Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT)

Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT)


OPDAT was created in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in 1991 in response to the growing threat of transnational crime. OPDAT works with partner countries to develop and strengthen fair, just, and accountable justice sector institutions, to build strong international partners to combat transnational criminal activities, and to enhance and foster the administration of justice and rule of law consistent with international norms and standards. Its programs support the United States’ and the Department’s national security, law enforcement, and justice policy goals and priorities by assisting foreign counterparts in developing and implementing capabilities to address and combat terrorism, foreign terrorist fighters (FTF), terrorism financing, money laundering and economic crimes, organized crimes, corruption, cyber crime, intellectual property crimes, trafficking in persons, trafficking in narcotics, and other transnational criminal activities. It does so by encouraging legislative and justice sector reform in countries; assisting in legislative drafting; improving the skills of foreign prosecutors, investigators, and judges through case based mentoring, workshops and developmental programming; and by promoting the rule of law and regard for human rights.


OPDAT’s programs are funded through interagency agree¬ments between OPDAT and these United States Government partners:

  • U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • U.S. Department of Defense


OPDAT draws on USG and Department of Justice resources and expertise to strengthen foreign criminal justice sector institutions and enhance the administration of justice abroad. OPDAT programs are designed to strengthen the link between security sector assistance and tangible law enforcement and justice sector outcomes. Additionally, DOJ’s overseas operational and assistance engagements reinforce one another, consistent with USG national security objectives, so that the Department is able to use the full force of its authority and expertise to work with foreign governments in combating transnational crime, advancing security, and promoting human rights. Through OPDAT’s programs, partnerships are developed with foreign justice systems that in turn build capacity to achieve national security and justice sector outcomes.


The majority of OPDAT’s programs are implemented in country by Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs), who are experienced U.S. prosecutors attached to U.S. Embassies for at least one year, typically longer. With the assistance of their Foreign Service National staff, they assess host country criminal justice institutions and procedures; draft, review and comment on legislation and criminal enforcement policy; and provide technical assistance to host country officials at the Ministry of Justice, Chief Prosecutor’s Office, or to prosecutors, judges, and other justice sector personnel working in the field. OPDAT also deploys Intermittent Legal Advisors (ILAs), U.S. prosecutors who are on targeted assignments of less than a year. RLA and ILA programs are overseen by Headquarters regional teams. OPDAT currently has 60 RLAs and ILAs serving in 45 countries on bi-lateral and regional capacity building programs.

In addition to programs initiated in the field, OPDAT headquarters staff plan and implement state-specific and regional programs and workshops in countries without a RLA or ILA presence. These programs include the innovative Judicial Studies Institute which strengthens the judicial capacity throughout the Western Hemisphere, religious freedom programs that promote the protection of religious minorities, computer crime and intellectual property programs that work with partner governments to improve cyber security and the protection of private property, and strategic trade enforcement workshops that enhance the investigative and prosecutorial skills of foreign law enforcement agencies to prevent the proliferation of dangerous weapons and hazardous materials.


OPDAT focuses on long-term comprehensive, sustainable reform. It accomplishes this mission through the development of sound legislative frameworks and programming consistent with international standards and criminal justice instruments (e.g., UN Convention against Corruption). Programs are tailored to host countries’ legal infrastructures as well as international norms and standards. They are additionally delivered such that the capacity of the host country’s educational institutions for criminal justice and practitioner trainers are made central to the development effort, ensuring ongoing and lasting advances in the technical abilities of police, prosecutors, and judges. OPDAT coordinates these efforts with the U.S. interagency, the international donor community, and with relevant international experts.


OPDAT enjoys unique access to some of the most experienced criminal justice experts in the nation. The Department of Justice, with over 5,500 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and over 600 Criminal Division attorneys, provides a primary source of expertise. Depending upon the needs of the host country, OPDAT also coordinates with other Department of Justice components, including the National Security Division; Civil Rights Division; Antitrust Division; Office of Justice Programs; National Advocacy Center; Federal Bureau of Prisons; ATF; DEA; FBI; and U.S. Marshals Service. In addition, OPDAT can utilize the law enforcement expertise of other federal departments, such as Treasury, and Homeland Security, as well as state and local prosecutor offices. OPDAT also coordinates with the private bar, state and federal judiciaries, and professional organizations such as the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative. Further, OPDAT works collaboratively with international organizations, nongovernmental institutions, as well as international experts.


International Operations

  • Offices in 45 Countries, serving 33 bi-lateral assistance programs and 15 regional capacity building missions
  • 60 Resident and Intermittent Legal Advisors serving abroad and supported by approximately 70 locally employed staff

OPDAT Core Competencies

  • Criminal procedure code reform
  • Criminal justice sector institutional improvement
  • Task force development
  • Capacity building of foreign prosecutors, investigators, and judges
  • Promoting the rule of law and regard for human rights
  • Technical assistance in the following areas:
    • Counterterrorism and counterterrorist financing
    • Foreign terrorist fighters (FTF)
    • Computer crime and intellectual property protection
    • Human trafficking and child exploitation
    • Organized crime
    • Anti-corruption
    • Judicial independence
    • Money laundering and asset forfeiture
    • Counter-narcotics
    • Crime Victim Assistance and Advocacy
    • Mutual Legal Assistance / Extraditions
General Information -  Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training
Faye Ehrenstamm
Director, OPDAT
OPDAT Direct Line
(202) 514-1323
Department of Justice Main switchboard
(202) 514-2000