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In 2015, the nonpartisan government spending transparency advocate OpenTheBooks began tracking the U.S. government’s purchases of firearms and ammunition down to the department and agency level, where one of the most surprising things they uncovered back then was that civilian government agencies that you would never think would have a legitimate need for semiautomatic rifles were in fact buying them in bulk.
Two years later, OpenTheBooks has mined through an additional two years worth of federal government purchase requisitions and has updated their counts of both guns and bullets that have been bought by agencies within the federal government. Writing at Forbes, Open The Books’ CEO, Adam Andrzejewski, reviews the new information they found.
We live in a dangerous world. For the 70,000 officers at Homeland Security and the 40,000 officers within the Department of Justice, proper training and equipment are vital to their daily law enforcement duties. Over a nearly two-year period – the last years of the Obama administration (FY2015 – FY2016), these law enforcement agencies spent $138 million on new guns and ammunition. That seems reasonable.
What’s curious, however, is that traditionally administrative agencies spent more than $20 million. Four notable examples:
1) The 2,300 Special Agents at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are allowed to carry AR-15’s, P90 tactical rifles, and other heavy weaponry. Recently, the IRS armed up with $1.2 million in new ammunition. This was in addition to the $11 million procurement of guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment procured between 2006-2014.
2) The Small Business Administration (SBA) spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to load its gun locker with Glocks last year. The SBA wasn’t alone – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service modified their Glocks with silencers.
3) The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a relatively new police force. In 1996, the VA had zero employees with arrest and firearm authority. Today, the VA has 3,700 officers, armed with millions of dollars’ worth of guns and ammunition including AR-15’s, Sig Sauer handguns, and semi-automatic pistols.
4) Meanwhile, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agents carry the same sophisticated weapons platforms used by our Special Forces military warriors. The HHS gun locker is housed in a new “National Training Operations Center” – a facility at an undisclosed location within the DC beltway.
It will be interesting to find out if the Department of Health and Human Services is arming itself the way that it is to conduct the same kind of stealthy, offensive operations that the U.S. Army’s special forces divisions are most famous for conducting. For an agency whose oversight extends to the administration of subsidized health care and welfare programs, we’re curious to see what kinds of missions that they might perform that requires M9 pistols and M-4 Carbines to name just two examples among the “top-of-the-line gear” currently used by Special Forces Soldiers.