Naval Criminal Investigative Service

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service
NCIS Logo 2013.png
The NCIS logo
Seal of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service
USA - NCIS Badge.png
Badge of an NCIS Special Agent
Common nameNaval Criminal Investigative Service
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Naval Investigative Service (NIS)
Employees2,500 (90% civilian)
Annual budgetUS$460 million (2009) [1]
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agencyUnited States
Operations jurisdictionUnited States
General nature
HeadquartersRussell-Knox Building, MCB Quantico, Virginia, U.S.[2]

Special agents1,250
Agency executives
Parent agencyUnited States Department of the Navy
Field offices17
CarsDodge Chargers, Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, Cadillacs (Protective Operations)

The United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is the primary law enforcement agency of the U.S. Department of the Navy. Its primary function is to investigate criminal activities involving the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, though its broad mandate includes national security, counterintelligence, counter-terrorism, cyber warfare, and the protection of U.S. naval assets worldwide. NCIS is the successor organization to the former Naval Investigative Service (NIS), which was established by the Office of Naval Intelligence after the Second World War.

The vast majority of NCIS personnel are civilian, with half being special agents. NCIS agents are armed federal law enforcement investigators, who frequently coordinate with other U.S. government agencies and have a presence in over 40 countries and on U.S. Navy vessels. NCIS special agents are supported by analysts and other experts skilled in disciplines such as forensics, surveillance, surveillance countermeasures, computer investigations, physical security, and polygraph examinations.



NCIS traces its roots to Navy Department General Order 292 of 1882, signed by William H. Hunt, Secretary of the Navy, which established the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Initially, ONI was tasked with collecting information on the characteristics and weaponry of foreign vessels, charting foreign passages, rivers, or other bodies of water, and touring overseas fortifications, industrial plants, and shipyards.

In anticipation of the United States' entry into World War I, ONI's responsibilities expanded to include espionage, sabotage, and all manner of information on the U.S. Navy's potential adversaries. In World War II ONI became responsible for the investigation of sabotage, espionage and subversive activities that posed any kind of threat to the Navy.

NIS and the Cold War[edit]

The major buildup of civilian special agents began with the Korean War in 1950, and continued through the Cold War years. In 1966 the name Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was adopted to distinguish the organization from the rest of ONI, and in 1969 NIS special agents were reclassified from contract employees and became Excepted Civil Service.

In the early 1970s, an NIS special agent was stationed on the USS Intrepid (CV-11) for six months. This marked the beginning of the "Deployment Afloat" program, now called the Special Agent Afloat program, which deploys special agents for year-long assignments aboard carrier battle groups and amphibious readiness groups. In 1972, background investigations were transferred from NIS to the newly formed Defense Investigative Service (DIS), allowing NIS to give more attention to criminal investigations and counter-intelligence. The 1970s also saw NIS' first female agent, who was stationed at Naval Air Station Miramar, California in 1975.

In 1982, NIS assumed responsibility for managing the U.S. Navy's Law Enforcement and Physical Security Program and the U.S. Navy's Information and Personnel Security Program. Additionally, in 1982, two classes of NIS Special Agents were trained at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, in an assessment of the school's capability to train military investigators. Prior to this and subsequently until 1984, NIS Special Agent Training was in ONI Headquarters in Suitland, Maryland. In 1984, NIS Special Agents began training at FLETC, along with other federal investigative agencies, except for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Two months after the October 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, the agency opened the Navy Antiterrorist Alert Center (ATAC), a 24-hour-a-day operational intelligence center that issued indications and warnings on terrorist activity to Navy and Marine Corps commands. ATAC was the facility at which Jonathan Pollard was working when he committed the acts of espionage for which he was convicted in 1987. In 2002 the ATAC became the Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC).

In 1985, Cathal L. Flynn became the first admiral to lead NIS. The command took on the additional responsibility of Information and Personnel Security. In 1986, the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility (DoN CAF) was established and placed under the agency, as the agency was now once again responsible for adjudicating security clearances (although not the actual investigations). DoN CAF renders approximately 200,000 eligibility determinations annually for the Department of the Navy.

