On June 5, 2009, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released its 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which, for the first time, includes a chapter on combating illicit arms trafficking to Mexico. (Emphasis supplied.) Prior to the new strategy, the U.S. government did not have a strategy that explicitly addressed arms trafficking to Mexico. In the absence of a strategy, individual U.S. agencies have undertaken a variety of activities and projects to combat arms trafficking to Mexico. While these individual agency efforts may serve to combat arms trafficking to Mexico to some degree, they were not part of a comprehensive U.S. governmentwide strategy for addressing the problem. GAO has identified several key elements that should be a part of any strategy, including identifying objectives and funding targeted to meet these objectives; clear roles and responsibilities; and mechanisms to ensure coordination and assess results. We reviewed a copy of the new National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which ONDCP officials told us will serve as the basic framework, with an "implementation plan" to follow in late summer of 2009. ONDCP officials told us that this implementation plan will provide detailed guidance to the responsible agencies and have some performance measures for each objective. At this point, it is not clear whether the implementation plan will include performance indicators and other accountability mechanisms to overcome shortcomings raised in our report. In addition, in March 2009, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a new DHS Southwest border security effort to significantly increase DHS presence and efforts along the Southwest border, including conducting more southbound inspections at ports of entry, among other efforts. However, it is unclear whether the new resources that the administration has recently devoted to the Southwest border will be tied to the new strategy and implementation plan. -- Firearms Trafficking: U.S. Efforts to Combat Arms Trafficking to Mexico Face Planning and Coordination Challenges, United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), June 2009. (PDF) Summary: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-709
“Russians don't take a dump without a plan. And senior captains don't start something this dangerous without having thought the matter through.” -- Admiral Josh Painter, The Hunt for Red October, 1990.
American federal bureaucrats likewise do not take a dump without a plan. Many people have asked the question: where did the Project Gunwalker scandal come from? As I wrote over a month ago:
Let me tell you what this was, and where it came from, based on a conversation I had with a long-time, well-informed veteran of American government intelligence operations the other day.
"Do you think," he asked me, "that this happened accidentally in a vacuum?" Meaning that one day "Gunwalker Bill" Newell, Phoenix SAC, just got a wild hair and decided to invent his own foreign policy. "Things like this happen because of meetings. People sit in meetings and they decide what they want to happen. And then they take decisions, make policy and implement that policy to achieve those ends." He added, "That's why State is so nervous. They signed off on this. In a meeting."
Gunrunner, I pointed out to him, predated the Obama administration. "Yes, but 'walking guns' didn't." I told him it seemed to me that given the dates on the documents that the meetings crafting this policy must have taken place sometime in mid-2009. "And who took power in January, 2009?" he replied.
He continued, summing up this way. The gun issue was known to be radioactive. Every time the Democrats embraced it they got killed at the polls the next election cycle. What was needed, in Rahm Emanuel's parlance, was a good crisis to exploit, something to change the paradigm. The gun confiscationists had always danced in the blood (my term, not his) of every mass shooting and gotten nowhere, to their chagrin and frustration. What was needed was a game changer. Something that fit the meme of "we've got to tighten up on American gunowners, gun stores and gun shows because they are feeding the slaughter." Mexico was perfect. The ATF controlled the reporting of the statistics, the headlines were lurid and if the rest of us gunnies knew that you don't get automatic weapons, hand grenades and RPGs from gun shows and gun stores, most of the American people were too ignorant of the issue to care about the distinction. But the fact was, as the IG report and other sources concluded, the amount of weapons from those legitimate American sources did not meet the allegation. More importantly the statistics didn't meet the policy need. So, how to "fix" that? Project Gunwalker. If there weren't enough semi-auto "assault rifles" in Mexico, the ATF could fix that. And the murders would follow, justifying the policy change of cracking down on "assault rifles," gun shows and the like.
"So," I said, "you're saying that this was a deliberate attempt by policymakers at the highest levels of the Obama administration to subvert the Second Amendment and further diminish the free exercise of firearm rights of honest citizens?"
"You got it. Sucks, huh?" He laughed bitterly.
I thought of Zed in "Men in Black."
He added, "Of course the meeting transcripts won't reflect the truth so plainly, but then neither did the Wannsee Conference. These bastards always talk in riddles about what they're really after. Watch what they do, not what they say."
