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From a drug reaction team to a drug suppression team: introducing nontraditional proactive measures.

"Nothing can be more hurtful to the Service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another."

--George Washington (1)

Since its inception, Soldiers in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps have been charged with enforcing discipline in the ranks to safeguard the fighting force for senior mission commanders. Enforcement in the past focused on the repression of marauding and looting of private property, the preservation of order, and the suppression of gambling houses and other establishments disruptive to discipline. Although the Army has evolved during the past 239 years, the enforcement of Soldier discipline has remained a significant focus of the Military Police Corps. Illicit and prescription drugs are emerging threats to Soldier discipline today. According to a National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence report, the number of troops diagnosed with substance abuse disorders each year spiked 50 percent (to nearly 40,000 Soldiers) from 2005 to 2009. Hospitalizations for substance abuse increased from 100 Soldiers per month in 2003 to more than 250 per month in 2009. (2)

As the increase in drug abuse negatively affects Soldier discipline, reductions in the Department of Defense budget and the military force structure severely compound the problem. Ironically, the smallest component of the Military Police Corps--the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (commonly referred to as CID)--is charged with suppressing this dramatic increase in drug abuse. Meeting this mission with finite assets can test the mettle of an organization, especially as political pressure simultaneously increases the focus and frequency of sexual assault investigations. However, leaders at the CID office, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Washington, (specifically, the assistant special agent in charge and the chief of the drug suppression team [DST]), understand that nontraditional, proactive measures are needed to suppress drug activity within the JBLM military community. Without an understanding of the importance of supporting senior mission commanders and fostering positive relationships, the DST would not get the additional manpower needed and would have to operate in a reactive, rather than proactive mode.

During 2013, the JBLM CID office conducted more than 879 felony investigations, including investigations of homicides, fraud, child abuse, narcotics, rape, and other sexual assaults. Although nearly 78 percent of those investigations were drug-related, only seven of the 45 CID Soldiers (15 percent) conducted drug investigations. Due to the current resizing of the Army, CID offices are filled to only 80 percent of their authorizations, further exacerbating the workload disparity.

The greatest challenge to the manpower structure of the JBLM CID office comes from a revision of Army Regulation 600-85, The Army Substance Abuse Program, (3) which requires CID to investigate all drug-related offenses. This resulted in a 73-percent increase in the CID drug-related investigations. Furthermore, as state officials legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the accessibility of drugs prohibited by the Department of Defense and the number of drug-related investigations will increase. The question becomes: How does CID evolve to handle the rapidly increasing workload amid the decreasing Army force structure?

Adopting techniques employed by psychological operations Soldiers, CID leaders appealed to the objective reasoning of the JBLM commanders who would determine the acquisition of additional CID assets. Over 3 months, the leaders tasked the agency criminal intelligence analyst to compile a report that compared statistics from the preceding year to the current year, showed the planned locations of recreational marijuana dispensaries, and compared drug use across the installation brigade combat teams. The statistics showed how CID proactively suppressed drug use across the installation before the revision to the Army regulation and how it could address future drug threats if the office were augmented with additional resources. This "engagement package" of information was delivered during every meeting in which senior mission commanders were present.

At the beginning of fiscal year 2014, the JBLM CID office received 19 additional military police. These Soldiers were permanently assigned to CID rather than being temporarily attached, which is the traditional means of augmenting CID offices. The common challenge with attached Soldiers is that by the time they develop into an effective team, their temporary attachment expires. As a result, many CID offices struggle with the certification process and are unable to devote prolonged time to quality training. Therefore, the permanent assignment of new Soldiers enabled the JBLM CID office to invest in a team that could be molded and effectively used to suppress drug activity in support of commanders.

Following their assignment to CID, the Soldiers underwent an extensive 8-week, battalion-approved certification in which they were trained to conduct investigations, use contingency limitation funds (money used for emergency and unusual expenses incurred during investigations and crime prevention), and execute covert drug suppression operations. Although the time requirement for the certification process is taxing, the long-term benefits have outweighed the short-term discomfort. One benefit is the creation of depth within the team. In the traditional model of limited time and personnel, DSTs could be crippled by reassignments, mandatory career-enhancing training, or routine and emergency leave. Due to the newly robust size of the JBLM DST, the temporary loss of a few Soldiers is not a catastrophic event. However, the most rewarding benefit of the increased size of the team is the ability to task-organize members into subteams. Within the larger DST, four smaller subteams are each aligned to separate brigade combat teams and are capable of autonomously conducting overt and covert drug suppression operations. This alignment not only provides senior mission commanders with a single point of contact for drug suppression activity within their units; it also provides the right allocation for proactive operations and results.

The JBLM CID office shifted from a reactive to a proactive approach when the DST certification was complete. In traditional CID practice, proactive efforts are measured by the quantity of target analysis files developed, the amount of contingency limitation funds expended, and the quantity of controlled drugs seized from distributors. The key to the proactive focus is the development of target analysis files (known as target packets in the operational Army). The data in three objective areas before and after the addition of personnel plainly shows the effectiveness of the DST. In all of calendar year 2013, the team developed 35 target analysis files, expended $2,345 in contingency limitation funds, and seized 1,693 dosage units (4) of controlled substances. In contrast, during just the third quarter of calendar year 2014, the DST developed 30 target analysis files, expended $13,518 in contingency limitation funds, and seized 14,989 dosage units of controlled substances. In just one quarter, the enhanced DST increased its proactive effectiveness by nearly 476 percent.

In conclusion, to emulate the success of the only DST rated as exceptional, the understanding of proactive operations must be redefined. Greater emphasis on improving communication and relationships with senior mission commanders is the key to gaining additional personnel, especially in a time of dwindling resources. By appealing to the objective reasoning of senior mission commanders, through intelligence-driven, statistically-supported engagements, DST elements shape their decisive operations. Failure to adopt this concept will hinder the ability of DSTs to move beyond the burdensome administrative requirements of drug-related cases and address them with traditional proactive measures.


(1) "The Writings of George Washington," Vol. 8, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., October 1938, p. 359.

(2) "Veterans and Drugs," National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., < /learn-about-drugs/seniors-vets-and-women/213-veterans-and -drugs?format=phocapdf>, accessed on 5 August 2015.

(3) Army Regulation 600-85, The Army Substance Abuse Program, 28 December 2012.

(4) This use of dosage units refers to pills, ounces, grams, or milliliters of illegal substances seized.

Captain Moore is the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 22d Military Police Battalion, Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He is a graduate of the Military Police Captains Career Course and holds a master's degree in business and organizational security management from Webster University.

Chief Warrant Officer Two Acevedo is the drug suppression team chief at the Fort Lewis CID office, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Chief Warrant Officer Two Sparling is the assistant special agent in charge of the Fort Lewis CID office, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois; and a master's degree in criminal psychology from the University of the Rockies.
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Author:Moore, Stephen M.; Sparling, Curtis E.; Acevedo, Jennifer M.
Publication:Military Police
Date:Sep 22, 2015
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