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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

Contact: (202) 927-8500

July 2, 2002

Message from Director Brad A. Buckles - 30th Anniversary
of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

Washington, DC - Thirty years ago, a new bureau was established
in the Treasury Department. The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division
of the Internal Revenue Service suddenly became the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms, and the simple three letter "ATF" was
adopted as its acronym. The move took a small unit that made up only about
4 percent of the mammoth IRS workforce and gave it independence. It was
a hugely important event that created an agency that serves this Nation
in a proportion well beyond our size. Yet it happened on a Saturday in
empty IRS offices around the country without a sound. Even before July
1, 1972, ATF already operated with an unusual degree of independence within
IRS. ATF criminal investigators were not part of the IRS Criminal Investigations
Division, but operated within separate ATF units within the larger IRS
field structure. These units also included inspectors, and plant officers
working the ATF mission. So there was no great upheaval. Employees went
home on Friday as IRS employees and came in Monday as ATF employees with
all the same work waiting for them. All of the real changes came over
time as we learned how to operate without the support of the IRS.

The ATF we know today took shape in those last few years in IRS with
passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Federal explosives laws
in 1970. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division of the IRS was a unique
unit that had mastered the ability to simultaneously regulate legitimate
commerce in a product, while attacking illegal commerce in the contraband
version of the same commodity. This uncommon set of skills, honed in an
era of moonshine liquor, was exactly what was needed to enforce the new
Federal gun and explosives laws.

I have been with ATF for 28 of the 30 years and look back with tremendous
pride on what this agency has accomplished. I have watched as ATF has
developed unparalleled subject matter experts in all areas - alcohol,
tobacco, firearms, explosives, and arson. The great value that ATF brings
to the table is a function of this high level of expertise that is leveraged
by our ability to partner with others. Harry Truman once said, "It's
amazing how much can be accomplished when you don't worry about who gets
credit," and ATF is a great example of that principle. Our willingness
to share our expertise and resources, while not insisting on the credit,
has been a defining aspect of our culture.

Our mission dates us back to the first years of this Nation when alcohol
taxes were first imposed to pay off the war debt from the Revolutionary
War. Our support activities are the only part of the agency that is truly
30 years old today. We began with no office of management, no technology
staff, no training staff, and no internal inspection unit. Today, ATF
sets the standard in many of these areas.

Whether it's Project Safe Neighborhoods, the collection of $14 billion
in revenue, the National Church Arson Task Force, fighting terrorism through
our explosives laws, or setting the standard on the way we equip and train
employees, ATF stands proud at 30 years old. The key to our future is
the continuation of this tradition of value and service to the American

Click to view the History of ATF.