The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Use of Intelligence Analysts

Audit Report 08-23
May 2008
Office of the Inspector General

Findings and Recommendations

1.  Recruiting, Training, and Retention

    From FYs 2004 through 2007, the number of DEA intelligence analysts onboard increased by 8 percent. However, the DEA’s allocated number of intelligence analysts increased by 15 percent. 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 its stated hiring goal. The DEA attributes this shortfall in its intelligence analysts staffing level to $210 million in unfunded salary increases, congressionally mandated rescissions, streamlining initiatives that did not save money, and new Administration mandates.

    With respect to training, our review found that 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.

    We also found that the DEA’s intelligence analyst workforce has a low attrition rate that has generally remained consistent at approximately 3 percent from FY 2004 to FY 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. We also found that overall, DEA intelligence analysts are satisfied in their positions, believe they contribute to DEA’s mission, and find their work intellectually challenging.

    However, we identified inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the DEA’s security clearance database and records for intelligence analysts. The records indicated that a significant number of intelligence analysts did not have a Top Secret clearance as required by the DEA, and that some intelligence analysts with Top Secret clearances did not have a reinvestigation within the last 5 years, as required by DOJ Order 2610.2A.

Recruiting and Hiring

The DEA’s recruiting efforts are centralized at DEA headquarters, and the Intelligence Division maintains a hiring pool of pre-screened applicants from which it can hire when positions are approved. From December 2006 through September 2007, the hiring pool ranged from a high of 268 to a low of 95 applicants. The Deputy Chief of Intelligence and the Section Chief of Management and Production Support for Intelligence told us that the DEA has an ongoing effort to recruit and screen qualified applicants in order to maintain an adequate number of candidates in the hiring pool. The DEA said it seeks applicants who demonstrate the ability to analyze information, identify significant factors, gather pertinent data, plan and organize work, and communicate effectively. According to the Section Chief, the Intelligence Division actively recruits applicants by participating at job fairs and by advertising on the DEA website. The DEA also receives and responds to phone inquiries, unsolicited resumes, and referrals.

The Section Chief told us that based upon its experience, the DEA needs three applicants in its hiring pool for every intelligence analyst position it seeks to fill. The DEA continues to maintain the hiring pool even when there are no positions available. Applicants are selected from the hiring pool as new positions are approved for hire. The DEA states 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; (3) some applicants accept employment elsewhere before the background investigation is completed; and (4) some applicants do not want to relocate to where the DEA needs them, such as in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Hiring Efforts

The DEA receives funding for intelligence analysts from congressional appropriations each fiscal year and from other sources, such as the Diversion Control Program. The table on the following page details FTE and funding data for FYs 2004 to 2007.

DEA Intelligence Analyst FTEs and Budget

Fiscal Year Authorized23 Allocated24 Hiring
On-board Salaries and
Expenses for
2004 790 726 672 645 $63,063,621
2005 808 751 679 668 $66,693,178
2006 858 769 704 684 $72,492,381
2007 936 837** 721 699 $75,853,068
Source: DEA Budget and Finance, Office of Resource Management

** Includes 73 Diversion Control Fee Account positions allocated in June 2007.

As detailed in the table above, from FYs 2004 through 2007, the DEA’s authorized FTEs increased by 146 positions, its allocated FTEs increased by 111 positions, and its hiring goal increased by 49 intelligence analyst positions. Further, the number of intelligence analysts onboard increased by 54, and its appropriated funding level for intelligence analysts’ salaries and expenses increased by almost $13 million. In percentage terms, over the same time period authorized FTEs increased by 18 percent, allocated FTEs increased by 15 percent, the hiring goal increased by 7 percent, the onboard positions increased by 8 percent, and salaries and expenses increased by 20 percent.

In order 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 these numbers to the number of FTEs allocated as well as the hiring goals for those years. The results appear in the following chart.

Intelligence Analyst Staffing by Category

[Image Not Available Electronically]

Source: OIG summary analysis of data provided by the DEA Finance Office, Office of Resource Management

As detailed above, the DEA did not reach its allocated number of intelligence analysts, or its hiring goal with respect to intelligence analysts at any time during our 4-year review period. Although DEA’s allocated FTEs for intelligence analysts increased by 15 percent from FY 2004 to 2007, the actual number of intelligence analysts onboard only increased by 8 percent for this same period. For the allocated level of intelligence analysts, the hiring gap ranged from 81 in the first and fourth quarters of FY 2004 to 161 in the first quarter of FY 2007, and was 138 at the end of FY 2007. A comparison between DEA’s hiring goal and the number 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. The reasons for the shortfall are discussed in the next section.

