Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)

Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)

The Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is responsible for providing law enforcement on behalf of United States Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families. Originally part of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the organization was staffed primarily by military personnel, whereas today it is a largely civilian organization. NCIS has been involved in murder investigations and drug sweeps, and since September 11, 2001, it has also taken on a homeland security role.

NCIS began as part of ONI, which was deployed during World War II to detect potential spies and saboteurs on the domestic front. Through the end of World War II, the investigative branch of ONI was composed mainly of military personnel. In the postwar era, however, the Secretary of the Navy developed a coterie of civilian agents responsible for conducting criminal investigations, counterintelligence, and security background investigations on naval and marine personnel and civilians associated with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Only on February 4, 1966, did the Naval Investigative Service (NIS), as NCIS's predecessor was called, gain an identity separate from that of ONI. Nonetheless, it remained a part of the naval intelligence office. In 1972, the newly formed Defense Investigative Service took over responsibility for background checks, leaving NIS free to concentrate on counterintelligence and criminal investigations. During the 1980s, the organization went through a number of name changes until, in December 1992, it gained its present identity.

At the time of its establishment as NCIS, a civilian director, Roy D. Nedrow (formerly with the U.S. Secret Service), assumed leadership. During the following year, he undertook reorganization in accordance with the broader downscaling of military and security organizations that attended the end of the Cold War. Whereas in 1991, NCIS had 2,281 personnel, including 1,167 civilian special agents operating in more than 200 offices worldwide, a decade later its ranks numbered 1,603, of whom 877 were civilian special agents operating in some 150 offices worldwide. In addition, 51 military agents, most of them from the Marine Corps, were assigned to NCIS. As part of Nedrow's reorganization, NCIS was restructured as a federal lawenforcement agency with 14 field offices.

NCIS at work. NCIS has received numerous accolades for its efficiency, not least for the work of its "cold-case squad," which has reopened scores of previously unsolved homicide cases, and successfully solved dozens. Working with the cold-case squad of the Fairfax County, Virginia, lawenforcement authorities, for instance, NCIS helped solve a homicide case that was extremely "cold" (old)—so much so that the accused had finished high school, had a full career in the Navy, and retired—all in the quarter-century between the murder and his arrest.

The case involved Paul S. Sorensen, who was 16 years old in 1975, when he allegedly stabbed to death a convenience store clerk while robbing a 7-Eleven. Sorensen entered the Navy after graduating high school in 1976, and in 1999, having attained the rank of chief petty officer, retired to Corpus Christi, Texas. Three years later, and five years after NCIS and Fairfax County reopened the cold case, Sorensen—knowing that he would soon be arrested anyway—turned himself in to authorities.

Another example of NCIS at work was the drug sweep that in July 2002 netted 84 marines and sailors at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Code-named Operation Xterminator, the sweep took two years and yielded $1.4 million in narcotics. NCIS has also been involved in homeland security since the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Not only has the agency helped provide security for the naval base at San Diego Bay in California, but NCIS agents have taken part in community education programs designed to teach civilians how to monitor their neighborhoods for suspicious activity.



The Naval Criminal Investigative Service: To Protect and Serve. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Navy, 1994.


Crawley, James W. "Details of Port Security Are Off-Limits." San Diego Union-Tribune. (August 23, 2002): B1.

"Drug Sweep Nets 84 Marines, Sailors." Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN). (July 3, 2002): A4.

Jackman, Tom. "Retiree Surrenders in 1975 Va. Killing." Washington Post. (May 22, 2002): B7.


Naval Criminal Investigative Service. < > (January 18, 2003).


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