The United States Department of Homeland Security — a civilian agency formed just days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — goes through more ammunition per person than the US Army.
Members of Congress asked DHS agents during a hearing in Washington on Thursday to weigh in on recent news reports that discuss the department’s ongoing acquisition of millions of rounds of ammunition.
"It is entirely ... inexplicable why the Department of Homeland Security needs so much ammunition," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
Rep. Chaffetz said during Thursday’s hearing that the DHS uses roughly 1,000 rounds of ammo more per person that the US Army does and asked for these orders to be cut.
According to Chaffetz’s numbers, the DHS currently has more than 260 million rounds of ammo in stock, and the agency purchased roughly 13 million rounds of ammunition in 2012 that were never used.
In 2012, the DHS bought more than 103 million rounds for its 70,000 agents licensed to carry a firearm, averaging between 1,300 and 1,600 rounds per officer. The US Army, said Chaffetz, only uses around 350 rounds per soldier. The DHS, on the other hand, uses "roughly 1,000 rounds more per person."
"Their officers use what seems to be an exorbitant amount of ammunition," Chaffetz said of the DHS.
Days earlier in Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave numbers that conflict the latest estimate of DHS ammo buys. While Thursday’s hearing produced a number of around 103 million rounds ordered annually, Sec. Napolitano previously said that figure was roughly 150 million per year.
“When the secretary of Homeland Security says it’s 150 million rounds, and it’s off by tens of millions of rounds — who’s minding the store?” Rep. Chaffetz asked during Thursday’s hearing.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) chairs the full Oversight and Government Reform Committee and said he was unsatisfied with the statistics as well. "The idea that you have to have excess rounds, year after year, flies in the face of common sense," he said.
Nick Nayak, chief procurement officer for DHS, said that his agency continues to purchase ammunition in such large quantities because it saves on costs and avoids any delays that would occur if contractors can’t fulfill future requests on time. Some critics have said the DHS is simply “stockpiling” ammo, which Nayak replied is “simply not true.”
“Can’t you just order ammunition as you need it?” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-New York) asked during the hearing
Answering allegations that his office was buying ammo to keep American civilians from buying large numbers, DHS training officer Humberto Medina said he could "say categorically that was not a factor at all" in the purchases. Rather, Medina said the surge in ammo acquisition in recent years has been to prepare DHS armed agents who are "exposed to a variety of situations" and "only have that weapon to protect their lives.”
Unlike members of the Armed Forces, said Medina, DHS agents “can’t contact air support” if an emergency arises. “They have to be proficient at a very high level,” he said.
Of the 103 million rounds purchased for DHS in 2012, the agency used 88 million for training and around 28 million during actual operations. The US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Coast Guard are all agencies within the DHS umbrella, which boasts being the third-largest federal department in the country.