Report No. 02-31
Office of the Inspector General
In March 2001, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audited the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) management of property and found, among other things, that the INS did not have adequate controls over property, including weapons. In particular, the audit noted that the INS classified more than 500 weapons as lost, missing, or stolen. After that audit, the FBI began reviewing its weapons and laptop computers and reported that many were missing. In response to the concerns about the Department's accountability for its weapons and laptop computers, the Attorney General requested that the OIG review controls over this property throughout the Department of Justice (Department). This property is sensitive in nature and its loss could result in danger to the public or could compromise national security or law enforcement activities.
The OIG, therefore, individually audited and reported on the controls over weapons and laptop computers at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS), referred to collectively in this summary report as the components. In total, the components reported an inventory of about 150,000 weapons and 25,000 laptop computers.1 We examined the "life cycle" of this sensitive property at each component, ranging from purchase, receipt and assignment, physical inventories, loss reports and management response, return of equipment from separated employees, through the disposal of property. This capping report summarizes the findings of our individual component audits and analyzes the Department's actions related to accountability for weapons and laptop computers.2
Our audits revealed substantial losses of weapons and laptop computers - collectively, the five Department components reported 775 weapons and 400 laptop computers as lost, missing, or stolen.3
At a minimum, law enforcement officials recovered 18 of these weapons in connection with their investigation of illegal activity. For example:
- Local police recovered a handgun stolen from an FBI agent's residence in New Orleans, Louisiana, from the pocket of a murder victim;
- Police in Atlanta, Georgia, recovered a stolen DEA weapon during a narcotics search at a suspect's residence; and
- Police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Tampa, Florida, recovered INS weapons that were used to commit armed robberies.
We were unable to determine the types of information contained in the 400 lost laptop computers because the components generally did not record the sensitivity of the information stored on the lost laptops. For example, the classification level of at least 218 lost, missing, or stolen FBI laptop computers was unknown. Due to the nature of the intelligence and law enforcement work conducted by the components, however, it is possible that the missing laptop computers would have been used to process and store national security or sensitive law enforcement information that, if divulged, could harm the public.
COMPONENT EMPLOYEES, SENSITIVE PROPERTY, and LOSSES4
In sum, the Department reported a total of 775 missing weapons and 400 missing laptop computers during the audit periods. Apart from the INS and the FBI - who reported losses of 539 and 212 weapons, respectively - none of the three other Department components audited reported more than 16 missing weapons. With respect to laptop computers, the DEA could not provide us with the number of losses due to the unreliability of its data. The FBI reported 317 of its more than 15,000 laptop computers as missing while the USMS reported 56 of its 1,450 laptops as missing.
The Justice Management Division, the Department's administrative arm, established property management regulations that delegated property management responsibilities to the individual components. While these regulations establish minimum standards for component property management systems, they do not require Department oversight of component activities. In our judgment, the loss of 775 weapons and 400 laptop computers indicates a lack of accountability for sensitive Department property. Consequently, we believe that it is critically important for the Department to increase its oversight role in the management of sensitive property such as weapons and laptop computers at the components. Further, we believe that the Department must take action to tighten controls that are currently weak, inadequate, or not fully implemented.
At the conclusion of our audits at each component, we made specific recommendations for improving weapon and laptop computer accountability. For example, we recommended that the components integrate or reconcile their property management and accounting systems to ensure that all purchased weapons and laptop computers are accounted for. In addition, we recommended that the components complete physical inventories as required. These recommendations generally have been well received, and in many cases corrective actions are already underway.
Based on the weaknesses we found at the Department and component levels, we offer a series of recommendations in this summary report to strengthen controls over weapons and laptop computers in an effort to reduce future losses. We believe that the Department should:
- Consult with component heads to determine if the current ratios of weapons to employees are appropriate. We found that the ratio varied from .63 weapons per employee in the BOP to 4.44 weapons per employee in the FBI.
- Revise Department credit card directives to prohibit the use of government credit cards to purchase weapons. The BOP permitted its institutions and local offices to purchase weapons using credit cards.
- Develop and implement a standard security policy for securing weapons in vehicles to reduce the number of weapon losses. At least 59 weapons were reported stolen from vehicles.
- Ensure that all types of sensitive property are within the components' definition of "controlled property." We found that the INS and USMS both had sensitive property such as stun guns, stun belts, and laptop computers that were not encompassed within the current definition. As a result, these items were not subject to physical inventory and inclusion in the official property management records, thereby increasing their susceptibility to loss.
