The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosivesí
National Integrated Ballistic Information Network Program
Audit Report 05-30
Office of the Inspector General
In 1993, the ATF established its computerized ballistics imaging system called CEASEFIRE and later renamed the program as the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS). Initially, the IBIS compared only marks on bullets. The system was later expanded to compare marks on cartridge casings as well. Approximately 103 law enforcement agencies participated in the IBIS program.
Also in 1993, the FBI established a computerized ballistics imaging system called DRUGFIRE. DRUGFIRE compared only marks on cartridge cases, but was later expanded to compare marks on bullets. Approximately 171 law enforcement agencies participated in the DRUGFIRE program.
Because the ATF’s IBIS system and the FBI’s DRUGFIRE system contained different firearms records, some federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies used both systems. Because of the inefficiency for the users of the systems and because the two systems were duplicative, in 1997 the ATF and the FBI signed an MOU in which they agreed to make the two systems compatible. As a result, in 1997 the NIBIN program was established to consolidate the two systems. Recognizing that it was not technologically feasible to combine the two systems into one, the ATF and the FBI directed their efforts to making the two systems interoperable so that users of one system could have access to the firearms records of the other. However, the attempt to achieve interoperability raised some technological difficulties. The ATF and the FBI worked with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a standard for interoperability and to develop and oversee interoperability conformance tests. Although progress was made to achieve the interoperability of DRUGFIRE and IBIS, it was ultimately decided to unify the system by using only one type of ballistics imaging system. After evaluating the two systems, the ATF and the FBI agreed to establish a unified system by using: (1) the IBIS equipment used by the ATF; and (2) the secure, high-speed telecommunications network used by the FBI. In December 1999, the ATF and the FBI entered into a new MOU for joint agency implementation of the NIBIN program.
The two agencies’ efforts resulted in the development and maintenance of a single system used by law enforcement agencies to collect and store digital images of firearms evidence. Through the NIBIN program, IBIS equipment was deployed to a total of 231 state and local law enforcement agencies for their use in imaging and comparing crime firearms evidence.
Until October 2003, the FBI was responsible for the establishment, maintenance, and funding of the high-speed integrated, nationwide network that connected the NIBIN program equipment. In addition, the FBI was responsible for generating and disseminating statistical and activity reports regarding the network communication system. In October 2003, after realizing that having two agencies responsible for different aspects of the same national program was an ineffective management arrangement, the FBI relinquished its network responsibilities and authority to the ATF. The FBI’s role in NIBIN, other than that of a participating partner under the NIBIN program, ceased. Consequently, the ATF became solely responsible for all aspects of the NIBIN program.