ATF eForms Rebranded to Vaporware FEAM

On January 15, 2016, I received the following email from the ATF:

Good Afternoon:

You are receiving this email because you are a registered eForms user

ATF eForms Update

The new eForms has been named the “Firearms and Explosives Application Module (FEAM)”.  This name was selected to emphasis that FEAM is more than a “fillable form”.  It is a business process module which will include at a minimum the functionality listed below:

  • Auto assignment – All applications will be immediately upon submission assigned to an examiner for processing.
  • Auto approval – Some forms, like the ATF Forms 2 and 3, if they meet certain pre-determined criteria will be automatically approved by the FEAM system upon submission.
  • Internal controls and performance measurement reporting – ATF has a full audit trail of every application received with date and time stamps for every step in the process.  Digital signatures can be used to lock down portions of the form to ensure the security of the data and the authenticity of the submitter.
  • Improved business processes with automatic Records Management & Retention, as mandated by the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Electronic Signature (for submitter and ATF personnel) – provides enhanced authentication, validation and improves processing and approval.
  • Enhance Industry satisfaction:  user-friendly interaction.
  • FEAM provides the Application Program Interface (APIs) needed to update the existing ATF back end databases, to allow for the batch submission of multiple forms using one computer session.
  • Improves efficiency for the Enforcement Programs and Services staff – Forms can be automatically routed, evaluated and tracked so that final determinations can be made in a consistent and expeditious manner.

We had hoped to be able to present the first iteration of FEAM at the 2016 SHOT Show.  ATF performed an assessment of what was contracted to be developed for FEAM and what the contractor planned to deliver.  At the end of the assessment, all parties involved felt that the product outlined in the current contract did not fully provide all the functionality that we expected, or that the industry requested.  For these reasons we decided that rather than to continue on the current course, we would take the steps listed below to ensure that FEAM is a worthwhile investment for both the industry and ATF:

  1. Curtail the current development effort.
  2. Determine what is needed to sustain the existing eForms system, until the full requirements for FEAM can be determined and developed.
  3. Make the necessary changes to eForms to stabilize the infrastructure with the ever-increasing user population.
  4. Determine if we can re-introduce the Form 3 to the current eForms, through load testing and other system validations.
  5. Perform an assessment of the ATF and industry requirements for FEAM.
  6. Secure required funding for a new FEAM initiative, based on the revised requirements.
  7. Restart the FEAM initiative, to include industry participation during the requirements gathering and testing processes.

We look at this as only a minor delay.  It is our intention to use this delay to acquire the tools and resources necessary to develop a product that will provide more functionality and a stable workflow process and infrastructure.  All the work previously done on FEAM is not lost.  It will be the foundation for the work that is yet to come.   If you have any questions you can contact Lee Alston-Williams at [email protected].

Reading between the lines, here’s the gist of what I picked up from the email.

The Good News

  • We’ve got an awesome new system! It’s going to be super-cool. No, really! We hire professionals to do it and everything. You are gonna LOVE it.
  • The new system will auto-assign applications to an examiner. That’s gonna like totally reduce processing time for NFA items such as suppressors and SBRs. You’ll see! It will be amazing!
  • Depending on the type of form and some criteria (maybe we haven’t decided which ones so we’re not really gonna tell you which forms or criteria) some applications might actually auto-approve by the system. Auto-approve! Like, you can pay your unnecessary tax immediately and exercise your 2nd Amendment rights right away, which we shouldn’t have been infringing with a tax anyway!
  • Some computer dudes told us that APIs are cool. So we have one. Computer geeks can use for batch submissions of multiple forms. Someone had to tell us that API mean “Application Program Interface,” and that sounds super awesome, but once we figure out how to use it, we’re sure it will be cool.

WOW! This new system from the ATF sounds amazing! As if it’s… too good to believe!

Now, the Bad News:

  • Yeah, so, you know all that cool stuff we just told you about? It’s not ready. We wanted it to be ready for the SHOT Show in January, but we’re the government, so we paid way too much to the wrong contractors and they don’t have it done. And it’s not like it’s “almost done,” it’s like totally not done. So rather than keep going with the useless crap we already paid for, we’re going to totally start over! Yep! We wasted all the taxpayer money we spent on that contractor. Sorry! But we’re the ATF. It’s not like you can do anything about it.
  • We’re going back to the drawing board to decide what the next version of crappy software should look like, and then we’ll have to convince Congress to get us more money (they love handing out money). Then we’ll find another contractor to screw us (and ultimately you) over and launch another crappy system.

If the ATF didn’t know what “vaporware” was before now, I’m sure they’re aware of it now. That’s what the FEAM project is: vaporware.

And here’s the funniest line of of that whole email: “We look at this as only a minor delay.”

LOLOLOL. Yeah. Minor delay. The ATF isn’t exactly known for “rapid deployment” of anything.

Let’s mark our calendars, folks. The ATF’s “minor delay” started on January 15, 2016.

Once again… your tax dollars hard at work.


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