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Staff Writers
Updated March 24, 2021

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D.E.A. Functions

  • Educational and Rehabilitative Services
  • Forensic Financial Analysis
  • Paramilitary Operations
  • Undercover Operations
  • Domestic Operations

The D.E.A. is a United States federal law enforcement agency, which was originally created in 1973. In broad strokes, it performs two functions: it combats the smuggling of drugs, drug money, paraphernalia and criminals into the United States from outside its borders, and it works to inhibit drug trafficking and sales within the United States itself. Because it maintains extensive operations both domestically and abroad, the Drug Enforcement Agency has one of the broadest mandates of any US law enforcement agency.

The following five functions are among the most important specific roles which the D.E.A. and its many qualified agents fill, both at home and abroad.

Educational and Rehabilitative Services

When most people think of the Drug Enforcement Agency, they think about armed agents combating drug kingpins and cocaine cartels. Many of the agency's efforts, however, are focused on rehabilitating the victims of drug abuse, including both addicts and their families. The agency funds educational efforts, and provides support to programs meant to get drug users off the streets and back into a more constructive way of life, both domestically and abroad. By depriving cartels of their customers, this is one of the agency's most effective tools in the long-running war on drugs.

Related resource: Top 10 Cheap Online Master's in Criminal Justice - Corrections Degree Programs

Forensic Financial Analysis

A big part of the war on drugs, as with combating any form of organized crime, is tracking the money that changes hands. From start to finish, the prosecution of criminals depends upon the ability to connect buyers, sellers, distributors, and producers with a solid and unbroken line of dollar bills. Often, this is required to even identify who the major players in an underworld operation are, as well as to track down their locations. The skills of forensic accountants and financial analysts are frequently employed for this purpose.

Paramilitary Operations

Whether independently, or in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, the Drug Enforcement Agency can act with military swiftness and precision. Heavily armed agents, with the latest in defense technology and expert training, can take out dangerous targets, destroy large quantities of stockpiled drugs, or move in to capture key personnel within the drug-running infrastructure. Such operations are not necessarily as common as the movies make them appear to be — not every mission ends in a firefight — but the possibility is there, and is one that agents train for.

Undercover Operations

The agency knows how drug cartels and domestic criminal organizations function. When an undercover opportunity comes up in one of their investigations, or in one being operated by a partnered law enforcement agency — domestic or foreign — the Drug Enforcement Agency will frequently find one of their own that fits the bill. This dangerous assignment is one for which the agency's training and area of focus makes its agents ideally suited, and the assistance of its highly skilled and dedicated operatives is often critical to the success of missions representing years of careful planning and execution.

Domestic Operations

Not all Drug Enforcement agents work in far-flung locations across the globe. Within the US, there are twenty-one domestic divisions, in which thousands of agents operate to help keep America's streets free of illegal drugs and other controlled substances. Each division is headquartered in or near a major metropolitan area, and their personnel often work in concert with state and local authorities, adding administrative support, technical support and manpower to operations which come under the scope of the agency's mandate.

career in the D.E.A. requires rigorous physical and academic training. Helpful qualifications include degrees in such varying fields as criminal justice, psychology, communications or foreign languages, with the latter being particular to parts of the world in which the agency maintains heavy operations. Existing law enforcement, military, or private investigation experience is also a bonus.

see related article: Affordable Master's in Criminal Justice - Corrections Online 2016

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