After months of rumors, formal notices were sent out last night to field offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that the Treasury Department has decided to eliminate the agency.
The notification did not include an effective date and did not specify what will happen to the agency's 3,400 employes.
It did say that there will be an attempt to reassign some employes to the Secret Service and some to the U.S. Customs Service, both under Treasury's jurisdiction, but no numbers were mentioned.
A notification sent by Treasury yesterday to Capitol Hill indicated that if funding is available, 2,400 of the ATF employes will be placed in other jobs in the department. If not, as many as 2,200 may lose their jobs.
In recent weeks, ATF agents have complained that funding for travel and undercover work has been cut off almost entirely.
One agent said yesterday that the 10 undercover agents in his office had a total of $32 in travel money for the next two weeks. "We have people who have been indicted, but we don't have the travel money to go arrest them," he said. "One of them has a previous conviction for murder."
He said two of the agents were paying travel expenses themselves to go to court to testify against people who are already in custody. "They don't seem to realize in Washington that people are going to be dying as a result of this," he said