Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was among the earliest officials to criticize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for entering into contracts that obligate it to buy more than a reported 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition — enough for a 20-year war.
He demanded an explanation from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a letter he sent last November. “Big Sis” evidently responded sometime back in February, but Coburn didn’t publish the full response on a Senate website until this week.
As many critics of the mass bullet buy had predicted, the response (issued not by Napolitano, but by Nelson Peacock, DHS assistant secretary for Legislative Affairs) reveals what the department has been doing, while utterly concealing any real motive as to why:
DHS routinely establishes strategic sourcing contracts that combine the requirements of all its Components for commonly purchased goods and services such as ammunition, computer equipment, and information technology services. These strategic sourcing contracts help leverage the purchasing power of DHS to efficiently procure equipment and supplies at significantly lower costs.
The official response, then, is that computer equipment, IT support and ammunition for guns all cost less when you buy in bulk.
That’s all the verbiage Coburn managed to elicit as to why DHS needs that much ammunition. But, taking at face value the amount of ammo DHS self-reported in an attached itemized summary, the momentum behind earlier reports that the department is stockpiling billions of bullets indeed falters — if only a little.
That’s because DHS reports “only” 263 million total rounds of ammo in its present inventory, though it also disclosed it will maintain the pace of recent years in continuing to spend roughly $37 million on additional ammunition.
As this analysis of the numbers points out, it’s evident that DHS, by its own accounting, isn’t expending ammo at the same rate as it’s buying up the stuff. Rather, it’s averaging more than 70 percent inventory retention (aka “stockpiling”) over the past three years, even though the department’s annual spending on ammunition hasn’t dropped off as its inventory of bullets swells.