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The Federal Bureau of Prisons'
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers

Report No. 02-30
August 2002
Office of the Inspector General


Department of Justice (Department) components maintain a large inventory of property, such as weapons and laptop computers, that could result in danger to the public or compromise national security or law enforcement investigations if not properly controlled.† In March 2001, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited the Immigration and Naturalization Serviceís (INS) management of its property and found, among other things, that the INS did not have adequate controls over weapons and computers.† In particular, the audit noted that INS had categorized more than 500 weapons as lost, missing, or stolen.† After that audit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) disclosed that many weapons and laptops were missing from its inventory.†

In response to concerns about the Departmentís accountability for its weapons and laptops, the Attorney General asked the OIG to conduct audits of the controls over the inventory of such property throughout the Department.† The OIG therefore conducted separate audits of the controls over weapons and laptop computers at the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).1† The OIG will issue separate reports on the audits of each of these components, and a capping report describing the results from all of the audits.† This report covers the audit in the BOP.†

At the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2001, the BOP had approximately 33,400 personnel assigned to about 135 offices and institutions throughout the country.† As of August 27, 2001, the BOP identified an inventory of approximately 20,600 weapons and 2,700 laptop computers that assist it in performing its mission. †Our audit objectives were to determine the adequacy of:† (1) management controls over these types of equipment, and (2) actions taken in response to the identification of lost and stolen weapons and laptop computers.

The BOPís automated property management system could not identify the number of weapons and laptop computers that had been lost or stolen in FY 2000 and FY 2001 because the system did not distinguish these items from property disposed of by donation, destruction, or other means until sometime during FY 2001.† The BOP database reported a total of 705 weapons and laptop computers that were disposed of during FY 2000 and FY 2001.† We obtained documentation from BOP facilities to identify the method of disposal for each of the 705 disposals and found that 27 laptop computers and 2 weapons had been lost or stolen from the BOP during the two-year period under review.† In our judgment, the small number of missing weapons can be attributed to the fact that the majority of BOP weapons are in controlled weapons armories and are not assigned to individuals.†

Although the number of missing and stolen items was small in relationship to the total universe of weapons and laptop computers in the BOP, our audit evidence suggests that controls over weapons and laptop computers could be improved. †Our audit revealed deficiencies in policies and practices related to lost and stolen equipment, and property management procedures related to the automated property management system, purchases, receipt and assignment, and disposals as described below.

Weapons Specific

Laptop Computers Specific

Weapons and Laptop Computers General

As a result of these issues, we made 17 specific recommendations that address the reported matters.† Generally, they include developing and implementing policies, procedures, and regulations to increase the accountability for weapons and laptop computers; issuing advisories to responsible officials and employees; enhancing the property database structure; improving receiving operations; and addressing certain needs specific to the sites we reviewed.† The details of our findings are contained in the Findings and Recommendations section of the report.† Additional information about our audit objectives, scope, and methodology is contained in Appendix I.


  1. Since we completed an audit of the INSís management of its property in March 2001, we did not include the INS in this review of weapons and laptop computers.† We will, however, incorporate the results of the March 2001 audit in the capstone report.† We did not audit the Departmentís litigating components because they had very few weapons, and we found that additional audit work was not warranted.

  2. NCIC is a nationwide criminal justice information system maintained by the FBI that provides the criminal justice community with immediate access to information on weapons, missing persons, vehicles, license plates, and criminal history records.