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Fact Sheet - ATF Certified Explosives Specialist (CES)

March, 2016
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Fast Facts

  1. A certified explosives specialist (CES) must complete a two-year candidacy program that consists of approximately 12 weeks of formal classroom and range training, written assignments and testing.

  2. ATF's CES' specialize in investigating violations of federal explosives and firearms laws; these violations include bombings, explosives thefts and other explosives-related matters relevant to the unlawful use, storage, manufacture and distribution of explosives.

  3. In fiscal year 2015, ATF had more than 270 CESs located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Central America.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Certified Explosives Specialist (CES) program comprises experienced special agents who investigate violations of the federal explosives laws and explosives enforcement officers (EEO) who provide support for investigations involving explosives and destructive devices. The CES serves as ATF’s primary resource to provide technical expertise and analysis in support of ATF’s explosives enforcement mission in the areas of explosives identification, handling, use, disposal, post-blast investigation and support to state and local authorities.

The special agent CES specializes in investigating violations of federal explosives and firearms laws. These violations include bombings, explosives thefts and other explosives-related matters relevant to the unlawful use, storage, manufacture and distribution of explosives. The special agent CES also enforces the federal explosives laws and protects the public from criminal acts involving the illegal manufacture and use of explosives, as well as the unsafe storage of explosives. EEO CES personnel are experienced bomb technicians who render safe destructive devices, conduct advanced disassembly procedures in order to preserve and exploit evidence, and provide destructive device determinations for expert evidence testimony in criminal prosecutions. The efforts of both the special agent and EEO CES support ATF’s and the Department of Justice’s strategic goals of preventing terrorism, violent crime, and safeguarding the nation's security.

A CES must maintain a working knowledge of commercial, military and homemade explosives (HMEs) as well as improvised explosive devices (IEDs). As ATF’s primary investigative resource for explosives matters, they respond to all explosions, conduct explosives recoveries and large scale seizures, conduct disposal operations, provide technical assistance to other public safety entities and deliver expert courtroom testimony within their area of expertise. The CES also supports ATF industry operations investigators in matters relating to explosives regulations. Additionally, they train ATF personnel, private sector and public safety entities, other law enforcement, military personnel and international partners.

Image of a robot armThe CES must complete a two-year candidacy program that consists of approximately 12 weeks of formal classroom and range training, written assignments and testing. Instruction is given in the Basic Explosives Training Course in which candidates receive training in explosives identification, the application and effects of commercial and military explosives, explosives laws and regulations, safe handling and use of explosive materials and explosives disposal. CES candidates also complete the following training: Post Blast Investigation; Advanced Explosives Disposal Techniques (AEDT); Homemade Explosives - Identification, Process, Disposal; Advanced Ordnance Recognition for Law Enforcement and Chemistry of Explosives, and they complete the International Society of Explosives Engineers (ISEE) Blasters’ Level 1 certification. Additionally, they must successfully complete 12 graduate-level credit hours which earns them a graduate certificate in explosives engineering/technology from an accredited university. During their candidacy, a CES must also participate in explosives-related investigations, disposal operations, and explosives demonstrations. Upon completing the two-year candidacy, the CES must attend the Improvised Explosive Device Training Course at the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal (NAVSCOLEOD) within three years of their initial certification.

After attaining certification, a special agent must successfully recertify every two years, which involves standardized practical skills testing and continuing education in a one-week course. Throughout their career, CES personnel continue their education in a variety of topics, including but not limited to advanced explosion investigation, engineering principles, risk management, blast effects, large scale testing and forensic science subjects.

ACES who successfully completes the U.S. Army/FBI Hazardous Device School qualifies as a certified bomb technician and is authorized to render safe destructive devices when in the interest of public safety.

CES personnel work on a daily basis with the U.S. Bomb Data Center, ATF explosives enforcement officers, the ATF National Response Team, three ATF forensic science laboratories and ATF explosives detection canine handlers at explosives incidents and in the course of criminal investigations.

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 implementing regulations (codified at Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 479 and 555).

In fiscal year 2015, ATF had more than 270 CESs located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Central America.

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Additional Resources: Arson & Explosives Training Programs

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