Reports of a planned purchase of 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security have ignited controversy amid news of other large scale purchases by federal agencies.Â Although armed security is a crucial part of the DHS mission to prevent terrorism, secure the borders and enforce immigration laws, the volume and type of ammunition allegedly ordered is raising legitimate questions.Â
In the wake of conflicting reports about ammunition purchases, this week I wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano asking to learn more about the Department's actions and requesting a briefing on this topic.Â
In my role as Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, I have a Constitutional responsibility to demand accountability and root out wasteful spending.Â Oversight is the check and the balance against government waste.Â In a time of record debt and deficits, this function is more important than ever.
Media reports of excess and waste are difficult to assess without further information from DHS. Given Secretary Napolitano's recent assessment of the impact automatic budget cuts will have on her department, I believe it is fair to question the methodology used to determine an ammunition procurement of this size and scope.Â If, as she has indicated, travelers are experiencing security line delays at major airports as a result of sequestration, then scrutiny of other major spending decisions should be expected.
To put this reportedly massive procurement in context, I have asked DHS to explain how they determine the quantities of ammunition needed.Â I would expect this decision to include an analysis of past use and projections of future use.Â I asked Secretary Napolitano to share data from the last 10 years.Â In that time, how many rounds has the Department used each year?Â How does the number of rounds used compare to the number of rounds procured during that same period?Â Â
Some media reports claim the stockpile could last 20 years or more.Â Others report that the order includes large quantities of hollow point bullets and specialty ammunition for snipers. Are these reports accurate? I would like to understand what volume and caliber of ammunition is being procured and also what is the anticipated shelf life of that ammunition?Â I want to know how long DHS expects this ammunition to last.Â
Perhaps most importantly, I need to know what DHS is doing to ensure an efficient procurement process.Â Ammunition is in low supply and high demand.Â I want reassurance that procedures are in place to prevent ammunition from being lost, stolen, resold or misused.Â How are unused rounds disposed of?Â And is there a record kept of rounds that disappear due to theft or loss?Â
I certainly recognize the need for federal law enforcement to be well trained and well equipped.Â I want our Customs and Border Patrol to have what they need to protect themselves and our citizens from drug cartels and other criminal elements.Â I want our airplanes to be safe and our infrastructure to be secure.Â But just because a function is a government priority does not mean we should give them a blank check or turn a blind eye to wasteful practices. No agency should expect their budget to be a sacred cow.
Without further facts, I am not satisfied that I can assure the American people their money is being properly prioritized within DHS.Â I look forward to a full accounting from DHS.Â