In the process of updating and expanding a previous timeline of the Gunwalker scandal, the question hit me once more, where did this come from? Something changed when the Obama administration took over, something that involved a lot of inter-agency coordination. And then it hit me, one other thing my spook friend told me that I hadn‘t reported, that up until now I‘d totally forgot. “Don’t worry about ‘following the money’ on this one,” he said, “follow the power -- follow the paper, because paper is how power is transmitted in the federal government.” So I went and I looked and I found this, the real Rosetta Stone of this scandal, hiding in plain sight. Read it and I think you‘ll agree that whatever happened at ground level in the Gunwalker Scandal, it had its roots in this Obama change of policy.
One more thing. I think you, like me, will find confirmation of what I said earlier this month about EPIC -- El Paso Intelligence Center: What did EPIC know about Project Gunwalker and when did they know it? Likely answer: Everything and early. The strong and extensive inter-agency coordination described in the document below makes it certain that EPIC, ICE, CBP, DHS and other agencies HAD to be cognizant at some command level of what was happening with the Gunwalker fiasco.
I invite other Gunwalker scandal buffs, journalists and citizens to compare the document with what we now know about the scandal, and to share their thoughts and analysis, and to follow the various clues within.
Again, we know something changed in the bureaucracy in the late spring of 2009 to produce Gunwalker. I believe this is it.
-- Mike Vanderboegh
National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy
Office of National Drug Control Policy
R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy
Chapter 7: Weapons
Substantially reduce the flow of illicit drugs, drug proceeds, and associated instruments of violence across the Southwest border.
1. Enhance intelligence capabilities associated with the Southwest border.
2. Interdict drugs, drug proceeds, and associated instruments of violence at the ports of entry, between the ports of entry, and in the air and maritime domains along the Southwest border.
3. Ensure the prosecution of all significant drug trafficking, money laundering, bulk currency, and weapons smuggling/trafficking cases.
4. Disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.
5. Enhance counterdrug technologies for drug detection and interdiction along the Southwest border.
6. Enhance U.S. – Mexico cooperation regarding joint counterdrug efforts.
The National Drug Intelligence Center assesses that Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the primary participants in and beneficiaries of firearms trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. The close link between firearms trafficking and drug trafficking on the Southwest border has facilitated the acquisition of increasingly powerful and sophisticated weaponry by drug trafficking organizations. These organizations require a consistent supply of firearms and ammunition to defend their territory, eliminate rivals, enforce business dealings, challenge government operations, and control organization members. This in turn has resulted in the proliferation of U.S.-based illegal firearms and explosives smuggling/trafficking schemes operated by persons, gangs, drug trafficking organizations, and other criminal groups seeking to capitalize on the extraordinary demand.
Once thought to be a purely regional problem that focused law enforcement on border interdiction efforts and criminal investigations solely in those states contiguous to the Mexican border, the U.S. sources of illegal firearms and explosives to Mexico are now found in nearly all 50 states. As Mexican-based drug trafficking organizations have expanded operations into communities across the United States, so have they expanded their hunt for firearms and explosives to facilitate their operations domestically and abroad.
Illegally smuggled/trafficked weapons from the United States are primarily transported overland into Mexico using the same routes and methods employed when smuggling drugs north. Within the United States, drug trafficking organizations typically rely on “straw purchasers” to acquire arms at gun shops, gun shows, and pawnshops. These organizations also use associations with U.S.-based prison and street gangs to facilitate the smuggling/trafficking of firearms and explosives across the border. Intelligence derived from criminal investigations clearly indicates that U.S.-based street gangs are involved in both the receipt of narcotics from drug
trafficking organizations and the smuggling/trafficking of weapons to them. The increase in gang involvement in illicit trafficking (narcotic, human, and firearms smuggling/trafficking) has the potential to increase Southwest border violence exponentially, while contributing to the profitability and growth of international gangs such as MS-13, Latin Kings, and Mexican Mafia.
Additionally, there remains a lack of definitive information on other international sources and transit routes supplying weapons to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Recent reports indicate that weapons, including AK-47s and grenades, have been illegally imported via Mexico’s southern border, as well as supplied through linkages with international crime syndicates. The problem is further compounded by weapons imported legally into Mexico from various countries, which have been subsequently diverted to criminal organizations.
