Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-29.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Beforethe Subcommittee on Crime
                          Committee on the Judiciary
                          House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
9:30 a.m. EDT
                          DRUG CONTROL
on Thursday
July 29, 1999

                          DEA's Strategies and
                          Operations in the 1990s
                          Statement of Norman J. Rabkin
                          Director, Administration of Justice Issues
                          General Government Division

                                     Ga AOb
                            Acc-Accountabiity * Integrity * Reliability

GAO/T-GGD-99-149                             /

Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and
Operations in the 1990s

                Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

                I am pleased to be here today to discuss the results of our recently
                completed comprehensive review of the Drug Enforcement
                Administration's (DEA) strategies and operations in the 1990s. We
                undertook this work at the request of this Subcommittee and the Senate
                Caucus on International Narcotics Control. As agreed with the
                Subcommittee and the Caucus, we focused our work primarily on
                determining (1) what major enforcement strategies, programs, initiatives,
                and approaches DEA has implemented in the 1990s to carry out its
                mission; and (2) whether DEA's strategic goals and objectives, programs
                and initiatives, and performance measures are consistent with the Office of
                National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) National Drug Control Strategy.
                Also, as requested, we reviewed how DEA determined its fiscal year 1998
                staffing needs and allocated the additional staff.

                My statement is based on and will outline the detailed results of our July
                21, 1999 report1 (which I would now like to submit for the record). Overall,
                we determined that, consistent with its mission, DEA enhanced or changed
                important aspects of its operations during the 1990s, including expanding
                its focus to target local drug dealers in addition to major drug trafficking
                organizations. In this regard:

              * DEA expanded its domestic enforcement operations to work more with
                state and local law enforcement agencies and help combat drug-related
                violence in local communities.
              * DEA implemented an investigative approach focusing on intercepting the
                communications of major drug traffickers.
              * DEA enhanced its foreign operations by (1) participating in two
                interagency programs to target major drug trafficking organizations in
                Latin America and Asia and (2) screening and training special foreign
                police units to combat drug trafficking in certain key foreign countries.
                We also determined that DEA's strategic goals and objectives, and
                enhanced programs and initiatives, in the 1990s were consistent with the
                National Drug Control Strategy. However, DEA has not developed
                measurable performance targets for its programs and initiatives that are
                consistent with those adopted for the National Strategy.

                I will now briefly outline the results of our work.

                ' Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s (GAO/GGD-99-108, July 21, 1999).

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              Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s

              As you know, DEA has significant responsibilities for the drug supply
Back~ground   reduction portion of ONDCP's National Drug Control Strategy. DEA's
              overall mission is to enforce the nation's drug laws and regulations and to
              bring drug traffickers to justice. DEA is the lead agency responsible for
              enforcing the federal drug control laws and for coordinating and pursuing
              U.S. drug investigations in foreign countries. DEA's primary
              responsibilities include (1) investigating major drug traffickers operating
              at interstate and international levels and criminals and drug gangs who
              perpetrate violence in local communities; (2) managing a national drug
              intelligence system; (3) seizing and forfeiting traffickers' assets; (4)
              coordinating and cooperating with federal, state, and local law
              enforcement agencies on mutual drug enforcement efforts; and (5)
              carrying out, under the policy guidance of the Secretary of State and U.S.
              Ambassadors, programs associated with drug law enforcement
              counterparts in foreign countries.

              Funding for all federal drug control efforts has increased by about 49
              percent, in constant 1999 dollars, in the 1990s to the fiscal year 1999 level
              of about $18 billion. Funding for DEA almost doubled, in constant dollars,
              from about $806 million in fiscal year 1990 to about $1.5 billion in fiscal
              year 1999. The number of DEA staff increased from about 6,000 in fiscal
              year 1990 to about 8,400 in fiscal year 1998.

              Nevertheless, during the 1990s, the demand for and supply of illegal drugs
              have persisted at very high levels and have continued to adversely affect
              American society. For example, on the basis of the National Household
              Survey on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
              Administration estimated that in 1997 there were 13.9 million current
              users2 of illegal drugs in the United States aged 12 and older, representing
              6.4 percent of the total population. This number has fluctuated somewhat
              but has remained fairly constant overall since 1990, as have the numbers of
              current users of cocaine and marijuana, with 1.5 million cocaine users and
              11.1 million marijuana users in 1997.

