The United States Department of Agriculture is probably one of the last federal agencies you’d expect to request a substantial amount, if any, of firearms, but that’s precisely what it did last week.
In a solicitation posted on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities website on May 7, the Agriculture Department requested an unknown number of submachine guns. The department also states it wants to get its hands on weapons with night sights in the front and the rear and magazines with a 30-round capacity.
The solicitation, which also calls for the submachine guns to be lightweight and feature slings, says:
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commerical [sic] acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burts [sic] trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsilbe [sic] or folding, magazine - 30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.”
Exactly why the USDA wants or needs to acquire multiple submachine guns is unclear, as the solicitation does not go into much detail regarding the purpose. RT attempted to reach both of the individuals listed as contacts on the USDA solicitation to learn more about the request, but was unable to immediately obtain a response from either.
The request has captured the attention of many conservative, pro-gun websites, though, which have raised questions about it.
One possible explanation for the request could be that the weapons would be used by the law enforcement division of the United States Forest Service, which falls under the jurisdiction of the USDA. The Forest Service is not listed specifically in the text of the solicitation – again, nothing is mentioned that could be related to the ultimate purpose of the acquisition – causing some to fret over the possibility that the guns would be used elsewhere.
"[The USDA] will no doubt attempt to justify their purchase of military hardware by explaining that they conduct criminal investigations and may need to do armed raids,” wrote Bob Owens at the website Bearing Arms. “This is part of a trend to arm every branch of federal government, whether the individual agency has a legitimate need for a paramilitary force or not."
There has been concern recently over the purchasing decisions of government agencies, particularly the Department for Homeland Security, which critics have claimed buys excessive amounts of ammunition. A report by the Government Accountability Office in January, however, dismissed such concern, saying ammunition purchases by DHS have actually gone down since 2009.
Meanwhile, earlier this week a journalist at WND made headlines for suggesting the State Department is shopping for large amounts of explosives and detonator devices. Solicitations for explosives were also posted on the FBO website, but when asked to comment on the requests an agency official laughed off the question, saying “I’m not sure what you’re looking for.”