The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is a team of federal law enforcement professionals dedicated to protecting the people, equipment, technology, and infrastructure of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. On behalf of the Department of the Navy (DON), every day over 1,200 Special Agents, more than 900 other civilian professionals, and 200-plus military members work around the globe to prevent terrorism, protect secrets, and reduce crime. NCIS maintains a presence across the United States and in some 40 countries overseas.
Though staffed almost entirely by civilian personnel, NCIS' history is closely connected to the Navy and Marine Corps it serves.
As the mission of NCIS has changed, so has its name. The history of NCIS can be traced to the establishment of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Subsequently, the name changed to the Naval Intelligence Investigative Service (NIIS), the Naval Secret Service (NSS), back to ONI, then the Naval Investigative Service (NIS), the Naval Security and Investigative Command (NSIC), the Naval Investigative Service Command (NISCOM), and finally, in 1992, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
1882 - ORIGIN
The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) was established when Secretary of the Navy William H. Hunt signed Navy Department General Order 292 in 1882. ONI was initially 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.
1915 - ESPIONAGE AND SABOTAGE MISSION
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 Navy's potential adversaries. This mission expansion is credited to Marine Major John Henry Russell, who went on to become the 16th Commandant of the Marine Corps. He is credited with making investigations part of the NCIS mission.
1916 - FIRST BRANCH OFFICE
In fall of 1916 the first Branch Office (a small undercover unit) was established in New York City under the supervision of ONI. Heavy reliance was placed on both reservists on active duty and civilian operatives, many of the latter serving voluntarily and without pay. The office served as a model for others developed during World War I, and accounted for some impressive successes in the field of counterespionage.
1919 - NAVAL SECRET SERVICE
Following WWI, responsibilities for criminal investigations were placed under naval aides for information, who were assigned to the staffs of each of the 15 naval district commandants, and later placed under the district aide. The counterintelligence units under the aides were collectively designated as the Naval Secret Service with the first investigators known as secret service agents. Eventually, all operatives were known as Special Agents of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
1927 - VOLUNTEER RESERVES
In 1927 special groups of volunteer reserve intelligence officers were organized. The group was assigned to obtain information on persons and activities that might constitute a threat to the naval establishment. They also provided a cadre of trained personnel in the event of a national emergency.
1930 - FIRST CIVILIAN HIRE
By early 1930’s the development of an independent professional investigative capability within the Navy was underway. The first civilian agent was employed in 1936 on a verbal basis and paid by personal check of the Director of Naval Intelligence. By 1937, fourteen civilian agents were brought on board on personal service contracts by the District Intelligence Officers (DIOs). This hiring practice continued until 1969 when agents were converted to the Excepted Civil Service. These agents received no training, although they were used for every type of inquiry. They were deployed nationwide. Their resourcefulness and effectiveness laid the foundation for the modern professional agent corps.
1935 - FIRST ONI MANUAL FOR INVESTIGATIONS
In 1935 LTJG Cecil H. Coggins set the stage for a new generation of counterintelligence experts. While working for the ONI, he uncovered an Axis spy ring which confirmed an intelligence threat to the United States. LT Coggins fought as a guerilla fighter with the “Rice Paddy Navy” in China during WW II and wrote the first ONI manual for investigations. He was later promoted to rear admiral.
1939 - INVESTIGATION MISSION
In June 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed that ONI handle investigation of Navy cases relating to sabotage, espionage and subversive activities that pose any kind of threat to the Navy. ONI became a predominately civilian organization after WW II when tasked to conduct criminal investigations, counterintelligence and security background investigations.
1940 - NAVAL INTELLIGENCE INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE
By the fall of 1940, selective call-up of Intelligence reservists for investigative and counterintelligence duties was undertaken on a broad scale. Following entry into World War II, the Navy’s investigative arm was manned almost exclusively by reserve officers. By 1943, more than 97,000 separate investigations were prosecuted by what became known as the “Naval Intelligence Investigative Service” (NIIS). The investigative corps gained respect and a permanent place in the fabric of naval security.
1945 - CENTRALIZATION
As the war concluded it was recognized that there was a need to maintain a base of professionalism, and provision was made to retain a small group of civilian agents. Wartime experience had demonstrated two points: (1) More specific investigative authority was needed; and (2) A truly effective organization demanded centralized control as well as direction.
1945 - SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS
In 1945 Secretary of the Navy James Vincent Forrestal extended ONI’s charter to major criminal and security investigations, in addition to sabotage and espionage.