Not Maintaining Allocated or Hiring Goal Staffing Levels

In our survey, we asked Special Agents if the current number of intelligence analysts was adequate to provide for Special Agents’ research and analytical needs. Eighty percent responded that the current number of intelligence analysts was not adequate, and 87 percent responded that the current ratio of 10 Special Agents for every intelligence analyst should be lower.

As discussed above, the DEA had not hired up to its allocated staffing level, or to its hiring goal for intelligence analysts. The DEA CFO stated that the DEA did not reach its authorized staffing levels for FYs 2004 through 2007 because it had to absorb $210 million in unfunded salary increases, congressionally mandated rescissions, streamlining initiatives that did not save money, and new Administration mandates that cut the DEA’s budget in specific areas such as rent, travel, and money available for permanent change of station moves. The administration also mandated cuts to the DEA’s base budget, and noted that crosscutting savings may exist in areas such as consolidation of facilities, communications networks, human resource management, fleet management, and procurement management. In addition, because DEA staffing represents approximately 50 percent of the DEA’s entire budget, the DEA has lowered its onboard staffing levels in order to pay mandatory obligations and support ongoing operations. As a result, the DEA implemented an agency-wide hiring freeze. Specifically, the DEA’s salary and expense account was subject to a component-wide hiring freeze from August 2006 until January 2008. Another DEA management official told the OIG that the DEA also experiences problems in hiring analysts in locations where there is a need, such as Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

The DEA reported that the hiring freeze officially ended when the FY 2008 appropriations bill was signed in December 2007. DEA senior management told the OIG that the exact number of intelligence analysts to be hired for all programs other than the Diversion Control Program 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.

The Section Chief of Management and Production Support for Intelligence told us that as of March 2007 the DEA was in the process of hiring 73 intelligence analysts using funds from the Diversion Control Fee Account. As of November 2007, 29 existing DEA intelligence analysts were transferred to diversion positions and 7 new intelligence analysts were hired for additional diversion positions. The Section Chief said that the Chief of Intelligence requested each domestic division Special Agent-in-Charge to identify specific field offices where new intelligence analysts would be assigned. SACs also were to identify qualified, experienced intelligence analysts to fill some of the new Diversion Control Program positions. These new Diversion Control Program positions are funded through the Diversion Control Fee Account rather than the congressionally appropriated salary and expense account.

We are concerned that the number of on board intelligence analysts continues to lag behind both the number of FTEs the DEA allocated to its offices and to its hiring goals based on appropriated funding for intelligence analysts. We are also concerned that there are currently not enough applicants in the hiring pool to meet the DEA’s projected FY 2008 hiring 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 that the DEA has hired 27 new intelligence analysts and other applicants were no longer available or interested in relocating to duty stations such as Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. Applying the DEA’s ratio of three applicants in the pool for every analyst position it fills, the DEA will need about 240 applicants in the hiring pool to hire the approximately 80 intelligence analysts projected 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 that transferred to this program from other duties.

Finally, we believe that the DEA’s process for determining how many intelligence analysts it can hire was hindered because the DEA did not have a specific hiring goal for intelligence analysts. As described previously, the DEA establishes two hiring goals, one for special agents, and another for all non-special agents, which includes intelligence analysts. We believe that the DEA could more effectively manage its intelligence analysts if it established a separate hiring goal that specifically considered its intelligence analyst needs. According to the DEA CFO, starting in FY 2008, the DEA will establish separate hiring goals for various types of employees, including intelligence analysts.


The DEA has implemented a combination of training for its intelligence analysts. As discussed below, all intelligence analysts are required to take Basic Intelligence Research Specialists (BIRS) training and Advanced Intelligence Training. The DEA also offers intelligence analysts a variety of other training that is specifically tailored to intelligence analysts’ needs. Additionally, since 2003 all new intelligence analysts must participate in a mentoring program.

