The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) consists of a cadre of special agents and professional support personnel who provide expertise in crisis management, hostage rescue, surveillance and aviation, hazardous devices mitigation, crisis negotiations, behavioral analysis, and tactical operations.
Programs within the Counter-IED Section (C-IEDS) play a vital role in the Bureau’s strategic objective to prevent and effectively respond to terrorist or criminal use of hazardous devices, explosives, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Since 1971, the section has managed the nation’s only facility to train and certify public safety bomb technicians to render safe hazardous devices. The FBI’s Hazardous Devices School (HDS) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama is often referred to as the national academy for bomb technicians. HDS has provided training to over 20,000 state and local first responders. National standards published by the FBI for training state and local bomb squads provide the necessary foundation for an effective response to federal crimes involving hazardous devices, terrorist bombing campaigns, or use of a WMD.
A natural extension of the FBI’s bomb tech school is the Special Agent Bomb Technician (SABT) Program. SABTs provide training to local and state bomb squads and serve as the workforce for the FBI’s explosives-related operations and activities worldwide. SABTs undertake some of the most dangerous duties in the FBI. They respond to actual and threatened improvised explosive device (IED) incidents domestically and internationally. They provide assistance during major cases, special events, and federal, state, and local training events. Additionally, they enable first- and middle-tier response to WMD incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear devices.
The C-IEDS is also responsible for responding to WMD incidents around the country and carrying out render safe procedures as required. C-IEDS fulfills this mission in partnership with the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and a variety of state and local agencies.
Within the C-IEDS, the Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices Unit is the FBI’s focal point for sharing hazardous device-related information among federal, state, and local bomb technicians and investigators, as well as international bomb data centers and general audiences. The unit publishes bulletins, guides, and other materials designed to offer continuing education to bomb technicians beyond the structured learning provided by the Hazardous Devices School.
It also publishes bulletins and posts explosives-related information to investigators and general audiences through bulletins and the resources available on Law Enforcement Online, which can be accessed by law enforcement through the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP).
For more on the Bureau's efforts to prevent and respond to terrorist or criminal use of hazardous devices, explosives, and weapons of mass destruction, visit the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) website.
The Investigative and Operations Support Section (IOSS) supports other CIRG sections, FBI field offices, FBI Headquarters divisions, U.S. law enforcement agencies, and FBI legal attachés at U.S. embassies abroad in the preparation for, response to, and successful resolution of major investigations, critical incidents, and special events. IOSS personnel provide expertise in behavioral assessment, crisis management, special events management, rapid deployment, and logistics and information technology, provide input on the development of national plans, policies, and exercises; training for FBI, law enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel; and research and development. The section includes the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and the Crisis Management Unit.
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC)
The primary mission of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) is to provide behavioral-based investigative support to the FBI, national security agencies, and other federal, state, local and international law enforcement involved in the investigation of unusual or repetitive violent crimes, threats, terrorism, cyber crimes, public corruption, and other matters.
The NCAVC consists of five units:
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 1 (counterterrorism, arson and bombing matters)
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 2 (threats, cyber crime, and public corruption)
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 3 (crimes against children)
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 4 (crimes against adults, ViCAP)
- Behavioral Analysis Unit 5 (research, strategy, and instruction)
The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) consists of a database and web-based tool available to law enforcement agencies to connect homicides, sexual assaults, missing persons, and unidentified human remains that may be geographically dispersed, allowing police departments to better coordinate communication and investigative efforts on potentially linked crimes. The FBI maintains the database and our analysts assist investigators with case linkages and other analysis. Over 5,000 law enforcement agencies have participated in ViCAP—created in 1985—and have contributed more than 85,000 cases to the system.
NCAVC staff provide operational support for a range of cases including but not limited to: domestic and international terrorism; threats of targeted violence (e.g., active shooters in schools, workplaces, and public areas or buildings); cyber crime; public corruption; cases involving child victims (child abduction or mysterious disappearances, child homicides, and victimization of children); cases involving adult victims (e.g., serial, spree, mass, and other murders); serial rape; extortion; kidnapping; product tampering; arson and bombing; and weapons of mass destruction.
NCAVC personnel deploy to provide time-sensitive, on-site support to the investigators and managers of complex investigations. They also provide case consultations for new, active, and cold cases via telephone conference calls, video teleconferences, and meetings at CIRG headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. The behavioral analysis units provide direct support to FBI crisis negotiators in cases involving abductions, hostage taking, extortions, threats, and other matters.
NCAVC is comprised of Bureau agents and professional staff members, along with agents from other federal agencies, including the U.S. Capitol Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). In addition, all 56 FBI field offices have NCAVC coordinators who handle support and training requests from agencies in their local area.
NCAVC provides the following services:
- Crime analysis
- Profiles of unknown offenders
- Offender motivation analysis
- Linkage analysis
- Investigative suggestions
- Multi-agency coordination
- Threat assessment and management
- Interview strategies
- Search warrant affidavit assistance
- Prosecution and trial strategies
- Expert testimony
- Critical incident analysis
The NCAVC also conducts extensive research from a law enforcement perspective, often in conjunction with other law enforcement, government, and academic organizations. Results of research are provided in publications, training classes, seminars, and conferences.
The Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) is the FBI’s global command and communications center. It operates around the clock to maintain enterprise-wide situational awareness and to provide FBI leadership with strategic information by serving as a clearinghouse to collect, process, and disseminate information in a timely manner.
