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Laboratories and Scientific Services Fact Sheet

Employees in CBP’s Laboratories and Scientific Services use cutting-edge instrumentation to provide forensic and scientific analysis in the following areas:
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Narcotics enforcement
  • Trade enforcement
  • Intellectual property rights

The eight laboratories, one Interdiction Technology Branch and one 24 x 7 Teleforensics Center that make up the Office of Information and Technology, Laboratories and Scientific Services are applied science at its best. The more than 200 scientists, chemists, biologists, textile analysts, physicists, forensic scientists, engineers and procurement specialists that work in CBP laboratories conduct general chemical and forensic analysis in support of CBP’s trade and anti-terrorism missions. They conduct laboratory analysis to determine the proper classification and appraisal of a commodity or product, if a product meets safety requirements, and whether a product is counterfeit. But the lab has become indispensable in the effort to detect and identify weapons of mass effect—nuclear, chemical, explosive and biological, including the deployment of sophisticated interdiction systems.

The origin of Laboratories and Scientific Services goes back to the 1840s when pharmacists and medical doctors were hired and placed on Appraiser’s Teams to conduct analysis of sugar and alcohol products. Determining country of origin and commodity classification for the purpose of levying tariffs was the main reason for lab analysis. Initially, the labs dealt with two commodities: sugar and pharmaceuticals. Chemists did their analysis using not more than a couple of instruments. From these humble beginnings lab analysis has grown exponentially.

Anti-Terrorism Support
One evolving function of the laboratory is supporting CBP’s anti-terrorism mission. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents have been assigned personal radiation detectors and ports are utilizing radiation portals to screen for nuclear devices or materials that can be used in their construction.

Forensic Services
The Forensic Services Program provides forensic and crime scene investigation support. Fingerprints are run through the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), a computer network that compares fingerprints to millions of prints contained in law enforcement databases. The computer provides potential matches and the percentage of a match based on certain values. However, to establish a positive match and to meet the standard for evidence in court proceedings, a fingerprint expert compares the actual inked card to the print.

Quick Expertise
All CBP laboratories have ISO 17025 (quality management) accreditation - the first government agency to receive this for its entire laboratory system. The mobile lab fleet can bring lab expertise to any location within 48 hours and most within just 24 hours. Whether it is identifying an illicit radioactive material, making sure that the pharmaceutical drugs you buy are safe, the video game you buy is authentic, or protecting our domestic trade, the CBP laboratories are working to keep America safe.

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