DHS Finally Responds to Senate Demand for Ammo Info but its Numbers Don't Pencil Out

Last fall, Senator Coburn sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding an explanation by the end of November for the agency’s reported purchase of massive quantities of ammunition. Yesterday, Dr. Coburn released correspondence that he finally received from DHS purporting to explain the purchases.

First, here’s what was disclosed by DHS: As of November 2012, it had over 263 million rounds of ammunition on hand. The agency said it was purchasing an additional $37 million of ammunition in this fiscal year, but did not give the actual number of rounds. Using the prior year’s cost per round of approximately 35 cents, it appears that DHS is adding another 105 million rounds on top of the 263 million on hand, minus rounds consumed in training and operations this fiscal year.

Using this 363 million round figure, the agency’s explanation for its large purchases can be assessed. For Immigration (ICE), DHS claims that 1,000 rounds per firearm per year are necessary for training. Assuming training of 250 rounds per quarter, this estimate seems reasonable.

The Federal Protective Service or “FPS” (the agency charged with protecting federal facilities owned or leased by the General Services Administration) also uses “1000 rounds of ammunition per firearm per year for quarterly qualifications and training.” Again, another reasonable number.

Curiously, no average training rounds per firearm for any other component agency of DHS is provided. For US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), DHS gives a percentage, stating that 70% of all CBP ammo is used for training. The remaining 30% of CBP’s ammo stock is purportedly maintained for operational needs (20%) and reserves (10%). For USSS (the Secret Service), 60% of its ammo is used for training.

Another quirk in DHS’s explanation is that the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), whose mission is to “train those who protect our homeland” by training personnel from 91 federal agencies, has another approximately 35 million training rounds (almost 19 million on hand in November 2012 plus the estimated 16.6 million purchased this fiscal year) that are supposedly in addition to training rounds maintained by the other individual DHS component agencies like ICE, CPB, and FPS.

So, really, the only way to properly assess the numbers from DHS – assuming that the agency has actually come clean on its inventories and future purchases – is to divide the ammunition stocks by the number of armed personnel.

Let’s start with FPS. According to the DHS website, FPS has approximately 900 armed agents. Supposedly, the FPS has an available stock of approximately 3.8 million rounds this year (2.5 million on hand in November plus the estimated 1.3 million purchased this fiscal year) . DHS claims its stock is explained by the 1000 rounds per firearm training requirement. No operational inventory is disclosed. Dividing the FPS stock of 3.8 million rounds by 900, provides well over 4,000 rounds per armed FPS employee, over four times the ammo necessary for annual training.

The ICE numbers give us a similar result. This agency has about 56.9 million rounds for this fiscal year (42.3 million on-hand as of November plus an estimated purchase of 14.68 million this fiscal year). ICE has about 20,000 employees of which 12,446 carry firearms. This DHS agency has also armed itself to the tune of well over 4,000 rounds per gun-toting ICE employee, well over the 1,000 rounds need for annual training and far in excess of any peace-time operational requirements.

CBP’s is almost as bad. This agency has about 129.7 million rounds for this fiscal year (94.4 million on-hand as of November plus an estimated purchase of over 35.3 million rounds this fiscal year). According to the U.S. Department of Justice, CBP agency has about 37,000 armed employees. That equates into approximately 3,500 rounds per firearm-carrying CBP officer, well in excess of the 1,000 rounds necessary for annual training.

Looking at the entire DHS, the DOJ’s 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that the DHS had approximately 55,000 armed officers (relying on 2008 data). Although one newspaper claimed last month that DHS now has 65,000 armed personnel, DHS is claiming it has at least 100,000 armed agents. (This is an enormous increase, perhaps even more troubling than federal agencies’ ammunition purchases.)

Taking the DHS ammunition on hand in November (263.7 million rounds) plus the estimated purchases of 105 million this fiscal year, provides a rough estimate of over 3,500 rounds per armed DHS federal agent. This is well over three times the training needs for DHS personnel and over ten times what’s necessary for operational needs (using CPB’s 30% figure for operational and reserve needs).

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