Return to the USDOJ/OIG Home Page

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers

Report No. 02-27
August 2002
Office of the Inspector General



This section of the report examines the management controls employed by the FBI over weapons and laptop computers.  We assessed the FBI’s compliance with OMB Circular A-12343 and Federal Property Management Regulations, as well as Department and FBI guidance.  Our discussion addresses the following topics: Physical Inventories; Purchases; Receipt and Assignment; Pooled Property; Specialized Equipment and Rapid Mobilization Teams; Separated Employees; and Disposals. 

Physical Inventories

Our most significant finding in the area of management controls involves physical inventories of accountable property.  We found that the FBI had not completed a full physical inventory of accountable property since sometime before 1993.  According to information provided by the FBI: 

The failure to complete these physical inventories was contrary to the FBI’s own policy.  The FBI’s Accountable Property Manual states, "the FBI performs physical inventories of all property every two years."46  The MAOP states more explicitly "each division must conduct a physical inventory of issued personal property assigned to their employees during February of every odd-numbered year." 47

The 2001 biennial inventory began on June 27, 2001, with an initial deadline for completion of September 30, 2001.  However, as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that deadline was extended generally to November 15, 2001, and for some offices until December 17, 2001.48  The final phase of the inventory, the inventory of issued personal property, was completed as of March 31, 2002.  Since this was after the conclusion of our fieldwork, we were able to make only limited use of the results in our audit; we note, however, that the inventory disclosed that 423 functional weapons, 158" red handles," and 310 laptop computers were lost or stolen (See Appendix VII for our summary of the results of this inventory).

The auditors who performed the FBI’s annual financial statement audits have reported material weaknesses in procedures and management controls over property and equipment.  For example, FBI procedures and controls do not provide adequate assurance that:

In our judgment, the chronic failure to complete physical inventories of accountable property greatly undermined the FBI’s ability to manage its assets.  We recognize that the volume of accountable property in an organization the size of the FBI makes regular inventories difficult to accomplish, but it is precisely this volume that makes regular inventories essential for effective property management.

Items Tested

Our audit testing included an evaluation of the controls over property management activities specifically related to weapons and laptop computers at FBI Headquarters and four field locations.  In addition, we tested, on a sample basis, the accuracy and reliability of the FBI property records.  The universe of weapons and laptop computers for the locations audited is displayed in Appendix VI, Table 1.  In total, we reviewed 884 items, as summarized in the following table and detailed in Appendix VI, Table 2.

  FBI Headquarters50 Denver Jacksonville Los Angeles New Haven TOTALS
WEAPONS 135 88 95 80 56 454
LAPTOP COMPUTERS 281 31 38 35 45 430
TOTALS 416 119 133 115 101 884



The purchase of all new weapons is controlled in the Firearms Training Unit (FTU) at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.  The FTU requisitions new weapons, which are purchased by Procurement Officers in the Property Procurement and Management Section of the Finance Division.  After receiving and verifying new weapons, the FTU sends the invoice package to the Commercial Payments Unit of the Finance Division for payment.

Upon delivery, the FTU receives the weapons, tests them, and enters them into the PMA, which is the official property management system for the FBI.51  The FTU also prepares an index card containing additional information beyond that in the PMA, such as the repair history of each weapon.

The FTU issues weapons to new Special Agents upon graduation from the Training Academy or transfers the weapons to the appropriate division or field office.

Our review of the FBI’s purchasing of weapons did not disclose any deficiencies.  We judgmentally selected 20 disbursements for the purchase of weapons since October 1, 1999, and we traced all the purchases to the accounting system.  The disbursements related to the purchase of 5,023 weapons.  For each disbursement reviewed, we selected up to five serial numbers of weapons and traced them to the PMA.52  We traced a total of 80 weapons and noted no discrepancies.