As the United States continues its partnership with Mexico through the Merida Initiative, U.S. law enforcement agencies must work to marshal resources at all levels – Federal, State, local, and tribal – to develop an effective, coordinated, and comprehensive response to the threat of illegal weapons smuggling/trafficking from the United States into Mexico, and to support Mexico’s broader efforts to deny drug trafficking organizations access to arms from other international sources. An effective weapons interdiction strategy should consider both the vulnerabilities along the U.S.-Mexico border and the other international sources of illegal weapons in order to appropriately address the full scope of the challenge.
1. Improve intelligence and information sharing relating to illegal weapons smuggling/trafficking.
Facilitate U.S. Government interagency intelligence sharing. U.S. law enforcement organizations and intelligence agencies operate a variety of intelligence collection and analysis programs which are directly or indirectly related to weapons smuggling. The Department of Defense provides analytical support to some of these programs with regard to captured military weapons and ordnance. In order to provide better operational access and utility to law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Government will capitalize upon the existing law enforcement interagency intelligence center, EPIC, to reinforce rapid information sharing methods for intelligence derived from Federal, State, local and Government of Mexico illicit weapons seizures. Absent statutory limitations, plans should be made to move to a real-time data sharing
Enhance programs at EPIC targeting illegal weapons smuggling/trafficking. ATF’s Project Gunrunner utilizes the EPIC Gun Desk as the focal point for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of investigative leads derived from Federal, State, local, and international law enforcement agencies. This enforcement effort extends beyond the affected border states and will support investigative and enforcement efforts in Mexico through assistance and cooperative interaction with Mexican authorities. The Border Violence Intelligence Cell (BVIC), housed at EPIC, serves as ICE’s central point for analyzing all-source intelligence, analyzing trends in border violence and firearms smuggling/trafficking and for referring investigative and operational leads to U.S. and foreign partner agencies to help facilitate the timely sharing of intelligence and threat information. In addition to supporting U.S. law enforcement entities, a key goal of the BVIC is to provide intelligence support to Government of Mexico law enforcement agencies investigating the murders of Mexican law enforcement or government officials. ATF and ICE will work with interagency partners to facilitate more robust information sharing with Federal, State and local law enforcement, as well as with Mexican law enforcement agencies.
Rapidly share weapons seizure information among U.S. law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement organizations have a variety of intelligence collection capabilities and programs which are either directly or indirectly related to information on illicit weapons smuggling/trafficking. Such resources must be utilized in a coordinated and cohesive manner. The ICE Border Violence Intelligence Cell and ATF Gun Desk located at EPIC each utilize separate systems to collect and maintain information relating
to weapons seizures, such as TECS, ATF’s OnLine Lead, the National Tracing Center, Violent Crime Analysis Branch, and the U.S. Bomb Data Center. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice will address options for establishing methods to rapidly share information derived from Federal, State, and local and Government of Mexico illicit weapons seizures. Absent statutory limitations, plans should be made to move to a real-time data sharing methodology. CBP has established positions at the EPIC Gun Desk with connectivity to ATF eTrace. The Gun Desk receives CBP compiled weapons seizure data monthly for interagency post seizure analysis. This relationship affords CBP and ATF the ability to jointly develop actionable intelligence to support Project Gunrunner. Based upon current interagency agreements, further sharing of weapons seizure information would help to disseminate relevant firearms intelligence to appropriate agencies and jurisdictions.
Utilize military-to-military engagement to improve interagency information sharing. U.S. law enforcement agencies will work with the Department of Defense to include information sharing as a topic for discussion during military-to-military engagement opportunities with Mexico and Central America to support cooperation in areas such as tracing captured weapons. This is especially important regarding military-type weapons and ordnance used by drug cartels and gangs. The Department of Defense is uniquely positioned to guarantee confidentiality if allowed to help inventory captured weapons and share that information with U.S. law enforcement organizations.
