The gathering and use of intelligence is an important element in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) efforts to identify and disrupt illegal drug trafficking. Accurate and up-to-date intelligence is needed to assess the operations and vulnerabilities of criminal drug networks, to systematically interdict illegal contraband, and to evaluate the impact of illegal drug activities. Intelligence is also needed to identify new methods of illegal drug trafficking and to establish long-range enforcement strategies. DEA management also uses intelligence for operational decision-making, resource deployment, and policy planning. The DEA also shares information and expertise with other members of the intelligence community, as well as other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, to help identify and disrupt illegal drug trafficking.
The collection of drug related information is primarily the responsibility of DEA’s Special Agents, while the collation and analysis of this information for the purpose of producing and disseminating meaningful intelligence is primarily the responsibility of the DEA Intelligence Program. The DEA employs intelligence research specialists, also known as intelligence analysts, to produce intelligence from drug related information collected from various sources.1 The number of DEA intelligence analysts has grown from 11 since the DEA’s inception in 1973 to 710 stationed around the world as of March 15, 2008.
DEA intelligence analysts synthesize information on illicit drug trafficking from a variety of sources, including DEA investigations, seized documents, surveillance reports, informants, confidential sources, and court-ordered wiretaps. Intelligence analysts assess and summarize this information and provide it to DEA Special Agents; supervisory DEA personnel; United States Attorneys; grand juries; federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies; and other intelligence agencies. In addition to its intelligence analysts, the DEA currently has four contract reports officers working in the DEA Policy and Liaison Section. Reports officers review incoming DEA reports of investigation that have a foreign nexus and develop reports, known as reports officer cables, for the intelligence community.
OIG Audit Approach
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted this audit to assess: (1) how effectively the DEA recruits, trains, and retains its intelligence analysts, and (2) the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of the intelligence reports and related products produced by intelligence analysts and reports officers.
During this audit, we interviewed officials from the DEA’s Intelligence Division, Office of National Security Intelligence, Human Resources Division, Office of Finance, Office of Inspections at DEA headquarters, and the Office of Training at the DEA Training Academy. In addition, we interviewed DEA intelligence analysts, Special Agents, group supervisors, field intelligence managers, Special Agents‑in‑Charge (SACs), and Assistant SACs. We performed audit work at the El Paso Intelligence Center and in DEA field offices in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, and New York City. We also interviewed officials from intelligence community agencies that use the DEA’s intelligence products. Those agencies included the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of State, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
We developed two survey questionnaires that were sent to 675 DEA intelligence analysts and 4,843 DEA Special Agents. The survey questionnaire for intelligence analysts contained 69 questions designed to gather information regarding their education and work background, job satisfaction, and perceptions of their role in fulfilling the DEA’s mission. We received 487 responses (72 percent) to this survey. The survey questionnaire for Special Agents contained 14 questions designed to ascertain their views on the effectiveness of intelligence analysts and their products. We received 1,700 responses (35 percent) to the Special Agent survey.
In addition, we reviewed and analyzed DEA intelligence reports, closed case files, and other documents regarding the work of intelligence analysts.
OIG Results in Brief
During this audit, we evaluated DEA’s recruiting and hiring, training, and retention of intelligence analysts. We also tested DEA compliance with DOJ Employment Security Regulations and the timeliness and quality of DEA intelligence products. We had findings in each of these areas.
Specifically, we determined that for fiscal years (FY) 2004 through 2007, the DEA’s onboard number of intelligence analysts increased by 8 percent. However, the DEA’s allocated staffing level for intelligence analysts had increased by 15 percent over the same time period.2 As a result, as of September 2007, the DEA had 138 fewer intelligence analysts onboard than the number of intelligence analysts allocated by the DEA, and 22 fewer intelligence analysts than the DEA’s stated hiring goal. According to the DEA’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the reasons for not being able to hire additional intelligence analysts was because, for FYs 2004 through 2007, the DEA absorbed $210 million in unfunded salary increases, congressionally mandated rescissions, streamlining initiatives that did not save money, and new Administration mandates.
