Mission of the HIDTA Program
The mission of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program is to
enhance and coordinate America's drug-control efforts among local, state
and Federal law enforcement agencies in order to eliminate or reduce drug
trafficking and its harmful consequences in critical regions of the United
States. The mission includes coordination efforts to reduce the production,
manufacturing, distribution, transportation and chronic use of illegal drugs,
as well as the attendant money laundering of drug proceeds.
The HIDTA Program and the National Drug Control Strategy
The HIDTA Program is an important component of the President's National Drug
Control Strategy, predominantly addressing Goal Twoto "Increase the safety
of America's citizens by substantially reducing drug-related crime and violence";
Objective Twoto "Improve the ability of the HIDTAs to counter drug
trafficking." The HIDTA Program advances the President's National Drug
Control Strategy by providing a coordination umbrella for local, state, and
Federal agencies to combine drug control efforts through an outcome-focused,
strategy-driven approach, which is developed collectively by regional law
From the Beginning
Realizing that drug trafficking in certain areas of the United States affects
other areas of the country, Congress established the HIDTA Program to operate
under the direction of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) by the
Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (P. L.100-690, November 18, 1988) and the ONDCP
Reauthorization Act of 1998. The HIDTA Program provides Federal assistance
to better coordinate and enhance counterdrug law enforcement efforts of local,
state, and Federal law enforcement agencies in areas where major drug production,
manufacturing, importation, or distribution flourish. The HIDTA Program
designates geographic areas to which Federal resources are allocated to link
local, state, and Federal drug enforcement efforts and to optimize the
investigative return on limited fiscal and personnel resources. Properly
targeted, HIDTAs offer greater efficiency in countering illegal drug trade
in local areas. HIDTA Programs are based on a logical, comprehensive
methodology for prioritizing needs and working with other initiatives.
In 1990, Federal funds were appropriated to five areas of the United States
that were considered the most critical high intensity drug trafficking area
"gateways" for drugs entering the nation. The five regions included
specific designated counties in Los Angeles, Houston, New York/New Jersey,
South Florida and the Southwest Border. As an innovative and unique program,
ONDCP established a policy and strategy for the HIDTA Program, consistent
with congressional intent. The HIDTA concept of coordinating drug law
enforcement efforts in critical areas of the United States has remained and
thrived. To further build on the efforts to combat drug-related crime and
counter drug trafficking, the Administration and members of Congress have
continued to support the program, which currently consists of 26 designated
HIDTA regions. The Program has achieved a great deal of success in breaking
down old barriers between the local, state, and Federal law enforcement
agencies. Coordinating efforts and sharing information has extended beyond
a single initiative or task force, to between initiatives and task forces
in a single HIDTA, a region, and among HIDTAs nationally.
Resources provided to the HIDTA Program have grown from $25 million in Fiscal
Year 1990 to $192 million in FY 2000. The FY 2000 HIDTA Program coordinated
the efforts of a total of 949 local, 172 state and 35 Federal law enforcement
agencies and 86 other organizations participating in 462 HIDTA-funded
initiatives containing numerous multi-jurisdictional task forces, in 26
HIDTA regions plus five Southwest Border HIDTA partnerships, 292 counties
in 40 states plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Designation of a HIDTA
HIDTAs are designated by the Director of ONDCP, in consultation with the
Attorney General, Secretary of Treasury, heads of drug-control agencies,
and respective governors. In designating HIDTAs, ONDCP considers the
following statutory criteria:
The extent that:
- the area is the center of drug production, manufacturing, importation,
- state and local law enforcement agencies have committed resources to
respond to the drug trafficking problem, thereby indicating a determination
to respond aggressively.
- drug activities in the area are having a harmful impact on other areas
of the country.
- a significant increase in Federal resources is necessary to respond
adequately to drug-related activities in the area.
HIDTA regions are comprised of specific designated counties, based on the drug
threat facing that area. The following areas, with specific designated
counties in the noted states, have been designated as HIDTAs:
Houston, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, South Florida, and the Southwest Border
(California, Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas and South Texas);|
Washington/Baltimore and Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands; |
Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia/Camden;|
Rocky Mountain (Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming), Gulf Coast (Alabama,
Louisiana, and Mississippi), Lake County (Indiana), Midwest (Iowa,
Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota), and
Southeast Michigan and Northern California; |
Appalachia (Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia), Central Florida,
Milwaukee and North Texas; and|
Central Valley (California), Hawaii, New England (Connecticut, New Hampshire,
Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont), Ohio, and Oregon|
A HIDTA Region
HIDTAs are joint efforts of regional local, state, and Federal law enforcement
agencies whose leaders work together to assess regional drug threats, design
strategies to combat the threats, and develop initiatives to implement the
- Provide a coordination umbrella for local, state, and Federal drug law
- Foster a strategy-driven, systems approach to integrate and synchronize
- Focus on outcomes.
