Officials to investigate DHS ammunition purchases

The Government Accountability Office issued the newest DHS report card, but the GAO and Congress are reportedly investigating allegations that DHS is 'stockpiling ammunition.'

It's been 10 years since 22 federal agencies were folded under one Department of Homeland Security umbrella that is now the world's "largest homeland counter terror organization." The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has put out the newest DHS report card [pdf], but we'll get back to that after looking at claims of DHS "stockpiling ammunition."

Last week, Representative Jason Chaffetz asked DHS why it is stockpiling ammunition. Rep. John Tierney scoffed and suggested that "conspiracy theories" have no business being discussed in the committee room. Chaffetz chairs one of the House oversight subcommittees holding the hearing and said that DHS "is using roughly 1,000 rounds of ammunition more per person than the U.S. Army." Nick Nayak, chief procurement officer for the Department of Homeland Security, said reports of Homeland Security stockpiling ammunition are "simply not true."

In the past, DHS has maintained that approximately 80% of its ammunition is used for training and operations, such as by the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency also claims that bulk ammo is cheaper to purchase. Nayak had previously discounted reports that DHS was buying up 1.6 billion rounds over five years and clarified that the number is closer to 750 million rounds of ammo.

Chaffetz "revealed that the department currently has more than 260 million rounds in stock. He said the department bought more than 103 million rounds in 2012 and used 116 million that same year -- among roughly 70,000 agents. Comparing that with the small-arms purchases procured by the U.S. Army, he said the DHS is churning through between 1,300 and 1,600 rounds per officer, while the U.S. Army goes through roughly 350 rounds per soldier." He added, "It is entirely inexplicable why the Department of Homeland Security needs so much ammunition."

Rep. Darrell Issa said "he suspects rounds are being stockpiled, and then either 'disposed of,' passed to non-federal agencies, or shot 'indiscriminately.' If that is the case, he said, 'then shame on you'."

When Rep. Jeff Duncan suggested that ammunition stockpiling is more than a conspiracy theory or an Internet rumor because reputable new sources like Forbes and Drudge reported on them, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano replied, "I will tell you we found it so inherently unbelievable that those statements would be made, it was hard to ascribe credibility to them."

GAO to investigate DHS ammo purchases, AMMO Act introduced for transparency and to limit stockpiling

But Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman Frank Lucas introduced a bill that would limit federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition; it's called the Ammunition Management for More Obtainability (AMMO) Act of 2013.

"President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans' access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights," said Inhofe. "One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what's available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition. As the public learned in a House committee hearing this week, the Department of Homeland Security has two years' worth of ammo on hand and allots nearly 1,000 more rounds of ammunition for DHS officers than is used on average by our Army officers. The AMMO Act of 2013 will enforce transparency and accountability of federal agencies' ammunition supply while also protecting law-abiding citizens access to these resources."

Lucas added:

"We have introduced the AMMO Act of 2013 to curtail these purchases so Americans can exercise their Second Amendment rights without being encumbered by the federal government. I was surprised to find out the DHS has the right to buy up to 750 million rounds of ammunition over the next five years, while it already has two years worth of ammo already. This is an issue that must be addressed, and I am pleased this legislation provides us the opportunity to do so."

Congress and the GAO are now reportedly investigating the large ammunition purchases by DHS.

GAO issues annual DHS report card

In its annual report about DHS, the GAO testified [pdf] before a House Homeland Security subcommittee that in the last decade it had made "1,800 recommendations to DHS designed to strengthen its programs and operations. The department has implemented more than 60% of them and has actions under way to address others."

Since 2011, GAO said it had identified 11 areas across DHS "where fragmentation, overlap, or potential duplication exists and 13 areas of opportunity for cost savings or enhanced revenue collections." In the 2013 annual report, the GAO found six new duplicate or overlapping areas that need to be addressed for cost savings. "For example, GAO found that DHS does not have a department-wide policy defining research and development (R&D) or guidance directing components how to report R&D activities. Thus, DHS does not know its total annual investment in R&D, which limits its ability to oversee components' R&D efforts."

The TSA also needs to reduce the cost of modification projects "related to the installation of checked baggage screening systems." New federal cost share agreements could help the TSA "achieve cost efficiencies of up to $300 million by 2030 and be positioned to install a greater number of optimal baggage screening systems."

In the past decade, the Inspector General Office of Audits "made over 8,000 recommendations to the department and its components, identifying over $2.6 billion in questioned costs, unsupported costs or funds that could be put to better use." Anne Richards, assistant DHS inspector general for audits, testified [pdf] "Approximately 15% of these recommendations remain open, representing about $650 million."

The GAO report contains a list of suggested actions from the 2011 and 2012 annual reports and whether or not these matters were completed. Only 5 (12%) have been completed, 13 (31%) have not yet been addressed and 24 (57%) have been partially completed. One such partially addressed example includes the TSA's behavior-based screening program; in 2011, the GAO said it needed validation of the TSA program "to justify funding or expansion." Cybersecurity Human Capital is another partially addressed example from a 2012 GAO recommendation; it involves "Governmentwide initiatives to enhance cybersecurity workforce in the federal government need better structure, planning, guidance, and coordination to reduce duplication."

Like this? Here's more posts:

Follow me on Twitter @PrivacyFanatic

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

Microsoft's very bad year for security: A timeline