Basic Intelligence Research Specialist Training

The DEA provides BIRS training to newly hired intelligence analysts at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia.27 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. According to the DEA Office of Training Section Chief, all intelligence analysts who have completed the course have passed.

We reviewed the BIRS course descriptions and class schedules that were contained in the curriculum developed to teach all intelligence analysts. The curriculum included classes such as Basic Law Enforcement Report Writing, National Security Information Handling, Telephone Tolls Analysis, Internet Telecommunication Exploitation Program, Terrorism Financing Activities and Techniques. We also evaluated a judgmental sample of BIRS lesson plans and found them to be comprehensive.

We reviewed past student evaluations, which generally indicated a high satisfaction level with the BIRS training.28 For our survey questions related to BIRS training, we considered the 139 respondents who completed the training within the past 6 years to obtain more recent feedback. 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.29

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 that support drug enforcement cases or programs. Of the 1,378 Special Agents who responded to this question, 1,163 (84 percent) attributed a high or moderate level of DEA’s intelligence analyst workforce with the knowledge and experience necessary to produce useful intelligence products.

We also interviewed 24 intelligence analysts and supervisors, 2 SACs and 3 ASACs at field offices in San Diego and New York about the training. Many of these 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. They believed classes such as Defensive Driving and Firearms Safety were not related to the core work of an intelligence analyst and could be removed from the curriculum. We also share their concern that the expanded BIRS training program includes curriculum that may be unnecessary or potentially available to intelligence analysts through other means. Training such as Government and Financial Planning and the Employee Assistance Program orientation may be more efficiently taught through web-based training or orientation at the intelligence analyst’s duty location.

When we asked DEA training officials about this issue, they stated that the BIRS 14-week class is a pilot and changes might be warranted as the need arises.

Other Training Opportunities

The DEA Office of Training provides Advanced Intelligence Training for GS-12 and GS-13 intelligence analysts. The Office of Training received funding for Advanced Intelligence Training and conducted classes in July, September, and November 2007. We were told by DEA management that “future AITs will be scheduled in 2008 to ensure that all GS-13s and below have received the training.”

Of the 487 intelligence analysts who responded to the survey, 29 had attended Advanced Intelligence Training in their first 2-year cycle. Of the 29 respondents, 24 (83 percent) reported it was beneficial in performing their jobs. The other five respondents said they did not find Advanced Intelligence Training beneficial because they thought nothing new was taught or presented.

Additionally, 25 of the 29 respondents (86 percent) had attended intelligence-related training in addition to BIRS and Advanced Intelligence Training. All of these respondents reported that the training was made available to them within 1 year of their request and that the training enhanced their skill level.

The DEA offers additional intelligence training to all intelligence analysts, for example the DEA has an on-line Master’s degree program for GS-14 and -15 intelligence analyst employees. The DEA also offers non-supervisory employees who are GS-13 or below the opportunity to take two training classes related to an employee’s current assignment and additional training to meet agency needs from commercial vendors.

Of the 487 intelligence analysts who responded to the survey, 345 respondents (71 percent) believe that training beyond BIRS and Advanced Intelligence Training is necessary for intelligence analysts to do their jobs more effectively and to enhance their skills.

Mentoring Program

In addition to the training offered through the Office of Training, the Intelligence Division implemented a mentoring program in January 2003. The DEA intelligence analyst mentoring program is a 6-month program of structured coaching for new intelligence analysts. Mentors are experienced intelligence analysts at the GS-12 or higher grade levels who have completed a 1-week certified training program offered by the Office of Training. Mentors are assigned in the role of teacher or coach to new intelligence analysts who enter on duty at their assigned office after completion of BIRS training.

According to the DEA, the goals of the mentoring program are to: (1) ensure new intelligence analysts can apply the skills acquired during BIRS training, (2) provide a smooth transition into the analytical work environment, (3) familiarize new intelligence analysts with the policies and practices of their assigned office, and (4) provide the necessary instruction to maximize the capabilities of new intelligence analysts. One hundred sixty of 187 respondents (86 percent) who participated in the program believed the mentoring program was useful or very useful.


The DEA’s intelligence analyst workforce has a low attrition rate. For FYs 2004 to 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 DEA and FBI intelligence analyst attrition rates.

We determined the FBI’s average intelligence analyst attrition rate for FYs 2004 to 2006 is more than twice that of the DEA’s intelligence analysts. The following chart shows the DEA’s attrition rate for intelligence analysts has consistently been below that of FBI intelligence analysts.