In 1991, NIS was responsible for investigating the Tailhook scandal, which involved allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment by Naval and Marine Corps officers in Las Vegas, Nevada. Subsequent to this investigation, and at the direction of the chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Sam Nunn, the Naval Investigative Service was restructured into the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). The restructuring occurred as a result of perceived lapses in proper investigative technique over the Tailhook scandal, as well as chain of command issues and a lack of civilian oversight in previous investigations. At the time, Senator Nunn stated, "The Navy's whole investigative technique should be under serious question." As a result of the investigation into the Tailhook scandal, the Pentagon's inspector general was sharply critical of NIS leadership, stating that there was a top-down culture showing a lack of cooperation with other authorities in the Navy.[4] By 1992, Acting Secretary of the Navy, Sean O'Keefe, recommended the word "Criminal" be included in NIS's name in order to make clear their investigative function. Ultimately, NIS commander, Rear Adm. Duvall Williams Jr., was forced to retire and NIS was reorganized as NCIS under civilian leadership.[5]

Recent history[edit]

In 1992, the NCIS mission was again clarified and became a mostly civilian agency. Roy D. Nedrow, a former United States Secret Service (USSS) executive, was appointed as the first civilian director and the name changed from Naval Investigative Service to Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Nedrow oversaw the restructuring of NCIS into a Federal law enforcement agency with 14 field offices controlling field operations in 140 locations worldwide. In 1995, NCIS introduced the Cold Case Homicide Unit, the first dedicated federal-level cold case homicide unit. The unit has resolved 61 cases since 1995.[6]

In May 1997, David L. Brant was appointed Director of NCIS by Secretary of the Navy John Howard Dalton. Director Brant retired in December 2005. He was succeeded by Director Thomas A. Betro who was appointed Director of NCIS in January 2006, by Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter. Betro retired in September 2009. On September 13, 2009, Deputy Director of Operations Gregory A. Scovel was appointed Acting Director by Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work. He served concurrently as Deputy Director for Operations until the new Director was selected.

In 1999, NCIS and the Marine Corps Criminal Investigation Division (USMC CID) signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the integration of Marine Corps CID into NCIS. (USMC CID continues to exist to investigate misdemeanors and felonies and other criminal offenses not under NCIS investigative jurisdiction.)[7]

In 2000, Congress granted NCIS civilian special agents authority to execute warrants and make arrests. Virtually all NCIS investigators, criminal, counterintelligence, and force protection personnel are now sworn civilian personnel with powers of arrest and warrant service. The exceptions are a small number of reserve military elements engaged in counter-intelligence support.

A growing appreciation of the changing threat facing the Department of the Navy in the 21st century, culminating with the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole (DDG-67) in Yemen and the attacks on September 11, 2001, led NCIS to transform the Anti-terrorist Alert Center into the Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC) in 2002.

NCIS agents were the first U.S. law enforcement personnel on the scene at the USS Cole bombing, the Limburg bombing and the terrorist attack in Mombasa, Kenya.

NCIS has conducted fraud investigations resulting in over half a billion dollars in recoveries and restitution to the U.S. government and the U.S. Navy since 1997. NCIS investigates any death occurring on a Navy vessel or Navy or Marine Corps aircraft or installation (except when the cause of death is medically attributable to disease or natural causes). NCIS oversees the Master-at-Arms programs for the Navy, overseeing 8800 Masters-at-Arms and the Military Working Dog program. NCIS's three strategic priorities are to prevent terrorism, protect secrets, and reduce crime.

Current missions for NCIS include criminal investigations, force protection, cross-border drug enforcement, anti-terrorism, counter-terrorism, major procurement fraud, computer crime and counter-intelligence.

NCIS Special Agent Peter Garza conducted the first court-ordered Internet wiretap in the United States.[8]

Jonathan Jay Pollard was an NIS analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel after being caught by NIS and FBI. He received a life sentence in 1987.[9]

On February 14, 2010, Mark D. Clookie became the fourth civilian Director of NCIS, having been appointed to the position by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.[3]

In June 2010, NCIS undertook a major reorganization which created a single Deputy Director position, having previously had two (Deputy Director of Operations and Deputy Director of Management and Administration), combination of the Combating Terrorism Directorate and the Counterintelligence Directorate into a single directorate (the National Security Directorate), and the creation of the Global Operations Directorate. The Global Operations Directorate was created to direct field elements in multiple functional areas that had previously been directed from NCIS Headquarters.[10]

In December 2012, the FBI released redacted documents regarding operations against Occupy Wall Street. In one FBI report, the NCIS is quoted as looking into links between Occupy and "organized labor actions" in December 2011.[11]

On October 7, 2013, Andrew L. Traver became the fifth civilian Director of NCIS, having been appointed to the position by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.[3] Traver leads an agency that is composed of some 2,500 civilian and military personnel and has a presence in over 150 locations worldwide. He is responsible for executing an annual operating budget of approximately $460 million.

