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Fact Sheet - ATF Laboratory Services

March, 2016
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Fast Facts

  1. ATF's laboratory services comprises four organizational groups: the Forensic Science Laboratories, the Fire Research Laboratory; they provide analytical and advisory services on scientific matters.

  2. ATF laboratories are staffed with chemists, scientists, forensic biologists, engineers, fingerprint specialists, firearm and tool mark examiners, document examiners, and administrative personnel.

  3. ATF laboratory personnel hold leadership positions in numerous professional scientific organizations and are among the most highly qualified specialists in their fields.

The ATF Laboratory Services Division provides analytical and advisory services on scientific matters. Laboratory services comprises four organizational groups: the Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL), with facilities in Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and the Fire Research Laboratory (FRL). The Washington FSL and the FRL are collocated with Laboratory Services administrative offices at the National Laboratory Center in suburban Maryland.

The ATF laboratories have a distinguished history dating back to 1886. From two scientists working in the attic of the U.S. Treasury building, the operation has grown to a staff of more than 100 professionals. ATF laboratories are committed to providing accurate and authoritative scientific information needed to reduce violent crime and protect the public.

ATF laboratories are staffed with chemists, scientists, forensic biologists, engineers, fingerprint specialists, firearm and tool mark examiners, document examiners, and administrative personnel. ATF laboratory personnel hold leadership positions in numerous professional scientific organizations and are among the most highly qualified specialists in their fields. ATF actively supports and encourages professional certification of its scientists and engineers. Laboratory staff is made up of highly trained individuals specializing in the examination of evidence typically seen in fire-, explosive-, and firearm-related crimes who perform forensic exams, provide technical support, expert witness testimony, and advanced training to a wide range of national and international law enforcement personnel. Image of a scientist using a microscope

In fiscal year 2015, ATF’s laboratories accomplished the following:

  •  Received 2,457 requests for analysis and testing
  •  Completed analysis on 1,975 forensic cases (FSL)
  •  Performed 190 laboratory case testing experiments (FRL)
  •  Performed 152 laboratory research testing experiments (FRL)
  •  Provided 87 days of expert testimony in the courts
  •  Worked 177 days at crime scenes
  •  Provided 834 days of training instruction for federal, state and local investigators and examiners

In 1984, ATF Laboratory Services was the first federal forensic laboratory system to be accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). Then, in 2012, the laboratory system, including the three regional Forensic Science Laboratories and the Fire Research Laboratory, was accredited to the ASCLD/LAB-International Program, demonstrating the conformance of the laboratory’s management and technical requirements to the international standards of IEC/ISO 17025. These accreditation standards include requirements for personnel qualifications, evidence handling and preservation techniques, calibration and use of comparison standards, among other qualifications. Maintenance of accreditation requires the laboratories to continuously monitor their operations and to undergo periodic, vigorous inspections performed by ASCLD/LAB. ATF laboratory personnel were involved in creating a national accreditation program for the forensic laboratories.

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Additional Resources: ATF Fire Research Laboratory

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