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Federal Bureau of Investigation Casework and Human Resource Allocation

Report No. 03-37
September 2003
Office of the Inspector General


Executive Summary

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Justice (Department). The agency's mission is to investigate violations of federal criminal law, protect the U.S. from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities, and provide leadership and assistance to other law enforcement agencies. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (hereafter referred to as 9/11), the FBI reallocated its resources to focus more on international and domestic terrorism in order to detect and deter future terrorist acts.

The FBI Director issued a memorandum to all employees in May 2002 reprioritizing the agency's mission, indicating that the FBI would emphasize prevention rather than prosecution by shifting its organizational focus from traditional reactive law enforcement operations to prioritizing intelligence gathering and analysis. The Director noted that counterterrorism is the top priority of every FBI field office. Subsequent to this memorandum, the Director reprogrammed agents assigned in various other law enforcement areas into terrorism-related programs.

This Office of the Inspector General (OIG) review examined the FBI's use of personnel resources in its investigative programs over an almost 7?year period, six years before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and nine months after the attacks.1 In addition, we reviewed the FBI's planned allocation of resources during this same October 1995 to June 2002 time period. We also examined the types and numbers of cases the FBI investigated during this period.

Perhaps as important as the results of this review is the fact that this type of detailed statistical analysis of FBI planning, resource usage, and casework had never been undertaken by the FBI. While much of the data examined in this review concerns the period pre-9/11, we believe this review provides helpful information into how the FBI allocated its agent and support resources before, during, and shortly after the 9/11 attacks. We also believe that this analysis, and the techniques used in this analysis, will prove helpful to the FBI as it continues to revisit the balance between its terrorism and non-terrorism-related responsibilities. Details of our audit objectives, scope, and methodology can be found in Appendix I.

FBI Priorities

According to the FBI's 5-year strategic plan issued in May 1998, the Bureau's highest priority is national and economic security. This is defined as "foreign intelligence, terrorist, and criminal activities that directly threaten the national or economic security of the United States." The strategic plan further states that as a national organization, the FBI must first address those issues that are national in scope and those crimes that threaten the security of the nation. The FBI's plan identified three general functional areas that describe and prioritize the variety of threats that it must address to realize the goal of enhanced national and individual security.

TIER ONE: National and Economic Security

Foreign intelligence, terrorist, and criminal activities that directly threaten the national or economic security of the United States.


  • Identify, prevent, defeat intelligence operations that constitute a threat to U.S. national security.
  • Prevent, disrupt, defeat terrorist operations before they occur.
  • Deter and prevent criminal conspiracies from defrauding major U.S. industries and the U.S. government.
  • Deter the unlawful exploitation of emerging technologies by foreign powers, terrorists, and criminal elements.

TIER TWO: Criminal Enterprises and Public Integrity

Crimes that affect public safety or undermine the integrity of American society.


  • Identify, disrupt, and dismantle organized criminal enterprises.
  • Identify, disrupt, and dismantle targeted international and national drug trafficking organizations.
  • Reduce public corruption at all levels of government.
  • Deter civil rights violations.

TIER THREE: Individuals and Property

Crimes that affect individuals and crimes against property.


  • Reduce the impact of the most significant crimes that affect individuals and property.
Source: FBI Strategic Plan 1998 - 2003

FBI Programs

As of June 2002, the FBI classified its investigative activities into ten programs according to the nature of the work. Within each of these programs, the activities are further categorized by an investigative classification and, if appropriate, a sub-program. The programs and their areas of responsibility, as illustrated by the sub-program and investigative classification examples listed, are as follows:

