- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2019

The head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will retire at the end of April, handing the long-beleaguered agency some fresh uncertainty after nearly four years as its acting director.

Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon, who has served in the top post since April 2015, made waves last month with very public criticism of the budget President Trump proposed for his agency.

No public reason was given for his decision to step down.

“He is a well-respected leader and has been an ethical administrator of justice for our agency,” ATF spokeswoman April Langwell said in an email. “He will be sorely missed. We wish Deputy Director Brandon best wishes for a wonderful and well-deserved retirement.”

Mr. Brandon ran the agency during a spate of mass shootings, including the October 2017 Las Vegas shooting that helped prompt the administration to ban bump stock-type devices, and last year’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

He also helped oversee improvements to a national ballistics database within the agency that helps track shell casings recovered at crime scenes.

But he recently lamented what he described as a hollowing out of the agency’s forces over the years, saying the ATF is a “small agency with a big mission” at the congressional hearing.

He said the ATF could lose 377 staff members to attrition if Mr. Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request were to be enacted.

“You hear people say, ‘trim the fat.’ Then we trimmed into muscle and now we’re trimming into bone,” he told a House appropriations subcommittee.

The ATF has had only one fully confirmed director in the 13 years since its top position was elevated to require a Senate vote. That was B. Todd Jones, who was confirmed in 2013 and served until 2015, when he gave way to Mr. Brandon.

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