On the front lines of the War on Drugs is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s team of nearly 10,000 professionals that serve in various roles.The DEA employs nearly 6,000 special agents, 600 diversion investigators, 300 chemists and 800 intelligence research specialists. These professionals dedicate their careers to identifying, investigating, prosecuting and dismantling cartels and gangs involved in the illegal narcotics trade and misappropriation of pharmaceuticals.
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In the 21st century, narcotics trafficking is closely tied to violent criminal organizations and terrorist networks, which means the work the brave men and women of the DEA do everyday is critical to the security of the United States.
DEA Special Agent
DEA special agents are the elite operatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA special agents are empowered to investigate criminal operations, arrest perpetrators and use a variety of financial, prosecutorial and tactical mechanisms to shut down illegal operations involving narcotics and pharmaceutical drugs. These law enforcement officers are the primary field operatives that the DEA deploys both domestically and internationally.
These DEA jobs require specially trained operatives who are comfortable working within a variety of high risk settings including undercover infiltration of narco gangs, special operations on foreign soil and coordinating law enforcement operations with state, local or international agencies.
Intelligence Research Specialist
Behind effective field operatives are the intelligence research specialists who collect evidence and information used to produce operational and strategic recommendations for special agents and tactical units. DEA jobs for intelligence specialists involve drawing on the latest scientific research, human informants, documents recovered from crime scenes and electronic surveillance to create a comprehensive intelligence picture of narcotics operations around the world. They intercept communications, extract information from witnesses and detainees, and use forensic technology to reconstruct crimes. These professionals provide the real time information that makes the DEA an effective drug enforcement agency.
DEA Forensic Scientists
Forensic Chemists – Chemistry is at the heart of every drug operation, whether it is a new compound created in the jungles of Southeast Asia or one developed in the laboratories of a Big Pharma multinational. In order to ascertain the properties of new or modified compounds, the DEA employs some of the country’s most accomplished chemical scientists. These chemists often take compounds recovered from crime scenes or drug interdiction operations and reverse engineer them to discover how they were produced, the materials required to process raw materials, and what facilities were involved.
Once the drug’s properties are understood, DEA personnel are informed as to the appearance of the compound, possible physiological and chemical effects, methods to clandestinely transport it, and the chemicals that manufacturers may purchase.
Fingerprint Specialists – Fingerprint analysis has been a mainstay of forensic science for decades, but it continues to play a pivotal role in counter-drug operations. The fingerprint specialist utilizes a variety of chemical compounds, digital scanners and investigative techniques to recover fingerprints from a crime scene and immediately run them through federal and international databases.
In many international operations where time is at a premium, these specialists are able to provide the identities of parties who were present during the production of a chemical. This can often prove critical in convincing foreign law enforcement to assist in the arrest of a perpetrator, as well as in the prosecution of individuals in U.S. courts.
Computer Forensic Examiners – Many of the financial and manufacturing operations that drug traffickers employ are too complex to organize without computers. When the computers are seized they often provide critical information about the criminal organization.
The DEA employs forensic computer examiners to retrieve data that has been stored on hard drives, laptops, cellphones and other devices even if heavily encrypted or partially damaged. These digital forensics experts also scour the internet to decipher chatter from criminals or terrorists regarding drug operations.
A large portion of the DEA’s investigations are related to the re-distribution of legally produced pharmaceuticals to organizations or individuals who sell them through illicit channels. The diversion of prescription drugs nets criminal organizations billions in profits and is usually perpetrated through convoluted financial schemes, digital security breaches, thefts and fraud.
The misappropriation of pharmaceuticals may involve large government agencies like Medicare and affect thousands of needy patients. Many of these diversion programs substitute ineffective or poorly manufactured drugs that present a health and safety risk to many recipients. Diversion investigators utilize regulatory, enforcement and financial tools to investigate the misappropriation of pharmaceuticals.
Administrative and Support Jobs in the DEA
Attorney – Legal professionals initiate legal proceedings like prosecutions, detainments and deportations. They often work closely with prosecutorial authorities, other federal agencies and the judiciary. Attorneys are critical for providing the legal framework for investigative procedures like wiretaps and electronic surveillance, as well as formulating agency policies. Some attorneys may provide legal advice during tactical operation planning.
Facilities Management – The DEA operates more than 200 field offices throughout the country as well as additional facilities that may house personnel, agency equipment or confiscated property. The role of facilities managers is to ensure the proper functioning of major systems within these structures, especially security. They may also play an advisory role in the hiring of third party vendors for maintenance, repair or renovation duties.
Finance and Acquisition – The DEA maintains a very strict financial review system for the agency and its personnel. The considerable assets that flow through the agency can present an enormous temptation for even the most ethical law enforcement officers, so the agency uses a large group of financial professionals to help track every dollar. These financial professionals also manage many of the agency’s financial operations like budgeting, purchasing, contracting and auditing.