WASHINGTON - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) took an unprecedented step forward today with the dedication of its new National Laboratory Center, which will significantly enhance ATF's crime-fighting capabilities.

This state-of the-art facility, located in Ammendale, Maryland, combines a forensic science laboratory, a fire research lab, and an alcohol and tobacco lab in one location. The facility will provide the scientific support to law enforcement, which in many instances is crucial in perfecting criminal cases in federal, state and local courts. The alcohol and tobacco lab is operated by the Department of the Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and will provide a national testing center for products such as alcohol and tobacco to ensure compliance with public health and safety issues.

"Our National Laboratory Center personnel are key players in our law enforcement investigations. They fill-in the pieces of the puzzle which permit our law enforcement personnel to link evidence used in criminal activity to suspects," ATF Acting Director Bradley A. Buckles said. "The forensic analyses conducted here arm law enforcement with the scientific underpinnings to build solid criminal cases. Cases built on sound scientific evidence increase the odds that law enforcement officials can take criminals off our streets and put them behind bars."

Buckles added: "One need look no further than the sniper investigation to see how well our lab employees have done their jobs, whatever the circumstances. The forensic firearms expertise provided by the lab in the sniper case played a major role in the apprehension of the two sniper suspects now in custody."

Funding for the facility was initiated by Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD).

"As home to a state-of-the-art National Laboratory Center in Maryland, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will be able to conduct a variety of scientific activities to help state and local law enforcement agencies reduce violent crime and protect the public," Hoyer said. "ATF has been an integral authority and provided critical evidence in the recent sniper shootings that plagued our region. This facility will afford ATF the space required for its high level scientists and technical specialists to perform this vital work."

The center has three components:

Forensic Science Laboratory, which evaluates evidence obtained in crimes involving firearms, bombings and suspected arson incidents.
Fire Research Laboratory, the first facility in the world dedicated to fire scene investigations, including the ability to reconstruct fire scenes to determine how fires begin and spread.
Alcohol and Tobacco Laboratory, of the Department of the Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which conducts chemical, physical and instrumental analyses to support illicit alcohol and tobacco trade investigations, ensures collection of taxes due and product safety for consumers.
"This cutting-edge facility provides the equipment needed to match the long-recognized expertise of our Alcohol and Tobacco lab personnel," stated TTB Administrator Arthur J. Libertucci.

The ATF National Laboratory Center was built under the direction of the General Services Administration (GSA) on a 35-acre site, close to the University of Maryland. This site will further enhance partnerships sharing training, engineering expertise and knowledge in physical/fire sciences and forensic investigation areas. The Ammendale, Maryland, facility replaces the ATF Rockville, Maryland facility.

In addition to ATF and GSA, the project team included Higgins Development Partners of Chicago, the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Baltimore, and the architectural firm of Kallman, McKinnell and Wood of Boston.