DEA veteran to lead DHS drug enforcement

President Obama intends to nominate a Drug Enforcement Administration veteran, Grayling Williams, to lead the Homeland Security Department's Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Williams is the executive assistant to the chief of operations in DEA's operations division.

According to a bio released by Homeland Security, Williams has 28 years of federal and local law enforcement service, with assignments in organized crime, operations policy, intelligence and information sharing.

"Grayling's years of experience in law enforcement and counternarcotics will enhance our coordinated efforts with federal, state and local partners to interdict drug traffickers and disrupt their links to terrorism and organized crime," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement.

The selection of a DEA veteran to lead the department's counternarcotics enforcement office is the most recent indicator that DHS is serious about improving coordination with other federal, state and local offices, said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Morton, who said he does not know Williams, noted the selection should help improve the relationship between ICE and DEA, which has been fraught with tension in recent years over jurisdictional disputes. While DEA is the agency primarily responsible for enforcing narcotics laws embodied in Title 21 of the U.S. Code, ICE agents are cross-designated to enforce those laws when they involve smuggling across U.S. borders.

In June, the two agencies signed a memorandum of agreement aimed at clarifying the roles of DEA and ICE and improving coordination between them.

"The announcement [on Tuesday] is another step in that direction," said Morton. "Border security responsibility by definition has a huge drug enforcement component to it."

Williams' career at DEA began in 1987, in which he served as a special agent, criminal investigator and special agent instructor at the DEA Training Academy before leaving the agency in 1998. He returned to DEA in 2003 as an assistant special agent in charge and chief of the policy and source management section until 2008, before assuming his current position.

Williams has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and law enforcement science from the University of New Haven and a master's degree in management from Johns Hopkins University.

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