Fact Sheet - Laboratory Services Division
The mission of the ATF Laboratory Services Division is to provide accurate and authoritative scientific information needed by ATF in reducing violent crime and protecting the public.
ATF laboratories are staffed with highly trained chemists, forensic biologists, engineers, fingerprint specialists, firearm and toolmark examiners, document examiners and administrative personnel.
ATF lab personnel hold leadership positions in numerous professional scientific organizations and are among the most highly qualified specialists in their fields.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Laboratory Services Division provides accurate and authoritative scientific information needed by ATF in reducing violent crime and protecting the public. The Laboratory Services Division is comprised of four laboratories: three Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) located in Atlanta; Walnut Creek, Calif.; and at the National Laboratory Center in Ammendale, Md. The fourth lab includes the Fire Research Laboratory (FRL) and the Laboratory Services Division administrative offices; they are also housed at the National Laboratory Center in Ammendale.
The ATF laboratories have a distinguished history dating back to 1886. Starting with two scientists working in the attic of the U.S. Treasury building, the Laboratory Services Division has grown to a staff of more than 100 professionals. The FSLs and FRL are staffed with highly trained chemists, forensic biologists, engineers, fingerprint specialists, firearm and toolmark examiners, document examiners and administrative personnel.
These experts specialize in the forensic examination of evidence typically seen in fire-, explosive-, and firearm-related crimes. They also provide technical support, expert witness testimony and advanced training to a wide range of national and international law enforcement personnel. ATF actively supports and encourages its staff to obtain professional certifications in their areas of expertise. ATF laboratory personnel hold leadership positions in numerous professional scientific organizations and are recognized as being among the most highly qualified specialists in their fields of expertise.
In calendar year 2017, ATF laboratories accomplished the following:
- Received 2,888 requests for analysis and testing
- Completed analysis on 2,561 forensic cases at the FSLs
- Completed analysis on 124 Fire Research Laboratory (FRL) engineering cases
- Performed 155 laboratory research testing experiments at the FRL
- Personnel provided 98 days of expert testimony in the courts
- Worked 227 days at crime scenes
- Provided 760 days of instruction for federal, state and local investigators and forensic examiners
In 1984, the ATF Laboratory Services Division was the first federal forensic laboratory system to be accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). In 2012, the four ATF laboratories were accredited to the more rigorously demanding ASCLD/LAB-International Program, demonstrating conformance of their management system and technical procedures to the International Organization of Standardization (ISO/IEC) 17025 General Requirements. This accreditation standard includes requirements for personnel qualifications, evidence handling and preservation techniques, calibration and use of equipment, and more. Maintaining this accreditation requires the laboratories to continuously monitor their operations and to undergo periodic, comprehensive inspections performed by the accrediting body. ATF laboratory personnel were involved in creating a national accreditation program for the forensic laboratories.