Laptop Computers

The purchase of laptop computers is decentralized.  New laptop computers may be purchased through FBI Headquarters or locally by field offices.  Field offices can generate their own purchase orders for laptop computers if the aggregate cost is $10,000 or less; in some instances, field offices use a Government-issued credit card to purchase computers if the cost is $2,500 or less.

Unlike weapons, which are all received initially at a central point, laptop computers may be shipped either to FBI Headquarters or to a field office.  However, payment for the laptop computers is centralized in the Commercial Payments Unit of the Finance Division at FBI Headquarters.

The Supply Technician for the receiving office has the responsibility of ensuring that new laptop computers are entered into the PMA.  According to FBI officials, the procedure for ensuring that all purchased property is entered into the PMA is entirely paper-driven.  The Supply Technician generally relies on receipt of a copy of the receiving report and purchase documents.  If the documents are misdirected, lost, or not submitted, the property might not be entered into the PMA.  Further, property system data for non-capitalized accountable property is not manually reconciled with purchase data from the accounting systems.

Our review of the purchases of laptop computers identified one deficiency.  From each of the 34 disbursements reviewed, we selected at least 5 serial numbers of laptop computers and attempted to trace them to the PMA.  Of the resulting 225 items selected, the serial numbers for 11 (5 percent) were not found in the PMA.53  In our judgment, the consequences of this omission are potentially serious because any accountable items not listed in the PMA could be lost or stolen and no inventory record would exist.

Reconciliation to Financial System

We determined that the FBI’s financial system was not fully integrated with the PMA.  As a result, the financial and property management systems did not automatically verify whether the number of items actually purchased agreed with the number of items placed into inventory.  Because the reconciliation was not performed for non-capitalized property at the financial management level,54 the property management system must rely on accounting information at the individual transaction level to ensure accuracy.  At the time of our review, there was no requirement to ensure information was shared between the two systems.

The absence of this reconciliation control procedure decreases the level of reliability of the data in the property system, since the property system relies on non-accounting information and on the initiative of the property manager to determine what property was purchased.  In our judgment, the reconciliation between the property and financial systems should be performed of weapons and laptop computers expensed in the financial system to ensure the accuracy of both systems.  This reconciliation is consistent with the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP) Property Management Systems Requirements, which includes the property management system as part of an organization’s overall financial management system.  The JFMIP states that the goal of all system interfaces is to facilitate the reconciliation between property management and financial systems to ensure data accuracy.

Receipt and Assignment


A document prepared by the FTU states that the FBI obtains firearms through:  (1) direct purchase; (2) seizures and disposal actions by federal courts; (3) the Defense Re-utilization Management Office; (4)" riding" other federal agency contracts; (5) direct transfers from other federal agencies; and (6) other means authorized by the General Services Administration.

Newly ordered weapons are delivered to the FTU at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, VA.  At the FTU, the weapons are physically verified against the packing slip to assure that the serial numbers match.  A Supply Technician then enters the weapons into inventory by:  (1) preparing a 5 x 7 index card including the make, model, caliber, manufacturer, serial number, date of receipt, purchase order number, and price; (2) proofing the index card against the packing slip to assure that the index card was correctly prepared; (3) assigning FBI barcode numbers to each weapon and noting the barcode number on the index card; and (4) entering the weapons in the PMA. 

Regarding the assignment of weapons to individual employees, FBI policy states," All Bureau property such as credentials, badges, weapons, clothing, etc., issued and in the possession of an FBI employee must be maintained on the Bureau Personnel Management System, Issued Personal Property (IPP) System and Form FD-281, Receipt of Government Property, must be executed."55 

Our review of the receipt and assignment of weapons did not identify any significant deficiencies in this area. 

Laptop Computers

Laptop computers are generally shipped directly from the vendor to the requesting office.  The process for receiving new laptop computers includes matching the data on the packing slip to the purchase order and invoice.  The end user and a supervisor sign the invoice to verify the number of laptop computers received.  The signed invoice, packing slip, and receiving report are then sent to the Commercial Payments Unit at FBI Headquarters for payment.  Supply Technicians at the appropriate Headquarters Division or Field Office enter new laptop computers in the PMA.

