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The Drug Enforcement Administration's
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers

Report No. 02-28
August 2002
Office of the Inspector General


INTRODUCTION

The Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) mission is to enforce the controlled substance laws and regulations of the United States by bringing to the criminal and civil justice system those organizations and principal members of organizations involved in the growth, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances that are intended for illicit traffic in the United States. At the conclusion of fiscal year 2001, the DEA had a total of 9,209 personnel (4,529 law enforcement) assigned to offices throughout the United States and foreign countries.

As of November 2001, the DEA had an inventory of about 15,000 weapons, which included semi-automatic weapons, shotguns, submachine guns, and rifles. Also during this time period, the DEA had about 6,000 laptop computers, of which 5,286 laptop computers were assigned to non-technical staff,3 and 848 laptop computers were assigned to technical staff. Almost all the laptop computers used by the DEA are used to process information that is considered sensitive. The DEA stated that it has only one laptop computer authorized to process classified information.

DEA Property Management Systems

Office of Management and Budget Circular A-1234 requires federal agencies to: (1) establish a management control system that provides reasonable assurance that assets are safeguarded against waste, loss, unauthorized use, and misappropriation; and (2) ensure that transactions are promptly recorded, properly classified, and accounted for in order to prepare timely accounts and reliable financial and other reports. In addition, the Department of Justice Property Management Regulations (JPMR)5 requires Department components to issue detailed operating procedures to protect federal property against fraud, waste, and abuse.

DEA guidelines for the general management of laptop computers are contained in its Property Management Handbook. Guidance specifically related to the management of weapons is contained in the DEA Firearms Policy, Section 6122. According to these guidelines, DEA employees are responsible for the proper and reasonable care and safeguarding of property assigned to them or located in their work area. An employee whose negligence causes the loss of DEA property, including weapons and laptop computers, may be subject to disciplinary action.

The DEA categorizes weapons and laptop computers as accountable property. The Property Management Handbook classifies accountable property into two categories: non-capitalized and capitalized. Non-capitalized accountable property includes items with an acquisition cost over $1,000 and under $25,000. Non-capitalized accountable property also includes weapons, laptop computers, and other sensitive property items such as automated data processing equipment, aviation equipment, laboratory equipment, televisions and VCRs, abandoned/forfeited property, and electronic typewriters. Capitalized accountable property is property with an acquisition cost of $25,000 or more.

Property Management Personnel

Weapons: The Firearms Training Unit (FTU) located in Quantico, Virginia, is responsible for the overall management of the official weapon property system for all DEA issued weapons. The responsible FTU personnel are the Unit Chief, Chief Armorer, and a secretary. At the DEA's 22 field divisions, there is a designated Primary Firearms Instructor (PFI) assigned to control the weapons inventory.

Laptop Computers: The Property Management Unit (Property Unit), located within DEA headquarters is responsible for the administration of DEA headquarters, domestic offices, and foreign country office accountable property management controls and inventory records.6 Its responsibilities include disseminating relevant policies and procedures, coordinating property inventories, and reviewing and approving property management transactions. Responsibilities also include maintaining the automated property system to track the acquisition, movement, and disposal of laptop computers.

The Property Unit is staffed with a Unit Chief, nine Property Management Specialists, and a secretary. Each of the Property Management Specialists is assigned the oversight of specific foreign offices, field division offices, and headquarters offices. They have full access to inventory data for their assigned offices only. For each headquarters unit, division office, district office, resident office, and foreign country office a Property Custodial Assistant (PCA) is designated for property management at his or her respective locations.

Overview of Automated Systems

Weapons: In October 2001, the DEA replaced its automated property management system (M-204 system) with a database system, referred to as the "Weapons Database" by the DEA, to manage its weapons inventory. According to DEA officials, the change was needed because the M-204 system contained a significant amount of unreliable information. In addition, M-204 system users could manipulate data so that items in inventory could be transferred or deleted without approval. To improve controls, the DEA initiated the development of the Weapons Database. According to FTU staff, the DEA performed a physical inventory in FY 2001 and reconciliation of all DEA-owned weapons, completed an official property record for each weapon, and manually inputted the weapons data from each property record into the Weapons Database.

The Weapons Database is inaccessible at DEA field locations. FTU staff use the system to monitor the location and custody of weapons at all DEA locations. Information forwarded by the FTU to field locations is limited to the inventory data for a particular location.