The DEA has maintained a pool of pre-screened intelligence analyst applicants from which it can hire when positions are approved. As of September 2007, the hiring pool of applicants had declined from 268 to 95. We are concerned that the DEA does not currently have enough applicants in the pool to meet its current needs. The DEA plans to hire approximately 80 intelligence analysts in FY 2008 to replace intelligence analysts who retired, quit, or transferred, and new hires for the Diversion Control Program. In addition, the DEA plans to replace the intelligence analysts who transferred into the Diversion Control Program from other duties.3 However, the DEA estimates that for every intelligence analyst it hires, it needs three applicants in the hiring pool. Using this ratio, the DEA would need about 240 applicants in the intelligence analyst hiring pool.
The DEA has implemented a combination of training for intelligence analysts, including Basic Intelligence Research Specialists training, Advanced Intelligence Training, a mentoring program, and specific training tailored to individual needs. We reviewed analysts’ evaluations of the basic training, which generally indicated a high satisfaction level. However, several intelligence analysts and supervisors we interviewed at field offices believe that the new 14-week BIRS training would be too long.4 They believe that some of the courses are not related to the core work of an intelligence analyst. We share the concern that the expanded Basic Intelligence Research Specialists training program includes training that could be better provided through other means, such as web-based training or training at an intelligence analyst’s assigned location.
We found that the DEA’s intelligence analyst workforce has a low attrition rate, ranging from 3.5 percent to 2.6 percent between FYs 2004 and 2007. This compares favorably to the attrition rate for intelligence analysts at other agencies, such as that of the FBI where the attrition rate ranged from 9.5 to 4 percent between FYs 2004 and 2007.
In our survey, we asked DEA intelligence analysts several questions designed to gauge job satisfaction. Overall, their responses indicated their job satisfaction to be good. For the 487 intelligence analysts who responded, 64 percent said they found their work intellectually challenging and 77 percent rated their contribution to the DEA’s mission as somewhat to very high. Our survey also asked intelligence analysts to report the likelihood they will remain with the DEA for the next 5 years. Of the 487 intelligence analysts who responded to our survey, 395 (81 percent) stated that they plan on staying with the DEA for the next 5 years. This also compares favorably to similar questions we asked of FBI intelligence analysts. In a May 2005 survey we conducted in the FBI, 64 percent of intelligence analysts responded that they planned on staying with the FBI for 5 years.
With respect to security clearances, the DEA has designated all intelligence analyst positions as “special sensitive.” Special sensitive positions within the DOJ are those positions that involve the highest degree of trust and require access, or afford ready opportunity to gain access, to Top Secret National Security Information and material as described in Executive Order 12356. Therefore, according to the DEA Deputy Chief of Intelligence, DEA intelligence analysts require Top Secret security clearances.
DOJ Employment Security Regulations require that a Special Background Investigation be completed for employees occupying special sensitive positions.5 These employees are also required to undergo a reinvestigation 5 years after their appointment and at least once each succeeding 5 years.
Our audit found that the DEA did not have documentation demonstrating that all intelligence analysts had either a Top Secret security clearance or a reinvestigation within the last 5 years. As of September 30, 2007, we determined that 82 of 699 intelligence analysts did not have Top Secret clearances or a reinvestigation within the last 5 years, including 19 who had Secret instead of Top Secret clearances, 62 who had Top Secret clearances but did not have a reinvestigation within the last 5 years, and 1 with no clearance.
We also assessed the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of intelligence analysts’ work. Our surveys and interviews indicated that both internal and external users generally were satisfied with DEA intelligence analysts’ work.
However, some Special Agents we surveyed raised concerns related to how intelligence analysts were utilized and their excessive caseloads, as well as the timeliness of the information received. For example, some Special Agents stated that intelligence analysts did not conduct enough analysis, focused too much on data entry, lacked knowledge to produce useful intelligence, provided intelligence that the Special Agents could obtain on their own, or did not provide timely intelligence. In addition, some Special Agents suggested that intelligence analysts could not perform their work in a satisfactory manner because of case overload. However, none of the intelligence analysts we interviewed in field offices indicated that they were overwhelmed by their workload.
We also found significant delays in the issuance of intelligence reports. Prior to dissemination of its intelligence reports, the DEA performs a lengthy review to ensure the accuracy of the information. We tested 16 strategic reports and found they were published on average about 21 months after the source information was first observed by the DEA.
