Office of National Drug Control Policy

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Office of National Drug Control Policy

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 (21 U.S.C.A. § 1501 et seq.) and began operations in January 1989.

ONDCP develops and coordinates the policies and objectives of the federal government's program for reducing the use of illicit drugs. ONDCP seeks ways to combat the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences. The director of ONDCP is charged with producing the National Drug Control Strategy, which directs the U.S. anti-drug efforts and establishes a program, a budget, and guidelines for cooperation among federal, state, and local entities.

By law, the director also evaluates, coordinates, and oversees both the international and domestic anti-drug efforts of the Executive Branch agencies and ensures that such efforts sustain and complement state and local anti-drug activities. The director is commonly referred to as the "drug czar" because he or she advises the president regarding changes in the organization, management, budgeting, and personnel of federal agencies that could affect the U.S. anti-drug efforts. The director is a member of the National Security Council and the Cabinet Council on Counternarcotics.

ONDCP drug-control priorities include treatment, prevention, domestic law enforcement, and interdiction and international initiatives. It presumes that chronic, hard-core drug use is a disease and that anyone suffering from the disease needs treatment. ONDCP seeks to create a balance between sanctions for drug-related criminal activity and treatment of an addictive disease.

In the area of prevention, ONDCP seeks to reverse the upward trend in drug use and find ways to empower communities to address their drug problems. It develops and implements initiatives that attempt to prevent illicit drug use by young people and other high-risk populations.

ONDCP also emphasizes the need for strong, effective law enforcement efforts, including strong sanctions against drug offenders. Key priorities for domestic law enforcement are the disruption and dismantling of drug trafficking organizations, including seizure of their assets, and the investigation, arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment of drug traffickers. It seeks to attack drug trafficking organizations at every level, from the drug kingpin to the street-corner dealer, through a careful coordination of federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts.

In the international sphere, ONDCP views interdiction as an important component of national drug policy. It cooperates with other nations in building their law enforcement institutions, attacking drug production facilities, interdicting drug shipments in both source and transit countries, and dismantling drug trafficking organizations.

The director of ONDCP is supported by a number of organizational units. The Office of Demand Reduction undertakes and oversees activities to reduce the demand for drugs, including drug education, drug prevention, drug treatment, and related efforts for the rehabilitation of persons addicted to drugs. This office also conducts research on drug use and periodically convenes expert panels to assess state-of-the-art approaches to reducing the demand for drugs.

The Office of Supply Reduction seeks to reduce the availability, production, and distribution of illicit drugs in the United States and abroad. The Office of State and Local Affairs coordinates agency relationships and outreach efforts to state and local government agencies. The Counter-Drug Technology Assessment Center is the central counter-drug enforcement research and development organization of the federal government. It works to identify the scientific and technological needs of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

The election of President george w. bush in 2000 boosted efforts of conservatives who supported governmental funding for "faith-based" drug treatment programs. In 2003, the director of the ONDCP announced President Bush's plan for a three-year, $600 million voucher plan that would give such programs access to federal funds.

Also, in March 2003, John P. Walters, the director of the ONDCP, and Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Homeland Security Department, jointly announced the appointment of Roger Mackin as counter-narcotics officer/U.S. interdiction coordinator. One of Mackin's responsibilities was to ensure that all Homeland Security Department counter-drug policies and efforts were aligned with the president's National Drug Control Strategy.

In April 2003, Walters testified before a House Appropriations Committee that ONDCP efforts had been a significant factor in the recent downturn in youth drug use. Among the ONDCP accomplishments were its media campaign that uses a Web site, ads, and other means of disseminating information about drugs and the organization's Technology Transfer Program that has brought updated technology and training to more than 20 percent of the nation's state and local police departments and sheriffs' offices.

At the same time, a 2003 report from the ONDCP stated that in 1992, the overall cost of drug abuse to the U.S. population was approximately $102 billion; the projected cost for the 2000 fiscal year (FY) was estimated to be $160.7 billion. In the same report, ONDCP restructured its budget to reflect new methods for reporting drug abuse. The requested drug control budget for FY 2004 was $11.7 billion.

Further readings

Office of National Drug Control Policy Website. Available at <> (accessed August 1, 2003).

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <> (accessed November 10, 2003).


Drugs and Narcotics; Executive Branch.