Several provisions of the MIOG govern the assignment of laptop computers to employees:

At the four field locations reviewed, the Supply Technicians or Principal Firearms Instructors used secondary systems to track items that were under their control on a day-to-day basis.  The secondary systems included automated spreadsheets, database applications, and written lists.  We were informed that these secondary systems were used to track individual assignments, make immediate changes to an item’s specific location, and enter additional information as needed to manage and track the property.

Accuracy of Property Records

To test the accuracy and completeness of the property records, we verified the existence of selected weapons and laptop computers appearing in the PMA.  In addition, we selected a sample of weapons and laptop computers found at each location reviewed and traced them to the PMA.  In total, we physically inspected 374 weapons and 205 laptop computers, as shown in the following table, and found no discrepancies.  Further details of our sample, by property type, location, and type of test appear in Appendix VI, Tables 3 and 4.

  FBI Headquarters Denver Jacksonville Los Angeles New Haven TOTALS
WEAPONS 55 88 95 80 56 374
LAPTOP COMPUTERS 56 31 38 35 45 205
TOTALS 111 119 133 115 101 579

Armory Weapons

At each of the sites audited, the Principal Firearms Instructor was responsible for unassigned weapons that were available for special assignment or issuance as needed.  These weapons were physically secured either in a vault, in a cage within a vault, or in a separate armory building.  Physical safeguards such as alarms, numeric keypads, and combination locks were used to limit access to the physical area and to secure the weapons.  According to FBI policy, pooled weapons are temporarily assigned to individuals using the hand receipt system.

However, our work at Los Angeles disclosed that until late in 1998 the Field Office had relied on an" honor" system for charging weapons out from the armory.  Although Special Agents must now sign for such weapons, we believe that the prior reliance on the" honor" system contributed to the FBI’s inability to locate weapons.57

Complicating the situation in Los Angeles, a Principal Firearms Instructor (PFI) who retired in 1997 kept records using an informal system that relied on loose scraps of paper.  Consequently, his successors had considerable difficulty in determining the whereabouts of field office weapons.  As of March 1998, the successor PFI could not account for 150 weapons.  After a thorough inventory, the number of missing weapons was reduced from 150 to 16, 2 of which were referred to OPR to determine whether an OPR investigation should be initiated.  According to the Los Angeles Field Office, the loss of the remaining 14 weapons was" entirely attributable to the negligence of former PFI [name] and his superiors, all of whom are now retired." 

During the period from October 1, 1999 through January 31, 2002, a total of 105 of the 212 missing weapons were either lost or stolen from field office armories nationwide.  We determined that none of those losses were reported to the OPR because OPR generally does not conduct an inquiry if there is no realistic likelihood of identifying a current employee as the subject.

Pooled Laptop Computers

Each of the offices we audited had pooled laptop computers.  According to the Supply Technicians, the process for temporarily issuing the laptop computers using hand receipts was the same as for the pooled weapons.  Like weapons, the laptop computers were stored in controlled space.  Our review did not disclose any significant problems with pooled laptop computers at the offices we audited.

Specialized Equipment and Rapid Mobilization Teams

The FBI has a Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), which is a tactical unit housed near the Training Academy in Virginia.  The FBI also has a Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), based in Quantico, VA, and SWAT teams assigned to each field office.  Special weapons, such as MP-5 submachine guns and .45 caliber pistols, are assigned to the various offices, which issue them to individual team members by means of a hand receipt.  The local Principal Firearms Instructor (PFI) controls weapons maintained in the armory, while the individual Special Agents are responsible for the custody and storage of issued weapons in their possession. 

At the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, we tested controls over weapons assigned to the HRT and found no discrepancies.

Separated Employees

The process for separating employees from the FBI includes an exit interview with the employee’s supervisor and completion of certain forms.  FBI procedures call for the supervisor to review the PMA printout for the employee and recover all issued property listed on that document.