NFIP National Foreign Intelligence Foreign Counterintelligence
FBI Security
International Terrorism
NIPCIP National Infrastructure
Protection/Computer Intrusion
Computer Intrusion Criminal Matters
Protection of Transportation Facilities
DT Domestic Terrorism Counterterrorism Preparedness
Weapons of Mass Destruction
WCC White Collar Crime Bankruptcy Fraud
Health Care Fraud
Wire and Mail Fraud
OC/D Organized Crime/Drugs Mexican/Criminal Syndicates
Asian Criminal Enterprise
VCMO Violent Crimes & Major Offenders Fugitives
Violent Gangs
Crimes Against Children
CR Civil Rights Racial Discrimination
Involuntary Servitude and Slavery
APP Applicant Matters Background Investigations
Recruitment and Processing
Investigations of White House Staff & Visitors
TRAIN Training Federal Training
State and Local Training
MISC Miscellaneous Matters Freedom of Information Act Issues
Public Relations Matters

Source: FBI Finance Division and FY 2002 Investigative Classifications booklet

The FBI's Utilization of Personnel Resources

Although the strategic plan consistently identified national security issues as the FBI's highest priority, prior to 9/11 the Bureau devoted significantly more special agent resources to traditional law enforcement activities such as white collar crime, organized crime, drug, and violent crime investigations than to domestic and international terrorism issues. In fact, as shown in the table to the right,2 in fiscal year (FY) 2000 (the last full fiscal year prior to 9/11) the FBI utilized 6,815 agents in non terrorism-related criminal investigative programs: 2,426 in White Collar Crime (WCC), 2,172 in Organized Crime/Drugs (OC/D), 2,055 in Violent Crimes and Major Offenders (VCMO), and 162 in Civil Rights (CR). In comparison, a total of 2,126 agents worked in the FBI's three programs related to terrorism. Bar chart Agent usage in terrorism-related and non-terrorism programs. For a text version click on the chart.

Similarly, in FY 2001 the FBI's non-terrorism programs continued to dominate agent utilization. This situation changed dramatically in FY 2002 when the number of FBI special agents working on terrorism-related matters more than doubled from the previous year, to 4,680, while the number dedicated to non-terrorism matters fell from 6,449 to 3,976.

FY 1996 THROUGH 2001
Source: FBI TURK System
In comparison to agent utilization, an analysis of the FBI's utilization of its support personnel over the same period revealed that the Bureau's use of these resources has been in line with its strategic plan since the beginning of our review period in FY 1996; NFIP3 has consistently utilized more support personnel resources than any other program. In fact, when all other programs are combined, NFIP continues to lead in the utilization of support personnel resources. However, even when support personnel are added to special agents, the FBI's terrorism-related programs utilized significantly fewer personnel resources in FYs 2000 and 2001 than those not related to terrorism. However, the increase in agents working terrorism matters in FY 2002, combined with the already significant number of support staff related to these programs, brought the Bureau's resource utilization more in line with its strategic plan.

FBI Response to 9/11

After 9/11, a large number of FBI personnel were immediately assigned to investigate the attacks. In addition, the newly-appointed FBI Director4 announced that the agency would be undergoing a restructuring, national security would be the agency's top priority, additional agents would be assigned to international and domestic terrorism issues, and the FBI's investigative efforts would be reprioritized.

The FBI's investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, called PENTTBOMB, used enormous personnel resources - as of June 1, 2002, Bureau personnel had charged almost four million work hours to this case, consisting of approximately 3.6 million hours charged by special agents and over 400,000 hours charged by support personnel. The majority of these hours were charged in the weeks immediately following 9/11; after this initial burst of investigative activity the number of work hours expended on terrorism-related matters began decreasing. However, the level of effort expended in the FBI's National Foreign Intelligence Program as of June 1, 2002, remained dramatically higher than the level of effort put forth prior to 9/11. In fact, while most other programs experienced a decrease in agent work hours, NFIP saw an increase of 62 percent from August 2001 to June 1, 2002.