2. Increase the interdiction of illegal weapons shipments to Mexico.
Expand intelligence-driven interdiction of illicit weapons shipments destined for Mexico through multi-agency investigative efforts such as ICE Operation Armas Cruzadas and ATF Project Gunrunner. ICE developed Operation Armas Cruzadas to combat transnational criminal networks smuggling/trafficking weapons into Mexico from the United States. As part of this initiative, the Department of Homeland Security and the Government of Mexico have partnered in bilateral interdiction, investigation, and intelligence sharing activities to identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal networks engaged in weapons smuggling/trafficking. ATF developed Project Gunrunner to focus ATF’s investigative, intelligence, and training resources on the suppression of firearms smuggling/trafficking to Mexico. Similarly, CBP operations supporting U.S. efforts to combat arms smuggling/trafficking are based on three pillars: analysis of firearms and weapons related data, information sharing, and coordinated operations. CBP liaisons at the EPIC Gun Desk will compile and disseminate information and intelligence about crime related guns and suspect guns, firearm thefts and losses, purchase patterns, suspicious purchasers, secondary gun markets, and other data related to firearms activity.
Increase the use of mobile gamma ray non-intrusive inspection equipment and canine inspection. Utilizing no intrusive inspection equipment in the United States and providing the Government of Mexico with no intrusive inspection support and canine inspection team training at interior checkpoints will deny routes to traffickers in the most remote areas.
Enhance infrastructure and protocols to facilitate uniform CBP outbound operations along the Southwest border.
The Department of Homeland Security will incorporate new facilities in the planning of safe, effective, and coordinated outbound weapons and currency interdiction operations. CBP will aim to enhance infrastructure, including electrical conduits, technology mounts, and traffic management barriers and signage. Additionally, CBP will enhance the inspection of weapon shipments by reviewing export and Freight Remaining on Board data. Through the NTC-C, such shipments will be identified, examined at the U.S. port of export to verify contents and quantities, and confirmation of shipment order and expected delivery will be obtained from Mexican authorities. These efforts will help to ensure the legitimacy of such shipments, and reduce the possibility of diversion.
3. Enhance cooperation with international partners in weapons smuggling/trafficking investigations.
Engage in international training to include post-blast investigations, firearms identification, detection of concealment traps used for smuggling/trafficking of firearms in vehicles, and border security training. U.S.Government training programs can be expanded to more officials and include additional curricula. Mexican and Central American authorities may request comparable military-type training and associated equipment from the Department of Defense if appropriate under existing programs. In addition, programs such as the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance program, the U.S. Government’s premier initiative to help member countries improve their export control systems, would prove beneficial to Government of Mexico officials in their efforts to combat the flow of illegal weapons into and out of their country.
Complete and enhance the deployment of Spanish-language eTrace capabilities among Mexican law enforcement agencies. Firearms tracing is the systematic tracking of a firearm from its manufacturer or importer through the chain of distribution from wholesalers and retailers to the first retail purchaser. ATF is the only entity in the U.S. Government authorized to perform this task, as specified in the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). To increase functionality, the ATF Firearms Tracing System needs to modernize/upgrade software and current infrastructure by consolidating firearm tracing applications, accelerating the retirement of stovepiped systems, and enhancing current eTrace software to include a mapping solution that will provide timely data ready for use in policy, management, and enforcement applications.
Nearly all firearms trace requests from Mexico are sent to ATF via a system called eTrace, a web-based system that provides approved law enforcement agencies the ability to send trace requests, receive trace results, and perform analysis of their consolidated results securely via the Internet. Mexican officials,however, are currently unable to fully capitalize on the benefits of the system because it is in English, and the system’s data structures do not allow for name and address conventions common in Hispanic cultures and countries. ATF is currently developing a Spanish language version of eTrace that is scheduled for full deployment at the end of FY 2010. The continued enhancement of ATF’s eTrace program and expansion of Spanish eTrace through Mexico and Central America will provide law enforcement with a more robust investigative tool to target firearms smuggling/trafficking.
Work with the Government of Mexico to trace weapons seized during Mexican military operations. Processes and procedures should be established to ensure that seized weapons are made available for physical examination with U.S. Government agencies and traced through ATF’s eTrace system. The information obtained would then be analyzed and ultimately shared with the Government of Mexico for action and with U.S. agencies for coordination.