FY 2004 – FY 2007*

DEA/FBI: FY 2004-3.5%/8.9%; FY 2005-2.6%/5.5%; FY 2006-3.1%/9.5%; FY 2007-3.2%/4.0%.

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.

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 5 more years. Of the remaining 92 respondents, 56 were undecided and 36 said they plan on leaving the DEA for various reasons. Of these 36 respondents, 16 planned to retire within the next 5 years, 6 are looking for better promotion opportunities, and the remaining 14 gave a broad range of reasons including seeking higher salary, lack of good management, better location, and personal issues.

This intelligence analyst retention rate compares favorably to the responses we received in May 2005 from FBI intelligence analysts when we conducted a similar survey. In the FBI, 64 percent (519 of 816 intelligence analysts) responded that they planned to stay with the FBI for the next 5 years.30 The following chart shows the likelihood that intelligence analysts in the DEA and FBI will remain with their respective agencies for the next 5 years.


FBI/DEA: Likely-63.6%/81.1%; Unlikely-22.2%/7.4%; Undecided-14.2%/11.5%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA and DOJ OIG Audit Report 05-20

Intelligence Analysts’ Level of Satisfaction

We also asked intelligence analysts several questions designed to gauge their job satisfaction, such as:

The following chart shows that the majority of DEA intelligence analysts reported their level of contribution to DEA’s mission as above average.


Somewhat high-37.4%; Very High-39.6%; Average-18.3%; Below Average-4.3%; No contribution-0.4%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA intelligence analysts

However, 23 respondents (5 percent) rated their contribution to the DEA’s mission as “below average” to “none.” Nineteen of these respondents said they had no impact on the DEA mission or that they were underutilized in their current positions and four respondents did not provide an explanation.

The following chart shows the majority of DEA intelligence analysts are generally satisfied in their position.


Very Satisfied-39%; Satified-47%; Dissatisfied-12%; Very Dissatisfied-2%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA intelligence analysts

However, 72 (14 percent) of the respondents reported they were less than satisfied as DEA intelligence analysts. Only 68 of these respondents provided an explanation for their dissatisfaction. Their explanations varied greatly but generally fell within two areas: dissatisfaction with work assignments and dissatisfaction with management or Special Agents. Dissatisfaction with work included concerns such as:

Dissatisfaction with management and Special Agents included concerns such as:

The following chart shows that the vast majority of DEA intelligence analysts reported they find their work challenging.


Very Challenging-22%; Challenging-%42; Somewhat Challenging-25%; Not Very Challenging-10%; Not at all Challenging-1%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA intelligence analysts

However, 54 (11 percent) of the respondents reported their work was not intellectually challenging. Only 11 of these respondents provided an explanation for why they did not find their work as a DEA intelligence analyst challenging. Their reasons included that their work was routine or mundane, they were underutilized, or their work was clerical in nature. The remaining 43 respondents did not provide an explanation.

Security Clearances

According to DOJ Employment Security Regulations, all agency heads are required to designate the sensitivity of all positions within their organizations.31 The DEA determined that intelligence analyst positions are “special sensitive” in an October 1999 decision paper. 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, or as amended.32 Therefore, according to the DEA Deputy Chief of Intelligence, DEA intelligence analysts require Top Secret security clearances.

To obtain a Top Secret security clearance, DEA intelligence analysts must undergo a background investigation. According to the DEA’s Office of Security Programs, this process starts when an applicant submits his or her background information into Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system and a background investigation is scheduled. OPM is responsible for completing the investigation and updates the status of each individual’s investigation in the e-QIP system at the conclusion of the investigation. The DEA Security Programs Manager reviews the results of the completed investigation, determines if the applicant is eligible for a security clearance and, if eligible, grants the clearance.

DOJ Employment Security Regulations also state that special sensitive positions require a full field reinvestigation “5 years after their appointment and at least once each succeeding 5 years....” According to the DEA Associate Deputy Director of Security Programs, each intelligence analyst with a security clearance must complete a reinvestigation every 5 years after the date their last investigation was closed by OPM. The DEA Office of Security Programs is responsible for monitoring the clearances granted to intelligence analysts, and uses the date OPM closed an investigation as the date to monitor and schedule the reinvestigation.