HIDTA strategies are developed by an equal partnership of regional law
enforcement agencies. The balancing of power between the law enforcement
leaders ensures the integration and synchronization of efforts to reduce drug
trafficking, eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort, maximize resources,
and improve intelligence and information sharing both within and between
Regional HIDTA strategies include building collocated, multi-agency drug task
forces and initiatives. Collocation and multi-jurisdictional task forces
are fundamental program standards that promote achievement of strong levels
of coordination and partnership building. These standards provide valuable
opportunities for agencies to combine their wide range of knowledge, skills,
jurisdictional powers and resources to target illicit drug organizations and
drug-related crime, as well as to share information and resources, develop
lasting teamwork, and even conduct cross training. The strategies are developed
based on the identified regional drug trafficking threat. Every year,
each HIDTA reviews their strategy and initiatives to improve effectiveness
and to respond to changes in the threat.
The HIDTA Program focuses on outcomes and performance based funding.
HIDTA Program policy includes HIDTA Developmental Standards that outline
requirements of every HIDTA region, from basic to optimum in the areas of
Intelligence and Information Sharing, Teamwork, Accountability, and
Strategy Building. Additionally, the HIDTA Program is measured by the
National Drug Control Strategy's Performance Measures of Effectiveness,
per congressional mandate. By focusing and measuring outcomes, the HIDTA
Program increases America's impact on the illicit drug trafficking industry
and helps make our communities safer and free of drugs.
The HIDTA Program creates a system that empowers agencies to synchronize their
efforts. In addition to providing additional equipment and technology, the
Program enables drug control agencies to pioneer new ways of collaboration.
The agencies communicate more rapidly and effectively and actively share
intelligence resources, such as, manpower and equipment. As partnerships mature,
personnel from different agencies hand off cases to each other and conduct
cross-case analysis. By working together, agencies develop a common vision
and collective problem solving techniques.
In the HIDTA system, agencies have a mechanism to quickly adapt to fluctuating
drug trafficking patterns. This ability becomes increasingly important as drug
traffickers use more and more complicated schemes and methods to bring illicit
drugs into the United States.
HIDTA Program Policy and Unity of Effort
ONDCP establishes program policy and has oversight responsibility to the HIDTA
Program. The ONDCP Director oversees development and implementation of the
Program and approves funding for regional HIDTA strategies and initiatives.
At the national-level, the HIDTA Coordination Committee makes recommendations
on policy, program, and funding to the ONDCP Director. The Coordination
Committee is made up of representatives from ONDCP and the Department of
Justice, Treasury, and Health and Human Services. Additionally, the National
HIDTA Program establishes various sub-committees with representation from
state and local law enforcement agencies around the nation.
At the regional level, each HIDTA has an Executive Committee (EXCOM), which is
the governing body for the individual HIDTA. The EXCOM consists of an equal
number of representatives from local/state and Federal law enforcement agencies.
The EXCOM is responsible for the development and implementation of the HIDTA
Strategy and the attendant initiatives and budgets. The EXCOM also has
administrative oversight responsibility for the fiscal operations of the
HIDTA, which includes ensuring that HIDTA funds and resources are utilized
in compliance with all program guidance and policies. The EXCOM hires a
HIDTA Director to assist with the day-to-day administration of the HIDTA,
implement appropriate oversight controls per the EXCOM, and liaison with
ONDCP. Operational control of initiatives is the sole purview of the
participating law enforcement agencies. Moreover, HIDTA initiatives
and/or individual task forces abide by the rules and regulations of
their respective agencies. For example, all chain-of-command, report
writing, and security issues of HIDTA task forces and initiatives must
comply with the standards of the respective participating agencies.
HIDTA brings the agencies together, provides the concept, structure and
additional resources for the participating agencies' manpower and
expertise to accomplish enhanced and meaningful outcomes.
HIDTA Investigative Support Centers
The HIDTA Program establishes Investigative Support Centers (ISCs) in designated
areas specifically to create a communication infrastructure that can facilitate
information-sharing between Federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies.