Support the Department of State to increase the number of end-use verifications of firearms exported from the United States to Mexico through the Blue Lantern Program. The export of firearms and ammunition is regulated by the Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC). State authorizes the export of firearms and ammunition via an export license (DSP-5). Initial review of DDTC data by ICE indicates that a substantial amount of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment have been authorized for lawful export to Mexico since 2007. In order to verify that controlled commodities exported out of the United States are being utilized consistent with the authorization, State engages in a program entitled “Blue Lantern” which is a systematic process for monitoring the end-users and end-use of U.S. defense exports. ICE partners with State in these Blue Lantern verifications due to ICE’s expertise and authority in enforcing the Arms Export Control Act. ICE will work diligently to support State in increasing the number of end-user verification checks.
Increase bilateral cooperation on arms smuggling/trafficking investigations through initiatives such as ICE’s Weapons Virtual Task Force. ICE has recently established the Operation Armas Cruzadas initiative, which focuses on combating the smuggling/trafficking of weapons from the United States into Mexico.
As part of this initiative, ICE has created the Weapons Virtual Task Force (WVTF), a cyberspace task force comprised of ICE law enforcement and intelligence personnel and Government of Mexico partners. The WVTF leverages the capability to communicate and share critical information regarding criminal conspiracies to finance, acquire, and smuggle weapons across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Support prosecutorial capacity building in Mexico. Strengthening capacity to investigate and prosecute illegal arms smuggling/trafficking and related crimes is key to ensuring the Government of Mexico’s success in combating the destabilizing influence of drug trafficking organizations and related violence.
Utilize the Mexico Fellowship Program. The Department of Homeland Security will work with the Government of Mexico to deploy two Mexican Customs officials to the CBP NTC-C to facilitate cooperation and exchange of information to identify smuggling patterns in both countries and to increase security.
Expand the deployment of ATF and ICE liaison officers in Mexico. One method of cooperation between the United States and the Government of Mexico is the established Mexico Border Liaison Officer (BLO) program. The Mexico BLO program allows ATF and ICE to more effectively identify and combat crossborder criminal organizations by providing a streamlined information and intelligence sharing mechanism between U.S. and Government of Mexico law enforcement personnel. In addition, the expansion of permanent ATF and ICE investigators working in ATF and ICE attaché offices throughout Mexico is critically important in facilitating crossborder coordination of weapons smuggling/trafficking investigations. Programs that improve intelligence coordination and collaboration should be continued and expanded in scope.
Modernize, expand, and network ballistics imaging technology with Mexican law enforcement agencies. Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) equipment allows firearms technicians to acquire digital images of the markings made by a firearm on bullets and cartridge casings for use in comparing and matching ballistic evidence recovered at literally thousands of crime scenes casing-by-casing and projectile-by-projectile. Ballistics information systems deployed in Mexico could be integrated with a modernized National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) system to enable U.S. and Mexican law enforcement to discover links between crimes more quickly. The Mexican Office of the Attorney General has invested $20 million in a new forensics laboratory, and Merida funds have been 34 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy appropriated to provide three IBIS for this laboratory in FY 2008. Six additional IBIS are planned for FY 2009. Continued deployment of IBIS equipment in Mexico would greatly increase U.S. Government and Government of Mexico investigative efforts to reduce violent crime, and the upgrading of the NIBIN system in the United States would allow for integration with ballistics imaging systems in Mexico.
4. Strengthen domestic coordination on weapons smuggling/trafficking investigations.
Review and update MOUs among U.S. law enforcement agencies to ensure optimal coordination and effectiveness. An updated MOU will allow for a more effective use of Federal investigative resources. ATF and ICE are committed to cooperation and, when practical, joint enforcement efforts. In those situations where each agency’s respective mission efforts coincide, this MOU will serve to coordinate how each agency will pursue its investigations in complementary ways while minimizing duplication of effort.
Improve support to State and local law enforcement efforts targeting illegal weapons smuggling/trafficking. ICE provides support to State and local law enforcement to target illegal weapons smuggling/trafficking through Operation Armas Cruzadas, its use of Title 19 cross-designation, and through joint operations with the BEST initiative. BEST task forces serve as force multipliers for State and local law enforcement efforts by leveraging Federal, State, local, tribal and foreign law enforcement and intelligence resources in an effort to identify, disrupt, and dismantle organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities in the border and threaten the overall safety and security of the American public. The task forces are designed to increase information sharing and collaboration among the participating agencies with a focus on the identification, prioritization, and investigation of emerging or existing threats. Additionally, ATF offers training to State and local law enforcement in such areas as firearms identification and post-blast investigation.