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. We determined that 82 of the 699 intelligence analysts did not have the required Top Secret clearances or a reinvestigation within the last 5 years. The problems we identified included:

We also concluded that the information maintained by the Office of Security Programs related to security clearances is not reliable. Some of the issues identified with the data used by the DEA to monitor security clearances included:

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 analysts’ security clearances from top secret to secret as 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 further 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.


We recommend that the DEA:

  1. Develop a plan to ensure that the DEA meets its intelligence analysts hiring goal.

  2. Maintain an adequate applicant hiring pool for intelligence analysts.

  3. Continue the recently initiated practice of establishing annual hiring goals specifically for intelligence analysts.

  4. Consider reevaluating the Basic Intelligence Research Specialist training curriculum to determine if any classes could be taught through more economical means, such as web-based training or at field office locations.

  5. Establish an adequate system to monitor the status of the security clearances of intelligence analysts.

  6. Ensure that all intelligence analysts have required Top Secret clearances.

  7. Ensure that intelligence analysts undergo required security reinvestigations every 5 years.

2.  Quality, Usefulness, and Effectiveness of Intelligence Reports

    In general, the majority of both internal and external users were satisfied with the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of the DEA’s intelligence products. Nevertheless, DEA internal users raised significant concerns related to excessive caseloads for intelligence analysts, how intelligence analysts were utilized, and timeliness of intelligence products. One factor that affects the timeliness and usefulness of intelligence products is the DEA’s internal review process for strategic intelligence, which is comprehensive but time-consuming. For example, it took an average of 21 months from the time intelligence was received until it was published in a strategic report. Additionally, we determined that reports officer cables containing terrorist-related information were not always transmitted to the appropriate agencies within the DEA’s goal of 24 to 48 hours because of a lengthy review process. As a result, the DEA’s internal and external users of its intelligence products did not always receive useful and effective intelligence information in a timely manner.

The DEA utilizes various kinds of intelligence in its efforts to investigate and prosecute drug offenders, disrupt and dismantle drug organizations, and provide policymakers with drug-trend information upon which programmatic decisions can be based. In addition, organizations in the intelligence community, such as the CIA and the Department of State, use the DEA’s intelligence in their operations.

The DEA divides drug intelligence into three broad categories: tactical, investigative, and strategic. Tactical intelligence is information on which immediate enforcement action — arrests, seizures, and interdictions — can be based. Tactical intelligence is perishable, time sensitive, and requires immediate action. Investigative intelligence is analytical information that provides support to investigations and prosecutions. Investigative intelligence is used to dismantle criminal organizations and gain resources through confiscation of drug trafficking assets. 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 drug traffic. While this raw reporting can be used to develop or support strategic assessments, it is not strategic intelligence.

DEA intelligence analysts collect, analyze, and disseminate drug‑related intelligence information in reports to users both within and outside of the DEA. The DEA also has four reports officers who review incoming reports that have a foreign nexus and develop cables for dissemination outside the DEA, including members of the intelligence community.

Intelligence Analysts

Intelligence analysts develop and analyze the three types of intelligence discussed previously. Intelligence analysts may develop tactical intelligence from a variety of sources, such as a confidential source debriefing. The tactical intelligence developed by the intelligence analyst is provided to a Special Agent, and may be used to take further action such as an arrest, seizure, or confiscation of assets. Special Agents can also use tactical intelligence to develop investigative intelligence, such as a Report of Investigation, which supports the overall development of the case.35 Intelligence analysts also use tactical intelligence to develop other investigative intelligence. For example, they may develop a Report of Investigation or process and analyze tactical intelligence and attempt to develop additional leads, or otherwise support the development of the case. As new investigative intelligence is developed, intelligence analysts analyze this information, identify trends, and prepare strategic intelligence reports for use both within and outside the DEA.

Developing Tactical and Investigative Intelligence

Depending on the needs of the case and the Special Agent, intelligence analysts may participate in the investigation’s day-to-day activities to obtain updated tactical and investigative information, as well as receive or provide input on where to pursue further leads. Some intelligence analysts meet almost daily with Special Agents to exchange information and receive further direction. As part of their tactical and investigative efforts, intelligence analysts can routinely conduct telephone number searches, analyze telephone subscriber information, review wiretap intercepts, perform financial data searches, analyze border crossing and international travel information, and conduct public database record searches. Intelligence analysts summarize the information and communicate the intelligence as appropriate in Reports of Investigation, briefings, presentations, meetings, e-mail, or by telephone.

