The Role and Mission of the U.S. Marshals

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The United States Marshals Service (USMS), also often referred to as the Nation’s Police Force, was America’s first federal law enforcement agency, its history dating back to 1789. Although this agency’s goals, programs, and services have changed and transformed over the years, its vision as the law enforcement arm of the Department of Justice has never been muddled.

The USMS is responsible for protecting our judicial process by:

  • Providing federal judiciary security
  • Apprehending fugitives
  • Apprehending non-compliant sex offenders
  • Securing and transporting federal prisoners
  • Executing federal court orders
  • Seizing and managing assets that were obtained illegally
  • Providing safety to endangered government witnesses and their families

The USMS achieves the above goals by collaborating with a number of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as concerned and active members of the community.

What is a U.S. Marshal?

U.S. marshals are federal law enforcement professionals serving the USMS. Their role and job duties are dependent upon the program/task force in which they work, or the position they hold within the USMS:

Fugitive Investigations – In fiscal year 2012, the USMS apprehended more than 36,000 federal fugitives and cleared nearly 40,000 felony warrants. USMS agents, through USMS-led fugitive task forces, arrested more than 86,000 state and local fugitives and cleared more than 114,000 state and local felony warrants. In addition to serving as the lead agency for 60 interagency fugitive task forces throughout the country, the USMS has a number of programs and task forces in place to further its mission of fugitive investigations:

  • 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Program
  • Major Case Fugitive Program
  • USMS Gang Enforcement
  • Sex Offenders Branch (includes the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act)
  • Criminal Information Branch
  • Financial Surveillance Unit

Asset Forfeiture Program – The USMS manages and sells seized and forfeited assets and uses the proceeds generated to compensate victims, support community programs, and fund law enforcement initiatives. The USMS manages a number of assets, including real estate, vehicles, cash, financial instruments, jewelry, art, antiques, aircraft, and vessels. The USMS managed $2.4 billion worth of assets in 2013, which included more than 23,000 items. During the same period, the USMS distributed $1.5 billion to victims of crime and claimants.

Judicial Security – The USMS’s Judicial Security Division ensures the safe and secure conduct of all judicial proceedings by protecting jurors, federal judges, and other members of the federal judiciary. U.S. marshals are responsible for anticipating and deterring threats to the judiciary and employing the most advanced protective techniques. The Judicial Security Division is divided into two program areas, including:

  • Judicial Operations – Serves as a collection of national programs, including the National Center for Judicial Security, the Office of Protective Operations, the Office of Protective Intelligence, and the Office of Management and Administration
  • Judicial Services – A national program that has oversight for programs funded by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts court security appropriation, which include: the Court Security Officer program, the Office of Court Security, the Office of Security Systems, and the office of Financial Management and Administration

Managing and Transporting Prisoners – The USMS system for transporting prisoners and criminal aliens is called the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), which is one of the largest transporters of prisoners in the world. JPATS handles nearly 800 requests daily (more than 280,000 per year) to move prisoners between correctional institutions, judicial districts, and foreign countries. It also provides regular, international flights for the removal of illegal aliens and is the only government-operated, regularly scheduled passenger airline in the country.4

U.S. marshals working through JPATS are referred to as Aviation Enforcement Officers (AEO) and Detention Enforcement Officers (DEO). The USMS also houses and transports all prisoners in federal custody.

Witness Security – The USMS operates the federal Witness Security Program (often referred to as the Witness Protection Program). This program is designed to provide for the security, safety and health of government witnesses and their family members whose lives may be in danger due to cooperation with the U.S. government. The USMS provides 24-hour protection to all witnesses when they are in a high-threat environment, such as during pretrial conferences and court appearances. They also provide witnesses and their families with new identities and assistance regarding housing, living expenses, and medical care. Since the program’s inception in 1971, the USMS has provided protection to more than 8,500 witnesses.

The Ongoing Mission of the U.S. Marshals Service

The best way to understand the role and mission of the U.S Marshal Service is to examine their strategic plan. The USMS’s 2012 Strategic Plan outlines this agency’s strategic goals over the next four years based on resource investment, operational performance, congressional legislation and executive mandates, and its broad role and mission authority. They include:

  • Protect the judicial process through the most effective and efficient means: Includes ensuring that the USMS has the best intelligence, behavioral and threat analysis, risk assessment methodologies, and solutions as to combat the newest technological advancements; maximizing intelligence by establishing a more centralized court family and witness intelligence programs; and continuously seeking to improve the effectiveness of facility security operations, which will include a business process re-engineering effort
  • Strengthen the effectiveness of domestic and international investigations: Includes concentrating its efforts on fugitive apprehension, which involves developing a set of National Standard Operating Procedures to enhance the effectiveness of all fugitive apprehensions; protecting America’s children through the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 and promoting effective communication between law enforcement and personnel; and expanding upon its successful asset forfeiture program.
  • Optimize national detention operations: Includes developing business practices that focus on cost effectiveness and safe, secure and humane confinement and transportation
  • Promote officer safety and provide effective support during domestic and international emergencies: Includes mitigating risk to personnel and law enforcement partners through a review of policies, procedures, and training and developing a consistent, standardized approach
  • Ensure professionalism, accountability, and promote innovation: Includes obtaining and maintaining the right workforce composition with the right number of staff in the right locations and developing core competencies in all mission areas
  • Develop a strong and efficient operating infrastructure by modernizing business processes and systems: Includes building an infrastructure that includes efficient business practices, modern information technology systems, and compliant financial systems

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