1950 - INVESTIGATION BACKLOG
A major buildup of civilian special agents began with the Korean War in 1950 when the agent corps numbered only 156. This growth was also spurred by the increasing requests for background investigations. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s approximately 500 agents conducted criminal investigations, counterintelligence and background investigations for the Navy. However, by 1964 pending cases had grown to 35,000 which translated to a six and one-half month backlog for each agent.
1964 - COMMANDER DESIGNATION
As the result of a Department of Defense study in 1964, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara directed that the commander of the Navy Investigative organization be the commander in fact as well as in name, having no primary responsibility other than managing the investigative organization.
1966 - NAVAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE
In February 1966 the name Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was adopted to distinguish the organization from the rest of ONI. Under the Director of Naval Intelligence, the new command consisted of only three functional organizations: the Director NIS and his headquarters staff; Naval Investigative Service Offices, each headed by a military commanding officer, and NIS Resident Agencies which were the basic operating components.
1968 - VIETNAM PRESENCE
In 1968 NIS established an office in Da Nang, Vietnam. 1969 - EXCEPTED CIVIL SERVICE Since 1969, the mission focus has been criminal investigative and counterintelligence support to the Department of the Navy. Also in 1969, NIS special agents became Excepted Civil Service and were no longer contract employees.
1970 - AGENT AFLOAT
The early 1970s also marked the beginning of the Deployment Afloat program when an NIS special agent was stationed aboard USS Intrepid for six months. This program (today called the NCIS Special Agent Afloat program) provided an NIS presence on all aircraft carriers, deployed or in port.
1972 - DEFENSE INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE
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 counterintelligence. Nearly half of NIS special agents were transferred to DIS.
1975 - DIVERSITY In 1975
The first female agent was stationed at Naval Air Station Miramar, California. 1981 - FIRST FLAG OFFICER FOR NIS In October 1981, NIS was upgraded to Echelon II status, with control of its own budget. Echelon II commands report directly to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). In 1985, Rear Admiral Cathal L. (“Irish”) Flynn (the first active duty SEAL to attain flag rank), was assigned as the first flag officer to command NIS.
1983 - ANTITERRORIST ALERT CENTER
NIS opened the Antiterrorist Alert Center (ATAC) in response to the October 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut. ATAC, a 24-hour-a-day operational intelligence center, was organized to issue indications and warnings on terrorist activity to Navy and Marine Corps commands. It was the first coordinated effort to fuse intelligence and law enforcement data with enhanced technologies.
1984 - TRAINING In 1984
Special agents began training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgiaundefinedthe training facility for nearly 90 federal investigative agencies. 1985 - NAVAL SECURITY AND INVESTIGATIVE COMMAND In late 1985, NIS became the Naval Security and Investigative Command (NSIC). Soon after, the special agent corps increased to more than 1,000 personnel.
1986 - DON CAF
NSIC assumed responsibility for managing the Navy's Law Enforcement and Physical Security Program and the Navy's Information and Personnel Security Program. In 1986, the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility (DON CAF) was established under NSIC, corresponding with the organization's new responsibility of adjudicating security clearances. DON CAF renders approximately 200,000 eligibility determinations annually for the Navy, Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and for all civilians working within the DON. In early 1994, responsibilities were expanded to include adjudicating eligibility for access to Sensitive Compartmented Information.
1987 - SECURITY PROGRAMS
NSIC also assumed control of the Navy’s Master-at-Arms program and the Military Working Dog Program. 1988 - NAME CHANGE TO NISCOM In September 1988, RADM John E. Gordon, the agency’s second flag rank commander, directed that NSIC be re-designated as the Naval Investigative Service Command (NISCOM). RADM Gordon, a member of the Navy Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) was the first of three JAG officers to command the organization.
1992 - FIRST CIVILIAN DIRECTOR
In December 1992, the Secretary of the Navy Sean O’Keefe, abolished the position of the flag rank officer as Commander of NISC, and established a civilian Director, a Senior Executive Service (SES) position. The military leadership was replaced by the first civilian law enforcement director, Special Agent Roy D. Nedrow, formerly of the U.S. Secret Service. NCIS was aligned as an Echelon II Command under the Secretary of the Navy (another civilian), reporting via the General Counsel. Secretary of the Navy O’Keefe also mandated the name change to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) to emphasize its criminal investigative mission.
