DEA's Mobile Enforcement Teams: Steps Taken to Enhance Program Management, but More Can Be Done

GAO-01-482 Published: May 24, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2001.
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This report discusses the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Mobile Enforcement Team Program. GAO found that since the program was established in 1995, DEA has enhanced its management of the program and provided for greater headquarters oversight and monitoring. In implementing the program and carrying out deployments, the field division METs generally complied with some of the pertinent requirements and guidelines that GAO reviewed. However, some DEA headquarters files did not contain adequate documentation, GAO could not determine whether the METs consistently and adequately assessed the requesting local law enforcement agencies' abilities to address, on their own, the drug and related violence problems for which DEA's program assistance was requested. DEA expects the program to focus on specific, targeted gangs in the areas in which the METs are deployed and that deployments will generally continue until the targeted individuals are arrested and the targeted drug gangs have been disrupted or dismantled. Consistent with the nature and objectives of the program, investigators focused primarily on street-level drug dealers and were mostly local and regional in scope. DEA collects data on various performance measures to assess the results of individual deployments and the overall program. It reports internally and externally on program results for some of the performance measures. However, the measures have problems and limitations related primarily to the inconsistency in data collection.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Justice To help ensure that DEA's MET resources are used only in those instances where the requesting local law enforcement agencies are incapable of addressing drug-related violence problems in their communities, the Attorney General should direct the DEA Administrator to (1) provide clear guidance for METs to use in assessing local law enforcement agencies' capabilities and (2) ensure that the DEA field divisions document such assessments and provide them to DEA headquarters before MET deployments are approved.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2002, DEA reported that its MET Program guidelines had been updated, and would be distributed to the field divisions upon approval by DEA Headquarters. The guidelines included a newly mandated MET Assessment Checklist to be submitted along with a field division's request for authorization of, and funding for, a MET deployment. In September 2001, DEA Headquarters had notified all field divisions by means of a telecon that the new check list must be used in assessing local law enforcement agencies capabilities as well as other factors and submitted to Headquarters together with a narrative assessment before MET deployments are approved. The checklist provides systematic and uniform guidance for the METs' assessments and documents that they were carried out. In September 2002, DEA informed GAO that the revised guidance on the checklist was given verbally at DEA's annual MET conference, and no additional written guidance (other than the checklist) was provided.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should direct the DEA Administrator to (1) establish and ensure the use of standardized data collection methods for obtaining information on the performance measures DEA uses to assess the results of the individual MET deployments and the overall MET Program, (2) compile data and compare the number of primary individuals, gangs, and organizations targeted at the beginning of and during deployments to the number arrested, disrupted, and dismantled, (3) collect and report (a) consistent violent crime statistics that cover comparable crime types and time periods and relate to the specific geographic areas where the MET deployments were focused, and (b) to the extent feasible and practical, pertinent adjacent and comparable areas, and (4) use more structured data collection methods, such as a survey instrument, to collect qualitive data on the four outcome-oriented areas included in the post-deployment reviews that can be used to assess the results of the individual MET deployments and be aggregated to evaluate the overall MET Program.
Closed - Not Implemented
DEA tried to implement GAO's four-part recommendation. DEA previously reported that the MET Program Manager was working with DEA's Statistical Services Section to develop improved performance measures based on more applicable statistical indicators. DEA said they were designing a statistical model, planned to implement a pilot test of the new performance measures, and then would assess the measures. If successful, DEA planned to apply the new methodology to all new MET deployments. DEA later reported, by letter dated August 4, 2004, that it had completed its examination of different statistical tools and methodologies for measuring MET performance. DEA determined that obtaining information using a survey instrument would be cost prohibitive, and DEA said its MET Program would continue collecting information from law enforcement agencies and measuring performance in essentially the same manner we described in our report.

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