Spotlight: U.S. Marshals Service

In keeping with our recent focus on investigative and law enforcement agencies, today we’re profiling the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), the nation’s oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency. Now a division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), its mission is to enforce federal laws and support virtually all elements of the federal justice system.

On September 24, 1789, President George Washington appointed the first 13 U.S. marshals following the passage of the first Judiciary Act that day. In addition to fulfilling their law enforcement functions, marshals conducted the national census every decade from 1790 to 1870, distributed presidential proclamations and performed other routine tasks that enabled the fledgling federal government to function.  Famous marshals from the 19th and early 20th centuries include Frederick Douglass, the Earp brothers (Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt), Wild Bill Hickok and Bat Masterson.

U.S. marshals operated relatively independently until July 1, 1870, when Congress created DoJ and gave it supervision over U.S. marshals and U.S. attorneys.  The Executive Office of U.S. Marshals was created in 1965; a few years later, in 1969, the USMS was established as a headquarters organization to oversee the U.S. marshals.

Today, the USMS has more than 5,500 employees, including 94 presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed U.S. marshals (one for each federal judicial district) and more than 3,950 deputy U.S. marshals and criminal investigators. In addition to its headquarters at 600 Army-Navy Drive in Arlington, Va.’s Pentagon City area, the agency has more than 400 other offices, including 94 judicial district offices, 218 sub-offices, and three foreign field offices that investigate and apprehend violent fugitives abroad. It also has 82 district-based task forces and seven regional fugitive task forces.

The agency’s enacted budget for FY 2012 was $1.189 billion. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for the agency is $1.693 billion, a 42.4% increase from the preceding year. That large increase is the result of a proposed realignment of federal detention funding under USMS and includes $10 million for construction to “renovate and secure federal courthouse and detention facilities, including “to modify space controlled, occupied and/or utilized by the USMS for prisoner holding and related support.”