The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has released a new report on the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led, multiagency intelligence center located in El Paso, Texas.
The El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) offers tactical, operational, and strategic intelligence support to federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement agencies and provides de-confliction services, leveraging databases from both internal and external stakeholders.
EPIC has relationships with law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and partner organizations in the international law enforcement community.
1. EPIC offers tactical, operational and strategic intelligence support to federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement organizations.
2. The EPIC Portal augments EPIC’s mission to support law enforcement and interdiction components through improved information sharing with the law enforcement community.
3. Deconfliction Event deconfliction is the process of determining when law enforcement personnel are conducting an event in close proximity to one another at the same time. Events include law enforcement actions, such as undercover operations, surveillance, and executing search warrants.
When certain elements (e.g., time, date, location) are matched between two or more events, a conflict results. Immediate notification is made to the affected agencies or personnel regarding the identified conflict.
The report follows up on a prior review of EPIC in June 2010.
(Learn More about the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), courtesy of Rep. Frank Guinta and YouTube)
In today’s report, the DOJ OIG concludes that while EPIC’s products and services provide valuable information to law enforcement personnel, deficiencies in EPIC’s governance, strategic management, and operations could limit its overall effectiveness and value to law enforcement.
EPIC’s mission is to support law enforcement through the timely analysis and dissemination of intelligence information, with a particular emphasis on Mexico and the Southwest border.
In executing this mission, EPIC adopts an “all threats” focus that includes illegal drugs, weapons trafficking, terrorism, human trafficking, human smuggling, illegal migration, money laundering, and bulk cash smuggling.
EPIC is funded and staffed by over 25 partner agencies, including the DEA.
The report released today identifies four areas in which improvements to EPIC’s governance, management, and operations would result in increased effectiveness and value to law enforcement:
EPIC’s partner agencies are not effectively engaged in governing EPIC and have reduced the number of personnel they assign to EPIC.
- EPIC depends on engagement from all partner agencies in order to fulfill its mission, yet since early 2014, EPIC’s governing bodies have met infrequently and allowed EPIC to operate without an approved, up-to-date strategic plan or effective performance metrics.
- Since October 2012, the total number of staff detailed to EPIC has decreased by 24 percent, thereby reducing EPIC’s diversity in partner agency representation.
EPIC is not effectively performing its “all threats” mission, and instead primarily serves as a tactical drug intelligence center.
- If EPIC wishes to successfully pursue its “all threats” mission, it needs to reconsider its staffing and resources.
- Of particular concern, we found that since September 2013 there has been a 45 percent reduction in the number of Intelligence Analysts assigned to EPIC, and that many of the Intelligence 2 Analysts at EPIC lack the training and experience necessary to conduct complex strategic analysis.
EPIC’s outreach efforts to the law enforcement community are insufficient to convey the full range of products and services it can provide.
At the time of our review, the DEA had not consolidated a Southwest border intelligence collection program at its Houston Field Division with a similar program at EPIC.
- As noted in the report, after we completed our fieldwork, the DEA informed us that it intended to cease the funding and operation of its Houston-based program, and that the program may be transferred to an EPIC partner agency.
The report released today makes four recommendations to the DEA and EPIC management to help ensure the governance and strategic management of EPIC, and to help ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the DEA’s southwest border intelligence efforts.
To improve the governance and strategic management of EPIC, and to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations, we recommend that the DEA and EPIC management work with partner agency leaders to:
1. Establish procedures to ensure full implementation of EPIC’s governance documents.
2. Assess how EPIC and other partner agencies should best address the threats defined in EPIC’s mission in order to better define EPIC’s strategic goals and priorities, and collaboratively develop, approve, and implement a strategic plan that includes performance metrics to monitor EPIC’s performance and ensure that its operations fulfill partner agencies’ needs.
This strategic plan and resulting performance metrics should consider EPIC’s actual staffing levels and composition, as well as the intelligence capabilities of other partner agencies.The strategic plan and performance metrics should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that they reflect future changes to the Center.
3. Develop and implement a comprehensive approach to communicate the full scope of the products and services EPIC can provide to existing and potential customers.
To improve efficiency and reduce redundancy in southwest border intelligence collection and dissemination, we recommend that the DEA:
4. Assess the feasibility, as well as the potential intelligence benefits, of incorporating intelligence collected along the southwest border, including that collected by partner agencies, with EPIC’s intelligence program and/or putting in place procedures to ensure the sharing of intelligence these programs collect along the southwest border.
The DEA concurred with all four recommendations.
Today’s report is available here.
To accompany today’s report, the OIG has released a 3-minute podcast featuring a member of the review team discussing the report’s findings. The podcast and a downloadable transcript are available here.
June 2010 Report on EPIC: The OIG’s prior report on EPIC is available here.