In 2014, in the aftermath of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, NCIS formed the Regional Enforcement Action Capabilities Training (REACT) team. REACT teams are designed to support investigations and "high-risk" enforcement operations within the United States, including high-risk operations that involve the service of arrest and search warrants, undercover agent and source protection/rescue, undercover operations, high-risk surveillance, and high-risk protective assignments.[12]

Special Agents Afloat[edit]

An NCIS special agent, assigned to the USS Kearsarge, gives a girl a drink of water during a medical assessment of a local village during hurricane relief operations in Haiti in 2008.

The Special Agent Afloat Program of NCIS sends NCIS Special Agents aboard U.S. aircraft carriers and other ships (for example, hospital ships and amphibious assault ships).[13] The purpose of the program is to provide professional investigative, counterintelligence, and force protection support to deployed Navy and Marine Corps commanders. These special agents are assigned to aircraft carriers and other deployed major combatants. Their environment can best be described as a "floating city." The assignment offers many of the same investigative challenges found by any criminal investigator working in a metropolitan city. A special agent assigned to a carrier must be skilled in general criminal investigations including: crime scene examination, expert interview techniques, and use of proactive law enforcement procedures to stop criminal activity before it occurs. The special agent afloat also provides guidance on foreign counterintelligence matters, including terrorism. It is also the mission of the special agent afloat to offer Navy and Marine Corps leadership advice and operational support on security issues which might threaten the safety of ships, personnel and resources.


Rank structure[edit]

The following is a listing of the Special Agent rank structure found within NCIS:[10]

  • Field agents:
    • Special Agent (SA)
      • Junior Field Agent (JFA)
      • Field Agent (FA) / Resident Agent (RA) / Special Agent Afloat (SAA)
      • Senior Field Agent (SFA) / Senior Resident Agent (SRA)
    • Supervisory Special Agent (SSA)
    • Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC)
    • Special Agent in Charge (SAC)
  • Senior Executive Staff:
    • Deputy Assistant Director (DAD)
    • Assistant Director (AD)
    • Executive Assistant Director (EAD)
    • Principal Executive Assistant Director (for Management and Administration) (PEAD)
    • Deputy Director (DD)
    • Director

Badges and credentials[edit]

  • Special Agent, issued a golden badge inscribed with the words Special Agent. Issued only to 1811 Criminal Investigators and Marine Corps personnel designated as Special Agents.
  • Agent, issued a silver badge inscribed with the word Agent. Issued to qualified and approved naval reservists who perform investigative or counterintelligence duties.
  • Investigator, issued a silver badge inscribed with the word Investigator. Issued only to 1810 Investigators who perform investigative and/or counterintelligence duties.
  • Operational Representative, issued a silver badge inscribed with the words Operational Representative. Issued to those NCIS personnel actively involved in operational aspects of criminal investigations and operations, counterintelligence investigations and operations, collection activity and analysis, and DON law enforcement and security. Employees who qualify for these credentials include, but are not limited to the following series: intelligence specialist/intelligence operations specialist (0132), investigations specialist (1801), foreign national investigator (FN pay grades), investigative computer specialist (2210), Physical security specialist (0080), training specialist (1712), forensic scientist (1301), and evidence custodian (0303).[10]

Organizational structure[edit]

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is headed by the Director of NCIS. The Director directs the activities of NCIS and exercises leadership through a strategic vision and exercises his/her direction through the Deputy Director. The Deputy Director, who is the NCIS Chief Operations Officer, is responsible for the day-to-day oversight and management of NCIS and its operational and administrative directorates. The Principal Executive Assistant Director (for Management and Administration) is the NCIS Chief Management Officer, responsible for the day-to-day oversight and management of all business operations of NCIS.

The NCIS is organized into functional directorates, field directorates, administrative directorates, and the Office of the Director. An Executive Assistant Director manages each directorate with the exception of some administrative directorates, which are managed by an Assistant Director. An Assistant Director is also assigned to the National Security Directorate and the Criminal Operations Directorate to act as the Chief Operations Officer, responsible for the day-to-day oversight and management of the directorate.

Functional and administrative directorates are divided into programmatic departments, each headed by a Deputy Assistant Director. The various programmatic departments are further divided into divisions, led by Division Chiefs. Division Chiefs are ranked analogous to Special Agents in Charge, although some Division Chiefs may also be civilian employees, especially in the administrative directorates.