The DEA’s four reports officers review DEA investigative reports that have a foreign nexus and develop cables that contain intelligence information for dissemination outside the DEA. The DEA Chief of Intelligence told us that when reports officers receive information related to terrorism, weapons, or a foreign country’s military, the cable must be prepared and disseminated to the intelligence community within 24 to 48 hours of receipt. Of the 4,500 cables prepared since June 2004, we tested 81 cables for timeliness of dissemination. Our testing showed that cables are transmitted on average 34 days from the date the original information was received by the DEA. Three of the 81 cables we tested were related to terrorism and met the criteria for expedited processing. However, these 3 cables were not transmitted until 39, 44, and 76 days after initial receipt of the information.
We interviewed representatives from four external intelligence community organizations that use DEA strategic intelligence reports and reports officer cables: the CIA, the Department of State, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The representatives from all four organizations reported that they believe the DEA information they receive is invaluable. These users also told us that the DEA’s intelligence reports are logical, of good quality, and are useful to analyze threats and opportunities. They stated that because DEA agents are on the street identifying connections between drugs and crime, the intelligence provided by DEA’s reports officers is invaluable.
However, two external users noted DEA’s intelligence products would be more valuable if issued in a more timely manner. The CIA official we interviewed commented that there is a significant delay in receiving information, which can negatively impact operations.
In our report, we make nine recommendations to help the DEA to improve the use of its intelligence analysts including that the DEA strengthen its process for maintaining and reviewing security clearances, and develop a process to ensure the timely transmission of terrorist-related intelligence.
Our report contains detailed information on the full results of our review of DEA intelligence analysts. The remaining sections of this Executive Summary describe in more detail our audit findings.
Recruiting and Hiring
To analyze the DEA’s hiring efforts, we obtained the actual number of intelligence analysts onboard for each quarter of FYs 2004 through 2007 and compared those numbers to the number of FTEs authorized, allocated and the DEA’s hiring goal for those years.6
Source: OIG summary analysis of data provided by the DEA Finance Office, Office of Resource Management
As detailed in the chart above, the DEA did not reach the number of intelligence analysts it allocated or its hiring goal at any time during our 4-year review period. For the allocated level of intelligence analysts, the hiring gap ranged from 81 in the first and fourth quarters of 2004 to 161 in the first quarter of FY 2007. By the end of FY 2007, the hiring gap stood at 138. A comparison between the hiring goal and the number of intelligence analysts onboard shows a much smaller gap, which ranged from a low of 11 intelligence analysts during FY 2005 to a high of 27 intelligence analysts in FY 2004. At the end of FY 2007, the gap between onboard and the hiring goal was 22 intelligence analysts.
We asked DEA officials why they have been unable to hire additional intelligence analysts. The DEA CFO told us that for FYs 2004 through 2007 the DEA absorbed $210 million in unfunded salary increases, congressionally mandated rescissions, streamlining initiatives that did not save money, and new Administration mandates. In addition, because DEA staffing represents approximately 50 percent of its entire budget, the DEA has lowered its agency wide staffing levels in order to pay mandatory obligations and support ongoing operations. As a result, according to the CFO, DEA’s salary and expense account has been subject to a DEA-wide hiring freeze since August 2006. The DEA reported that the hiring freeze officially ended when the FY 2008 appropriation bill was signed in December 2007. DEA senior management told the OIG that the exact number of intelligence analysts to be hired will be determined after the DEA has completed its FY 2008 financial planning process.
The Chief of Intelligence told us the Intelligence Division is less affected by this hiring freeze than other divisions within the DEA because it receives funding from other sources, including reimbursable agreements and the Diversion Control Fee Account. In response to an increased need for intelligence analyst support for the Diversion Control Program, in March 2007 the DEA developed a plan to address the Diversion Intelligence Initiative. One of the goals of this initiative is to place one intelligence analyst in every field division with a diversion group.
The DEA told us that, based upon its experience, it seeks three applicants in its hiring pool for every intelligence analyst position it fills. The DEA maintains a hiring pool even when there are no positions available, and applicants are selected from the pool as new positions are approved for hire. The DEA reported that it needs a large applicant hiring pool for several reasons: (1) not all applicants are still interested when positions become available; (2) the length of time it takes to complete background investigations; and (3) some applicants accept other employment before the background investigation is completed.
