Whether or not you support gun control, do not increase funding for the ATF; here’s why.

I saw this article today that the current administration is seeking to make a radical increase in funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”).  This is a tragic mistake.

I led a proposal effort to win an important software development contract (over $100M) with this agency several years ago.  When we won, I spoke with the outgoing contractor who shared with me, “You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

In fact, we were the fifth consecutive contractor who got sideways with this agency during execution of the contract, where we were developing new software systems for their agents to manage cases, access investigatory information, and track firearms used during the commission of crimes.

I found the technical leadership at ATF to be the most incompetent, dishonest, and technically inept organization I worked with in over a decade providing critical consulting services with the federal government.

Any additional funding to this organization should be equated to setting hard-earned taxpayer dollars on fire.

Over a year of deceit, and bringing the full force of the Department of Justice legal minds to accuse my firm of failing to deliver on our promises, eventually resulted in an embarrassing settlement (the non-disclosure terms of which I do not remember so I will not provide details). This agreement protected their incompetence from becoming known but deprived their agents of an upgrade to key systems (the fifth failure in a row from as many contractors) sorely needed by their field agents.

The level of their incompetence was staggering.  The lack of principled leadership: embarrassing. The pettiness of their retaliatory efforts: mind boggling. And the corruption of their acquisitions team: disgusting.

The experience eventually drove me out of doing business with the federal government, becoming disillusioned that we could ever provide meaningful technology for the field agents who often put their lives at risk to perform dangerous and complex missions. I urge Congress to reject any material increase in funding to this agency until an independent investigation into the millions spent developing information technology systems there can be radically transformed.  

Without that, you’re just burning more taxpayer funds.

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