Follow-Up Audit of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Forensic Science Laboratories Workload Management

Audit Report 06-15
March 2006
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix II
Department of the Treasury OIGís Findings
and Recommendations, and ATF Managementís Response

The following findings, recommendations, and management responses to the recommendations are extracted from the following Department of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General, audit report: CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT: ATF Forensic Science Laboratories Need to Improve Workload Management, Report Number OIG-01-068, April 30, 2001. The ATF’s response to the Treasury OIG report, which was included as Appendix 3 in the report, was dated March 27, 2001, and discussed management actions taken by the ATF as of that date.

Finding 1: Laboratories Did Not Always Provide Timely Service


  1. The ATF Director should ensure the laboratories are adequately staffed with qualified personnel.

  2. Management Comment. ATF management agreed the laboratories must be adequately staffed with qualified personnel. In response to this recommendation, ATF management:

    • authorized an increase in the full-time equivalent ( FTE) ceiling of Laboratory Services from 115 to 134 for FY 2001;

    • centralized all administrative personnel functions within the Office of the Director of Laboratory Services, in an effort to improve the laboratory recruiting process;

    • is making immediate use of available recruitment incentives, including bonuses and the Pay Demonstration Project, to attract and retain highly qualified personnel;

    • made a concerted effort to hire experienced personnel whose training period will be shorter, making them productive sooner; and

    • is reviewing the re-implementation of customer satisfaction cards, with a focus on how to capture the data being generated, and how to use it effectively to improve services.

    ATF management indicated its efforts have resulted in an overall reduction of backlog cases. Examination backlog was reduced 10 percent in FY 1999 and an additional 13 percent in FY 2000.

  3. The ATF Director should ensure laboratory managers coordinate the amount of outside work performed by laboratory personnel to limit the negative effect on the laboratory’s workload.

  4. Management Comment. ATF management indicated the duties of forensic chemists and examiners are not limited to examining cases and providing expert testimony on their findings. As technical experts, they are responsible for continuing their professional development through training and interaction with peers outside of ATF. They are also developing new methods of analysis: training others, both inside and outside the ATF; and providing assistance at significant crime scenes.

    To ensure laboratory personnel are only assigned outside work that is of strategic importance to their development or ATF’s mission, ATF management has:

    • coordinated all ATF-funded training requests to effectively allocate this workload laboratory-wide;

    • required all field division directors to submit requests for non-ATF funded training to the Director of Laboratory Services, which has significantly reduced the number of field divisions’ requests and ensured only the most important requests are forwarded;

    • required laboratory supervisors to evaluate all ATF requests for laboratory assistance at crime scenes (other than National Response Team call-outs) to ensure there is a valid need to send personnel into the field;

    • provided each field division with a list of cases that were one year old or older, as of May 1999, which resulted in 94 inactive cases being removed from the laboratories’ backlogs [ATF repeated this process in November 2000, and removed an additional 85 cases from the backlog];

    • committed to providing each field division with a list of all pending cases on a quarterly basis, which would help field division directors to better manage their operations and permit additional cases to be removed from the backlog; and

    • required employees to work closely with the courts to ensure their physical presence is absolutely required when they are asked to testify in the prosecution of individual cases.

    ATF management indicated these changes have reduced the number of days laboratory employees spend on outside work, as shown in the following chart:

    Types of Outside Duty FY 1998 FY 1999 FY 2000

    Testifying in Court




    Providing Assistance at Crime Scenes




    Providing Training








Finding 2: Laboratories Need to Prioritize Their Workload


  1. The Director of ATF needs to ensure the ATF develops a priority system for incoming evidence submissions which supports the ATF’s investigative priorities.

  2. Management Comment. ATF management indicated Field Operations officials are responsible for determining whether Special Agent service requests are in line with the ATF’s investigative priorities. However, Laboratory Services has taken steps to assist in this process by recommending a new priority system for forensic examinations. Laboratory Services developed this system by working jointly with agents, laboratory examiners, and a cross-section of the field divisions. The new priority system is one part of several proposed improvements, including a new Evidence Transmittal Form that could be completed electronically, and an Evidence Submission Checklist to be used by submitting Special Agents. These innovations were nearing completion and will soon be reviewed by Field Operations.

  3. The Director of ATF needs to ensure Special Agents provide adequate justification and obtain proper supervisory signatures before submitting evidence transmittal forms to the laboratories.

  4. Management Comment. The Director of Laboratory Services and the Assistant Director of Science and Technology met with the 23 field divisions’ directors in November 2000. At that time they discussed the following issues: (1) agents’ failures to include a Report of Investigation with evidence submissions, (2) cases being marked as expedite without evidence of supervisory review or proper justification, and (3) the mislabeling of evidence exhibits submitted. The field division directors indicated laboratory supervisors should contact agent supervisors immediately when any of the above issues were encountered. Laboratory supervisors were planning to follow up on this advice.

    Laboratory managers initiated two other actions in this fiscal year [2001] in their efforts to educate submitting agents. First, the Agents Guide To The ATF Laboratories: (1) is being distributed to all new agents training classes, (2) has been placed on the ATF Intranet, and (3) will be added to the upcoming edition of the ATF Reference Library CD-ROM. Second, laboratory managers have developed an advanced training program for agents regarding the collection and submission of evidence to the laboratory. It was scheduled to be held on-site at three divisions during FY 2001.

    Management believed that by improving procedures and providing more education to submitting agents, the laboratories would realize additional improvement in case turnaround times and ultimately, reduce case backlogs.

    Finally, the pending acquisition of a modern Laboratory Information Management System to replace the outdated FACETS will permit the automated, regular exchange of case information between agents and the laboratory. This will allow continuous updates in status and immediate notification of changes in priority.

Finding 3: Laboratories Need to Ensure Case File Management Controls are Followed


  1. The Director of ATF needs to ensure laboratory employees comply with all established case file management controls. All closed case files should contain evidence control cards and document the number of hours laboratory employees spent analyzing evidence and preparing laboratory reports.

  2. Management Comment. ATF management indicated the audit report correctly noted the laboratories were not complying with Laboratory Services Policies and Procedures Guidelines [Guidelines] in some instances. The [Guidelines] were written for the purpose of establishing standard best practices for laboratory operations. If the laboratories establish a new practice or improve a current practice, the [Guidelines] must be updated.

    As a result of the [Treasury] audit, the ATF has taken corrective action to ensure evidence control cards are placed in all case jackets promptly when laboratory reports are completed and cases are closed. They have also taken corrective action to ensure examiner hours are recorded. The ATF addressed adherence to this standard, and all other [Guidelines] in its annual internal review team audits of the three forensic science laboratories.

    In addition, ATF management indicated the acquisition of [a laboratory information management system] to replace the outdated FACETS will permit the development of accurate, meaningful reports that track examiner hours. The new [laboratory information management system] will also eliminate the complex flow of documents that is often the cause of incomplete files cited in the report.

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