Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Explosives Investigations (2011-23)
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Homeland Security/Law Enforcement: Explosives Investigations (2011-23)

The Department of Justice plans actions to reduce overlap in explosives investigations, but monitoring is needed to ensure successful implementation.

Action:

Continually monitoring the actions planned by the Department of Justice (Justice); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in four areas of explosives investigations—including jurisdiction, explosives training, shared explosives databases, and laboratories—could help Justice ensure the successful implementation of those actions to reduce duplication and overlap and to improve coordination.

Progress:

Executive branch action has been taken in each of the four identified areas where duplication and redundant efforts needed to be addressed.

Jurisdiction:To address jurisdictional disputes in explosives investigations, as of May 2011, Justice created a National Explosives Task Force where ATF and FBI are co-located in headquarters. This task force monitors explosives investigations, may determine the lead agency in investigations when there is uncertainty among field agents, and ensures that ATF and FBI are coordinating.

Training:To address fragmentation in the explosives training provided by ATF and FBI, the two agencies created a joint curriculum for their post-blast training as of May 2011. According to ATF and FBI, the new curriculum has resulted in both agencies providing consistent information to the agents and state and local bomb squads whom they train. They are also considering creating other joint curriculums in areas such as homemade explosives.

Explosive database:To ensure that both agencies are aware of explosives incidents, ATF released a more user friendly version of the Bomb and Arson Tracking System—an explosives incident reporting system—in May 2011. Both ATF and FBI have issued new protocols requiring agents to enter explosives incidents into the Bomb and Arson Tracking System. In addition, both the ATF and FBI are requiring that all explosives incidents be reported to their respective Strategic Information Operation Centers (SIOC). The SIOCs will notify each other when an incident is reported. In addition, explosives incidents are also reported to the National Explosives Task Force. According to ATF and FBI, these multiple reporting mechanisms ensure that both ATF and FBI are aware of all explosives incidents and that the incidents are entered in the Bomb and Arson Tracking System.

Explosive laboratories:To better leverage their explosives forensic capabilities, according to officials, ATF and FBI laboratories meet on a regular basis to discuss options where coordination can be increased. According to ATF and FBI officials, both laboratories are at capacity but they have agreed to use a joint lab information management system and joint training of laboratory staff. Justice plans to lay out implementation steps during fiscal year 2012.

Additionally, according to ATF and FBI officials, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General meets regularly with ATF and FBI to monitor their progress and address any potential concerns. This coordination is important to help ensure that the above improvements are sustained.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Justice
  • portrait of
    • Eileen Larence
    • Director, Homeland Security and Justice
    • larencee@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-8777