The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the lead federal agency in the country’s war on drugs. Beginning with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, the United States has been waging a global war on the manufacture, distribution and use of narcotics. From the major production areas of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, heroin, marijuana, amphetamines and cocaine are illegally shipped to processing centers and distribution points around the world. The United Nation estimates that the illegal drug trade generates almost $400 billion in profit each year for criminal and terrorist organizations.
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These destructive substances infiltrate all corners of society in almost every region of the globe. These insidious substances wreck lives, breed violence, and undermine governments. In the United States, this horrific industry has mutated into a variety of activities including methamphetamine labs and prescription drug mills.
The Role of the Four DEA Divisions in Fighting the Drug Trade
- Operations Division
- Intelligence Division
- Operations Support Division
- Inspection Division
Operations Division – The Operations Division conducts most of the field missions organized by the DEA. Within this division are:
- Office of Operations Management
- Aviation Division
- Special Operations Division
- Office of Diversion Control
- Office of Financial Operations
- Office of Global Enforcement
Most of the planning and implementation of drug interdiction missions, financial crimes investigations, undercover operations and criminal organization contravention originates within the Operations Division. The majority of DEA special agents are also assigned to this branch.
Intelligence Division – As a federal agency with operations across the globe, the DEA is heavily dependent on accurate intelligence about other governments, criminal and terrorist organizations, and domestic and foreign enterprises. In order to develop complete analyses of these groups, the DEA has established its own Intelligence Division that collects data from a variety of human and electronic sources. Within the Intelligence Division are:
- Office of Special Intelligence
- Office of National Security Intelligence
- National Drug Pointer Index
- El Paso Intelligence Center
This division informs agents on the ground about the disposition of foreign or criminal organizations. They also collaborate closely with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that jurisdictional overlap is avoided.
Operational Support Division – The Operational Support Division provides much of the information infrastructure and laboratory services necessary to ensure success in the field. This division also manages many of the administrative functions that provide necessary equipment and resources, as well as the liaison and bureaucratic functions. This division includes:
- Office of Information System
- Office of Investigative Technology
- Office of Forensic Science
- Office of Administration
Inspection Division – In an effort to ensure that the safety of the general public is maintained, the DEA has established an Inspection Division, which includes:
- Office of Inspections
- Office of Security Programs
- Office of Professional Responsibility
This division is an investigative agency that polices DEA personnel and offices. It monitors the collection, storage, transport and destruction of narcotic substances, drug manufacturing equipment and prescription pharmaceuticals.
DEA Programs, Methods and Initiatives
In order to enforce U.S. and international laws concerning controlled substance, the DEA employs a variety of programs within the prevention, law enforcement and treatment spheres.
The DEA works closely with government agencies, social service organizations and schools to educate the public about the risks of drug use. Through television and radio ads, brochures, fact sheets, and community outreach programs the DEA hopes to stem the epidemic of drug use by limiting exposure to these substances. The DEA created the Demand Reduction Section to oversee these initiatives throughout communities across the nation.
Law Enforcement Methods
The majority of law enforcement programs implemented by the DEA target the organizations that finance, manage and support drug manufacturing and trafficking activities.
- Money Laundering—The large sums of money that are produced by drug cartels must usually be converted into usable funds. This process is called laundering is usually a very lucrative and involved criminal activity in itself. The DEA works with banks and financial institutions around the world to identify money laundering operations, freeze illegal assets or seize the funds and property of drug financed organizations.
- Herbicide Application—The DEA conducts aerial missions throughout Latin America that release herbicides designed to destroy farms that raise coca, marijuana or heroin.
- International Cooperation—The DEA has spearheaded a number of initiatives with governments that police large narcotics production or trafficking organizations. For example, Afghanistan is home to the largest heroin producers in the world, and the DEA has allocated a number of special operations teams to dismantle these operations.
The DEA recognizes that drug addiction can be considered a disease and has devoted resources to researching effective treatments. The DEA has created a multitude of programs with leading anti-drug and treatment facilities including
- Center for Mental Health Services
- National Guard Bureau Counterdrug Program
- Office of National Drug Control Policy
- National Institute on Drug Abuse