Special Message for the 50th Anniversary of the DEA

by | Aug 22, 2023 | Domestic Policy, Nixon Today

Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon’s Reorganization Plan No. 2 consolidated drug control efforts that had previously been spread out over multiple cabinet agencies and bureaus into one agency—the DEA. Learn more about the history and ongoing mission of the DEA in this special message commemorating 50 years of drug enforcement efforts.


Hello. My name is Anne Milgram. I am the administrator of the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration better known as the DEA. Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon’s Reorganization Plan No. 2 consolidated drug control efforts that had previously been spread out over multiple cabinet agencies and bureaus into one agency—the DEA. 

President Nixon created the DEA to ensure that all US law enforcement would work together under one centralized narcotics agency. His foresight in creating an agency singularly dedicated to protecting lives and dismantling criminal networks resonates profoundly today.

On July 1, 2023 the DEA marked five decades of critically important work enforcing our nation’s drug laws, protecting our communities and saving lives. When initially created in 1973 the DEA had less than 1,500 special agents and an operating budget of 75 million dollars. Today, we have nearly 10,000 employees including nearly 5,000 agents located in more than 241 offices in the United States and 93 foreign offices around the globe. Our budget today is nearly 3.4 billion dollars. As the agency has grown, each decade has brought new challenges. From heroin and cocaine trafficking in the 70s and 80s to the modern day when the Sinaloa and CJNG cartels are poisoning and killing Americans with fentanyl and other synthetic drugs at catastrophic and record rates. But while the drug threats may have evolved, what hasn’t changed since 1973 is our commitment to our mission and our ability to target, disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks that seek to profit from these drugs. The women and men of DEA have proven time and time again that we can use technology and intelligence to develop successful operational strategies to take out drug trafficking organizations. In the last decade we have seized record amounts of drugs, cash and assets which have resulted in fewer drugs on the streets, fewer drugs in the hands of our children, millions of dollars kept out of the hands of terrorists and less violence in our communities. This is important but dangerous work. Since our founding in 1973, 68 brave DEA employees and task force officers have made the ultimate sacrifice to free this country of drugs and we honor them by continuing to fight for the cause in which they gave their lives.

Our work has never been more important than it is today. Today, Americans are experiencing the most devastating drug crisis in our nation’s history. It’s like nothing we have seen before. This is because one drug, fentanyl, has transformed the criminal landscape. Fentanyl is the leading cause of death of Americans between the ages of 18-45 today. More than terrorism,  more than car accidents, more than cancer, more than Covid. The CDC today estimates that in 2022, 110, 511 Americans died from drug poisonings, almost 70% from fentanyl. And last year the DEA seized enough fentanyl to kill every single person in the United States.

Everyday at DEA headquarters, I walk past the Faces of Fentanyl Memorial. This memorial is where we display photos of the lives lost to the fentanyl poisoning epidemic. We started this wall in May of 2021. It started with around 100 photos displayed. To date we have received nearly 5,000 photos. The youngest person on our wall is Riya Mitchell, forever 8 months old. The oldest is James Cox, forever 70 years old. The wall shows the faces of America and it is a memorial to those we have lost. The wall is also a call to action. It is a reminder that our mission at DEA is to save lives. The brave women and men of the DEA have always been the most committed and mission-driven people in law enforcement. In our 50 year history, that commitment and history has not changed. The women and men of the DEA are focused on one goal— to stop fentanyl, defeat the cartels and save American lives. Everyday in our 334 offices around the world, they risk their lives for this mission. DEA’s work is critical to the safety of our nation and the health of our families, friends and communities. 

It is an honor to serve as the administrator of the DEA and to work with these amazing women and men who are dedicated to keeping this country safe and fulfilling the vision that President Nixon had for this agency. I have no doubt in the next 50 years the women and men of the DEA will continue to lead this country’s drug enforcement efforts with integrity, commitment and courage. Thank you.