How do we Fix BATFE?

Blog Post
If you look at the past – and it’s not pretty – even an optimist would suggest that the scandals will keep on coming. In the quote (note embedded links) below, the USDOJ Inspector General basically said that the accounts of BATFE success were made up.
(Narcotrafficker Blog) Milwaukee is among 31 cities where the ATF has dedicated a Violent Crime Impact Team. The teams are supposed to target “hot spots” – small, high-crime areas – and go after the “worst of the worst” violent criminals, according to the agency’s Best Practices report.  
The agency launched the initiative in 2004 and quickly reported “enormous” success. Agency officials touted a drop in firearm-related homicides in pilot cities and credited the $35 million effort with helping local police departments solve other crimes.  
But a U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General’s report two years later found no evidence that the teams reduced firearm crimes in the targeted areas. Authors of the report cited “inadequate direction” and “ineffective oversight” by the agency.  
“We found that ATF based its analysis on insufficient data and faulty comparisons,” the report stated.

After the Fast and Furious Scandal broke and during the Congressional hearings, there was a lot of talk about whether or not BATFE would or should continue to exist. Some discussed folding it into the FBI (also a DOJ agency) but the FBI didn’t want the BATFE agents folded in.

Breaking up BATFE causes a problem in the Federal Law Enforcement Community because the pay grades in DOJ are significantly higher for law enforcement officers than they are in other agencies. (Touched on here) BATFE Agents fall under Job Series Classification 1811 (Criminal Investigator; Special Agent) and the journeyman level for a fully qualified BATFE Special Agent is GS-13. It was the same when they were Treasury Agents before the formation of the Department of Homeland Security. Supervisory level personnel were GS-14 and they can also be Assistant Special Agents-in-Charge at that level with the Special Agents-in-Charge at the GS-15 level. Above that, they are entered in the Senior Executive Service and the air is rare there. (more on training here )

The problem comes when you move a journeyman 1811 from BATFE to the US Customs and Border Protection, for example, where a journeyman is a GS-12. The BATFE Agent, by default would transfer from a journeyman position to a supervisory position in an agency where he has absolutely no experience — displacing a supervisory position in that adopting agency. The same is generally true with the Department of Labor, The Department of Agriculture and other agencies of the Federal Government who have 1811 embedded in their ranks. The net result is that the BATFE agents would have to stay in DOJ. And neither the Drug Enforcement Agency nor the FBI want them.

Technically you could pink slip all of the federal agents at BATFE and simply send them out to look for work, but that won’t happen because there are rules that require the federal government to find a place for them to work. (see paragraph above) 
Keeping BATFE is like having a tiger by the tail. 
You don’t want to hold on and you can’t let go.

The list of BATFE genuine success stories is short. Their list of bungled operations is significant if anyone could get the truth out of the Department of Justice. Unfortunately DOJ (and Treasury before them) had no interest in laying out the problems endemic inside BATFE. That’s not to say that all BATFE Special Agents are completely incompetent. I put the number of competent to incompetent at somewhere around 50/50 with a handful of extremely good people who work in BATFE special programs under deep cover. I’ve worked with those people personally and they are as good as they get. They interface regularly with CIA, DEA Special Operations Divison and other intelligence agencies on matters of special national and international interest.
Sadly, the current BATFE fiasco in Milwaukee (Fearless Distributing) is much more the norm than would be expected. If it hadn’t been for a business owner who blew the whistle, the mess would have never reached the light.
Operation Fast and Furious caught the interest of the nation because it went to the top of the food chain in the Federal Government and once it hit the National Security Council Staff, President Obama stonewalled it.
The Waco, Texas assault on the Seventh Day Adventist/Branch Davidian compound and the attempted arrest of David Koresh (Vernon Wayne Howell) only came to light because of the spotlight that the media shined on it. Koresh used to go into Waco on a weekly basis by himself. BATFE could have arrested him there without incident,  but they chose to assault an armed and fortified church/compound and were shot to pieces.
Whether BATFE is seizing toy guns under the assumption that they’re real or any one of a number of unheralded foul-ups, they would seem to be an unlikely custodian for President Obama’s new firearms initiative — but they are. And it may be good news for gun owners.

Mr. Obama’s BATFE – What does the Future hold?

(ABC News) (February 1, 2013) A former head of the Minneapolis FBI office sent federal lawmakers a letter Thursday sharply criticizing President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, calling B. Todd Jones an ineffective leader who consistently declined to prosecute violent gang, drug and gun crimes. 
Donald Oswald, a former special agent in charge in Minneapolis, said in the letter mailed to Senate Judiciary Committee members that he felt morally compelled to share what he called Jones’ “atrocious professional reputation” among Minnesota law enforcement. Oswald said he felt he could speak out because he has retired, while active law enforcement authorities might fear retaliation. 
“When I learned on TV that Todd Jones had been nominated by the president for ATF director, I reacted physically ill to it and it bothered me for several days until I decided I had to do something, and I had to put this letter forward to reveal exactly what kind of a leader he is,” Oswald said in an interview with The Associated Press.
I’d say we’re looking at business as usual. A Fix is unlikely even it was possible.

13 thoughts on “How do we Fix BATFE?

  1. Technically you could pink slip all of the federal agents at BATFE and simply send them out to look for work, but that won't happen because there are rules that require the federal government to find a place for them to work

    And therein lies the core of our most pressing problem, not just at BATFE, but across the totality of the federal government.

  2. Every agency has their tools, they seem to have a workshop full…

    I was talking to a District Court Judge today about a child porn case in front of him. The case was brought by the Secret Service? I just don't get it…

  3. I thought that the SS investigated credit card fraud and counterfeit currency in their spare time (when they weren't leaping on hand grenades). Maybe a counterfeiter was also a pornographer? Or maybe time has passed me by and they've branched out.

    Yes, BATFE seems to me to be one of those places where the mediocre find a sinecure. Post Fast and Furious, Congress is on them like a bad haircut and for a federal organization, that's never a good thing.

  4. Too bad 'we' will have to live with them, because the administration will NOT dump BATFE… sigh

  5. Wait, did you get permission to use the image of the badge? I'm gonna need you to fill out a few forms…

  6. Likewise, and I've been the leader of 5 ATF guys when I ran a task force that you are aware of, however of the 5, one was very good.

    The problem that ATF is experiencing is the problem that many federal agencies have when the fish rots from the head down. (meaning the Big Fish) The people who are competent are viewed by management as a threat and they are kept down, while useful idiots are promoted because they pose no threat to tepid, incompetent, and often foolish managers.

  7. And by the same token, a number of your co-workers have plagerized my writing on topics near and dear to their hearts and have made photocopies of copyrighted training materials without compensation or permission. I think it's a push at this point… ;^)

  8. In truth, BATFE could be fixed. The problem begins with Presidential appointments. The President of the United States needs to find honest, hard working, intelligent people to fill the top slot(s). Once that is done, the agency will begin to heal. However, ATF has been without a leader for quite some time now and the people that POTUS wants to put there are venal, incompetent, vindictive, idiots who will only increase the dysfunction.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to top