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Certified Explosives Specialists

Certified Explosive Specialists look through evidence from a case.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Certified Explosives Specialist (CES) program is comprised of experienced special agents and explosive enforcement officers who provide technical assistance and subject matter expertise on the following:

  • Explosive identification.
  • Explosive disposal.
  • Explosive application and effects.
  • Investigation of federal explosives law violations (i.e., bombings, explosives thefts, and other explosives-related matters related to the unlawful use, storage, manufacture, and distribution of explosives).

The CES program is responsible for managing the training of these personnel, as well as coordinating the operational response of ATF personnel to large incidents nationwide and worldwide, upon request from foreign partners through the U.S. State Department.

Certified Explosives Specialist Certification

The CES program is open, by application, to select ATF agents, as well as state and local public safety bomb technicians. During the two-year candidacy program, participants will complete eleven weeks of in-person training, twelve graduate-level semester hours in forensic science, and participate in explosives-related investigations, disposal operations and demonstrations.

Once certified, the CES must successfully recertify every three years. Recertification involves standardized practical skills testing and a week-long continuing education course.

Bomb Technician Certification

An ATF Certified Explosives Specialist responds to an incident in Alaska

Some members of the CES program are also part of ATF’s bomb squad. To become an ATF bomb technician, a CES must successfully graduate from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hazardous Devices School (HDS) and complete five additional weeks of in-person training. ATF bomb technicians render safe destructive devices, conduct advanced disassembly procedures to preserve and exploit evidence, and provide destructive device determinations for expert evidence testimony in criminal prosecutions. ATF bomb technicians must attend annual training and recertify through HDS every three years.


ATF is charged with enforcing the federal explosives and arson laws, which include: the National Firearms Act (codified at Title 26, United States Code, Chapter 53), the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, Title XI, and the Safe Explosives Act of 2002 (codified at Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 40), and the implementing regulations (codified at Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 479 and 555).

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