Why does the IRS need five million rounds of ammunition? Why did Health and Human Services purchase four million rounds over the last eight years and stockpile five submachine guns? And what about the 800,000 rounds purchased by the Social Security Administration?
These questions we’ve raised
before have newfound urgency in light of recent events.
In December, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report to congress quantifying purchases of $1.5 billion in firearms, ammunition, and tactical equipment by federal agencies outside of the Pentagon (FY2010-FY2017).
These findings were consistent with our oversight published
at The Wall Street Journal
in summer 2016, which found
67 federal agencies outside of the Department of Defense purchased $1.4 billion in guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment (FY2006-FY2014).
Here are some of the most recent examples of the weapons purchased and stockpiled at healthcare, rank-and-file, or regulatory agencies:
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a mission to provide basic healthcare for veterans. In 1996, the VA didn’t have a police force. Over the last eight years, however, the VA purchased 11 million rounds of ammunition, which amounts to 2,800 rounds for each of their 3,957 officers. The VA also purchased camouflage uniforms, riot helmets and shields, specialized image enhancement devices and tactical lighting.
Currently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) owns 4,600 guns and has stockpiled 5 million rounds for use by its 2,159 special agents. These figures include 621 shotguns, 539 long-barrel rifles and 15 submachine guns.
Health and Human Services (HHS) purchased 4 million rounds during the past eight years and stockpiled 1 million rounds for use by its 461 special agents. The Office of Inspector General at HHS owns 1,300 guns including one shotgun, five submachine guns, and 189 automatic firearms.
According to HHS, it's imperative to arm its agents -- who participate in undercover work, surveillance, and arrest and search warrants -- with the law enforcement tools and equipment they need. Read the full response here
The Social Security Administration purchased 800,000 rounds for their 270 special agents amounting to nearly 3,000 rounds per agent. Their biggest order of ammo purchased 250,000 rounds in 2017.
From 2010 through 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) stockpiled 600 guns. The agency also purchased a half million rounds and stockpiled 367,000. That’s 2,310 rounds for each of their 159 special agents.
The most natural question to ask is, "Why?" The GAO report included an agency-by-agency description of law enforcement duties. Here’s how three of the agencies described their duties:
- The Internal Revenue Service: "Officers enforce tax laws and support tax administration to ensure compliance with the law and combat fraud. Investigations focus on tax fraud, abusive tax schemes, identity theft, public corruption, virtual currency, cyber-crimes, and narcotics-related financial crimes."
- The Department of Health and Human Services: "Special agents conduct criminal investigations related to fraud, waste, and abuse within HHS’ hundreds of programs, which can involve surveillance, undercover operations, search warrants, and arrest warrants."
- The Social Security Administration: "Officers with the Office of Investigations investigate wrongdoing by applicants, beneficiaries, contractors and third parties, and employees; conduct joint investigations with other law enforcement agencies; share responsibility for investigating threats or violence against SSA employees and facilities; and assist in the investigation of terrorism cases and other cases involving national security."
Perhaps President Trump understands the importance of the issue. In the president’s June 2018 plan to reorganize the federal government
, protective detail authority would be stripped from traditional rank-and-file agencies and transferred to the U.S. Marshals Service. That’s a good first step and better policy.
In the meantime, recent data on purchases of guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment by the federal agencies outside of the Pentagon confirm the continued militarization of rank and file, non-security related agencies.
It’s time for the federal agencies to not only open their books, but also their gun lockers, and explain to the American people why they need so much firepower to pursue their missions.