Increase ATF staffing levels in the Southwest border region. By regulating both the firearms and explosives industries and by enforcing the criminal laws relating to those commodities, ATF makes significant contributions to interagency efforts to disrupt the illegal smuggling/trafficking of firearms from the United States to Mexico and other countries in the Americas in facilitation of the illegal drug trade.
Project Gunrunner, ATF’s strategy to counter weapons smuggling/trafficking, is a crucial part of the overall U.S. Government strategy to reduce the armed violence occurring in Mexico and the United States. Project Gunrunner’s primary focus is to disrupt and dismantle organizations responsible for the domestic and international movement of high quality “weapons of choice” to and from violent criminal organizations that operate along the borders and throughout the United States.
Increase staffing levels and expand the use of the BESTs to disrupt crossborder weapons smuggling/trafficking networks. BESTs are designed to leverage Federal, State, local, tribal and foreign law enforcement and intelligence resources on the border in an effort to identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal organizations such as those involved in weapons smuggling/trafficking. The task forces are designed to increase information sharing, maximize investigative authorities, and promote ollaboration among the participating agencies focusing on the identification, prioritization, and investigation of emerging or existing threats.
Fully utilize the Border Corruption Task Forces to investigate corruption among U.S. law enforcement and military personnel related to weapons smuggling/trafficking. The illegal smuggling/trafficking of weapons is a potential source of revenue for criminal and terrorist organizations. It can facilitate the commission of criminal activity in both the United States and in foreign countries, as well as strengthen the influence
of criminal and terrorist organizations. The corruption of U.S. public officials can directly facilitate weapons smuggling/trafficking in a variety of ways, from simply protecting illegal activity to potentially eroding the overall regional government structure, including its executive, legislative, regulatory, and judicial components.
Develop a new export requirement that allows for capturing serial numbers of firearms exported from the United States. By capturing the serial number of firearms when they are exported, U.S. authorities are able to provide foreign law enforcement with immediate and actionable intelligence (e.g., the date the weapon was exported and to whom the weapon was exported). This gives the foreign government a starting point in their country for an investigation. Capturing serial numbers at the time of export also allows the United States Government to rapidly identify if a weapon utilized in a foreign violent crime was smuggled out of the United States or if it was lawfully exported. The Department of State has instituted a policy to require and retain serial numbers on all United States Munitions List Category I, II, and IV firearms that have been granted authorization to be exported from the United States to Mexico. The capturing of serial numbers will be accomplished by entering the data into existing export data systems.
5. Work with the U.S. Congress and key stakeholders to enhance the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies in countering illegal arms smuggling/trafficking.
Encourage the Senate to Ratify The Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA). CIFTA requires parties to the Convention to establish or maintain export, import, and transit licensing systems; require the marking of firearms; criminalize illicit manufacture and trafficking of firearms; and engage in international information exchange, coordination, training, and law enforcement cooperation. Ratification of the Convention will send a powerful message to partner nations and help the countries of the hemisphere to shut down the illicit transnational arms market that fuels the violence associated with drug trafficking, terrorism, and international organized crime.
Coordinate United States Government outreach to Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and relevant nongovernmental organizations to increase awareness of the weapons smuggling/trafficking threat and improve cooperation. Fair and effective regulation and outreach to the firearms industry is a key component of ATF’s firearms enforcement efforts. To this end, ATF investigates FFL applicants to determine eligibility and to educate them about their recordkeeping responsibilities; conducts compliance inspections of current FFLs; and collaborates with industry on voluntary compliance efforts. ATF Industry Operations Investigators conduct inspections of FFLs to detect diversion, ensure compliance with laws and regulations, and assist with business practices designed to improve compliance with the GCA. Additionally, ATF also regulates the importation of firearms into the United States. ICE conducts industry outreach in the form of Project Shield America. Since 2001 ICE has conducted over 16,000 briefings as part of Project Shield America in an effort to elicit cooperation from industry sources and provide information regarding U.S. export laws and potential threats from smuggling/trafficking networks. As a result of these briefings, many potential violators are identified at the initial stages of their illicit activities. Coordinated outreach among U.S. agencies will lead to an increase in awareness and cooperation with the firearms industry.
6. Increase the likelihood of successful Federal prosecution for illegal weapons trafficking.