According to the DEA Section Chief of Management and Production Support, the DEA does not currently have enough intelligence analyst applicants in its hiring pool to meet its current hiring needs based on its own internal calculations. The DEA plans to hire approximately 80 intelligence analysts in FY 2008 to replace those who retired, quit, or transferred, to hire new intelligence analysts for the Diversion Control Program, and to replace intelligence analysts who transferred from within DEA to this program. The DEA will then need about 240 applicants in the hiring pool to meet the required ratio of 3 applicants per position to be filled for its FY 2008 needs. Since December 2006 the hiring pool ranged from a high of 268 applicants to a low of 95 in September 2007. The hiring pool was depleted for a number of reasons, including the fact that the DEA was able to hire 27 intelligence analysts in FY 2007 and the first 2 months of FY 2008 using the Diversion Control Fee Account.
The DEA has established a combination of training for its intelligence analysts through the Basic Intelligence Research Specialist (BIRS) training, the Advanced Intelligence Training, an online Master’s degree program for GS-14 and -15 intelligence analyst employees, and the opportunity for non‑supervisory employees who are GS-13 or below to take two training classes related to their current assignment. As of 2003, all new intelligence analysts must participate in a mentoring program — a 6-month program of structured coaching by experienced analysts at the GS-12 or higher grade level.
Basic Intelligence Research Specialist Training
The DEA provides BIRS training to newly hired intelligence analysts at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. DEA officials at the Office of Training told us that the BIRS course curriculum emphasizes the development of analytical skills, use of computerized tools, and a broad range of academic subjects critical to providing mission-oriented intelligence, both on a national and international scale. The training is conducted by members of the intelligence staff, retired analysts, guests, Special Agents, and private instructors. Students must pass BIRS training with a score of 80 percent or higher in order to become an intelligence analyst. According to the DEA Office of Training Section Chief, all intelligence analysts who have completed the training have passed.
We reviewed the BIRS course descriptions and class schedules. We also evaluated a judgmental sample of BIRS lesson plans and found them to be detailed and comprehensive. We reviewed past student evaluations, which generally indicated a high satisfaction level with the BIRS training.10
The responses to our survey also indicated that intelligence analysts who received training generally were satisfied with the training, although concerns were expressed by a minority of respondents. We sent the survey questions related to BIRS training to 487 intelligence analysts. Of the 487 intelligence analysts, 139 had been hired and attended BIRS in the last 6 years. Of these 139 respondents, 104 (75 percent) said that the BIRS training met or exceeded their expectations. The remaining 35 respondents (25 percent) felt that BIRS did not meet their expectations.11
In addition, we asked Special Agents if the overall work force of intelligence analysts had the knowledge and experience needed to produce useful intelligence products to support drug enforcement cases or programs. Of the 1,378 who responded to this question, 1,163 (84 percent) attributed a moderate to high level of DEA’s intelligence analyst workforce with the knowledge and experience needed to produce intelligence products.
We also interviewed 24 intelligence analysts and supervisors, 2 SACs, and 3 ASACs at DEA field offices in San Diego and New York about the training. Many of the intelligence analysts and supervisors stated that they believed the new 14-week BIRS training would be too long and that some of the courses were unnecessary. For example, they believed classes such as Defensive Driving, Firearms Safety, and Government and Financial Planning were not related to the core work of an intelligence analyst and could be removed from the curriculum. We share their concern that the expanded BIRS training program includes training that could be better provided through other means, such as web-based training or training conducted at the intelligence analyst’s assigned office.
DEA intelligence analysts have a low attrition rate. From FYs 2004 through 2007 the attrition rates for intelligence analysts were 3.5 percent, 2.6 percent, 3.1 percent, and 3.2 percent, respectively. Because the FBI employs the largest number of intelligence analysts within DOJ, we obtained data from the Office of Personnel Management’s Central Personnel Data File to compare the DEA and FBI intelligence analyst attrition rates. We found that the FBI’s intelligence analyst average attrition rate for FYs 2004 to 2006 was more than twice that of DEA intelligence analysts for the same period. The following chart compares the annual attrition rates for DEA and FBI intelligence analysts for FYs 2004 to 2007.