Intelligence analysts are not typically assigned to a DEA investigative case at the beginning. Because the DEA has a caseload larger than the number of intelligence analysts at each field office, the intelligence analyst is usually assigned to a case when it is designated by the DEA as a Priority Target Organization case. An intelligence analyst may be assigned three or more Priority Target Organization cases at any one time. As part of working the Priority Target Organization cases, intelligence analysts assist Special Agents in developing investigative case files.

DEA case files are developed for each investigation initiated. However, DEA field office personnel told us that many of the intelligence analysts’ work products are not retained in the case file. For example, an intelligence analyst may conduct an analysis on telephone toll records over several days and determine a link between two or more drug traffickers. The intelligence analyst then passes this information to the Special Agent, who initiates surveillance of the individuals to confirm the relationship. The Special Agent then documents the results of the surveillance in the case file without any reference to the analysis performed by the intelligence analyst.

Value of Tactical and Investigative Intelligence

In order to assess the value of the tactical and investigative intelligence developed by intelligence analysts, we first 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 analyzed 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 with respect to quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of the intelligence analysts’ work.

Therefore we examined responses from the survey of Special Agents to assess the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of intelligence analyst products. We also 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 cases significant numbers of Special Agents expressed concerns about intelligence analysts’ intelligence products and quality of work. In these instances, we requested a detailed explanation of their concerns. Below are sample questions we asked Special Agents.

  1. How often do intelligence analyst s interpret intelligence data correctly and draw the right conclusions when providing intelligence to support drug enforcement cases?

  2. How often do intelligence analyst s produce timely intelligence to support drug enforcement cases?

  3. How would you rate the effectiveness of the contributions provided by intelligence analyst s regarding tactical intelligence?

  4. How would you rate the effectiveness of the contributions provided by intelligence analyst s regarding investigative intelligence?

  5. To what extent do you believe the intelligence products produced by intelligence analyst s are useful in supporting drug enforcement cases?

Out of the 1,700 respondents, we received 1,518 answers to these 5 questions. The answers are summarized on the following pages.


Very often-31%; Often-40%; Sometimes-23%; Rarely-6%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA Special Agents

The explanations provided by the Special Agents who responded “rarely” fell into three broad categories:


Very often-23%; Often-40%; Sometimes-28%; Rarely-8%; Never-1%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA Special Agents

The explanations provided by the Special Agents who responded “rarely” and “never” fell into two categories:


Excellent-29%; Above Average-31%; Average-28%; Below Average-8%; Poor-4%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA Special Agents


Excellent-30%; Above Average-33%; Average-27%; Below Average-8%; Poor-2%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA Special Agents

The explanations provided by Special Agents who responded “poor” for both tactical and investigative intelligence included:

Great Extent-38%; Moderate Extent-44%; Small extent-17%; Not at all-1%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA Special Agents

The explanations provided by the Special Agents who responded “not at all useful” include:

To further assess the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of intelligence products, we asked the Special Agents if they were aware of any backlog of intelligence data to be processed or analyzed by an intelligence analyst. Seventy-three percent indicated they were not aware of any backlog, while 27 percent responded they were aware of a backlog. The respondents who were aware of the backlog provided various explanations for the backlog. The responses generally indicated that a backlog existed because intelligence analysts were overworked. However, none of the intelligence analyst s we interviewed at field offices in San Diego or New York indicated that they were overwhelmed by their workload. Intelligence analyst s also told us that there was no method for tracking or documenting a backlog of intelligence data. They said they were responsible for prioritizing their work and accomplishing what was necessary to support the cases assigned to them.

Developing Strategic Intelligence

The DEA’s Office of Strategic Intelligence is responsible for preparing reports that focus on the broad issues of drug trafficking, from cultivation to distribution. Intelligence analysts in this office 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. This office produces a variety of strategic reports including:

Value of Strategic Intelligence

To determine the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of DEA intelligence products, we interviewed representatives from four external organizations that use these intelligence products: the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of State, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Officials from these agencies told us that, in general, the DEA’s intelligence products were valuable and useful. According to the CIA official we interviewed, the CIA uses the DEA’s intelligence products in its policy sections to further relationships with individual countries’ local liaisons and police forces to support prosecutions. Officials at the DIA told us that the DEA’s intelligence products are well-written, valuable, and appear to be fully researched. The Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence said that the DEA’s intelligence products are valuable, reliable, and useful and that the Department of State relies heavily on DEA intelligence products.