1995 - COLD CASE DIVISION
In September 1995, NCIS established the Cold Case Homicide Unit. NCIS was the first federal law enforcement agency to fully dedicate a department to cold case investigations, and as of July 2010, had resolved 61 homicides.
1996 - CIVILIAN REORGANIZATION
Director Roy D. Nedrow oversaw the restructuring of NCIS into a Federal law enforcement agency with 14 field offices controlling field operations in 140 locations worldwide. He disestablished all regional offices; designating the sixteen major offices for worldwide operational control of all field activities reporting to NCIS headquarters; reduced the size of the agency by sixteen percent pursuant to Congressional mandates; and emphasized the consistent pursuit of competent, professional, and independent felony criminal investigations. As of early 1996, NCIS had approximately 1,500 employees including 900 special agents in a worldwide network of 165 field offices, resident agencies and ships at sea.
1997 - DIRECTOR BRANT
In May 1997, NCIS Special Agent David L. Brant was appointed Director of NCIS by Secretary of the Navy John Dalton. Director Brant retired in December 2005. 1999 - MARINE CORPS CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION In 1999 NCIS and the Marine Corps Criminal Investigative Division (CID) signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the integration of a number of Marine Corps CID agents into NCIS to enhance interoperability.
2000 - ARREST AUTHORITY
In November 2000, the United States Congress passed legislation authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to grant NCIS civilian special agents authority to execute federal warrants and make arrests of civilians.
2000 - CHANGING THREAT ENVIRONMENT
A changing threat environment faced the Department of the Navy in the 21st century with the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, resulting in the deaths of seventeen US Navy sailors. NCIS and FBI agents immediately began an investigation which lasted for several months; their efforts resulted in the indictment and conviction of several terrorists.
2001 - MULTIPLE THREAT ALERT CENTER
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC on September 11, 2001 led NCIS to transform the Antiterrorist Alert Center (ATAC) into the Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC) in 2002.
2002 - INFORMATION SHARING
LInX INITIATIVE In 2002, NCIS established the Law Enforcement Information Exchange (LInX) in the Pacific Northwest and Hampton Roads, Virginia. LInX is an information sharing initiative that provides participating law enforcement personnel with the ability to electronically search and review the law enforcement records of all other participating agencies in a particular region. Other regions, including Hawaii, New Mexico, South Texas, Southeast Georgia/Northeast Florida, the National Capital Region of Washington, DC, and Southern California have since been added. 2003 - DEPLOYMENT TO IRAQ In September 2003, NCIS deployed its first agents to Iraq to conduct protective service operations and provide counterterrorism, counterintelligence and criminal investigative support.
2003 - SECURITY TRAINING ASSISTANCE AND ASSESSMENT TEAMS (STAAT)
On February 11, the Director, NCIS signed Executive Decision 03-0038, which merged NCIS Law Enforcement Physical Security Assistance Teams (LEPS) and the NCIS Mobile Training Teams (MTT) to establish STAAT teams to conduct antiterrorism activities, law enforcement and security training.
2005 - NCIS CHARTER
On December 28, 2005, the Secretary of the Navy issued SECNAVINST 5430.107, revising the NCIS charter and updating the responsibilities, mission and functions of NCIS and its relationships with other DON and law enforcement organizations and activities.
2006 - NCIS DIRECTOR BETRO
In January 2006, NCIS Special Agent Thomas A. Betro was appointed the third civilian Director of NCIS by Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter. Director Betro retired in September 2009.
2009 - DEFENSE LAW ENFORCEMENT DATA EXCHANGE
NCIS collaborated with other Department of Defense federal law enforcement agencies to launch the Defense Law Enforcement Data Exchange (DDEX). Like LInX, the DDEX system provides DoD special agents and analysts in all of the services access to a multitude of law enforcement data in an effort to reduce crime, prevent terrorism, and protect DoD assets.
2010 - NCIS DIRECTOR CLOOKIE
In February 2010, NCIS Special Agent Mark Clookie was appointed the fourth civilian Director of NCIS by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
2013 - NCIS DIRECTOR TRAVER
On October 7, 2013 Andrew L. Traver became the fifth civilian Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) after being selected by the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy.
2019 - NCIS DIRECTOR LOPEZ
On June 4, 2019, Omar Lopez became the sixth civilian Director of the NCIS. Special Agent Lopez was the EAD for the National Security Directorate prior to his selection as Director.