About the Naval Criminal Investigative Service

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service or NCIS is one of the most prestigious agencies in the federal government and is tasked with investigating crimes related to Navy or Marine Corps personnel. With almost 2,000 professionals on staff in more than 40 countries, the NCIS performs a number of mission critical services for our country including counter-espionage, terrorist interdiction and cyber threat neutralization. This agency also gathers intelligence in anticipation of field operations executed by various federal and military groups.

Since 2000, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has operated with greater authority. In response to the bombing of the USS Cole and the 9/11 attacks, the NCIS has been authorized by Congress to execute federal warrants and make arrests of citizens. NCIS personnel have also been sent to some of the most important conflict zones in the world including Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. These deployed personnel have been instrumental in maintaining America’s safety and optimal defense posture.

Although the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is often involved in military operations, it remains a primarily civilian department. Almost 90 percent of the personnel are civilian and about 98 percent of its field agents are civilian officers. The leadership of the department reflects this makeup; current director, Andrew L. Traver, is the latest in a long line of civilian directors. After an illustrious career in the Navy, Director Traver served as an agent in various state and federal law enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, before taking up his current position in the NCIS. He reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy.

As a bridge between civilian and military organizations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service offers the ability to act as a law enforcement agency as well as an intelligence and counter-terrorism unit. NCIS field agents are often inserted into mission critical situations that support both civilian and military operations. This unique dual function allows field and support personnel to exercise a full range of functions including criminal investigations, intelligence gathering, drug and weapons interdiction and military combat operations.

These missions may take place in a multitude of environments including on U.S. soil, in partner nations or hostile countries. NCIS personnel must be able to conduct operations with a variety of objectives in mind: courtroom prosecution, intelligence acquisition, or military intervention. With the ultimate goal being the optimal safety of the country and its citizens, NCIS personnel are required to function within a diverse set of operating conditions.

In order to identify and neutralize criminal, terrorist and military threats at home and abroad, NCIS agents must possess an array of skills. They must be able to interact with suspects, witnesses and intelligence assets in a wide array of cultural environments. Personnel should be able to respond to rapidly escalating situations in a law enforcement or military context. They must also be able to work constructively with allied police and military partners in the U.S. and other countries.


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has a long and illustrious history reaching back more than a century. The NCIS has its roots in a Secretary of the Navy Order in 1882, which established the Office of Naval Intelligence or ONI. The ONI’s purpose was to gather information about major bodies of water, naval fortifications, shipyards, manufacturing facilities and foreign vessels.

At the time of the first World War, the responsibilities of the ONI were diversified to include sabotage, espionage and counter-espionage. In 1966 the ONI was designated as the Naval Investigative Service. It was during the period of the Korean War and the Cold War, that the NIS augmented its personnel with civilian members.

In 1982, NIS became responsible for administering the Law Enforcement and Physical Security Program, as well as the Information and Personnel Security Program for the Navy. It was also at this point that the NIS began training officers at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, where other civilian law enforcement personnel receive their training.

In 1992, the first civilian director Roy D. Nedrow was appointed to head the National Investigative Service, which was re-designated the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The agency was also restructured to include 14 field offices in the U.S. and abroad, with jurisdiction over field operations in more than 140 jurisdictional zones around the world.

Over the years, NCIS field agents have taken the point in major investigations. NCIS personnel were the first on the ground following the bombing of the USS Cole, the Mombasa, Kenya bombings and the Limburg bombing. They have also been instrumental in high profile cases like Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison for espionage.

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NCIS Jurisdiction & Investigative Priorities