ODNI’s Assistant Deputy Director for Analytic Community Support told us that ODNI uses the strategic information available on the DEA’s website. Like the Department of State, the Assistant Deputy Director said that this information is valuable because DEA agents on the street have first-hand knowledge of drug-related activities allowing them to identify connections between drugs and crime. This official told us that the DEA’s products were logical, of good quality, and of a tactical nature. He added that the reports are clear and the material is believable and self-explanatory.

We asked the DEA Domestic Strategic Intelligence Unit Section Chief if the DEA has utilized customer surveys within the strategic intelligence reports. She told us that the DEA previously included customer surveys as part of the strategic reports, but surveys have not been included in the reports since about 2003. She also told us that she receives feedback from the users of the DEA’s intelligence products through informal methods such as telephone, e-mail, and indirect correspondence. She said that these comments are rare, but they are generally positive. As of June 2007, according to the Deputy Chief of Intelligence, the DEA has developed a customer survey that is included in the intelligence products and the DEA will begin to evaluate the feedback received from customers in the future.

We also reviewed 16 strategic reports produced by the Domestic Strategic Intelligence Unit for timeliness of issuance and found that there is a lengthy internal review process. 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 told us the DEA’s internal review process is comprehensive and time-consuming. She further stated that the DEA’s review process is necessary to ensure the information it produces for the general public 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. Factual information may not be useful if it is not available in a timely manner. In our opinion, it is important for the DEA to continue to evaluate the methods used to produce and review strategic intelligence reports and to ensure they are produced in a more timely manner.

Reports Officers

As discussed earlier, the DEA has four reports officers who review incoming investigation reports that have a foreign nexus. Reports officers also develop cables for dissemination outside the DEA, including to members of the intelligence community. Reports officers prepared and disseminated more than 4,500 cables between June 2004 and June 2007. The cables are written each day by the reports officers after they review new DEA reporting retrieved from the DEA Communications Center. The Communications Center ensures that incoming cables are not administrative cables or cables for general dissemination throughout the DEA. Reports officers are responsible for:

Reports officer cables are generally written within 24 hours of receipt of the incoming DEA reporting and are forwarded to the Policy and Liaison Section Chief for review. The Policy and Liaison Section Chief then forwards the cable to various departments within the DEA for review and approval. Once approved by the DEA Deputy Chief of Intelligence, the cables are sent to the Communications Center for transmission to the recipients.

According to the Section Chief, most reports officer cables should be reviewed and disseminated within 3 to 6 weeks. However, according to the Chief of Intelligence, when reports officers receive information related to terrorism, weapons, or a foreign country’s military, the cable should be prepared and disseminated to the intelligence community within 24 to 48 hours of receipt.

Our interviews found that the reports officer cable review and approval process is very time-consuming. Once the cables are completed by the reports officers, they are reviewed by the supervisor and manually distributed through the DEA for additional review and approval. Some of the departments included in the review are the originating office, Enforcement Operations, Special Intelligence, and Financial Intelligence. The Policy and Liaison Section Chief told us the reports officer cables rarely have substantive changes. According to DEA officials, the reason for this review is to ensure the cables do not contain any information that may jeopardize an on‑going investigation or put a Special Agent at risk. The Policy and Liaison Section Chief told us that the DEA does not have written procedures delineating this process.

DEA Releases Terrorism Cables Untimely

Of the 4,500 cables prepared by the reports officers since June 2004, we selected a judgmental sample of 81 cables to review. Our testing showed that these cables were transmitted outside the DEA on average in 34 days from the date the original cable was received by the DEA. Three of the 81 cables we tested were related to terrorism and met the criteria for expedited processing. 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 three reports officer cables were not transmitted until 39, 44, and 76 days after preparation.37

We discussed this with the DEA Chief of Intelligence, who assured us 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. While we understand the need to properly review cables, we are concerned that the highest priority cables were not transmitted to the appropriate agencies expeditiously.