- Require the components to inventory weapons at least annually. In addition, the Department should require components to report on the status of their physical inventory activities. At the time our audit began in August 2001, the FBI had not completed a controlled property physical inventory since before 1993.
- Encourage components to take advantage of technological advances such as barcodes and scanning devices to enhance their management of sensitive property.
- Strengthen requirements for reporting loss of weapons and laptop computers by: (1) establishing deadlines for reporting loss of a weapon or laptop computer; (2) requiring inclusion of the loss discovery date and sensitivity of information stored on lost laptop computers; and (3) requiring timely reports of weapon and laptop computer losses to the National Crime Information Center.
- Tighten regulations requiring component review of the circumstances that caused the loss of weapons and laptop computers. A significant number of sensitive property losses have not been adjudicated by the components or reviewed in a timely manner. The timing of the reviews ranged from 6 to 588 days after losses were discovered. In addition, only 4 percent of the weapon losses and 17 percent of laptop losses have so far resulted in recommendations for disciplinary action.
- Revise the guidelines for retrieving sensitive property, such as weapons and laptop computers, from separated employees to ensure that all items are returned to component control. We found that current procedures were not effective in ensuring that these types of property were returned. In fact, in 2001 the FBI found that at least 31 weapons of separated agents could not be accounted for.
- Require that laptop computer disposal documents certify that all sensitive information has been removed before the computer is disposed. Our review of laptop computer disposal records at the components found that the majority of records at the BOP and FBI did not specify the contents of the machines or contain a certification that all sensitive information had been removed.
In conclusion, the Department's current guidelines and procedures do not provide assurance that sensitive property such as weapons and laptop computers are protected against waste, loss, and abuse. We believe it is imperative for the Department and the components to improve the accountability and control of its weapons and laptop computers to protect the public and the integrity of its law enforcement activities.
- Since the OIG audited the INS's management of property in March 2001, we did not include it in this special review of weapons and laptop computers. However, whenever possible the results of our INS audit are incorporated in this summary report. For example, the inventory of 150,000 weapons includes the INS, but because the INS audit did not specifically include laptop computers, the inventory of 25,000 items does not include the INS.
- It is important to note that our results for the different components reflect somewhat different time periods, as noted in Appendix I, because the components were not always able to provide information for specific cutoff dates. The BOP, DEA, and USMS audits cover weapons and laptop computers that were reported lost, missing, or stolen between October 1999 and August 2001. The FBI audit covers weapons and laptop computers that were reported lost, missing, or stolen between October 1, 1999 and January 31, 2002. Finally, the losses shown for the INS cover property lost over an extended period, as we reported in our INS audit.
- However, these numbers do not reflect an additional 211 weapons that the FBI identified as lost, missing, or stolen as a result of an inventory that it concluded on March 31, 2002. These additional weapons were reported missing outside the scope of our audit period, in some cases many years ago. Therefore, the number of missing FBI weapons we tested and report was smaller (212) than the total number of reported FBI losses (423). If we include those weapons, the total number of reported losses for the Department is 986. Finally, the 400 laptop computers represent losses at the FBI, BOP, and USMS. The DEA was unable to determine its laptop computer losses due to the unreliability of its inventory records. In addition, our audit at the INS did not include tests specific to laptop computer losses.
- The data appearing in this table were obtained from records provided by the components.
- These numbers refer to all personnel authorized to use weapons, whether categorized as a "special agent" or another title.
- According to the BOP, in the event of an emergency at a facility all employees who have completed firearms training (32,790) are required to respond.
- Due to the unreliability of its data, DEA was unable to provide us with the number of laptop computer losses it had incurred.
- The FBI's loss of 212 weapons represents all functional weapons reported as lost, missing, or stolen between October 1, 1999, and January 31, 2002, but does not include an additional 211 weapons that were reported lost, missing, or stolen outside the audit period. Also, while the FBI's inventory includes 3,039 training weapons, the reported 212 losses exclude lost or missing training weapons. According to the FBI's Firearms Training Unit, it is possible to restore some of these training weapons to "live-fire" capability. However, this would require the services of a skilled gunsmith and the acquisition of parts available only from the manufacturer or a licensed dealer.
- As discussed previously, our audit of INS property management did not include specific tests of laptop computers.