FBI-DEA Task Forces:

An Unsuccessful Attempt at Joint Operations

GGD-82-50: Published: Mar 26, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1982.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force program to gauge the success the two agencies have had working together in the past. The purpose of the task forces was to combine the investigative resources of the two agencies to pursue organized crime figures engaged in large-scale drug trafficking.

Formal FBI-DEA task forces have been tried in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York in 1977. The program was considered a failure and was terminated in 1979. However, because of the success the Los Angeles task force achieved, it continues to exist. From the beginning, the program was beset with problems because of restrictions on the selection of investigative targets, the lack of progress of investigations, and the disagreements between FBI and DEA supervisors over investigative procedures. An effort was made to correct the difficulties by substituting new targets and changing supervisory personnel. Following the changes, the Chicago and New York task forces were still not able to achieve satisfactory results, and the task forces were abolished along with the program. An FBI internal evaluation concluded that joint operations under formal arrangements were not effective because of the inherent differences in the investigative methods which led to disagreements between FBI and DEA personnel. In a 1979 congressional testimony, the DEA Administrator stated that he and the FBI Director agreed that informal working relationships were a better approach than formalized joint operations. In January 1982, the Attorney General announced that the FBI had been assigned jurisdiction to investigate drug offenses and that responsibility for general supervision of drug enforcement efforts had been assigned to the Director of the FBI.

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