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Electronic Departmental Order (eDO) Team
Department of Justice

Members: Paula J. Zirkle, Charles F. Smith, Joshua A. Cutler, D.R. McCartney, Julie L. Greynolds

Any person denied the ability to purchase a firearm through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) due to a prohibiting reason can appeal to the FBI to learn the reason for the denial. Historically, the processing of these NICS denial requests was a paper-based, manual, resource-intensive process that resulted in a three-year backlog. Even with 75 NICS employees dedicated to researching and responding to these denial requests, the average response time to the customer was between 16-18 weeks. However, the Fix NICS Act, passed in March 2018, required the FBI to respond to firearm denial requests within 60 days. This requirement was met by the FBI with an innovative solution that benefits the FBI and the public.

Separate from the NICS denial appeal process, the FBI had implemented a new Electronic Departmental Order (eDO) process in 2017–a state-of-the-art way of processing requests from citizens requesting a copy of their FBI Identity History Summary or proof that one does not exist. The eDO system provides the public with an option to submit requests and receive responses electronically via a secure website.

To meet the new response time demands of the Fix NICS Act, the eDO Team was challenged to streamline, develop, and incorporate the NICS firearm appeals process into the eDO framework and to provide a much-improved customer experience. After five months of diligent work, eDO Team members Paula J. Zirkle, Charles F. Smith, Joshua A. Cutler, D. Renee McCartney, and Julie L. Greynolds successfully transitioned NICS appeals, reducing response times for the reasons for denial to less than one week. Additionally, challenges to prohibited reasons are processed within 60 days. In fact, thirty-nine percent of NICS appeal requests are now completely “lights out,” requiring no human intervention. As such, many customers can receive a response in less than two minutes when submitting their request electronically.

The FBI has received positive feedback via forums from customers to include:

  1. “It's incredible how quick they are with the new process.”
  2. “Wow! That’s lightning fast!”
  3. “Got the reply yesterday night and the report. Awesome!”
  4. “Fast eDO is here!”

Due to the success of the eDO Team’s work, the FBI was also able to reallocate 55 employees to other high-priority NICS work. The automation of the NICS appeals process represents a better use of the taxpayer’s money. Through innovation, the eDO Team streamlined processes, eliminated waste, reduced costs, and significantly reduced processing times.