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The Drug Enforcement Administration Term Paper

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Updated: Sep 12th, 2022


The Drug Enforcement Administration, commonly known as the DEA, is a defense agency under the Department of Defense that addresses issues of drugs and drug smuggling. The DEA is one of the most successful law enforcement bodies in the United States of America. The DEA, however, has experienced several challenges that make its job description difficult. The Drug Enforcement Administration consists of approximately 10,000 employees. All these employees are situated in different branches of the force (Office of Law Revision Counsel, 2000).

Organizational Structure of the DEA

The organizational structure of the DEA is very complex. The department is headed by the administrator. Below the administrator is the deputy administrator who is in charge of all the other departments that are in the agency. This means that the administrator oversees the enrollment of the DEA agents, the promotion of the agents, the financial operations of the agency, and the general operations of the agency, among other things. The deputy administrator oversees the operations division (Office of the Federal Register (US), 2001). The operations division is composed of the aviation division, the operations management, and the financial operations division. In terms of hierarchy, the human resource division is after the deputy administrator, which is followed by the operations division, intelligence division, financial management division, operational support division, inspection division, and finally the field division in that order. All these divisions have their own responsibilities, which the deputy administrator oversees. The deputy administrator then answers to the administrator. The deputy administrator is also the head of the state DEA (Office of the Federal Register (US), 2001).

According to Schultz (2004), the purpose of this law enforcement agency is to ensure that there is minimal smuggling of drugs into the United States of America. This means that the work of the DEA is to avoid any form of illegal drug intake and manufacturing in the state. This is very challenging due to the fact that the US is very big geographically. However, every state has its own DEA branch that controls and tries to prevent drug trafficking.

Recruitment and training process

Just like any other law enforcement agency, the DEA gets its field agents through a thorough recruitment process. Those who qualify in the recruitment process go for special training. The individual in question must have a few necessary requirements to qualify for a position in the DEA department. Some of the things that are required from the interested party include an age limit of between 21 and 36 years of age. One must also have a college degree with a GPA of 2.95 or higher (Schultz, 2004). Although it is not mandatory, students who can speak other languages, for example Spanish and Russian, have a higher advantage. The applicant should also be of good health and have a lot of physical endurance. They must also have good eye vision if they are applying to be field or special agents. A person is required to take a physical task test in case they exceed the needed requirements. This is an 84 hour long training program that spreads out within 16 weeks. During this training, they focus mainly on building strength and agility through physical exercises (Schultz, 2004).

Office of the Federal Register (US) (2001) shows that the applicants of the DEA special agent position will then have to complete several trainings to qualify for the job. They will have to go ahead and receive firearm training after the 16 weeks of physical exercises. This is an important requirement for the job in question. It is a necessity for all the special agents to have this training in a 122 hour program. They not only learn how to fire a gun, but they also learn how to protect themselves if they are in trouble and how to work as a team. Other qualifications might include a polygraph test and a background search.

Job description

According to the Office of the Federal Register (US), (2012), the job description of the Drug Enforcement Administration surpasses the common belief that they are only allowed to arrest drug dealers. There is a lot more that these special agents can do. Overall, it can be argued that there are four types of special agents in the DEA. The first is the field officer who makes arrests. Field officers arrest people who smuggle, use, or sell drugs in the society. The second category of agents is comprised of the forensic chemists who analyze the drugs for the DEA. Apart from the mentioned description, the DEA field agents also have some forensic chemistry lessons. There are those DEA special agents who specialize as forensic chemists, but many of the agents also have some knowledge in this area. Forensic chemists are able to tell the chemicals that made up the drugs and where the drugs came from. They are also very useful in case of homicides that have been caused by the intake of drugs. The third category of DEA agents is made of research specialists. These are agents who conduct all the research that helps the DEA know more about drug trafficking. These agents are in the intelligence department, even though they are usually hired as a separate unit (Office of the Federal Register (US), 2012). The research helps the field officers make arrests and win cases in courts. The last category of people who work at the DEA is comprised of diversion investigators. These are investigators whose focus is on pharmaceuticals. The other mentioned agents focus mainly on illegal drugs, while the diversion investigators track those who take medicines or prescription drugs illegally. The DEA also has accountants, secretaries, and other staff members whose job descriptions might be different, but who work to achieve the same goals.

