Regional mtDNA Laboratory
The FBI's appropriation
for fiscal year 2003 includes $4,000,000 in recurring funds to operate
four regional mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) forensic laboratories in
affiliation with the FBI Laboratory. The program is intended to
provide mtDNA analysis of human remains or other evidence to assist
law enforcement in identifiying missing persons or criminal perpetrators.
Congress expects that affiliation with the FBI Laboratory will ensure
adherence to uniform standards and procedures by participating laboratories.
It is premature
to announce the Regional mtDNA Laboratory Program in detail, but
plans are sufficiently developed to provide this overview. Before
the end of the year, the FBI Laboratory plans to award multi-year
cooperative agreements to four accredited, publicly funded state
or local forensic laboratories (partner laboratories). The agreements
would pay direct costs associated with establishing and operating
mtDNA analysis units, including salaries and benefits, equipment
and repair, space modifications, supplies, and travel.
mtDNA technology, the FBI Laboratory can analyze approximately 120
mtDNA cases annually with two-three person teams. Sufficient, suitable
laboratory and office space must be available for processing mtDNA
evidence and housing mtDNA analysts. To minimize start-up time,
partner laboratories will be expected to dedicate mtDNA trainees
full-time. Trainees must be experienced DNA examiners or PCR-qualified
biologists. In addition, laboratories must have at least two qualified
hair examiners to examine hair evidence, currently about 80 percent
of mtDNA cases.
laboratory will retain a significant portion of mtDNA capacity for
cases originating in its jurisdiction, but a service area will be
designated in the laboratory to be the alternative to the FBI Laboratory
for mtDNA analysis. Proposed service areas would focus on jurisdictions
that do not have enough cases to justify an mtDNA unit. Noncontiguous
service areas could be proposed, but excluded areas must be justified.
The FBI Laboratory will provide mtDNA analysis for state and local
cases from jurisdictions outside designated services areas.
The FBI Laboratory
estimates it will take approximately two years from the time a cooperative
agreement is signed until a partner laboratory can begin mtDNA casework.
FBI Laboratory personnel will work with each partner laboratory
to train mtDNA examiners, biologists, and hair examiners. Cooperative
agreements will require partner laboratories to be accredited in
biology and trace evidence by ASCLD/LAB or an equivalent program.
Proposals that minimize start-up time will receive preference.
and application information to be considered for the Regional DNA
Laboratory Program will be published in the July 2003 issue of the
Forensic Science Communications.