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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
forensic services utilized by the Secret Service include identification, forensic automation, polygraph, questioned documents, and visual information.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
The ATF Laboratories reside within DOJ. Currently, the ATF Laboratories have more than 100 employees working in 4 laboratories in 3 cities. In FY 2005, ATF Laboratories performed more than 2,600 forensic examinations with an authorized staff of 106 positions and a budget of approximately $16 million.
In FY 2006, the ATF Laboratories:
analyzed 64 samples related to alcohol and tobacco diversion;
processed 3,086 forensic cases;
spent 171 days providing expert testimony in the courts;
spent 242 days at crime scenes; and
spent 371 days providing training to federal, state, and local investigators and examiners.
A new $135 million National Laboratory Center in suburban Maryland was opened in 2003. The National Laboratory Center contains a unique fire testing facility, designed to support fire investigations. Each ATF Laboratory also has a mobile laboratory designed to support the examination of evidence at the scene of a fire or explosion. In FY 2006, ATF established a DNA analysis capability at the National Laboratory Center.28 The Laboratories are ASCLD/Laboratory Accreditation Board (LAB) accredited in the disciplines of trace evidence, biology (serology only), questioned documents, firearms/toolmarks, and latent prints.
In a 2006 semiannual report from the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the OIG’s Audit Division evaluated whether the ATF Laboratories managed workloads effectively to provide timely services to ATF field divisions. The audit report stated the following:
Our audit found that processing times have not significantly improved in the past 4 years. Two-thirds of completed forensic examinations continued to take more than 30 days to complete and about one-third of examinations took more than 90 days.
Improvements in the timeliness of laboratory examinations have been limited because ATF has not accomplished actions it committed to in 2001, such as increasing the number of examiner positions in the forensic laboratories, implementing a new priority system, implementing a new