The External Effects of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Reprioritization Efforts
(Redacted for Public Release)

Audit Report 05-37
September 2005
Office of the Inspector General

Chapter 1: Introduction

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has worked to become a more proactive, intelligence-driven agency. To achieve this goal, the FBI is undergoing an extensive transformation, driven by new priorities which resulted in a realignment of its investigative resources from traditional crime areas to terrorism-related matters. During the past three years, the FBI has devoted more agents to counterterrorism and counterintelligence, while reducing its investigative involvement in organized crime, drugs, violent crime, and white-collar crime. With a more limited FBI presence in these traditional crime areas, the responsibility to address an increasing number of these issues has fallen to other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The purpose of this review was to determine the impact the FBI’s reprioritization has had on other agencies in the law enforcement community.

Overview of the FBI

The FBI is the largest investigative agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and is responsible for enforcing more than 200 federal laws. It has the broadest jurisdiction of any federal law enforcement agency. The FBI is charged with not only investigating criminal matters such as organized crime, drugs, and violent crime, but it is also responsible for counterterrorism and counterintelligence matters.

The FBI is comprised of divisions and offices within the United States and around the world. The FBI’s executive management is located at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Domestically, the FBI has 56 field divisions, with approximately 400 resident agencies that report to a respective field division.11 The FBI also has several additional, specialized facilities, such as the Critical Incident Response Group and the FBI Laboratory, as well as more than 50 Legal Attaché offices located in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. As of May 31, 2005, the FBI employed 12,382 special agents and 17,271 support personnel.

FBI Reprioritization

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), the FBI began transforming itself, including the primary emphasis of its investigative efforts. According to the FBI Director, the reprioritization process was designed to reshape the FBI into an organization better able to combat the imminent terrorist threat and to prevent another terrorist attack against the United States and its citizens. One of the major results of this process was the issuance of a new set of priorities in May 2002, which established the order of precedence for the investigative operations of the FBI. These priorities are presented in the following exhibit.

FBI's Top Ten Priorities: #1 Protect the United States from terrorist attack. #2 Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage. #3 Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes. #4 Combact public corruption at all levels. #5 Protect civil rights. #6 Combat transnational and natinal criminal organizations and enterprises. #7 Combat major white-collar crime. #8 Combat significant violent crime. #9 Support federal, state, county, municipal, and international partners. #10 Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission. Source:

As shown, the FBI’s top priorities are counterterrorism and counterintelligence. In line with the newly established priorities, the FBI Director formally shifted more than 500 field agents from traditional crime areas to terrorism-related programs in May 2002. These resources were taken primarily from the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID), which addresses traditional criminal areas such as narcotics trafficking and white‑collar crime. This reprogramming of resources is discussed in further detail in Chapter 3.

Additionally, the FBI has undergone and continues to undergo several changes in its organizational structure since 9/11, including the creation of the Office of Intelligence and the Cyber Division and a restructuring of the CID. The restructuring of the CID included a resource management initiative and the implementation of the Criminal Enterprise Plan, which gave the FBI field divisions more flexibility in investigating criminal organizations. These CID changes are more fully explained in Chapter 2.

Prior Reviews

We previously performed two audits related to the FBI’s reprioritization efforts, issuing our first report in September 2003 and the second in September 2004.12 The first review examined the FBI’s casework and resource utilization before and immediately after 9/11. In that report, we found that prior to 9/11, although the FBI identified counterterrorism in its top priorities, the FBI utilized the majority of its agent resources in traditional criminal investigative areas, such as white-collar crime, violent crime, organized crime, and drugs.13 Following 9/11, agent usage on terrorism‑related matters dramatically increased. Additionally, after the initial response to these terrorist incidents, resource usage related to counterterrorism stabilized at a level higher than it was prior to 9/11. One of the recommendations we made in that review was that the FBI Director explore additional means of analyzing the FBI’s resource utilization among its various programs. As a result, the FBI Director now receives resource level reports similar to the analyses we performed in our initial review.

Our second review focused solely on the internal operations of the FBI and the changes it had undergone between fiscal years (FY) 2000 and 2003. The FBI formally moved a significant number of funded personnel from traditional criminal investigative areas to matters related to terrorism, and reorganized itself with the intent of becoming a more proactive, intelligence‑driven law enforcement agency. Our analyses found that FBI activities in FY 2003 were generally in line with its post‑9/11 priorities. Specifically, our analysis of FBI timekeeping data detailed how the FBI was performing less work in certain traditional criminal investigative areas and more work in matters related to terrorism.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also conducted several reviews of the FBI’s post-9/11 reprioritization efforts, issuing its most recent report in August 2004.14 In this report, the GAO followed up its previous work regarding the FBI's changes since 9/11.15 The GAO found that its review of data was inconclusive on determining the impact the FBI's changes have had on traditional law enforcement areas.

Audit Approach

This review was performed as a follow-on to our previous work in which we focused on the internal operational changes occurring within the FBI. This audit primarily concentrated on the external effects of the FBI’s shift in priorities on the law enforcement community. Specifically, our objective was to determine the impact of the FBI’s reprioritization efforts on other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. As the FBI reduces its involvement in traditional crime areas, other law enforcement agencies need to enhance their investigative efforts to compensate for the FBI’s changes. If not, the potential for certain crimes to go unaddressed increases.

To accomplish our objective, we reviewed various data and documentation and solicited feedback from numerous law enforcement representatives. Specifically, we obtained FBI data related to its allocation of FBI field agent positions, its actual utilization of FBI field agents, and its investigative caseload for FYs 2000 through 2004. We focused on the traditional criminal investigative areas of organized crime, drug trafficking, violent crime, and white-collar crime.