              Also, a report prepared for ONDCP showed that drug users in the United
              States spent an estimated $57 billion for illegal drugs in 1995.3 ONDCP, in
              its 1999 National Drug Control Strategy, noted that illegal drugs cost our
                  A current user is an individual who consumed an illegal drug in the month prior to being interviewed.

              :' What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs. 1988-1995; prepared for the Office of National Drug
              Control Policy by William Rhodes, Stacia Langenbahn, Ryan Kling, and Paul Scheiman; September 29,

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                             Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s

                             society approximately $110 billion annually. The societal costs include lost
                             jobs and productivity, health problems, and economic hardships to
                             families. In addition, many violent crimes are drug related, according to

                             Drug trafficking organizations have continued to supply drug users in the
                             United States despite short-term achievements by DEA and other law
                             enforcement agencies in apprehending drug traffickers and disrupting the
                             flow of drugs. In the 1990s, DEA pointed to many drug enforcement
                             accomplishments. But, despite these accomplishments, national and
                             international drug trafficking organizations continued to smuggle large
                             amounts of illegal drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and
                             methamphetamine, into the United States. In addition, methamphetamine,
                             a powerful stimulant that has had a devastating impact in many cities
                             across the nation during the 1990s, is clandestinely produced in this
                             country; and marijuana is grown here. Local gangs and individuals deal in
                             these and other drugs in local communities and have caused violence in
                             doing so.

DEA's Enforcement            Since it was established in 1973, DEA's top priority has been to disrupt and
Operations Reach From the    dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. During the 1990s, DEA
                             broadened the focus of its enforcement operations. DEA now focuses on
International Level to the   what it calls the "seamless continuum" of drug trafficking, with programs
Local Level                  and initiatives directed at major regional, national, and international
                             trafficking organizations; violent, street-level drug gangs and other local
                             community problems; and domestically cultivated and manufactured
                             illegal drugs.

                             During the 1990s, DEA, primarily through its Kingpin Strategy and then its
                             Special Operations Division, increased its emphasis on intercepting
                             communications between top-level drug traffickers and their subordinates
                             to identify and target the leaders and dismantle their operations. This
                             resulted in a 183-percent increase, from fiscal years 1990 through 1998, in
                             the number of electronic surveillance court orders requested and
                             conducted by DEA.

                             DEA also started working with other federal agencies on two programs-
                             the Linear Approach and Linkage Approach Programs-to target and
                             investigate major drug trafficking organizations in Latin America and Asia,
                             respectively. In 1996, to improve its effectiveness in several key foreign
                             countries, DEA began to screen and train special foreign police units. The
                             intent of this effort is to improve the capabilities of foreign police and to

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                                Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s

                                build trustworthy and reliable foreign antidrug units with which DEA

                                At the same time, DEA attempted to improve its effectiveness in
                                addressing the "seamless continuum" of drug trafficking by giving
                                domestic drug trafficking a higher priority, including focusing resources on
                                regional and "local impact" drug problems. In this regard, during the 1990s,
                                DEA devoted more resources to its State and Local Task Force Program.
                                Also, in 1995, DEA established the Mobile Enforcement Team Program to
                                assist local police with violent drug gangs and other local drug problems.

DEA Has Not Yet                 DEA's strategic goals and objectives and its enhanced programs and
                                initiatives in the 1990s have been consistent with the National Drug
Developed Performance           Control Strategy. Both the National Strategy and DEA hope to reduce the
Targets Consistent With the     illegal drug supply and drug-related crime and violence by disrupting and
National Strategy               dismantling domestic and international drug trafficking organizations.

                                The principal objectives in the National Drug Control Strategy relating to
                                DEA are:

                              * combat drug-related violence, disrupt criminal organizations, and arrest
                                the leaders of illegal drug syndicates; and
                              * disrupt and dismantle major international drug trafficking organizations
                                and arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate their leaders.

                                For domestic drug trafficking organizations, the National Strategy calls for
                                increasing by 5 points the percentage of drug trafficking organizations
                                disrupted or dismantled by 2002 as measured against the percentage
                                recorded in the base year using a prioritized list of designated targets. It
                                calls for at least a 10 percentage point increase above the base year by

                                For international drug trafficking organizations, the National Strategy calls
                                for achieving by 2002 a 50 percent success rate in the number of
                                organizations disrupted or dismantled as measured against a designated
                                target list established in the base year. The Strategy also calls for
                                increasing the success rate to 100 percent by 2007 as measured against the
                                base year list. According to ONDCP and DEA, neither the domestic nor
                                international designated target lists referred to above have been

