The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reserves the right to buy up to 750 million rounds of ammunition over the next five years and currently has "two years worth" of ammo on hand, or around 247 million rounds in its inventory, the department’s top procurement official said Thursday during congressional testimony.
DHS has already purchased around 41 million rounds of ammunition this year alone, Nick Nayak, DHS’s chief procurement officer, said during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill. Some $37 million in taxpayer dollars will be spent on the purchase of ammunition in the entirety of fiscal year 2013.
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Several lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee said they were surprised by the requisition and asked why DHS has been purchasing such large quantities of ammo for its 72,000 officers, most of who rarely discharge their weapons in the line of duty.
DHS allocates anywhere from 1,300 to 1,600 rounds of ammunition per officer, or around 1,000 more rounds than is used by the average Army officer. Lawmakers called this excessive and unneeded, particularly as average American citizens face widespread ammunition shortages.
DHS officers "used what seems to be an exorbitant amount of ammo," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), chairman of the House’s Subcommittee on National Security. "The federal government’s massive procurement of ammunition" is troubling.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.) said DHS has stockpiled nearly one bullet for every American citizen.
Other Republicans expressed concern this ammunition is being wasted under poor management at DHS.
"There’s a serious question of waste and lack of accountability," Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) said. "The idea you have to have excess rounds in excess of what can be justified for training … flies in the face of common sense. Rounds are not bananas. They do not brown in a number of days or weeks."
Nayak and other DHS officials sparred with lawmakers at multiple points during the hearing as they maintained DHS is not hoarding ammo, as multiple conspiracy theory websites have suggested in recent weeks.
"What does not make sense in the information you provided is that Customs and Border Control used [around 14 million] rounds for operational purposes when they rarely fire their guns," Chaffetz said. "It seems like its just walking out the door. There doesn’t seem to be accountability because of the exorbitant usage here."
Hardly any ammo is used while on duty despite the massive amounts of ammunition used in the course of a year for training and other purposes.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which falls under DHS’s jurisdiction, fired "less than 100 rounds" during 15 shooting incidents last year, according to Humberto Medina, assistant director of ICE’s’ National Firearm and Tactical Training Unit.
Some have alleged the federal government is hoarding ammunition following multiple reports DHS was purchasing more than 1 billion rounds of ammunition.
DHS’s Nayak said the reports are completely untrue.
"We have not purchased 1.5 billion rounds of ammo," he told lawmakers. "I have no idea where the billion or over ever came from in terms of us having the capability to buy that."
DHS buys around 100 million rounds of ammo per year on average, Nayak said.
It’s "simply not true" that DHS is stockpiling ammunition, Nayak said.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) wondered why DHS did not seek to set the record straight following what Nayak claimed were erroneous reports.
"You said you have no idea where the 100 billion rounds number came from," Jordan said. "You’ve got to have some idea?"
"You’ve got four news agencies reporting this number," Jordan added. "And here under oath you say you have no clue. Are they just making it up?"
After Nayak clarified DHS has the ability to buy 750 million rounds, rather than the 1.5 billion reported, Jordan continued.
"Did you ever issue a clarification?" he asked Nayak. "Did you say it’s not 1.5 billion people, it’s 750 million. Did you ever do a press statement?"
"DHS has a credibility problem," Jordan continued. "You’ve got a credibility problem and you don’t even issue a press release to clarify. That’s why you’re here" answering questions.
Both Nayak and ICE’s Medina defended the large stockpiles of ammunition.
"We believe what we have in storage … is reasonable," Medina told Chaffetz.
"You’re telling me you have to have 3,400 rounds [per officer available] because it saves money?" Chaffetz responded.
DHS has procured "approximately 120 million rounds of ammunition per year of all calibers and types and fired approximately the same number of rounds per year, almost exclusively for training purposes," according to Nayak’s testimony.
DHS contracts with ammunition providers to ensure it always has a large number of rounds in its inventory, according to Nayak’s testimony.
"The two largest contracts in terms of their ceiling of rounds are the .40 caliber pistol and the .223 rifle contracts," according to Nayak’s testimony. "These contracts have lifetime ceilings of 450 million and 165 million rounds, respectively over the five-year life of each contract—but this does not mean DHS will purchase this many rounds."