15 Sep 23

Interagency Cooperation: DEA Collaboration with Other Agencies

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Last Updated on: 16th September 2023, 06:34 pm

Interagency Cooperation: DEA Collaboration with Other Agencies


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the lead federal agency responsible for enforcing controlled substances laws and regulations in the United States. However, the DEA does not operate in isolation – effective drug enforcement requires coordination and collaboration between multiple law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels.This article will examine the importance of interagency cooperation for the DEA, with a focus on partnerships with agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and state and local law enforcement.

The Value of Interagency Cooperation

Interagency cooperation refers to two or more agencies working together towards a common goal or objective. In the law enforcement context, it often involves sharing intelligence, resources and personnel to tackle sophisticated criminal enterprises like drug trafficking organizations.There are several benefits to interagency cooperation for drug law enforcement:

  • Pooling of resources – No single agency has unlimited resources. Collaboration allows agencies to share assets like surveillance technology, databases, and analytical capabilities. This strengthens investigations.
  • Broader perspective – Partner agencies bring different areas of expertise. The FBI specializes in complex conspiracy cases, while ICE targets cross-border smuggling. This diversity improves the understanding of criminal networks.
  • Jurisdictional flexibility – Drug cases often cross multiple jurisdictions. Cooperation enables the DEA to work with agencies that have authority in different areas.
  • Improved coordination – Regular information sharing and joint operations help agencies deconflict investigations. This prevents duplication of efforts.
  • Access to networks – Partnerships give the DEA access to other agencies’ informants, undercover officers and surveillance data. This expands the reach of operations.

In essence, interagency cooperation allows the DEA to punch above its weight class. Collaboration with larger agencies like the FBI enhances the scope of drug investigations.

DEA Partnerships with Federal Agencies

The DEA collaborates closely with a number of federal agencies under the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI is the leading federal law enforcement agency responsible for domestic counterterrorism and counterintelligence. It plays a major role in combating organized crime.DEA-FBI cooperation dates back to the 1970s with establishment of multi-agency drug task forces. Today, around 20% of the DEA’s domestic offices are co-located with FBI field divisions.Key areas of collaboration include:

  • Joint investigations – The agencies partner on cases against major drug trafficking groups and criminal networks. The FBI provides surveillance, undercover operations and other investigative capabilities.
  • Information sharing – The DEA and FBI share intelligence through databases like the Special Operations Division.
  • Training – FBI and DEA agents participate in joint training programs at the FBI Academy and DEA Training Academy.
  • Task forces – Officers work together in multi-agency units like High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task forces.

This interagency cooperation has supported major operations against Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE is responsible for cross-border criminal investigations under DHS. This includes drug smuggling and trafficking.Key areas of ICE-DEA cooperation include:

  • Investigations – ICE agents are cross-designated to lead or support DEA drug probes. This provides jurisdiction at the border.
  • Intelligence – ICE shares data on drug shipments and smuggling methods with the DEA.
  • Operations – Multi-agency teams jointly target traffickers at border crossings, airports and seaports.
  • Task forces – The agencies participate together in units like Border Enforcement Security Task Forces.

This partnership helps the DEA intercept drug shipments entering the United States.

Other Federal Partners

The DEA also collaborates with agencies like:

Partnerships with State and Local Agencies

The majority of drug enforcement work occurs at the state, county and municipal levels. The DEA relies heavily on collaborating with local agencies.There are around 250 state and local task forces staffed by DEA agents and officers. These units investigate drug crimes impacting local communities.Key examples of state/local partnerships include:

  • Investigations – The DEA trains and deputizes thousands of state/local officers to act as federal agents on drug cases.
  • Intelligence centers – Fusion centers like the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) facilitate information sharing with state/local agencies.
  • Asset seizure – The DEA administers programs to share forfeited assets and proceeds with cooperating police departments.
  • Training – State and local officers receive drug enforcement training at DEA facilities.

This cooperation provides the DEA with an extended network of officers across the country. State and local agencies also benefit from access to the DEA’s resources and expertise.

Joint Task Forces

Multi-agency drug task forces are a key mechanism for DEA interagency cooperation. By bringing together federal, state and local law enforcement, these units combine the strengths, resources and jurisdiction of different agencies.Major DEA-led task forces include:

  • HIDTAs – High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces target specific regions with serious drug problems. There are over 200 HIDTA task forces nationwide targeting specific regions with serious drug problems.

Other major DEA-led task forces include:

These multi-agency teams allow the DEA to draw on the unique capabilities of each partner agency. This enhances the scope and effectiveness of complex drug investigations.Some key benefits of joint task forces include:

  • Access to broader expertise and skillsets
  • Shared intelligence and information networks
  • Elimination of duplication of efforts
  • Flexibility to operate across multiple jurisdictions
  • Larger pool of personnel and resources
  • Enhanced officer safety through joint operations

However, managing collaboration across agencies can also pose challenges:

  • Communication barriers and interagency rivalry
  • Competing priorities and organizational cultures
  • Logistical issues with multi-agency operations
  • Jurisdictional conflicts over control
  • Security risks from wider information sharing

Protocols for cooperation and clear delineation of roles helps mitigate these difficulties. Ultimately, the advantages of combining complementary capabilities makes joint task forces a powerful tool for the DEA and its law enforcement partners. As criminal threats grow more sophisticated, close interagency teamwork is crucial for drug enforcement success.