DEA AND FBI INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS ATTRITION RATES
FY 2004 – FY 2007*
|Source: OIG analysis of Office of Personnel Management Central Personnel Data File
* Central Personnel Data File accuracy may be affected by omissions, duplications, and invalid and miscoded data. FY 2007 is through June 2007.
In our survey, we also asked intelligence analysts several questions designed to gauge job satisfaction, such as:
level of contribution to the DEA’s mission;
level of satisfaction as a DEA intelligence analyst; and
level of intellectual challenge they receive from their work.
The following chart shows that DEA intelligence analysts generally reported they were satisfied in their positions, found their work to be intellectually challenging, and were contributing to DEA’s mission.
OVERALL DEA INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS’ PERCEPTIONS
|Source: OIG survey of DEA intelligence analysts|
The DEA has designated all intelligence analyst positions as “special sensitive.” DOJ Employment Security Regulations require that a Special Background Investigation be completed before an employee occupies a special sensitive position. Incumbents are also required to undergo a reinvestigation 5 years after their appointment and at least once each succeeding 5 years. However, we found that the DEA did not have records showing that each intelligence analyst had a Top Secret security clearance or a reinvestigation within the last 5 years.
In September 2007, we asked the Office of Security Programs to provide a list of intelligence analyst security clearances. We received results for 699 intelligence analysts. We performed limited testing from this list by assessing from a judgmental sample if the DEA had met the requirements of DOJ Employment Security Regulations. Of the 699 intelligence analysts, we identified 82 instances in which intelligence analysts did not have a properly recorded Top Secret clearance or a reinvestigation completed within the last 5 years. These instances included 19 intelligence analysts who had Secret instead of Top Secret clearances, 62 intelligence analysts with Top Secret clearances who did not have a reinvestigation within the last 5 years, and 1 intelligence analyst with no clearance.12
In addition, we believe that the information maintained by the DEA’s Office of Security Programs related to security clearances was not reliable. Our testing identified the following issues with the data used by the DEA to monitor security clearances:
inconsistent dates between the manually updated DEA database for security clearance information, Eagle Eye; the file records; and the information provided by the Office of Security Programs;13
blank data fields within Eagle Eye such as Initial Clearance, Last Reinvestigation Date, and Next Reinvestigation Date;
documents within the file records were not maintained consistently from one file to another; and
no internal controls to ensure dates were manually input correctly into Eagle Eye.
We discussed our findings with the DEA Associate Deputy Chief Inspector of Security Programs. She told us that in FY 2000, a decision was made within the DEA to downgrade intelligence analyst’s security clearances from top secret to secret as a cost savings measure. She said that since that time, the decision to downgrade security clearances has been changed and all intelligence analysts affected by this decision will be upgraded to the Top Secret level at the time of their next reinvestigation or when required by a new assignment. She said that the Office of Security Programs was aware of these Secret clearances and has been attempting to address the clearance issues with the resources they have available.
The Associate Deputy Chief Inspector also told us that the Office of Security Programs can reduce the number of intelligence analysts without a current investigation by conducting a detailed research of Eagle Eye, the file records, and OPM’s e-QIP system. In our judgment this is impractical. The DEA should have one centralized reliable source for information related to the security clearances of their personnel that is accurate and up-to-date. Because our testing showed approximately 12 percent of DEA’s intelligence analysts security clearances did not meet the DEA’s security requirements, we are concerned that similar deficiencies may exist in the approximately 19,300 clearances that we did not review.
Quality and Effectiveness of Intelligence Reports
The DEA divides drug intelligence into three broad categories: tactical, investigative, and strategic. Tactical intelligence is information on which immediate enforcement action — such as arrests, seizures, and interdictions — can be based. Tactical intelligence is perishable and time sensitive, and it requires immediate action. Investigative intelligence is analytical information that provides support to investigations and prosecutions. Investigative intelligence can be used to dismantle criminal organizations and confiscate drug trafficking assets. Investigative intelligence is an accumulation of detailed information over time. Strategic intelligence is information that focuses on the broad picture of drug trafficking from cultivation to distribution. The DEA’s strategic intelligence is usually published in intelligence reports that are distributed to users in the intelligence community and other law enforcement agencies. Another mechanism for sharing DEA information is reports officer cables that contain raw, unevaluated, confidential source data that can contribute to a better understanding of the drug traffic. While this raw reporting can be used to develop or support strategic assessments, it is not strategic intelligence.