Additionally, we interviewed headquarters-level management at the FBI and other federal law enforcement entities to gain a national perspective. Within the FBI, we spoke primarily with CID officials and personnel from the Office of Law Enforcement Coordination. We also obtained feedback from 11 different federal agencies and programs, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Executive Office of the President’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. A complete listing of the federal agencies we visited is contained in Appendix I.

Further, to obtain the viewpoints of state and local law enforcement officials, we disseminated a web-based survey to chief law enforcement executives of 3,514 agencies located in the jurisdictional areas of 12 FBI field offices: Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City, New York; Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco, California; and Washington, D.C.16 These 3,514 agencies generally encompass all state and local law enforcement agencies operating in those 12 FBI jurisdictional areas. Exhibit 1‑2 provides the number of recipients and respondents for these locations, as well as the response rate. In addition to the survey, we interviewed representatives at international and national law enforcement associations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

FBI Field Office
Number of
Number of
Survey Response
Los Angeles
New Orleans
New York City
San Francisco
Washington, D.C.
Totals 3,514 1,265 36.0%
 Source: Office of the Inspector General analysis

After analyzing the FBI data and survey results, we judgmentally selected seven of the FBI field office jurisdictions in which to perform additional audit work. Exhibit 1‑3 presents the seven areas visited, which are highlighted in yellow. The areas shown in gray are the remaining five jurisdictions to which we disseminated the survey.


[Not Available Electronically]

 Source: Office of the Inspector General

At each site visited, we interviewed officials at the main FBI field division and representatives from at least one FBI resident agency. Further, we spoke with management at five federal agencies: the ATF, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DEA, the United States Attorneys Office (USAO), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS). We also met with officials from at least five state or local law enforcement departments per location, including the major police department located in each city visited. We also selected local law enforcement agencies based on survey responses, choosing departments that indicated being either negatively or positively affected by the FBI’s changed priorities. During the course of our audit, we spoke with approximately 330 officials.

The results of our review are detailed in Chapters 2 through 13, and the audit scope and methodology are presented in Appendix I. Most of our work at the FBI focused on the FBI’s CID, which is responsible for overseeing the FBI’s traditional crime efforts. Chapter 2 of this report discusses the FBI’s CID and the structural changes it has undergone since our last review issued in September 2004. In Chapter 3, we present our overall analyses of FBI resource data, which identify the changes in the FBI’s criminal investigative efforts between FYs 2000 and 2004. Additionally, Chapter 3 describes the overall changes occurring in the FBI’s criminal casework and in the criminal matters the FBI refers to the USAOs.

In Chapter 4, we discuss the overall effect the FBI’s shift in priorities has had on the national law enforcement community. In particular, this chapter incorporates feedback gathered during our interviews with non-FBI officials, as well as the responses from our survey of law enforcement officials across the country. Further, we summarize the specific crime areas affecting other law enforcement agencies’ operations.

Chapters 5 through 11 of this report detail the impact of the FBI’s reprioritization within distinct, traditional crime areas, namely financial crimes, criminal enterprises, fugitives, bank robberies, identity theft, and integrity in government, as well as other criminal areas such as child pornography, alien smuggling, and human trafficking. Within each of these chapters, we identify the FBI’s investigative changes based on interviews with FBI officials and our review of statistical data, and we describe the concerns and perspectives of the non-FBI officials we interviewed.

During fieldwork, we examined the existing relationships between the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Chapter 12 of this report contains details on information we collected regarding the manner in which the FBI and these other agencies interact. Finally, Chapter 13 presents our overall conclusions and recommendations for FBI management to consider in allocating its agent resources and for improving specific areas of its operations.


  1. FBI domestic offices are referred to as divisions, such as the FBI Chicago Division. The FBI also refers to its divisions as field offices, such as the FBI Phoenix Field Office. We use the terms “division” and “field office” interchangeably throughout the report.
  2. See Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation Casework and Human Resource Allocation, Audit Report Number 03-37, September 2003; Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, The Internal Effects of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Reprioritization, Audit Report Number 04-39, September 2004.
  3. Prior to the FBI Director’s issuance of the top 10 priorities, the FBI operated under a three-tiered structure for prioritizing its investigations. Tier One represented the FBI’s highest priority area, which focused on national and economic security, including terrorism-related activity.
  4. Government Accountability Office. FBI Transformation: Data Inconclusive on Effects of Shift to Counterterrorism-Related Priorities on Traditional Crime Enforcement, Report Number GAO-04-1036, August 2004.
  5. The GAO previously issued four reports on the FBI’s reprioritization efforts: (1) Government Accountability Office. FBI Reorganization: Initial Steps Encouraging but Broad Transformation Needed, Report Number GAO-02-865T, June 21, 2002; (2) Government Accountability Office. FBI Reorganization: Progress Made in Efforts to Transform, but Major Challenges Continue, Report Number GAO‑03-759T, June 18, 2003; (3) Government Accountability Office. FBI Transformation: FBI Continues to Make Progress in Its Efforts to Transform and Address Priorities, Report Number GAO-04-578T, March 23, 2004; and (4) Government Accountability Office. FBI Transformation: Human Capital Strategies May Assist the FBI in Its Commitment to Address Its Top Priorities, Report Number GAO-04-817T, June 3, 2004.
  6. Appendix I contains details on our selection of FBI field office jurisdictions for the dissemination of the web-based survey.
  7. Each respondent equates to a distinct state or local law enforcement agency.

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