Functional directorates are responsible for outlining the goals and objectives of NCIS relating to their functional area, called the Program Direction Document. The Executive Assistant Directors of functional directorates exercise direction and supervision of their Program Direction Document through the three field directorates. They also advise the Deputy Director on the three field directorate Executive Assistant Directors' performance in meeting the outlined goals and objectives.

Field directorates are divided into field offices, each headed by a Special Agent in Charge. The Special Agent in Charge (SAC) is responsible for all operational and investigative activities in their region. They exercise leadership of geographic and functional implementation of NCIS' goals and objectives through the direction and supervision of Assistant Special Agents in Charge and Supervisory Special Agents. Depending on the field office, the SAC is assisted by one or multiple Assistant Special Agents in Charge (ASAC's). Some ASAC's may also serve as the head of a specific function or geographic area within the field office (e.g. ASAC of Criminal investigations). The field office headquarters also has specialized teams, headed by Supervisory Special Agents or highly trained civilians, ready to support the field office's subordinate units by dispatching experienced Special Agents and/or civilian investigators to assist in investigations if a prolonged investigation is required or the investigative resources required exceeds the subordinate unit's capabilities.

Field offices are divided into NCIS Resident Agencies (NCISRA's) and NCIS Resident Units (NCISRU's). NCISRA's are headed by Supervisory Special Agents (designated as Resident Agents in Charge) who supervise all sworn Special Agents and civilian personnel assigned to the NCISRA. Depending on the size or location of the NCISRA, the Resident Agent in Charge may also supervise other Supervisory Special Agents who serve as the head of a specific function within the NCISRA (e.g. SSA of Counter-Terrorism). Some NCISRA's are further divided into NCISRU's, which are small units consisting of only one or two Special Agents (designated as Resident Agents) who report directly to the Resident Agent in Charge of the "parent NCISRA." In NCISRU's which are staffed by multiple Special Agents, the senior-most Special Agent is designated as the Senior Resident Agent and may have some operational and/or administrative responsibilities.[10] NCIS Special Agent Afloat duty posts are also classified as NCISRU's (e.g. NCISRU USS George H.W. Bush). NCISRU's afloat are under the functional supervision of the field office responsible for the vessel's homeport but receive operational support from the field office responsible for the area where the ship is sailing in.[10]

The functional and field directorates report to the Deputy Director while the administrative directorates report to the Principal Executive Assistant Director (who then reports to the Deputy Director). The directorates and field offices, along with their locations, of NCIS are: [14]


Russell-Knox Building, Quantico, Virginia
Office of the Director[edit]

The Office of the Director serves as the central administrative arm of the Director. The Office of the Director encompasses the Director, Deputy Director, Principal Executive Assistant Director, and the Director's Staff.

The Office of the Director is headed by the Chief of Staff who is accountable to the Director, via the daily supervision of the Deputy Director, for the effective operation and administration of the Office of the Director.[15]

Functional directorates[edit]

  • Cyber Directorate
  • Intelligence & Information Sharing Directorate
  • National Security Directorate
  • Criminal Operations Directorate

Field directorates[edit]

Administrative directorates[edit]

  • Planning and Strategy Directorate
  • Human Resources Directorate
  • Administration & Logistics Directorate
  • Information Technology Directorate


The current standard issue pistol of NCIS is the SIG Sauer P229R DAK or SIG Sauer P239 DAK in .40 S&W.[16] Agents may also qualify with a weapon from an approved list of manufacturers in 9mm or 40 S&W.