Line chart of agent hours by FBI program area. Sept 2000 to June 1, 2002.  For a text version click on the chart.
Source: FBI TURK System


Following 9/11, the FBI also took steps to devote additional resources to international and domestic terrorism matters in general, not just to the investigation of the terrorist attacks. In December 2001 the FBI Director announced a reorganization of the Bureau and
created Executive Assistant Director positions to minimize the supervisory span of control of executive management. Following this, the Director released a list in May 2002 that reprioritized the Bureau's activities. Although making anti-terrorism work its main priority was reflective of strategic priorities already in place, the ranking of other FBI work was new. For example, combating white collar crime, parts of which were formerly a top strategic priority, fell below that of work related to terrorism, computer security, public corruption, civil rights, and organized crime.  
May 2002
1. Protect the U.S. from terrorist attack
2. Protect the U.S. against foreign intelligence operations and espionage
3. Protect the U.S. against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes
4. Combat public corruption at all levels
5. Protect civil rights
6. Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises
7. Combat major white collar crime
8. Combat significant violent crime
9. Support federal, state, local, and international partners
10. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission

In support of these new priorities, the Director adjusted staffing numbers for each of the investigative program areas, moving agent positions into its NFIP and Domestic Terrorism (DT) programs. This realignment of agent resources, along with new agent positions provided in the FY 2002 budget, resulted in the FBI dedicating 685 additional agents to terrorism-related matters in FY 2002. Primarily, these agents were moved from drug investigations within the FBI's Organized Crime/Drugs program; however, agent positions also were reassigned from its Violent Crimes and Major Offenders (VCMO) and White Collar Crime (WCC) programs.

As shown in the graph on the previous page, the increases in NFIP began in the TURK period in which 9/11 occurred. The increases in agent hours dedicated to terrorism-related matters were a direct result of the catastrophic events of that day. Had 9/11 not occurred, the data indicates that agent utilization in NFIP would have remained unchanged in FY 2001. Consequently, without this major terrorist event, Bureau-wide agent utilization would have remained the same and would not have begun to come into alignment with the strategic plan.

A Program-by-Program Look at the FBI

Before 9/11 and the related FBI restructuring, not only did NFIP utilize a smaller number of agent resources than the WCC and VCMO programs, it also utilized a smaller percentage of its allocated personnel than these other programs. The FBI's Resource Management and Allocation (RMA) office allocates the Bureau's human resources and establishes Funded Staffing Levels (FSLs) for agents and support. Under this system, each FSL equals one person. Program Managers then monitor human resource utilization by comparing Average On Board (AOB) numbers to the number of allocated FSLs. If the AOB number is less than the FSL, the FBI is using fewer human resources than it was allocated, thus underutilizing. If the AOB is greater than the FSL, the FBI is using more human resources than allocated for a particular program area, or overutilizing.

Using data from the FBI's TURK system, we calculated annual AOB totals for special agent personnel5 for the FBI as a whole and for the individual FBI programs. We then compared the annualized AOB data to the annual FSL data for FYs 1996 through 2001. We found that the FBI generally underutilized its agent resources in FYs 1996 through 2001; an occurrence that most FBI officials we interviewed attributed to vacancies. The following matrix provides a summary of our program-level analysis. The yellow shading indicates underutilization while the blue shading indicates overutilization.

PROGRAM / FY 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 Utilization
FBI-WIDE U U U U U O 97.8%
NFIP U U U U U O 89.8%
DT O U U U O U 90.5%
WCC U U U U U U 95.5%
OC/D U U U U U U 91.2%
VCMO O O O O O O 105.6%
CR U U O O O U 103.6%
Source: FBI TURK system and FSL data

Our comparison of agent resource utilization at the program level revealed that although utilization varied among criminal investigative programs, only the VCMO program lacked a period of underutilization that reflected the trend for the Bureau as a whole. Instead, the VCMO program overutilized its agent resources for each year in the reviewed timeframe. In addition, the terrorism-related programs (NFIP, NIPCIP, and DT) and the Organized Crime/Drugs (OC/D) program underutilized its agent resources at a rate much greater than the overall Bureau-wide underutilization.

