The Drug Enforcement Administrationís Use of Intelligence Analysts

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


Timely and accurate intelligence is used to assess the operations and vulnerabilities of criminal networks, to systematically interdict illegal contraband, and to evaluate the impact of illegal 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 Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) stated mission is to enforce controlled substances laws and regulations by investigating members of organizations involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States. Further, the DEA also recommends and supports non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances in domestic and international markets. Since terrorist groups frequently participate in or receive funds from drug trafficking to further their agendas, the DEA also may develop intelligence relevant to terrorist organizations during drug investigations and intelligence collection.

The DEA shares information with the intelligence community in furtherance of its mission to identify and disrupt illegal drug trafficking.15 This partnership was formalized in February 2006 when the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence signed a joint memorandum designating an element of the DEA’s Office of Intelligence – the Office of National Security Intelligence – as a member of the intelligence community. While mostly formalizing an existing partnership, this link between the DEA and the intelligence community was designed to ensure that the DEA shares intelligence with other intelligence community members and law enforcement agencies.

Intelligence Division

According to the DEA, the Intelligence Division performs analysis in the development of investigations targeting major drug trafficking organizations, strengthens ongoing investigations and subsequent prosecutions, develops information that leads to seizures and arrests, and provides policymakers with drug-trend information upon which programmatic decisions can be based.

Intelligence Division employees include intelligence research specialists, also known as intelligence analysts.16 The number of DEA intelligence analysts has grown from 11 since the DEA’s inception in 1973 to 710 intelligence analysts stationed around the world as of March 15, 2008.17

Role of Intelligence Analysts and Report Officers

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’s Policy and Liaison Section.

Within DEA headquarters, intelligence analysts are assigned to the offices of Strategic Intelligence, Investigative Intelligence, Special Intelligence, and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Management. Intelligence analysts are also assigned to several DEA field support organizations:

The DEA has 86 foreign offices in 62 countries worldwide. As of July 2007, the DEA had intelligence analysts in 39 foreign offices. However, 91 percent of the DEA’s intelligence analysts are assigned to one of the DEA’s 103 headquarters, field support, or domestic field offices. The chart below illustrates the percentages of intelligence analysts’ assignments by location.


Domestic Field Offices-57%; Foreign Field Offices-9%; Headquarters-23%; Field Support-11%.

Source: OIG analysis of DEA data from the Intelligence Division, Management and Production Support Section

Characteristics of Intelligence Analysts

We developed two survey questionnaires that we 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 level and work background, job satisfaction, and perceptions of their role in fulfilling the DEA’s mission.

The following chart shows intelligence analysts’ responses to the question on their education level when they began work at the DEA.


Bachelor's Degree-55%; Masters Degree-30%; Other-9%; Two or more 4-year degrees-5%; Doctoral Degree-1%.

Source: OIG survey of DEA intelligence analysts

As shown in the following table, the grade level of DEA intelligence analysts ranges from GS-9 to the Senior Executive Service level.19 The average grade level of an intelligence analyst is GS-13.

as of June 2007

General Schedule (GS) Senior
On Board GS-9 GS-11 GS-12 GS-13 GS-14 GS-15
Number 22 31 104 412 99 16 3 687
Percent of Total 3.2 % 4.6 % 15.1% 60.0% 14.4% 2.3% 0.4% 100%
Source: OIG analysis of DEA Intelligence Division data

Reports Officers

Along with intelligence analysts, the DEA currently has four contract reports officers working in DEA’s Policy and Liaison Section. These reports officers review incoming DEA Reports of Investigation with a foreign nexus and develop reports, known as reports officer cables, for the intelligence community. Because the reports officers are contract employees, the DEA does not have a role in recruiting and only a limited role training reports officers.

Budget Structure

For fiscal year (FY) 2004, the budget for the DEA’s Intelligence Division was 7 percent of the DEA’s total budget allocation20 For FYs 2005 through 2007, the budget for the DEA’s Intelligence Division was 8 percent of the DEA’s total budget allocation.21 The DEA’s total budget has risen by an average of 5.8 percent per year from FY 2004 to FY 2007. However, the DEA Intelligence Division’s total budget decreased by about $700,000 between FY 2006 and FY 2007.

The table below shows the DEA’s total appropriated budget and the budget allocation for DEA’s Intelligence Division for FYs 2004 through 2007.

FY 2004 – FY 2007

  FY 2004 FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007
Total Appropriated Budget $2,212,517,222 $2,329,958,345 $2,398,012,099 $2,596,308,249
Intelligence Division
Total Budget Allocation
$146,714,905 $185,218,258 $198,717,058 $198,039,440
Source: DEA Budget and Finance, Office of Resource Management

The DEA’s office of Drug Diversion Control is responsible for investigating the diversion, distribution, manufacture, and abuse of legitimate pharmaceuticals and the diversion of controlled chemicals. 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. 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 and 36 positions have been filled as of November 2007. One of the goals of this initiative is to place one intelligence analyst in every DEA field division with a diversion group.

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 the intelligence analysts and report officers.

In performing 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. We also interviewed officials from agencies that use the DEA’s intelligence products. Those agencies include: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of State, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 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 developed two survey questionnaires that were sent to 675 intelligence analysts and 4,843 Special Agents in the DEA.22 The intelligence analyst survey questionnaire contained 69 questions designed to gather information regarding intelligence analysts’ 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 Special Agent survey questionnaire contained 14 questions that were designed to ascertain Special Agents’ views on the effectiveness of intelligence analysts and their intelligence products. We received 1,700 responses (35 percent) to the Special Agent survey.

In addition, we reviewed and analyzed the DEA’s intelligence reports, closed case files, and other documents regarding the work of intelligence analysts. More information on our objectives, scope, and methodology can be found in Appendix I.

  1. The intelligence community consists of 18 members, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the FBI, the National Security Administration, the Department of Defense, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and others, conducting intelligence activities on behalf of the United States.

  2. Because the term “intelligence analyst” is commonly used within the DEA, the FBI, and the intelligence community, we have also used it in this report to refer to intelligence research specialists.

  3. The DEA’s domestic and foreign field office locations are described in Appendix III and Appendix V, respectively.

  4. The distribution of intelligence analysts for field support is as follows: Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (31), El Paso Intelligence Center (41), and the Office of Aviation Operations (5).

  5. The federal government uses the General Schedule, which consists of 15 grades (GS-1 being the lowest and GS-15 being the highest), each broadly defined in terms of work difficulty, responsibility, and qualifications required for performance. The Senior Executive Service covers most managerial, supervisory, and policy positions in the Executive branch that are classified above the GS-15 level.

  6. Total appropriated budget is the total amount of money the DEA was authorized by Congress to obligate each year and is the amount approved by Congress in its appropriation bills. The authorized budget is the amount of money DEA set aside from the total obligation authority for the Intelligence Division and related programs. The authorized budget is further broken down into smaller portions for recruiting, hiring, training, and retention within the Intelligence Division.

  7. Numbers for each fiscal year have been rounded: FY 2004 - $146,714,905 divided by $2,212,517,222 equals 7 percent; FY 2005 – $185,218,258 divided by $2,329,958,345 equals 8 percent; FY 2006 – $198,717,058 divided by $2,398,012,099 equals 8 percent; FY 2007 – $198,039,440 divided by $2,596,308,249 equals 8 percent.

  8. Throughout this audit, the number of intelligence analysts onboard as reported by the DEA fluctuated. As a result, our analysis is based on the number of intelligence analysts onboard as reported by the DEA at the stated time.

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