CIRG’s Surveillance and Aviation Section (SAS) provides modern jets and other aircraft that respond to crisis situations domestically and around the world. SAS can deploy aviation assets worldwide, including assignments in combat theaters. Capabilities include foreign transfer-of-custody flights for high-profile terrorism and criminal subjects and the delivery of hazardous and explosive material to crime laboratories located throughout the United States.
To support the FBI’s aviation mission, SAS maintains a rigorous aircraft maintenance and quality control program. Along with mandatory pilot training, these programs have produced a safety record per flight hour that is unmatched by general aviation or any other government agency. It is the responsibility of SAS to ensure that all Bureau flight operations are conducted safely.
Hostage Rescue Team
Created in 1983 and based at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, the HRT is the U.S. government’s non-Department of Defense full-time counterterrorist tactical team. HRT, whose motto is servare vitas (“to save lives”), provides enhanced manpower, training, and resources to confront the most complex threats. The team deploys operationally under the authority of the FBI Director and in support of our field offices and legal attachés and performs a number of national security and law enforcement tactical functions in almost any environment or conditions.
Since its inception, the team has deployed to more than 850 incidents involving terrorism, violent crimes, foreign counter-intelligence, and other investigations. HRT has performed missions involving hostage rescue, barricaded subjects, undercover operations, high-risk arrests, and surveillance operations. It has undertaken traditional law enforcement roles in response to large natural disasters and dignitary protection missions, and has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries to protect FBI personnel and to conduct sensitive site exploitations and intelligence gathering activities.
In collaboration with the Bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS), HRT developed the Quick Capture Platform (QCP), a backpack-portable tool that has made an impact on global counterterrorism operations. The QCP enables investigators to collect and store fingerprint data during investigations overseas and provides instant access to federal fingerprint databases—both the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the Department of Defense Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS). This enables our operators to determine whether a subject in custody has possible terrorist links in the U.S. or abroad or is likely to pose a threat to U.S. forces.
Members of HRT are special agents who must pass a challenging two-week selection process and arduous six-month training course. The team is supported by intelligence, logistics, and technical operations squads that are also staffed by special agents and professional and support personnel. Assignment to HRT requires a significant personal commitment. The daily training tempo is rigorous, and there is frequent travel for training and operations.
In 2007, the Bureau initiated its Tactical Recruiting Program to identify and increase the potential number of candidates for the team. About 80 percent of HRT candidates already have tactical proficiencies from police work or military training. Once identified, candidates enter the Bureau as field agents and serve two to three years before trying out for the team. The recruiting program has brought in 150 tactically experienced agents to the Bureau, and approximately 10 percent of them are currently HRT members. Not all agents brought into the program serve on the team—many instead serve on the SWAT team. In all, there are currently more than 1,200 SWAT and HRT personnel in the FBI.
The Hostage Rescue Team
Part 1: 30 Years of Service to the Nation
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT)
All 56 FBI field offices have a Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, team. Becoming SWAT-certified is a highly competitive process, and team members must pass rigorous fitness tests and be expert marksmen in addition to carrying out their regular investigative duties as special agents.
SWAT teams can storm barricaded buildings and vehicles; breach locks and other structures; arrest
armed and dangerous criminals; rescue hostages; patrol areas and provide security; navigate tough terrain by climbing and rappelling; use special techniques to stop fleeing cars; and conduct site surveys for special events. The teams are highly trained and heavily equipped, with expertise in a variety of weapons, including pistols, assault and sniper rifles, and shotguns.
The SWAT Operations Unit (SOU) within CIRG provides program management for the Bureau’s SWAT program. This includes research and development of SWAT tactics, equipment, procedures, and training and enables standardization for field office SWAT teams to support each other as part of a nationally-tiered response structure. SOU also provides planning assistance and oversight during multiple-office deployments.
CIRG’s Tactical Section ensures that the Bureau has full-time tactical capabilities ready to rapidly deploy in response to critical incidents. An integral part of this tactical component is the Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU). The unit—which has the motto Pax Per Conloquium “Resolution Through Dialog”—provides program management and training to the approximately 300 Bureau negotiators located in FBI field divisions. Negotiators also routinely provide assistance to state and local police negotiators.
In addition, subject matter experts within the CNU deploy domestically with the Hostage Rescue Team to manage negotiation assets at the scene of major sieges, crises, and critical incidents. CNU also provides support to FBI legal attachés responding to overseas hostage and kidnapping matters involving Americans by providing targeted assessments and strategies. In fact, the FBI is considered the negotiation arm of the U.S. government for international incidents.
Tactical aviation assets are managed through the Tactical Helicopter Unit (THU). The unit uses a variety of helicopters to support HRT and the field SWAT teams. THU’s pilots are trained to fly in various environments and weather conditions. Their mission profiles include arrest and assault force delivery, medical evacuation, vehicle interdiction, and other profiles supporting tactical operations.
Training, logistics, intelligence, and communications also play an integral part in supporting tactical operations. The Tactical Support and Intelligence Unit’s (TSIU) mission is to provide operators with the necessary support and equipment to successfully complete operations. In addition, analysts are available to coordinate specific collection activities during operational deployments and to provide timely information to deployed personnel. The Operations and Training Unit (OTU) provides oversight for all the FBI’s tactical assets by coordinating training programs to maintain the core skills necessary to support the Bureau’s tactical mission. OTU also provides operational support to HRT and the field SWAT program.