House Oversight Subcommittees to Probe DHS Ammo Procurements

A joint session involving two subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will probe huge ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday April 25, and according to a source on Capitol Hill, the hearing will be live streamed here.

Many in the firearms community believe the large ammunition procurement is partly responsible for the tight ammunition availability on dealer shelves and to civilian police agencies.

The hearing will involve the Subcommittees on National Security (chaired by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz) and Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs (chaired by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan).

Alarms have been sounding since a 1.6 billion-round ammunition procurement was reported by several news agencies earlier this year. However, the story has gotten very little attention from the mainstream press, although CBS affiliates and the Washington Times have run stories about law enforcement ammunition shortages. In February, the Associated Press reported specifically about the DHS ammunition purchase, and the Denver Post ran the story.

While gun prohibitionists are fond of asking why anyone would need, say, a modern sporting rifle and magazines that hold more than ten rounds, or a semi-auto pistol that holds 15 or more cartridges, nobody at DHS has provided a credulous explanation why the federal government would need 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition.

Forbes writer Ralph Benko in March raised questions about this huge ammo purchase, noting, “As reported elsewhere, some of this purchase order is for hollow-point rounds, forbidden by international law for use in war, along with a frightening amount specialized for snipers. Also reported elsewhere, at the height of the Iraq War the Army was expending less than 6 million rounds a month. Therefore 1.6 billion rounds would be enough to sustain a hot war for 20+ years.”

“Spending money this way is beyond absurd well into perverse,” Benko observed. “According to the AP story a DHS spokesperson justifies this acquisition to “help the government get a low price for a big purchase.” Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center: “The training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.

“At 15 million rounds (which, in itself, is pretty extraordinary and sounds more like fun target-shooting-at-taxpayer-expense than a sensible training exercise) … that’s a stockpile that would last DHS over a century,” the Forbes report added. “To claim that it’s to ‘get a low price’ for a ridiculously wasteful amount is an argument that could only fool a career civil servant.”

The ammunition purchase has raised enough eyebrows to make it a self-sustaining issue, but many in the firearms community are also wondering about other DHS purchases, including armored personnel carriers and portable bullet-resistant checkpoint structures.