For combat environments, special agents are issued the U.S. Navy MK18.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 2003, the series NCIS began as a spin-off of JAG and features a fictional representation of the Major Case Response Team, consisting of a team of NCIS agents based at Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C.. David Brant and Thomas Betro, two former directors of NCIS, both had minor cameo appearances in the series during their respective tenures as Director.
    • In 2009, that series spun off NCIS: Los Angeles, featuring a fictional representation of the Office of Special Projects, based in Los Angeles that specializes in undercover assignments. Former NCIS Director Mark D. Clookie had a minor cameo appearance in the third season of the series, appearing as "NCIS Special Agent Clookie". NCIS Director Andrew Traver had a minor appearance in the seventh season of the series, appearing as "NCIS Special Agent Gates".
    • A second spin-off set in a small NCIS Resident Agency in New Orleans (part of the Southeast Field Office), NCIS: New Orleans, started in 2014.
  • The Pentagon Channel aired a documentary in June 2009 entitled Recon: Military CSI about crime scene investigation techniques used in the theater of war by NCIS special agents.
  • The National Geographic Channel filmed a documentary entitled Inside the Real NCIS.[17]
  • Investigation Discovery filmed a 13-episode series called The Real NCIS highlighting thirteen different crimes solved by NCIS special agents.
  • In 2017, CBS began airing 48 Hours: NCIS, an extension of the 48 Hours investigative program focused on real life NCIS cases, and narrated by Rocky Carroll of NCIS.
  • The 2000 film Dangerous Evidence: The Lori Jackson Story is based on the 1995 best-selling book Dangerous Evidence. The book recounts the true story of NIS agents accused of framing an African-American Marine corporal for a crime he did not commit. CBS News journalist Ellis A. Cohen covered the story for 60 Minutes and then wrote the book and produced the Lifetime movie.[citation needed]
  • In Richard Marcinko's book Rogue Warrior, he details his conflict with NIS. Later, an NIS investigation named "Iron Eagle" would result in a federal prison sentence.
  • Special Agent, Vietnam: A Naval Intelligence Memoir was written by former Special Agent Douglass H. Hubbard about special agents during the Vietnam War. Hubbard served as an NIS special agent in Vietnam from 1969 to 1972.
  • Author Mel Odom authored an NCIS series of novels entitled Paid in Blood, Blood Evidence, and Bloodlines.
  • The Crisis: A Dan Lenson Novel by David Poyer details the adventures of NCIS special agents in the Horn of Africa (HOA).
  • Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice was published in 2006. Written by retired NCIS Special Agent Ron Olive, it recounts the NIS investigation of Pollard.
  • The Smack Track, by Ian McPhedran, about how the Royal Australian Navy battles pirates, gun runners and drug smugglers in the seas of the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa along the infamous route known as the 'smack track'. Since about 2010, NCIS special agents are routinely assigned as law enforcement advisors afloat to serve alongside the Australian sailors looking for contraband.
  • Dick Tracy is a U.S. comic strip featuring a tough and intelligent police detective created by Chester Gould. In a prose novel by Max Allan Collins based on the strip,[citation needed] Dick Tracy Goes to War, Tracy accepts a direct commission as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve and to go on active duty as an Agent of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the precursor to NCIS. In the comic strip, as detailed in the 1944 sequence pitting Tracy against an Axis spy Alfred "The Brow" Brau, Tracy is commissioned into the same position with ONI, but holds the rank of Lieutenant.

See also[edit]

Military criminal investigative organizations[edit]

Federal law enforcement[edit]

JAG Corps[edit]



  1. ^ "NCIS budget" (PDF). Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  2. ^ "NCIS Headquarters". Naval Criminal Investigative Service. ( Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Leadership, NCIS
  4. ^ Pine, Art (September 26, 1992). "Naval Investigative Service to Be Revamped: The agency has come under attack since the bungled inquiry into the Tailhook sex abuse scandal". Los Angeles Times. Washington.
  5. ^ Schmitt, Eric (September 25, 1992). "Senior Navy Officers Suppressed Sex Investigation, Pentagon Says". New York Times. Washington.
  6. ^ "NCIS Cold Case Homicide Unit". Naval Criminal Investigative Service. ( Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  7. ^ "CID page at 29 Palms Provost Marshal's Office".
  8. ^ Power, Richard (October 30, 2000). "Joy Riders: Mischief That Leads to Mayhem". InformIT. Pearson Education. Retrieved 2009-11-01. "I called the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston on a Thursday and asked if we could have the court order in place by Monday," Garza recounts. "They laughed. Six months was considered the 'speed of light' for wiretap approval. But we started to put the affidavit together anyway, and got it okayed in only six weeks, which at that time was unheard of." Indeed, the work of Garza and the others to obtain a wiretap in the 1995 Ardita case laid a lot of the groundwork that made it possible for investigators in the 1999 Solar Sunrise case (which I describe later in this chapter) to obtain wiretap approval in one day.
  9. ^ "NOVA Online | Secrets, Lies, and Atomic Spies | Jonathan Jay Pollard". 1985-11-18. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  10. ^ a b c d e "NCIS Manual" (PDF). Naval Criminal Investigative Service. ( Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  11. ^ Partnership for Civil Justice Fund: "FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring", page 32 of documents
  12. ^ "NCIS REACT Team". Naval Criminal Investigative Service. ( Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  13. ^ "NCIS Special Agent Afloat Program".
  14. ^ "NCIS Field Offices". Naval Criminal Investigative Service. ( Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  15. ^ "NCIS Office of the Director" (PDF). Naval Criminal Investigative Service. ( Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Sig Sauer press release. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
  17. ^ Inside the Real NCIS - National Geographic Channel

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]