The Department of Justice inspector general found that FBI agents had lost or had stolen from the department 45 firearms since 2016, while the bureau lacked proper controls over explosives and munitions.
The audit determined that the bureau had strong physical controls over unassigned firearms and that special agents were personally responsible for their assigned weapons. But the FBI lacked proper controls over explosives and ammunition, including more than 1.2 million rounds of ammunition.
“We identified non-compliance issues related to the FBI’s ammunition inventories,” the watchdog report stated. “We also identified concerns related to tracking FBI ammunition, less lethal munitions, diversionary devices, and explosives; and firearms slated for disposal.”
The bureau had 57,812 firearms in its inventory as of August 2019, making the loss and theft of the 45 firearms a tiny fraction of the weapons in FBI’s possession. Of the 45 missing firearms, 24 had been recovered and one was used in a crime.
The bureau suspended 37 and dismissed one agent for the loss and theft. All but one of the suspensions lasted seven days or less. An agent who had two pistols and a carbine stolen from his vehicle was suspended for 60 days. The agent who was dismissed left his Glock pistol in a hotel room.
The bureau had also failed to properly document eight of the missing or stolen firearms. One gun, which had been recovered more than a year ago, was still listed as stolen in the FBI’s tracking system.
The inspector general found that 360 of the firearms didn’t have an assigned custodian, in violation of FBI policies. The sample of the guns the watchdog attempted to trace back to the FBI’s inventory included two firearms that couldn’t be tracked back to the FBI’s records system. The bureau couldn’t explain how the firearms came into its possession.
The inspector general also found that while the FBI properly stored its explosives, the bureau’s system for tracking and inventorying its explosives had weaknesses that could allow the explosives to be lost or stolen without detection. Only two of the eight sites audited had proper systems in place to track explosives inventories. The watchdog recommended that the bureau conduct annual inventories of its explosives and keep the records for at least three years.
Similar issues with properly keeping records are a government-wide problem. The vast majority of federal agencies had spent billions of dollars over the course of two decades purchasing electronic records management software that makes it virtually impossible to properly retain and manage records.
In addition to the billions wasted, such failures have contributed to the loss of lives. The Air Force’s failure to inform the FBI about the investigation and court martial of Devin Kelley enabled the man to purchase the firearms he used to kill 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017. The families of the victims are now suing the government.