NamUs Transitions to New Management

July 29, 2021 — The Department of Justice's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is three months into an ongoing transition, as it moves from its previous administrator, the University of North Texas, into the hands of RTI International.

In April 2021, the National Institute of Justice awarded a contract to RTI to manage NamUs. The system, which provides technology, forensic services, and investigative support to help resolve cases of missing persons and unidentified remains, had been managed by the University of North Texas since 2011.

On July 31, Lucas Zarwell, director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Services with NIJ, published an open letter on the NamUs website to all NamUs stakeholders, updating them on the process of bringing the service online with RTI.

"I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the entire NamUs stakeholder community for your patience and input as this transition progresses," wrote Zarwell.

According to Zarwell, there are four key changes ahead:

1) Daily oversight of all web management applications in the NamUs 2.0 database will be assumed by the Office of Justice Programs.

2) Current NamUs Regional Program Specialists will move to being employed by RTI. "Their service as community support liaisons will continue," wrote Zarwell. "We appreciate the wealth of experience that these individuals have contributed to NamUs and we plan to retain them in that capacity."

3) RTI is currently working to enlist forensic providers as formal NamUs partners. These will include public and private laboratories, as well as consultants. "We expect that by enlisting these partners, we will enhance program efficiencies and improve sample turnaround times," wrote Zarwell. "Furthermore, we will continue to pursue partnerships, both formal and informal, with industry, academia, other non-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies."

4) RTI is working to bring vendors who provide forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) services into "future NamUs workflows and services," according to Zarwell.

He concluded: "As a final thought, I understand that behind every single case in the NamUs database are family members and loved ones of those who have gone missing or remain unidentified. We do not take our responsibility to them lightly, and we are ready to take on all challenges to bring them the answers they need and deserve. As we look forward to the future, NIJ will build upon the solid foundation already established and create an even stronger NamUs. We look forward to working with you to make that goal a reality."

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