U.S. Department of Justice – ‘Interim Review of ATF’s Project Gunrunner’

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This interim review, issued in September 2009 by the U.S. Justice Department, identifies problems within Project Gunrunner, an initiative by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) meant to reduce the illicit flow of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico.

The document notes, “In our view some planned Project Gunrunner activities do not appear to represent the best use of resources to reduce firearms trafficking, and issues with new office locations, staffing structure, personnel with Spanish proficiency, and program measures need to be addressed.”

The report concludes with seven recommendations for possible improvements in Project Gunrunner, including developing measures to more accurately evaluate the impact of the project.

From the executive summary:

In our review, we concluded that aspects of ATF’s Project Gunrunner expansion plans will enhance its ability to combat firearms trafficking. However, in our view some planned Project Gunrunner activities do not appear to represent the best use of resources to reduce firearms trafficking, and issues with new office locations, staffing structure, personnel with Spanish proficiency, and program measures need to be addressed.

ATF has reported that by September 30, 2010, it plans to place Gunrunner resources (personnel, offices, and equipment) dedicated to firearms trafficking investigations in McAllen, Texas; El Centro, California; and Las Cruces, New Mexico, including a satellite office in Roswell, New Mexico. Each of the three office locations will be staffed by a Gunrunner team, which will consist of Special Agents, Industry Operation Investigators, Intelligence Research Specialists, and Investigative Analysts. Four ATF agents will also be located in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico. We believe the decisions to place new Gunrunner resources in McAllen, El Centro, Juarez, and Tijuana to be sound, based on ATF’s own criteria and our additional analysis.

However, we question the decision to place Gunrunner teams in Las Cruces and Roswell.

We also concluded that the staffing model ATF plans to use for the new Gunrunner teams appears adequate, provided ATF defines the reporting and supervisory structure. However, we found that ATF has insufficient numbers of personnel proficient in Spanish on Gunrunner teams.”

Finally, we concluded that more specific program measures are needed to accurately measure Project Gunrunner’s impact on cross-border firearms trafficking.

In this interim report we make seven recommendations for ATF to improve its allocation of resources and implementation of Project Gunrunner expansion plans.

Read full report. (pdf)

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