There are a lot of challenges that the DEA faces during the recruitment process. Many people are ignorant of the fact that for one to be a special DEA agent, they have to have a college degree. This has caused a lot of problems during the recruitment process. It is also very common to find that many of those who have the needed college degrees do not want to be field agents. Instead, they settle for doing office work such as accounting and auditing because they are afraid of getting hurt. This has called for exceptions in the recruiting process. There are people who have been hired as special DEA agents because they have experience in a related field. For example, if one has special experience, helped in conducting investigations for the DEA, or has other special skills, then that is viewed as a benefit to the organization (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control, 2000).


As mentioned earlier, there are some challenges that the DEA agency faces. According to Fine (2010) some of these problems relate to the entire organization, while others involve only some of the members of the organization. One such problem is the mediocre pay for the field agents. According to the job description provided, the field agents are the people who make arrests and capture drugs that are meant for trafficking. Even though they use the help of the other DEA agents to capture the culprits, field agents use a lot of money. At the same time, they put their lives in danger. Another problem that has been voiced by the agency over the years is the strict requirements of recruitment. Other law enforcement agencies, apart from the FBI, have more lenient requirements. In some states, the DEA agents have to have a master’s degree. This limits the number of people who can apply for the jobs.

Another challenge is observed in the smuggling of pharmaceutical drugs. This is challenging because many of the smugglers either make deals with a genuine pharmaceutical seller or they get the drugs from the patients themselves. There have been cases where patients sell their drugs so that they can earn more money to pay hospital bills. Such a case creates a dilemma due to ethical reasons. It is also easier to catch a core drug dealer than an individual person who is selling their prescriptions. This has caused the rise in pharmaceutical drug smuggling in the country (Fine, 2010).

In the case of crystal meth, which is one of the most common drugs in the country, the DEA agents have a hard time capturing those who make it because the drug uses chemicals that can be bought without any limitations. Some of the chemicals that are used to make crystal meth can even be derived from harmless substances. This has made it harder for the forensic chemists who work with the DEA to establish where the drugs come from. These are just some of the common challenges that the DEA agency faces (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control, 2000).

Best practices

Shiffman (2013) argues that it is advisable for the DEA to take time to train its agents well before they are sent to execute their tasks. This is important because drug cartels have been known to be some of the worst criminals in America. The fact that the cartels run their drug smuggling business as a family makes it harder to do away with them completely. It is, therefore, possible that one special DEA agent can arrest almost an entire family that deals in drug smuggling.

The DEA has also used community policing to help catch the drug smugglers. The community in South Florida has responded well to community policing by informing the DEA of suspects who reside in the community. This has, in turn, helped the DEA capture a lot of drug smugglers in the region (Shiffman, 2013)

It is also advisable for the DEA to take authority seriously. The fact that the DEA’s structure is very complex and elaborate shows that authority is held with high regard in this law enforcement agency. There are other techniques that the DEA uses to make its work easier. For example, the agency uses drug traffickers to get other drug traffickers. It has been evident that drug smugglers value territories, thus the DEA special agents have realized that when one smuggler crosses into another’s territory, they can easily inform the DEA. This has made it easier to capture hard core drug smugglers (Schultz, 2004).


To conclude, the Drug Enforcement Administration has done a lot to ensure that there is a reduction in drug smuggling in the country. Despite the challenges it faces, the DEA agents have put behind bars very many criminals with the help of community policing. This is policing where the community identifies and calls the police whenever there is wrongdoing in the community. An applicant must first present all the needed documents before undergoing a series of tests and trainings in the process of joining the DEA. These trainings are essential because they teach the DEA agents how to be safe in case they are caught in a bad situation as they conduct their duties.


Fine, G. A. (2010). Audit of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Mobile Enforcement Team program. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Office of Law Revision Counsel (2000). United States Code, 2000 edition, V. 16, Title 27, Intoxicating liquors, to Title 28, judiciary and judicial procedure. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Office of the Federal Register (US) (2012). Code of federal regulations, Title 28, judicial administration. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

Office of the Federal Register (US) (2001). Government organization and employees. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

Shiffman, J. (2013). How DEA program differs from recent NSA revelations. Reuters. Web.

Schultz, D. A., (2004). Encyclopedia of Public Administration and Public Policy. New York, NY: Facts on File Inc.

U.S. Dept. of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control, (2000). Narcotic treatment programs: best practice guideline. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

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