Saturday, March 17, 2018

ATF and TTB Is Another Divorce on The Horizon?

     This is a great article that is explaining what is happening in alcohol enforcement and how these changes are coming about.  If you are in the industry in the United States, you need to be aware of these changes.

Forward by John Hinman:

Robert M. Tobiassen
  We asked 
Robert M. Tobiassen, Compliance Consultant and former Chief Counsel, TTB, why TTB was structured the way it was, what we can expect to happen as the 2019 budget is implemented and what kind of TTB enforcement policies will be in place going forward.  He responded with the history and status of the agency, and his prognosis for the future, based on his long experience in Washington DC. This article is must reading for every professional in the alcoholic beverage industry who interfaces with the TTB.


     Disruption is the descriptive word du jour used by every industry experiencing change and challenges in its global supply chain, manufacturing models, distribution channels, and attracting and retaining consumers.   The Trump Administration is similarly disrupting Executive Branch agencies through its political appointees, program change mandates, and budget reallocations.   TTB is not exempt from this disruption and the fiscal year 2019 proposed budget foreshadows a possible second divorce for ATF and TTB that could alter the culture of TTB.  Industry members and other stakeholders learned lessons from the first agency divorce in 2003, specifically about how criminal law enforcement agencies function. It behooves everyone today to pay heed to these lessons of history as the proposed budget moves forward. 

The 2019 Budget Proposal - Move All Alcohol Enforcement to the TTB, Which Would Have More Money and More People

     The release of the President's Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 confirmed what reputable news media reported earlier of a plan under consideration by the Trump Administration to strip the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Department of Justice, of its authority to investigate tobacco and alcohol smuggling.  The New York Times[1] in an article picked up by The Hill, a local political themed newspaper in Washington, DC, cites a senior administration official as the source of its information.[2]  According to this official, ATF's core mission is preventing violent crimes and has treated tobacco smuggling as a "backwater" mandate.

The Department Of Justice Budget Summary Explains:

     ATF would transfer the entirety of its alcohol and tobacco regulatory and enforcement responsibilities to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the Department of the Treasury.  This transfer would enable the ATF to hone its focus on activities that protect U.S. communities from violent criminals and criminal organizations, while consolidating duplicative alcohol and tobacco enforcement mechanisms within the TTB.[3]

Correspondingly, The Department of The Treasury Budget Summary Explains:

In addition, the Budget proposes to transfer all alcohol and tobacco responsibilities from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  This transfer would leverage TTB's resources and expertise relating to the alcohol and tobacco industries and allow ATF to continue to focus on its firearms and explosives mandates, enabling both agencies to more efficiently and effectively carry out their core mission of protecting the public.

This is not the first proposal to move the tobacco and alcohol jurisdiction of ATF to another agency.  For the past two sessions of Congress, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin has introduced the ATF Elimination Act that would transfer the tobacco and alcohol role of ATF to the Drug Enforcement Administration.