A federal government agency with a very limited law enforcement role is raising some eyebrows with a request to purchase 52,000 rounds of ammunition:

The federal agency overseeing water and power is in the market for 52,000 rounds of ammunition for its officers at Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, raising questions about weapons for nonmilitary purposes.

The Bureau of Reclamation put out a bid in June for 41,600 rounds of hollow-point ammunition and 10,400 rounds of shotgun ammunition.

The ammo is paid for by revenue from utility companies that buy electricity from Hoover Dam, but the bureau won’t say how it will be used or offer details on its law enforcement plan at the popular tourist destinations. A 2008 review of federal law enforcement indicated 21 officers patrolled Hoover Dam, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

52,000 rounds might sound like a lot to those who don’t shoot firearms at all, but that breaks down to a little less than two cases of hollowpoint ammunition per each of the 21 officers, and less than 500 rounds per officer of shotgun ammunition.

A key detail missing from the story are whether or not the Bureau of Reclamation should even have an armed presence. Homeland Security and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police already provide security at the dam. Is a third law enforcement agency really necessary for the dam? What additional security expertise and capability can the Bureau of Reclamation—an agency dedicated to water management—add that the other full-time law enforcement agencies covering the site cannot?

If there is justification for the Bureau of Reclamation to have their own dedicated defense force, it then becomes a question of whether or not the supply of ammunition requested is a reasonable one. Is the supply of 52,000 rounds expected to last just a year, or two, or five years? Is the request for hollowpoints merely for handguns? If so, why is an agency in charge of a site with so many long-distance sight lines tendering an ammunition bid for short-range firearms such as rifles and pistols, instead of rifle rounds?

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, is among those questioning the ammunition purchase and even why a group of what are essentially water engineers should attempt to branch out into site security when other agencies already have the expertise and overlapping roles at the site.

Sadly, this strikes me as the sort of “me too” response we’re seeing other federal agencies that see the arms and ammunition dedicated to the bloated and inefficient Department of Homeland Security and think that they should have guns and gear as well.

While the Bureau of Reclamation may feel that dedicated site security is needed for Hoover Dam to respond to certain threats, it needs to justify why other security-focused federal, state, and local agencies aren’t better tasked to address those concerns.