Information gleaned from the collection, evaluation, analysis, and synthesis
of intelligence must be shared in order to reduce production,
transportation, distribution and use of drugs. Cooperation in sharing
and deconflicting strategic and operational intelligence is critical
for combating the international and domestic drug problem.
HIDTA ISCs are therefore the centerpieces of the Program. They facilitate
information sharing, intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination,
technical and strategic support to HIDTA initiatives and participating
agencies. A state or local and a Federal law enforcement agency jointly
manage ISCs. The multi-agency personnel at the ISCs provide event and
subject deconfliction services for HIDTA task forces and other law enforcement
agencies in and outside the HIDTA region for increased officer safety.
They also provide intelligence that increases the effectiveness and
efficiency of task forces by analyzing information and identifying
drug trafficking organizations and their vulnerabilities. These
services help law enforcement agencies target drug organizations at
several levels: local, regional and national. Drug control data is
collected from Federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, U. S. Customs,
and a multitude of state and local law enforcement agencies. In most cases
an agency representative is on-site and controls the information based on
agency rules and regulations. In cases where sensitive information cannot
be disclosed, the representative provides contact information so that the
agents and/or officers can make direct contact with one another. HIDTA
ISCs provide secure sites and information systems for participating law
enforcement agencies to store and appropriately share information and
Each HIDTA produces an annual drug threat assessment, which is created
with information received from regional drug control agencies. The threat
assessments depict the actual drug threat in the region in order to assist
individual departments and agencies in developing strategies and learn
about intelligence gaps. They are also useful to policy makers in determining
the drug threat priorities and resource allocation. HIDTA drug threat
assessments are integrated and coordinated with the National Drug Intelligence
Center (NDIC), who has the responsibility of producing the national
drug threat assessment.
The General Counterdrug Intelligence Plan (GCIP), published in 2000, embodies
the HIDTA philosophy by recognizing the critical role that intelligence plays
and promoting local, state, and Federal law enforcement information sharing.
GCIP's goal is to establish a drug intelligence framework that supports
operators in the field, improves local, state, and Federal relationships,
and responds to policymaker needs as they formulate counterdrug policy,
taskings, and resource decisions. Specific proposals in the GCIP reinforce
and promote the HIDTA program concept, goals, and requirements.
Challenges for the Future
After several decades of wrestling with the drug problem, drug-related violence
and crime continue to be among the most profound problems confronting the Nation.
Although drug-related crime and drug use have declined, illicit drugs continue
to take the lives of Americans and cost billions to our society. The Nation
working together has made substantial progress in confronting illegal drug
trafficking and drug abuse; however serious challenges remain.
The HIDTA Program has begun a review process that includes on-site visits
to HIDTAs by ONDCP staff, as well as members from the Departments of Justice
and Treasury. The on-site reviews will help strengthen management at
the individual HIDTAs, and policy at the National level. This will
provide greater communication with the National office. Additionally,
the individual HIDTA sites are obtaining the ability to share "best
practices" around the Nation.
The HIDTA regions are achieving a closer working relationship with the El
Paso Intelligence Center for the accumulation of methamphetamine intelligence.
Additionally, the National Drug Intelligence Center is being utilized for
the streamlining and production of regional and National threat assessments.
HIDTA is closely coordinating efforts with complimentary programs such as
OCDETF and HIFCAs and with National Centers (EPIC, FinCEN, NDIC, and CNC)
to eliminate duplication of effort and maximize drug control efforts
regionally and nationally.
To achieve its mission, the HIDTA Program must continue to enhance performance;
work to develop a system that enhances synchronization of drug control efforts,
not only in task forces but also among task forces; and continue to improve
its performance measures. In addition, to help protect America from increasingly
sophisticated threats; the abilities of joint law enforcement efforts must
grow with technology. Although the challenges are great, the HIDTA Program
is one of America's most powerful tools for addressing the drug problem.
The strategies and initiatives that have been developed as a result of the
HIDTA Program's coordination infrastructure are a significant component in
America's domestic drug fighting arsenal. The resulting accomplishments of
intelligence initiatives along with successful interdiction operations,
multi-agency investigations and prosecutions are a vivid example of the
benefits of leveraging resources and maximizing intelligence-sharing and
cooperative drug enforcement operations. Although the historical trends
of the drug problem will not be reversed overnight, the mission is clear
and achievable: America has joined forces to reduce drug trafficking.
For more information, please visit the official ONDCP Web site at