Tactical and Investigative Intelligence
Intelligence analysts are not typically assigned to a DEA investigative case at the beginning of the case. Because the DEA has a caseload larger than the number of intelligence analysts at each field office, an intelligence analyst is usually assigned to a case when it is designated by the DEA as a Priority Target Organization case.
To assess the value of the tactical and investigative intelligence developed by intelligence analysts, we reviewed a judgmental sample of 26 Priority Target Organization case files closed from October 1, 2005, through January 31, 2007, at the Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami field offices. As part of the 26 closed case files tested, we examined the associated Reports of Investigation in each of these cases. However, we found that the closed case files did not contain enough tactical or investigative intelligence to reach a conclusion as to quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of the intelligence analysts’ work.
Therefore, we also assessed responses from the survey of Special Agents to determine the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of intelligence analyst products. In addition, we conducted follow-up interviews with 24 intelligence analysts and supervisors at the San Diego and New York field offices.
Overall, the majority of Special Agents in our survey responded positively to questions related to the accuracy, effectiveness, and timeliness of intelligence analyst products used to support drug enforcement cases. However, in some areas, significant numbers of Special Agents expressed concern about the intelligence analysts’ intelligence products and quality of work. For example, some special agents informed us that the quality of intelligence analysts’ work was affected by poor supervision, not prioritizing their work, or not being sure of their role.
We asked Special Agents if they were aware of any backlog of intelligence data to be processed or analyzed by an intelligence analyst. Twenty-seven percent responded “yes” and generally indicated that a backlog existed because intelligence analysts were overworked. However, none of the intelligence analyst s we interviewed in San Diego or New York indicated that they were overwhelmed by their workload.
The DEA’s Office of Strategic Intelligence is responsible for preparing reports that focus on broad issues of drug trafficking from cultivation to distribution. The role of intelligence analysts in this office is to review DEA reporting, in combination with other law enforcement, intelligence community, and open source information, and develop long‑term analyses and trends to assist drug law enforcement authorities and policymakers.
Officials from four external organizations who we interviewed — the CIA, the Department of State, the DIA, and the ODNI — told us that the DEA’s strategic intelligence reports they received were valuable and useful.
However, after testing 16 strategic reports, we are concerned about the timeliness of the DEA’s reports. According to the DEA, intelligence reports are verified for accuracy through a lengthy review process prior to dissemination. We learned that all of the strategic intelligence reports we tested were published, on average, about 21 months after the source information was first observed by the DEA.
During discussions with the Section Chief of Domestic Strategic Intelligence, she stated that the DEA’s review process is necessary to ensure the intelligence it produces is factual. Although we recognize the importance of the review process, we are concerned about the length of time it takes to publish these reports. Such reports, and the factual information in them, may prove less useful if they are not available in a timely manner. We believe it is important for the DEA to further evaluate the methods used to produce and review strategic intelligence reports to ensure their timeliness.
Reports Officer Cables Untimely
The DEA’s four reports officers review incoming DEA investigation reports with a foreign nexus and develop cables for dissemination outside the DEA, including to members of the intelligence community. These cables are prepared each day by the reports officers after they review new DEA Reports of Investigation retrieved from the DEA Communications Center.
Reports officer cables are generally written within 24 hours of receipt of the incoming DEA Report of Investigation and are forwarded to the Policy and Liaison Section Chief for review, who then forwards the cable to various departments within the DEA for review and approval. According to the Section Chief, most reports officer cables should be reviewed and disseminated within 3 to 6 weeks. However, the Chief of Intelligence told us that when reports officers receive information related to terrorism, weapons, or a foreign country’s military, the cable must be prepared and disseminated to the intelligence community within 24 to 48 hours of receipt.
Of the 4,500 cables prepared since June 2004, we selected a judgmental sample of 81 to review. Our testing showed that cables are transmitted on average in 34 days from the date the original information was received by the DEA. Three of the 81 cables we tested were related to terrorism and met the criteria for expedited processing.14 However, none of the three terrorism-related cables were transmitted to the appropriate agencies within the goal of the 24- to 48-hour timeframe. Instead, these 3 reports officer cables were not transmitted until 39, 44, and 76 days after preparation. We discussed this with the DEA Chief of Intelligence, who stated that although the cables were not transmitted timely, this information was nevertheless immediately passed informally to the appropriate agencies. However, in our judgment, this informal method of passing along crucial information does not provide assurance that all responsible parties were notified, that sufficient details were provided, or that the information was disseminated appropriately.
