The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) U.S. Bomb Data Center (USBDC) serves as the national repository for explosives- and arson-related incident data, having been established by federal explosives laws and Attorney General designation. Its purpose is to collect data and to provide those federal, state and local agencies having jurisdiction with information and intelligence to assist in the investigation of bombings, arson and the criminal use of explosives.
The mission of the USBDC is to increase regional and nation situational awareness by collecting, analyzing and disseminating information and intelligence products to assist federal law enforcement agents; investigators from state, local, tribal and military departments; and international partners in preventing violent crime and acts of terrorism. These products include statistical and technical information, as well as trends related to the criminal use of explosives and arson.
ATF has been collecting, storing and analyzing records on explosives and arson incidents since 1976. Through the U.S. Department of the Treasury, ATF was mandated by Congress pursuant to Public Law 104-208, the 1997 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, to establish a national repository for incidents involving arson and the criminal use of explosives. This authority was later transferred with ATF to the Attorney General with the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (ref: 28 CFR 0.131(e), implementing 18 USC 846(b)).
In 2004, the Attorney General mandated that all Department of Justice (DOJ) arson and explosives incident databases be consolidated into a single database, which is known as the Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS). This mandate was reinforced in 2010 by the Deputy Attorney General's Office. (Ref: Attorney General’s Aug. 11, 2004, Memorandum Regarding the Coordination of Explosives Investigations and Related Matters; and Deputy Attorney General’s Aug. 3, 2010, Protocol for Assigning Lead Agency Jurisdiction in Explosives Investigations).
BATS contains information on more than 538,941 explosives- and arson-related incidents investigated by ATF, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal, state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies. The USBDC currently has more than 2754 interagency partners and 13,373 active users of BATS.
The USBDC and ATF developed BATS, and more recently Mobile BATS (mBATS), to provide agencies with a system for real-time reporting of explosives- and arson-related incidents in a national database. BATS provides users with an optional case management system at no cost for the technology to help simplify and standardize the reporting of investigative information and track related administrative tasks. BATS users can build their investigations in BATS and collaborate with other agencies, while doing so in a secure environment. Bomb technicians and fire investigators can use BATS to perform trend analysis and compare incidents for similarities in motives, device construction, suspects and crime methodologies for possible investigative leads. Images of post-blast scenes, improvised explosive devices (IED) and crime scenes are shared with other users through the BATS secure web connection.
The USBDC has two sections that work in concert to achieve the USBDC mission. The Arson and Explosives Information and Analysis Section (AEIAS) is responsible for providing investigative support, developing intelligence products, responding to Requests for Information (RFI), identifying and tracing explosives, and documenting the theft/loss of explosives. The Bomb Arson Tracking System Section (BATSS) is responsible for system development and continued enhancements to BATS, providing training to BATS users to increase the quality of inputted data, and marketing BATS to increase the user base.
The USBDC also collects, monitors and disseminates information related to the theft or loss of explosive materials in coordination nationally with U.S. law enforcement agencies and disseminates security alerts to U.S. law enforcement partners. This responsibility is based on federal law, which requires that any explosives licensee or permittee who has knowledge of the theft or loss of any explosive materials from their stock report the theft/loss within 24 hours of discovery to ATF and local authorities.
Additionally, the USBDC maintains the National Explosives Tracing Center, a function responsible for the identification and tracing of domestic and foreign commercial and military explosives and ordnance, and other munitions. Through its strong partnerships with the explosives industry and the Department of Defense, the USBDC can trace recovered explosives to their point of origin, including movement in interstate and international commerce for the purpose of aiding law enforcement officials in identifying criminal suspects, establishing stolen status and proving ownership. (Ref: 27 CFR § 555, implementing Title 18, USC, Chapter 40.)
The USBDC is an active participant in the national counter-IED (C-IED) effort and is working with all interagency partners (departments and agencies) who have a vested interest in protecting the public against explosives-related criminal incidents and acts of terrorism. The USBDC also serves as a board member for the International Bomb Data Center Working Group.