The U.S. Marshals Service's
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers

Report No. 02-29
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 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, which resulted in many INS weapons being lost 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 (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS).1† The OIG will issue separate reports on the audits of each of these components, and a capping report describing all the audits when they are completed.† This report covers the audit in the USMS.

The USMSís mission is to protect the federal courts and ensure the secure operation of the judicial system, including apprehending fugitives, protecting witnesses, and transporting prisoners.† As of January 2002, the agency had a total of 6,261 law enforcement personnel (3,443 of which are contract court security officers) throughout the United States and its territories.† As of August 28, 2001, the USMS identified an inventory of 14,361 weapons and 1,450 laptop computers that assist the USMS in performing its law enforcement mission.† Our audit objectives were to review the USMSís:† (1) actions taken in response to the identification of lost or stolen weapons and laptop computers, and (2) management controls over these types of equipment.

In brief, our audit revealed deficiencies in the USMSís policies and practices related to lost and stolen equipment.† In addition, we identified weaknesses in the property management cycle related to purchases, the return of equipment from separated employees, and physical inventories.† Specifically:

The details of the audit results are contained in the Findings and Recommendations section of the report.† Additional information on our audit objectives, scope, and methodology is contained in Appendix I.


  1. Since we had recently completed an audit of the INSís management of property in March 2001, we did not include the component in this review of weapons and laptop computers.