B. Todd Jones has announced his resignation as director of the ATF, with only 11 days' notice. I don't know if it has anything to do with the backlash from his plan to reclassify M855 ammunition as "armor piercing," but the coincidence is hard to miss. When he spoke to the Senate Appropriations committee last week, he had the look of a man who'd found himself dumped in the deep end of the pool.
To be honest, you couldn't pay me to do his job. Anyone taking the position inherits a plethora of troubles from an agency dogged by scandal.
A bit of history is in order. Carl Truscott was the last permanent director for the Bureau. He served for two years before being ousted in 2006. Despite a supposed lack of money for bulletproof vests and working vehicles, he was able to squeeze a $65,000 conference table into the budget.
Michael Sullivan served as acting director for three years, but the Senate refused to confirm him as permanent director. He resigned the day President Obama was sworn in.
The President's first choice was Andrew Traver, a man with connections to several gun-control groups. The nomination failed in 2010, and again in 2011. In the meantime, Kenneth Melson was promoted to acting director.
Despite some concerns about his past career, B. Todd Jones was picked to replace Melson as acting director. As part of the President's post-Newtown agenda, Jones was confirmed as permanent director with little fanfare. He served less than eight months.
(Seriously, am I talking about a federal agency or 3rd Century Rome?)
It doesn't appear he had much of a chance to get anything done. The attempt to reclassify M855 ammunition set off a firestorm I doubt he expected. In fact, his testimony before the Senate seemed to imply he originally considered it nothing more than a minor rule change.
In any case, he's out. Tom Brandon will be filling in as acting director. That choice doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Brandon presided over a series of botched storefront stings that further tarnished the reputation of a beleaguered agency. He was also the guy they flew out to Phoenix to conduct damage control in the fallout of the Fast & Furious debacle. Let's bear in mind that none of the agents involved in that incident have ever been charged for their complicity.
So, where does this leave us? Pretty much in a holding pattern, with a potential political fight over Brandon's nomination to actual director. I suggest contacting your elected officials and encouraging them to oppose it.