                                Unlike the National Strategy, DEA's performance plans for fiscal years
                                1999 and 2000 do not contain performance targets for assessing its

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                            Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s

                            progress in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations. DEA
                            has no annual, mid-, or long-range measurable performance targets for
                            disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations. In commenting
                            on a draft of our report, DEA indicated that (1) it had developed
                            preliminary performance targets for inclusion in its fiscal year 2001 budget
                            submission to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and (2) it could not finalize
                            its targets and measures until the responsible federal agencies complete a
                            designated targeted list of international drug trafficking organizations, as
                            called for in the National Strategy. Nevertheless, in the absence of finalized
                            performance targets, it is difficult to quantitatively assess DEA's overall
                            effectiveness in achieving its strategic goals.

DEA's Fiscal Year 1998      In order to carry out its mission and operations during the 1990s, including
Staffing Needs              the programs and initiatives I have mentioned, DEA received funds to staff
                            its operations through various sources, including its annual appropriations
Determination Process Was   salaries and expenses budget, as well as DOJ's Violent Crime Reduction
Consistent with Federal     Program 4 and other reimbursable programs, such as the Organized Crime
Processes and Procedures    Drug Enforcement Task Force Program. Our report discusses in detail the
                            process used in fiscal year 1998 to determine and allocate additional DEA
                            positions provided through its salaries and expenses budget. DEA and DOJ
                            officials considered this process to be generally typical of the process DEA
                            has used in other years.

                            The fiscal year 1998 DEA staffing needs determination process was
                            systematically linked to its budget formulation process. It was typical of
                            and consistent with the processes and procedures that federal agencies are
                            expected to follow, according to federal laws and regulations and
                            procedures promulgated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
                            Moreover, the process considered factors related to DEA's ability to carry
                            out its mission, including emerging drug abuse and trafficking trends,
                            staffing requests from the field, the DEA Administrator's vision statement,
                            and the Special Agent in Charge's vision statement from each field office.

                            DEA's fiscal year 1998 budget submission to DOJ estimated the need for a
                            total of 989 new positions, including 399 special agent positions. As a
                            result of reviews by DOJ, OMB, and ONDCP and consideration of the
                            resources provided in DEA's fiscal year 1997 appropriation, the President's
                            fiscal year 1998 budget, which was submitted to Congress in February

                            'The Violent Crime Reduction Program was established by the Violent Crime Control and Law
                            Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322, as amended).

                             See Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation
                            Act, 1997, P.L. 104-208 and H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 104-863 (1996).

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                   Drug Control: DEA's Strategies and Operations in the 1990s

                   1997, requested a total of 345 new positions for DEA, including 168 special
                   agent positions. In its fiscal year 1998 DEA appropriation, Congress
                   provided 531 additional positions, of which 240 were special agent
                   positions, with guidance as to how the positions were to be allocated.
                   Then, DEA senior management systematically determined the allocation of
                   the additional staff to headquarters and field offices, taking into
                   consideration congressional guidance and such factors as field office

                   Mr. Chairman, let me close by emphasizing that although DEA's strategic
Conclusions anfd   goals and objectives, as well as its enhanced programs and initiatives, are
Recommendation     consistent. with the National Drug Control Strategy, DEA has not
                   developed measurable performance targets for disrupting and dismantling
                   drug trafficking organizations. Without such performance targets, it is
                   difficult for DEA, the Department of Justice, Congress, and the public to
                   quantitatively assess (1) how effective DEA has been in using resources
                   provided by Congress to achieve its strategic goals and (2) the extent to
                   which DEA's programs and initiatives in the 1990s have contributed to
                   reducing the illegal drug supply. Measurable performance targets would
                   also help in determining what DEA resources, including staff, are needed
                   and how resources should be allocated and used to produce the expected
                   results of DEA's strategies, goals, programs, and initiatives.

                   In this regard, our report recommended that the Attorney General direct
                   the DEA Administrator to work closely with DOJ and ONDCP to develop
                   measurable DEA performance targets for disrupting and dismantling drug
                   trafficking organizations consistent with the performance targets in the
                   National Drug Control Strategy.

                   This concludes my prepared statement, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased
                   to answer any questions.

                   Contact and Acknowledgment

                   For further information regarding this testimony, please contact Norman J.
                   Rabkin at (202) 512-8777. Individuals making key contributions to this
                   testimony included Daniel C. Harris, Ronald G. Viereck, Samuel A.
                   Caldrone, Lemuel N. Jackson, and Barbara A. Stolz.

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