system in March 2002.

  7. The Caribbean Division data includes DEA foreign offices located in the Caribbean and the DEA offices in the Bahamas.

  8. The total of the percentages in the chart is 101 percent due to rounding.

  9. This data did not include the vetting status of the foreign personnel.

  10. DEA guidelines prescribe a 5-year term limit for SIU members, requiring Regional Director approval to extend SIU member terms beyond 5 years.

  11. Two of the offices (Milan and Rome, Italy) did not have an imprest fund. In addition, we were unable to fully review the imprest fund in Mazatlán, Mexico, because the imprest fund cashier was not in the office at the time of our fieldwork, and DEA regulations prohibit other employees from accessing the fund in the absence of the designated cashier.

  12. A “flashroll” is a temporary advance issued to a Special Agent during the course of an investigation and used as “show money” to procure evidence.

  13. The DEA stated that FSNs may carry firearms only if it complies with host nation law and only after being authorized by the host nation government.

  14. The State Department developed the ILEA Program and opened the first ILEA in Budapest, Hungary, in 1995. The DEA provides training there and at the ILEAs in Bangkok, Thailand; Gaborone, Botswana; and San Salvador, El Salvador. The ILEA budget averages approximately $16 million annually.

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