WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two longtime officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are the top candidates to head the law enforcement agency.

Bradley Buckles, ATF's deputy director, and Andrew Vita, assistant director for field operations, are on the short list to replace ATF Director John Magaw, say ATF officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Magaw submitted his resignation to Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in October. He plans to leave Dec. 31.

An announcement on the new director may come early next week, the officials said. The post does not require congressional approval.

Buckles has held his current job since 1996. He joined the agency in 1974 as an attorney, rose through the ranks and was named chief counsel in 1995.

Vita joined the agency as a special agent in ATF's Chicago office in 1969. Among his posts have been chief of the firearms division and associate director of criminal enforcement. Vita was named to his current job in 1997.

Magaw, who took over in late 1993, was involved in several high-profile investigations including the Oklahoma City bombing, the crash of TWA flight 800 and the bombing at the 1996 Olympics.

The agency is responsible for enforcing laws governing explosives, firearms, arson, alcohol and tobacco.

Separately, an agreement Wednesday between the federal government and the District of Columbia cleared the way for ATF to build new headquarters in the city.

The agency expects to move in 2004 into the 350,000 square-foot complex that will house more than 1,100 employees. ATF now rents office space in a downtown building that it says does not meet its security needs.