DEA Agent Job Description

To fight the scourge of illegal narcotics on American society, the DEA recruits and trains the most elite law enforcement officers in the world.

DEA special agents are the agency’s primary field operatives. After joining the agency, recruits must complete a 18-week training program that includes courses in firearms proficiency, situational decision making, and leadership exercises.

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Following graduation, agents may choose to join one of four major enforcement divisions, offering agents the ability to specialize. Each division has a specific role in the fight against the incursion of illegal drugs into American society, so the job description for agents assigned to these respective divisions can be considerably different:

DEA Special Agent Job Description in the Operations Division – The majority of DEA special agent jobs are found in the Operations Division, which plans, manages and conducts field operations.  Special agents assigned to this division may serve in a variety of roles including:

  • State & local task forces—These units work with other law enforcement agencies to interdict drug operations and investigate the organizations behind them. DEA agents within these task forces usually serve as the commanding officers with jurisdictional authority, although if local resources or concerns are more pertinent this may be ceded to other agencies.
  • Aviation division—The DEA employs airplane, helicopter and drone pilots to fulfill many functions.  These pilots provide operational and intelligence support to agents involved in ground operations.  These functions include monitoring vehicles and personnel who may impact these ground operations, pursuing fleeing fugitives and engaging hostile forces.
  • Foreign cooperative investigations—Many of the missions that the DEA conducts are on foreign soil.  In order to dismantle criminal and terrorist organizations that are funneling drugs into the United States, the DEA inserts agents into foreign countries to gather intelligence or evidence, establish relationships with intermediaries or curtail drug trafficking operations.  These agents usually possess the linguistic skills and cultural sensitivity to seamlessly enter foreign societies and dialogue with important persons.
  • Diversion control—Many of the drug problems affecting American society do not relate to illegal substances but stem from the misuse of legal pharmaceuticals.  Commonly referred to as diversion, DEA agents monitor the flow of prescription drugs from manufacturers to pharmacies and hospital dispensaries.  These agents also investigate thefts and criminal distribution of these drugs.

DEA Special Agent Job Description in the Intelligence Division – Special agents working within the Intelligence Division collaborate closely with intelligence research analysts and other civilian staff to provide current and actionable intelligence to DEA field operatives, managers and government officials.

  • El Paso Intelligence Center—Commonly referred to as EPIC, this office serves as the Southwest hub for the DEA, CBP, DHS, ICE, U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, ATF, IRS, and many other U.S. intelligence and police agencies.  This area presents a significant corridor for drug trafficking, human smuggling, and weapons trade, which the DEA and other agencies closely monitor.
  • Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force—This unit is charged with identifying, disrupting and dismantling drug and money laundering operations. This group works closely with the FBI, ICE, ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service to fulfill its mission.

DEA Special Agent Job Description in the Operational Support Division – The DEA employs the latest technological systems to investigate drug trafficking and implement interdiction operations.  There are a wide variety of IT systems that the Operational Support Division manages including:

  • Federal Financial System
  • Investigative Report and Filing System
  • System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence
  • Drug Testing Programs Record System

The Operational Support Division also manages forensic science operations, which test substances acquired in the field as well as processing evidence for investigative purposes.

DEA Special Agent Job Description in the Inspection Division – The Inspection Division provides oversight of personnel, materials and facilities.  Because the materials that the DEA manages represent such large monetary values, the agency must use extreme caution in the confiscation, storage and disposal of cash, narcotics, and personal property.  Within the Inspection Division are:

  • Office of Professional Responsibility—This unit introduces and oversees implementation of standards for professional actions.  This office works closely with the Inspector General of the Department of Justice.
  • Office of Security Programs—This group conducts investigations into DEA employee candidates’ backgrounds as well as investigations into the actions of current employees

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