Further, the non-criminal investigative programs of Applicant Matters and Training utilized considerably more resources than allocated on a consistent basis.8 According to FBI officials, this occurred because these programs support all other programs. For example, the officials advised that much of the work in the Applicant program was dedicated to the recruitment and hiring of new personnel for all areas, and personnel in all programs charged time to Training, regardless of the program to which they were dedicated. We have recommended that the FBI examine the planning factors and processes for these programs and make necessary adjustments to more closely approximate the agent resources they need.

FBI Field Offices: Investigative Programs Receiving the Most Resources

The historical trend of low agent resource utilization in the FBI's terrorism-related programs also is evident in the results of our analysis of FBI field office data. To determine how the FBI's program-specific work has been distributed throughout the FBI's field structure, we conducted an annual (by fiscal year) analysis of resource utilization by program for each of the FBI's 56 field offices. For each office, we determined the program that utilized the most agent resources for the most fiscal years during the seven fiscal year periods reviewed, and characterized the office by that program designation. For example, we designated the Albany Field Office as a WCC office, and the Washington, D.C., Field Office as an NFIP office because of the programs in which the predominance of its agent resources were utilized from FY 1996 through June 1, 2002.

Of the 56 FBI field offices, 25 offices expended the most special agent resources in WCC; 16 offices focused on VCMO; 10 offices worked more in OC/D; and the predominant program in 4 offices was NFIP. In the remaining office, agent utilization was distributed evenly between the VCMO and WCC programs. As shown in the following chart, the predominant program in 75 percent of the FBI's field offices was either WCC or VCMO.

OCTOBER 1, 1995 through JUNE 1, 2002
Pie chart of predomiant prograsm for FBI field offices, October 1, 1995 through June 1, 2002.  For a text chart with the same information click on the chart.
Source: FBI TURK System

Universe of FBI Cases

In addition to our analysis of the FBI's human resource allocation and utilization, we also obtained, from the Bureau's Automated Case Support (ACS) system,9 data of all cases recorded between October 1, 1995, and June 14, 2002. This reflected all cases that were opened during our review period, as well as those that were opened prior to the start of the review period but remained open as of October 1, 1995.

Our analysis of FBI casework revealed that the VCMO program accounted for the most cases worked10 during this timeframe. In fact, one quarter of all the cases the FBI worked during that period were in VCMO. NFIP accounted for 17 percent of the cases while the Domestic Terrorism (DT) program made up only one percent during the same time period. This distribution of cases is shown in the following chart.

OCTOBER 1995 through JUNE 2002
Pie chart breakdown of FBI case from October 1995 through June 2002.  For a text chart with the same information click on the chart.
Source: FBI ACS System

Following 9/11 and the FBI's increased attention to national security?related matters, the FBI began opening more terrorism-related investigations. While the average number of case openings per month in the VCMO, WCC, OC/D, and Civil Rights (CR) programs decreased in FY 2002, the average monthly case opening rate in the NFIP and DT programs increased.

Our review of FBI casework also revealed trends in case openings and closings unrelated to 9/11. In general, we identified a downward trend in both the number of cases opened and closed per month. Specifically, between FYs 1997 and 2001 we identified a one-third reduction in case openings, from an average of just over 12,000 cases opened per month in FY 1997 to a little more than 8,000 in FY 2001. This trend reversed in the first eight months of FY 2002 when about 2,000 additional cases per month were opened, many of which were in the NFIP and DT programs.

Our review of case closings revealed a similar trend. Excluding FY 1999, the FBI consistently closed fewer cases per month in each successive fiscal year from 1998 to June 2002. We excluded the FY 1999 data because in April 1999 the FBI administratively closed a large number of inactive cases in preparation for its Year 2000 computer systems conversion.

In reviewing FBI casework, it is important to note that cases in different programs vary significantly in importance and resource commitment. We reviewed the time FBI personnel spent investigating certain significant investigations designated as major cases.11 These are investigations, which, at their outset, are of national importance and/or indicate the potential for a massive commitment of manpower throughout FBI field offices.

