The United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is the primary law enforcement agency of the United States Department of the Navy. Its primary function is to investigate criminal activities involving the United States Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, though its broad mandate includes national security, counter-intelligence, 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, roughly half of whom are special agents trained to carry out a wide variety of assignments around the world. 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, as well as 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Two months after the October 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, the agency opened the Navy Antiterrorist Alert Center, 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 1992, the NCIS mission was again clarified and became a mostly civilian agency. Roy D. Nedrow, a former United States Secret Service 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.
SPECIAL AGENTS AFLOAT:
The Special Agent Afloat Program of NCIS sends NCIS Special Agents aboard U.S. aircraft carriers and other ships. 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.