In addition, the supervisor is supposed to complete a Report of Exit and Separation (Form FD-193) and a Receipt for Government Property (Form FD-281).  The Form FD-193 documents a variety of actions that must be completed upon separation of an employee, including the following (See Appendix XIII).

The Form FD-281 is used for both receiving and returning government property.  The portion of the form used for documenting the return of property has lines enumerating several items, including" Laptop Computer [Number]."  However, we noted that the FD-281 does not have a space for documenting the return of weapons. 

We judgmentally selected for review the files of 98 separated employees to determine whether all their assigned weapons and laptop computers were returned.58  We found one discrepancy.

We also found other indications that the FBI might not be recovering all issued weapons from employees before separation.

An incident that happened in July 2001 resulted in adverse publicity for the FBI.  The FBI could have averted this adverse publicity if it had exercised greater care in the recovery of issued weapons from the family of a deceased Special Agent.

Two FBI Weapons Recovered from Scene of an Accidental Shooting

Two FBI-issued handguns were recovered, together with a personally owned handgun, from the scene of an accidental shooting in Prince William County, Virginia, in July 2001.  All three firearms were formerly assigned to a deceased Special Agent. The personally owned weapon had been used in the shooting and all three weapons had been stolen from the residence of the deceased Special Agent.  The following chronology is based on information in FBI records and the local police report.

The loss of the two FBI weapons could have been prevented if the Special Agent who went to the residence of the decedent had with him a complete and current list of the late Special Agent’s issued property.



Excess firearms, which are generally obsolete, are destroyed.  The division or field office possessing an excess weapon initiates a" Declaration of Excess" form and an" Excess Property Detail Report," both of which are PMA transactions, plus a" Transfer Order – Excess Personal Property" (Standard Form 122) to transfer the weapon to the FTU.  The FTU notifies the Property Management Unit (PMU), which can authorize the FTU to proceed with the destruction.  Groups of approximately 500 excess weapons are transported from the FTU’s location in Quantico, VA, to a foundry where they are melted down in a process witnessed by FBI agents.  The FTU then submits a" Requirements And Certification For Cannibalization And Destruction Of Equipment" (Form FD-519) to the PMU, which updates the PMA to reflect the destruction. 

Our audit determined that the existing management controls over the destruction of weapons were well defined and carefully followed.  Therefore, we limited our testing to 10 weapons from 547 listed on a Form FD-519 dated May 31, 2001, and we confirmed that the PMA accurately reflected their status as destroyed.

Laptop Computers

Field offices initiate the disposal of excess laptop computers by entering a" Declaration of Excess" and an" Excess Property Detail Report" into the PMA and by submitting a Form FD-519 to the Property Management Unit (PMU) at FBI Headquarters.  The PMU authorizes donation or destruction of the laptop computers, as appropriate.

The destruction of defective or obsolete laptop computers involves taking certain measures to prevent the loss of sensitive information.  The MIOG states,

A policy statement issued August 8, 1997, further states," Before any hard drive can be released from FBI controlled space, it must be sent to FBIHQ to be degaussed."

At FBI Headquarters, we obtained a list of laptop computers excessed since October 1, 1999 and we tested a judgmental sample of ten.  We traced them to the PMA and/or the Forms FD-519, and confirmed they had been excessed.  However, the documentation provided to us did not address the subject of classified information and, consequently, did not establish that the computers in question were free of classified information.  For all sites where we audited, both at FBI Headquarters and in the field, the available documentation did not establish that the hard drives had been properly destroyed.  Responsible officials at each of those locations told us they believed that excess laptop computers and hard drives had been properly disposed of. However, the available records did not document their disposal and/or destruction.