Using data from the TURK system, we calculated the hours charged by FBI personnel from October 1995 through June 2002 to all major cases. As detailed in the following table, we found that, by a large margin, the major case utilizing the most combined agent and support resources during that time period has been the investigation of the attacks on 9/11. Further review revealed that 11 of the top 15 major cases, in terms of total FBI personnel hours worked (special agent and support personnel), from October 1995 through June 2002 are related to terrorism.

1 PENTTBOMB 3,994,968
3 CAMPCON 332,378
5 OKBOMB 294,157
7 UNABOM 223,586
8 SANDBOMB 213,145
9 CENTBOM 179,265
10 THUNDER ROLL 166,682
12 KENBOM 145,645
13 1996 SUMMER OLYMPICS 143,163
14 AMERITHRAX 116,575
15 USAMA BIN LADEN15 92,569
Source: FBI TURK System and FBI Finance Division

Conclusions and Recommendations

The FBI's 1998 5-year strategic plan stated that preventing and defeating foreign intelligence, terrorist, and criminal activities that directly threaten the national security of the United States were the Bureau's highest priorities. However, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks the FBI utilized more of its agent resources in the White Collar Crime (WCC), Violent Crimes and Major Offenders (VCMO), and Organized Crime/Drugs (OC/D) programs than in programs related to terrorism. To its credit, the Bureau responded to the 9/11 tragedy with an unprecedented level of effort. Additionally, as time progressed and the amount of resources dedicated to the PENTTBOMB investigation decreased, FBI personnel continued to devote more time to terrorism-related matters in general than any other single area, thus bringing the Bureau's operations into closer alignment with its strategic plan.

We believe the FBI needs to ensure that its operational priorities, in terms of human resource utilization and investigations, consistently coincide with the priorities that are established through the strategic planning process. Based on the issues we identified in this report, we offer seven recommendations to improve the FBI's management of human resources and casework. Our recommendations focus on encouraging the FBI to review systematically its personnel allocation process and its methods for evaluating human resource utilization. The FBI should also examine the decreasing rate of case openings and closings and the increasing population of open cases to identify the causes of these recent trends. We believe it is important that the FBI closely review the information we have provided and address weaknesses in its human resource allocation and utilization processes as well as the recent trends in its casework, to help ensure that Bureau activities do not differ widely from its strategic plan.


  1. As of June 1, 2002, the FBI employed 26,735 people, of which 11,267 were special agents.
  2. Our analyses of resource utilization are based upon information contained in the FBI's Time Utilization and Recordkeeping (TURK) system, a module of the payroll system. The TURK system contains data on non-supervisory, non-Headquarters personnel utilization (Average On Board) and work hours expended. The data is captured in 13 TURK periods in each fiscal year, with each TURK period consisting of two, two-week pay periods.
  3. The FBI's international terrorism efforts are consolidated in the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP).
  4. Robert S. Mueller, III was sworn in as FBI Director on September 4, 2001.
  5. We did not perform this analysis for support personnel because support personnel are allocated by type (clerical/administrative, investigative, and technical), not by investigative programs.
  6. We calculated the utilization rate by dividing the total AOB by the total FSL for the review period.
  7. The National Infrastructure Protection/Computer Intrusion Program was created in FY 1999.
  8. Examples of the work performed within these programs are provided in the table on page iv.
  9. ACS is a centralized electronic case management system used by the FBI. It contains both historical and current case data for all FBI cases, except those that have been destroyed or archived.
  10. We defined a case as "worked" if it was open at any time during our review period.
  11. The FBI designates major cases to track the time spent on large, national investigations. Aside from these major cases, the FBI does not track time by individual cases.
  12. A description of these major cases appears in Appendix II.
  13. Terrorism-related cases are identified in bolded italics.
  14. The hours shown do not necessarily represent total hours charged to these cases. Instead, the number reflects the hours charged during our review period of October 1, 1995, through June 1, 2002.
  15. This case was opened on May 14, 1999.