A Tradition of Excellence: A History of the DEA
In 1968, with the introduction into Congress of
Reorganization Plan No. 1, President Johnson proposed combining two agencies into a third
new drug enforcement agency. The action merged the Bureau of Narcotics, in the Treasury
Department, which was responsible for the control of marijuana and narcotics such as
heroin, with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC), in the Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare, which was responsible for the control of dangerous drugs,
including depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens, such as LSD. The new agency, the
Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), was placed under the Department of
Justice, which is the government agency primarily concerned with federal law enforcement.
According to the Reorganization Plan, "the
Attorney General will have full authority and responsibility for enforcing the federal
laws relating to narcotics and dangerous drugs. The BNDD, headed by a Director appointed
by the Attorney General, would:
- consolidate the authority and preserve the experience and manpower of the Bureau of Narcotics and Bureau of Drug Abuse Control;
- work with state and local governments in their crackdown on illegal trade in drugs and narcotics, and help to train local agents and investigators;
- maintain worldwide operations, working closely with other nations, to suppress the trade in illicit narcotics and marijuana; and
- conduct an extensive campaign of research and a nationwide public education program on drug abuse and its tragic effects.
The BNDD became the primary drug law enforcement
agency and concentrated its efforts on both international and interstate activities. By
1970, the BNDD had nine foreign officesin Italy, Turkey, Panama, Hong Kong, Vietnam,
Thailand, Mexico, France, and Colombiato respond to the dynamics of the drug trade.
Domestically, the agency initiated a task force approach involving federal, state, and
local officers. The first such task force was set up in New York City.
In addition, the BNDD established Metropolitan Enforcement Groups,
which were based on the regional enforcement concept that provided for sharing undercover
personnel, equipment, and other resources from different jurisdictions. The BNDD provided
training and operational support for these units. By February 1972, the BNDDs agent
strength had grown to 1,361, its budget had more than quadrupled, and its foreign and
domestic arrest totals had doubled. In addition, the BNDD had regulatory control over more
than 500,000 registrants licensed to distribute licit drugs, and it had six sophisticated