Value of Reports Officer Cables

All of the external users we interviewed reported that DEA intelligence reports were of high quality. However, they reported that the usefulness and effectiveness of the DEA’s products varied depending on the needs of the user and how the intelligence was being used.

Central Intelligence Agency

The CIA Director of the Crime and Narcotics Center stated that the agency is extremely interested in raw intelligence such as the reports officer cables. He said the intelligence provided by the DEA is invaluable because it is the only source for the type of information provided, often corroborating data previously gathered by the CIA or filling a gap in existing intelligence data. 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, which can negatively affect CIA operations.

Defense Intelligence Agency

The DIA Director for Counter Narcotics told us that the DEA’s products are well-written, valuable, and seem to be fully researched. However, he also stated that the DEA has the challenge of adequately sourcing its intelligence. The DIA Director said the DEA must be able to provide adequate context regarding the sources of its intelligence to provide a level of reliability to its users. The DIA Director also expressed concern regarding the timeliness of the information received from the DEA.

Department of State

The Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence said that the DEA’s products are valuable, reliable, and useful, and that the State Department relies heavily on DEA reports. This official also said that the Department of State uses DEA reports to corroborate other reported intelligence and that the information included in DEA reports officer cables is invaluable because DEA agents on the street have first-hand knowledge of drug-related activities. The Deputy Assistant Secretary told us that the DEA reports contribute to new ideas on how to proceed against new circumstances, such as Internet drug sales.


We recommend that the DEA:

  1. Ensure that the customer surveys recently incorporated with the intelligence reports are utilized to assess and evaluate the quality, usefulness, and effectiveness of each product.

  2. Develop a process for reviewing and transmitting reports officer cables, especially terrorist-related cables, in a more timely manner.

  1. The term “authorized” refers to the maximum number of congressionally authorized positions for intelligence analysts. Typically, this number represents a ceiling, and appropriated funds are not always provided to allow agencies to hire up to this level.

  2. According to the DEA CFO, the term “allocated” refers to the number of positions the DEA has allocated to individual offices, based on congressionally authorized levels. The DEA refers to this allocated number of positions as its “Table of Organization.” This number is usually adjusted throughout the year. For FYs 2004 through 2007, the adjusted numbers were always equal to or exceeded the number at the beginning of the year.

  3. According to the DEA CFO, the hiring goal is derived by multiplying a percentage staffing level by the authorized ceiling. The percentage is developed by the DEA’s Office of Resource Management, after the budget appropriations are signed each year, and approved by the Administrator. The percentages were: 84 percent for FY 2005, 82 percent for FY 2006, and 77 percent for FY 2007. The CFO also told us that in FY 2004 the DEA did not have a hiring goal for non-special agents. We used the funding level made available for non-special agent hiring for that year, which was 85 percent.

  4. The salaries and expense amounts for intelligence analysts includes funding from the Diversion Control Fee Account, the Violent Crime Reduction Program, and reimbursable programs. In addition, these amounts include salaries and expenses for four reports officers.

  5. From 1974 to 2001, the BIRS training program ranged from 2 to 10 weeks in length. From 2002 to 2006, the course length was 9 weeks. However, as of July 2007, the course was expanded to 14 weeks.

  6. 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, DEA official said they plan 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.

  7. (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.

  8. United States Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Hire, Train, and Retain Intelligence Analysts, Audit Report 05-20, May 2005.

  9. DOJ Order 2610.2A, Employment Security Regulations, §7.d

  10. Executive Order 12356 prescribes a uniform system for classifying, declassifying, and safeguarding national security information.

  11. This intelligence analyst 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, but we were provided no evidence to indicate the investigation was scheduled or actively ongoing.

  12. Eagle Eye is the DEA’s database used for maintaining security clearance information on its 20,000 employees and contractors.

  13. A Report of Investigation, also commonly referred to as a DEA-6, details the ongoing activity of a DEA case. For example, a DEA-6 may describe surveillance activity, confidential source debriefings, or routine research documentation for the case file.

  14. The Domestic Monitoring Program is a street-level drug purchase program. Heroin is purchased by law enforcement personnel and the DEA and sent to a drug lab for analysis.

  15. One cable was related to Stinger missiles and other heavy arms for sale through a commander of 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.

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