By Jeffrey Folloder
As some of you may know, on April 3, 2017, ATF’s Office of Enforcement Programs and Services (EPS) underwent a reorganization separating the operations of NFA Branch out into a standalone Division to better provide oversight, address performance indicators, and give the operations of this important industry functional area increased individual management control over specified NFA business lines. Many have expressed concern as to exactly what that will mean to the firearms community in general and the NFA community, specifically.
Alphonso Hughes will be leading the NFA Division as Division Chief and transitioning the operations of the former Firearms & Explosives Services Division (which includes Imports Branch and both licensing centers) to Division Chief Gary Taylor.
Within the NFA Division, two distinct branches and a Division Staff Program Office have been formed:
The Industry Processing Branch (NFA IPB), led by IPB Branch Chief, Amy L. Stely, will oversee the daily operations of industry forms processing at all levels and work with the Division Chief and the community to provide the best experience for the supply chain. This will include an effort to continually leverage technology enhancements and refine current operations.
The Government Support Branch (NFA GSB), led by GSB Branch Chief, David Howell, will oversee the daily processing of SOT applications, ATF Form 10 processing, 479.33 exemptions processing, handling of industry expedite requests for Government and Law Enforcement, complex issues requiring policy evaluation or re-evaluation with Firearms Explosives Industry Division (FEID) and Firearms Industry Program Branch (FIPB), and addressing Industry general requests, such as 479.26 alternate procedure requests that are not policy related. Policy related requests will be handled by FIPB. GSB will directly support Federal, state and local entities with acquisitions and overall LE support.
The NFA Division Staff Program Office, led by Supervisory Program Analyst, Melissa Mason, will oversee the publication of the Firearms Commerce in the United States Annual Statistical Update, manage FOIA requests, respond to data calls and will oversee the vetting of statistical data for posting on the ATF.gov website.
Of course, the first question most are asking is “Why?” The most expedient answer to that is funding. As a Division, funding issues are handled more directly than a Branch fighting up through the layers of management. We should expect to see more responsive allocations of resources to deal with workflow surges. We should also expect to see the same responsiveness in terms of technologic improvement for systems that are crucial to processing. Conspiracy theorists might opine that adding more layers of bureaucracy should be expected and that those expectations should include a belief that these changes will undermine workflow instead of enhancing it.
NFATCA has worked with ATF on a regular basis to secure improvements to the system. We have been instrumental in advocating for and securing additional personnel to handle Forms processing. We staunchly demanded the addition of credit card processing, as well. Senior ATF management assures us that the goal of these changes is to improve workflow, decrease processing time, improve the customer experience and become more responsive to the firearms community. These stated goals are a welcome step in the right direction and were clearly wanted by our membership and the firearms community. Time will tell if the efforts bear fruit.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N6 (July 2017)|