For a complete list of federal law enforcement agencies employing federal agents, visit the Federal Law Enforcement Officer's Association (FLEOA) website
U.S. special agents and federal criminal investigators generally receive their basic training at one of two primary locations: the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), Glynco (Brunswick), Georgia; the FBI or DEA training facilities based in Quantico, Virginia. A third less commonly known training facility is the Career Development Division (CDD) of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service which based in Potomac, Maryland.
As one might assume, only DEA and FBI agents receive their basic training at Quantico. Because of their size and mission scope, the FBI and DEA operate completely self-contained academies that provide all levels of training to their agents. These academies make no distinction between "basic" and "agency-specific basic" training. New FBI and DEA agents train at their academies for almost four months before they begin their first investigative assignment. Both agencies' academies also provide advanced training in various subjects to other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. In fact, the FBI's National Academy is perhaps the most prominently recognized federal supplemental training resource for non-federal and non-U.S. law enforcement personnel throughout the world.
Although a much smaller agency than the FBI or DEA, USPIS also operates a self-contained federal law enforcement training academy. Like FLETC and Quantico, USPIS CDD has been fully accredited by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation (FLETA) Like the other academies, CDD provides basic training to postal inspectors in firearms, legal, use of force, driving training, crime scene management, controlled deliveries, felony arrests, case management, case development, informant management, surveillance, etc., but also incorporates "agency-specific basic" training to help prepare the USPIS candidates in enforcing postal laws and federal mail statues such as mail fraud, mail theft, and other mail related crimes. In additional to basic training, CDD also provides advanced training for the postal inspectors, the uniformed postal police personnel, and the analysts.
The FLETC, commonly pronounced flet-see, is a consolidated training facility that provides economical basic training to U.S. special agents and other federal law enforcement personnel not employed by the FBI, DEA or USPIS. The FLETC also provides advanced and specialized training for most federal, state, local, and non-U.S. law enforcement agencies willing to share in the cost. The FLETC's basic training course for special agents, the Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP) lasts about 13 weeks, depending on changes to program content or holidays. But CITP only represents the beginning or "basic" training received by U.S. special agents not employed by the FBI, DEA or USPIS.
After completing CITP, most agents immediately transition to training provided by their own agencies (hence the term "agency-specific basic" or "ASB"), lasting another 2 to 16 weeks and sometimes longer, depending on the agency. Some smaller agencies, like the 57 Offices of Inspector General (OIGs), operate consolidated academies, such as the Inspector General Criminal Investigator Academy (IGCIA), through which specialized but common ASB-type skills and knowledge are more economically taught. So agents employed by the OIGs first attend CITP, then attend the IGCIA's IG Investigator Training Program (IGITP), then attend their own agencies' ASB training after completing IGITP, receiving a total of up to 16 weeks or more of training before conducting their first investigation. Many of the agencies utilizing FLETC maintain their individual academies for providing ASB and agency-specific advanced training on the same grounds as FLETC and share use of the same facilities. Some agencies, such as the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Secret Service, conduct their ASB training in separate agency-owned and operated facilities.
For all U.S. special agents, training does not stop after basic and ASB. The career of a federal special agent is one of regular training in new legal issues and investigative techniques, and frequently includes quarterly, if not monthly, refresher training in hand-to-hand defensive tactics, the use of weapons of less than lethal force, and regular qualification in the use of firearms.
ATF, DEA, FBI, USSS, PFPA, USMS, and ICE special agents not only have the power to enforce all federal laws, but also applicable state & local laws, if so authorized by the state they are operating within. DCIS (Defense Criminal Investigative Service), NCIS, AFOSI, and USACIDC agents only investigate specific statues within the United States Code that they are authorized to do so; they are also tasked with enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a jurisdiction not held by most of the larger federal agencies. DCIS agents are civilian agents with statutory law enforcement authority. Other special agents, such as those employed by the National Park Service have jurisdiction over crimes committed within the boundaries of or have a nexus to the lands managed by their agency or department only.
While certain active duty Special Agents employed by the military do have broad authority, they cannot enforce all federal laws all the time. Most are restricted by law (such as the Posse Comitatus Act) and policy to police military establishments and can only operate outside these restrictions when the nexus of the violation they are investigating occurred on military controlled areas or there is a military connection.
Railroad Police and the term "Special Agent," along with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, were models for the FBI when it was created in 1907.
Several Native tribes also employ Special Agents as criminal investigators or gaming investigators and some are deputized as special federal officers of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In the popular sci-fi show the x-files the 2 lead characters Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are special agents with the FBI.