For example, at the New Haven field office, we could not determine if all hard drives had been removed from obsolete or excess laptop computers.  We found evidence that some laptop computers had been destroyed, but there was no documentation to show that the hard drives were removed and forwarded to FBI Headquarters.  We did observe a number of hard drives in boxes kept in a secured area, but no record existed to trace those hard drives to any particular laptop computer.  Consequently, we cannot be certain that proper procedures were followed in the disposal of laptop computers and hard drives.


The FBI must strengthen the management controls over weapons and laptop computers.  A critical first step in that direction would be to adhere to the requirement to inventory accountable property every two years.  To strengthen the controls further, we believe that the FBI should inventory sensitive items, including weapons and laptop computers, annually.

The FBI must also improve the process of recovering property from employees before they leave government service.  Employees who cannot account for issued property when they leave the FBI should be subject to pecuniary liability for the missing item(s).

In the absence of sufficient documentation, we cannot determine whether excess laptop computers and components such as hard drives were destroyed according to FBI policy.  As a result, we cannot be sure that sensitive information was not compromised.  For this reason, the FBI must improve its documentation of the disposal of excess laptop computers and hard drives.


We recommend that the Director of the FBI:

  1. Ensure completion of future inventories of accountable property every two years.
  2. Annually inventory sensitive items, including weapons and laptop computers.
  3. Implement a policy to reconcile non-capitalized property between the financial and property systems to ensure that the number of items acquired agrees with the number of items placed into inventory.
  4. Strengthen the exit processing for separating employees to ensure that they turn in all issued property or reimburse the Government for any missing issued property.
  5. Improve the documentation of the destruction of excess laptop computers and hard drives.


  1. OMB Circular A-123 defines management controls as " the organization, policies, and procedures used by agencies to reasonably assure that . . . programs and resources are protected from waste, fraud, and mismanagement . . ..  A subset of management controls are the internal controls used to assure that there is prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the entity’s assets."  OMB Circular A-123, Management Accountability and Control, revised June 21, 1995, Attachment II," Definition of Management Controls".
  2. The percentage of completion is based on the number of items inventoried versus the total number of accountable property items on record.  For example, when the 1993 inventory was discontinued (in 1998), 270,910 items from a universe of 321,580 had been inventoried (84 percent).
  3. The information provided to us by the FBI does not explain why the 1999 physical inventory was discontinued in February 2001; however, we note that according to the MAOP the next required biennial physical inventory was due to begin in that month.
  4. Accountable Property Manual, p. 48, Section 14-4.
  5. MAOP, Section 6-10.2, paragraph (2) (a).
  6. The Boston, Newark, New York, and Washington field offices, as well as the Counterterrorism and Laboratory (Engineering Research Facility) Divisions received the longer extensions.
  7. OIG Audit Report 00-15, Federal Bureau of Investigation Annual Financial Statement, Fiscal Year 1999.  This finding was repeated in the financial statement audit for the following year.
  8. Including Quantico, VA.
  9. Our review of these activities found adequate segregation of duties among FTU staff members.
  10. We traced five weapons per disbursement unless fewer than five weapons were received, in which case we tested all weapons received.
  11. The 34 disbursements related to the purchase of 2,693 total laptop computers.
  12. For capitalized property, a reconciliation is performed between the financial system and the property system at the financial management level to determine the beginning and ending balances of ledger accounts, determine appropriate depreciation, and ensure the accuracy of the financial statements.  A detailed reconciliation is not performed at this level for non-capitalized property because non-capitalized property is expensed during the course of the fiscal year and becomes indistinguishable, for financial reporting purposes, from other expenses.
  13. MAOP, Part 2, Section 6-10.2.
  14. MIOG, Part 2, Section 35-9.4.6, paragraphs (2) and (3).
  15. A memorandum dated August 24, 2001, from the FTU indicated that other offices also relied on the" honor system"; however, the memorandum did not identify which offices.
  16. The FBI’s property assignment records showed that these 98 former employees had been issued a total of 164 weapons and 31 laptop computers.
  17. MIOG, Part II, Section 35-13.