After weeks of ignoring rising citizen concern about its vast weapons and ammunition purchases, and after days of stonewalling Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s questions about the 1.6 billion bullets on its shopping list, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has finally decided to provide an explanation for its shopping binge: There is no shopping binge, it says. We’re just witnessing ordinary bureaucratic stuff.
It doesn’t appear that the DHS actually bothered to give its answer to Rep. Huelskamp. Instead, it reported directly to the U.S. News and World Report’s “Washington Whispers” blog:
DHS told Whispers it regularly fills all of its goods and services requirements at one time because it’s cheaper for the agency, and that the 1.6 billion number was misleading because the language of DHS’s purchase said it would need “up to” a certain amount.
One solicitation by the agency—for training centers and law enforcement personnel—was for “up to” 750 million rounds of training ammunition over the next five years, DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard told Whispers.
Another five-year contract allows for the purchase of “up to” 450 million rounds of ammunition, he said, and was also for law enforcement. Boogaard noted that the contract would be used by all DHS agencies except the Coast Guard.
“With more than 100,000 armed law enforcement personnel in DHS, significant quantities of ammunition are used to support law enforcement operations, quarterly qualifications, and training, to include advanced firearms training exercises,” Boogaard told Whispers.
This may all be true. But it’s also interesting that, rather than answering a Congressman directly, the DHS sneaks off to a media outlet to tell its story.
Back in February, DHS did answer directly a question that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) posed to it about its purchases. At that time, DHS said it was simply combining various departmental shopping lists in order to get good prices. Of course, the letter to Coburn implies that DHS was in fact planning on acquiring all the materials on the list precisely because doing so got it bulk pricing. Now it’s telling Washington Whispers that the list is more of a wish list than a reality.
Nor does the “we’ve got lots of agencies” claim make sense. Even lots of agencies – many of which are not law enforcement agencies – doesn’t explain why the DHS is “wishing” for enough bullets to fight a two-decade-long hot war.
Right now, the DHS has told two different, conflicting stories, which is . . . interesting. Moreover, each story standing on its own makes little sense. And neither of these stories explains why the DHS purchased almost 3,000 armored vehicles specially intended for urban warfare and 7,000 fully automatic assault rifles.
Congress needs to get Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano under oath and have her explain precisely what’s going own. Only with full, sworn testimony can Americans fully understand what these purchases are about and then decide whether they are, in fact, something to cause concern.