This lack of timeliness was also noted by the external users who receive these cables. For example, the Director of the CIA Crime and Narcotics Center believes the intelligence provided by the DEA is invaluable, and the CIA shares this information with its agents stationed around the world. However, this official also said that there is a consistent, significant delay in receiving information from the DEA, and as a result some CIA operations have been negatively impacted.
Our report makes nine recommendations to help improve the use of DEA intelligence analysts. The recommendations include developing a plan to hire additional intelligence analysts; maintaining an adequate intelligence analyst applicant hiring pool; establishing an adequate system to monitor the status of the security clearances of intelligence analysts; ensuring that all intelligence analysts have required Top Secret clearances and are reinvestigated every 5 years; and developing a process for reviewing and transmitting terrorist-related cables to the intelligence community in a more timely manner.
Because the term “intelligence analyst” is commonly used within the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the intelligence community, we have also used it in this report to refer to intelligence research specialists.
According to the DEA CFO, allocated positions are those the DEA has allocated to individual offices, based on congressionally authorized levels. The database where information about allocated positions is maintained is called the Table of Organization, which shows where DEA’s congressionally authorized positions have been allocated, by office location. Historically, all of the authorized positions the DEA had were allocated to office locations. However, in recent years, a small number of the authorized positions were not allocated in order for those positions to be held at DEA headquarters to quickly meet emerging needs for personnel.
The Diversion Control Fee Account funds the Diversion Control Program through registration and application fees relating to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of controlled substances and chemicals. The Diversion Control Program seeks to prevent, detect, and investigate the redirection of controlled pharmaceuticals from legitimate channels.
Throughout this audit, the DEA’s reported number of intelligence analysts onboard fluctuated. As a result, our analysis was based on the number of intelligence analysts onboard as reported by the DEA at the stated time of the report. In addition, we used a conservative approach for our hiring analysis. For allocated FTEs, we used the lowest number of FTEs that the DEA allocated in each fiscal year, because this number also fluctuated throughout each year.
Authorized FTEs represent the congressional ceiling for intelligence analysts contained in the DEA’s appropriation. Because this ceiling is typically not fully funded, our hiring analysis did not assess the DEA’s efforts with respect to reaching its authorized level of intelligence analysts.
According to the DEA CFO, the hiring goal is derived by multiplying the non-agent staffing percentage by the authorized numbers. Base payroll funds from the salaries and expenses portion of the DEA’s annual appropriation are set aside each year to maintain this level of non-agent staffing. Intelligence analysts are considered part of this group. In FY 2004, the DEA did not have a hiring goal for non-agents, and used the funding level made available for non-agent hiring for that year as the hiring goal for intelligence analysts.
The DEA only had two hiring goals, one for special agents and another for non-special agents. Intelligence analysts are included in the second hiring goal, and for the remainder of this report, we will refer to this hiring goal as the intelligence analyst hiring goal.
DEA officials told us that the Office of Training currently uses two levels of evaluation for BIRS. The first level is based on student course evaluations and measures how students respond to the training. The second level is a learning measurement, which is usually in the form of the results of individual graded tests, exercises, and practical applications. In the future, the DEA plans to conduct a third-level evaluation 12 to 18 months after a student graduates from BIRS. However, DEA officials told us that the evaluation instrument for the third level has not yet been developed.
(1) the training lacked practical exercises; (2) the training included too many unnecessary classes; (3) the training did not prepare them to work in the field; (4) the instructors lacked skill and relied too much on canned material; and (5) intelligence analysts learned more from on-the-job training than from BIRS.
The intelligence analyst with no clearance is assigned to the El Paso Intelligence Center. We learned during our testing that this individual’s security file could not be located. We were told the DEA has since initiated a new background investigation.
One cable was related to Stinger missiles and other heavy arms for sale through a terrorist group with the intention of harming coalition forces. The other two cables were related to Taliban activity involving drug trafficking to finance terrorist activities and the identification of significant terrorist cell training and operations in a specific district of Afghanistan.