Laptop Computers: The DEA currently has two automated systems that comprise its official property management system for accounting for laptop computers: the Fixed Asset Subsystem (FAS) and the Technical Equipment Inventory System (TEIS). Both the FAS and TEIS systems are used by DEA locations worldwide. The two systems are neither integrated nor reconciled to each other. In October 2000, the DEA converted the automated property management system for laptop computers (the M-204 system) into the FAS.7 Following the conversion, the DEA initiated a worldwide, 100 percent physical inventory and reconciliation of accountable property items. Field locations performed the physical inventory and mailed the results to DEA Headquarters. At the time of our audit, the DEA was still performing the reconciliation of the new system. The DEA has since informed us that the reconciliation is complete and that 229 laptop computers are unaccounted for.

As noted earlier, each of the nine Property Management Specialists under the supervision of the Chief of the Property Unit is assigned to oversee a group of DEA units. The specialists have full access to FAS inventory data for the groups to which they are assigned, but not for the groups assigned to the other specialists. Also, field locations cannot delete property listed on the FAS, but they can change the status of property - such as "disposed of," "excessed," or "transferred." Field locations cannot access inventory data for other field locations.

The second inventory system for laptop computers, TEIS, is used to track specialized DEA technical equipment worldwide. The inventory recorded on TEIS includes about 800 laptop computers that are used for radio programming, polygraph analysis, or other specialized functions.8 The Office of Investigative Technology, located in Lorton, Virginia is responsible for managing the master TEIS database. Two DEA personnel at the Lorton location are designated as "TEIS super users" who can access all TEIS data. Ten other DEA personnel at the Lorton location have limited access to TEIS and a limited ability to modify TEIS data. At DEA field locations, designated personnel in "tech space" also have limited access.

Prior Reviews

The OIG previously audited the DEA's property management and inventory controls in 1996.9 The audit found the DEA had seven separate property systems, each with its own manager and database. Also, there was no property management officer for the overall coordination of the various systems and the audit found that property was not adequately safeguarded against waste or theft. In addition, property record totals were not a reliable indicator concerning the true acquisition value of the DEA's assets and total property on hand. Each of the recommendations for this audit had been closed. Also, a fiscal year (FY) 2001 financial statement audit10 revealed that the DEA did not maintain a system that accurately and completely accounted for property and equipment.

The DEA Inspection Unit performs an inspection of property, including weapons and laptop computers, in domestic field offices every 2 years, DEA Headquarters every 3 years, and foreign offices every 4 years. The inspection includes an evaluation of property management controls, a review of property assignments and physical inventory documents, a physical verification of property, and tests of property records. We examined a sample of recent inspection reports and found that the DEA Inspectors identified findings that pertained to the accountability of laptop computers, such as delays in reporting lost property, items with missing DEA property numbers, inaccurate inventory records, and problems with the inventory reconciliation.

Audit Approach

We obtained from the DEA a listing of weapons identified as lost, missing, or stolen between October 1, 1999 and November 15, 2001. The DEA was unable to provide this information for laptop computers. (See Finding I.) We reviewed the circumstances surrounding each loss and assessed the DEA's reporting and investigative action taken. Further, we looked for indications that the lost property resulted in physical harm to the public. Because the DEA could not provide information on lost, missing, or stolen laptop computers, we could not determine if the lost property resulted in a compromise of national security or investigative information. Our conclusions are presented in Finding I. Appendices II and III contain a summary of our results.

We also reviewed the DEA's management controls over the purchase, receipt and assignment, inventory, and disposal of DEA-issued weapons and laptop computers, as well as the DEA's automated systems. We then assessed the DEA's controls by reviewing property management activities at DEA Headquarters, Justice Training Center, Office of Investigative Technology, Atlanta Division Office, Boston Division Office and San Diego Division Office. At each site, we evaluated relevant property management controls, reviewed documentation practices, and physically inspected property. We also tested, on a sample basis, the accuracy and completeness of the property records. The results of our analyses are presented in Finding II; Appendix IV shows the geographic distribution of the sampled property.


Footnotes

  1. Non-technical staff are employees who perform duties that do not involve the use of specialized laptops for functions such as polygraph analysis and radio programming.

  2. Management Accountability and Control, dated June 21, 1995.

  3. Department of Justice Order (DOJ Order) 2400.3, dated August 6, 1998.

  4. The Property Unit has limited responsibility for management of the weapons inventory; it only certifies the destruction of weapons by DEA.

  5. The accuracy of the M-204 system data was not tested by the DEA prior to the conversion, resulting in problems with the reliability of the FAS data.† These problems are identified in Finding II.

  6. he DEA justification for having the second system is that it provides better controls over specialized items that tend to be checked in and out frequently.

  7. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Audit Report 96-10, "DEA Property Management and Inventory Controls."

  8. Pursuant to the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and the Government Management Reform Act of 1994, audits are required to be performed on the Departmentís annual financial statements.† These audits are issued by the OIG based on work performed by independent public accountants.