Talk of the Department of Homeland Security's recent ammunition solicitations has gone from the fringes of the internet to the mainstream in websites like Forbes. I was disappointed by the Forbes article - rather than talk cold hard facts, it was rife with ill-informed speculation.
Government and military procurement is a very complex topic; so complex, in fact that it's sometimes hard to discern best value practices from actual waste, fraud, and abuse. However, there are practically no examples of nefarious acquisitions intended to be used for the subjugation of the American populace. These ammunition contracts and solicitations are no exception.
Before we begin, it's important to understand that an RFQ (request for quote) or solicitation is not a purchase. When Infowars says something like "the Department of Homeland Security is planning to buy a further 750 million rounds of ammo in addition to the 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets already purchased earlier this year," or "Following controversy over its purchase of around 1.2 billion bullets in the last six months alone, the Department of Homeland Security has put out a new solicitation for over 200 million more rounds of ammunition," the reader is led to assume, naturally, that DHS has actually purchased that amount of ammunition. That is simply not the case. A solicitation is the equivalent of a want-to-buy ad on Craigslist, writ large. It's not an actual purchase.
So if DHS hasn't actually bought 1.2 or 1.6 billion rounds in one year, then what have they bought, and what do they plan to buy? Well, a year ago they awarded an IDIQ contract for up to 450 million rounds of .40 S&W ammunition over the next 5 years. They plan to buy, over the next 5 years, 63 million rounds of a wide variety of ammunition ranging from 12 gauge birdshot to .38 special wadcutter to .30-06 FMJ ammo; there are even line items for .308 blanks.
An IDIQ, or indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract, means that DHS didn't simply buy 450 million rounds of ammunition at one time. The contract is spread out over a 5 year period, and it's an upper limit, meaning up-to-90 million rounds of .40 S&W each year from that up-to-450 million round award. DHS could, if they wished, buy 73 million rounds the first year, 84 million the second, and so on. It depends on their needs at the time.
There is, as mentioned above, an Infowars article which refers to a "750 million round purchase," but the PDF linked in said article is a solicitation which only contains line items which add up to 63,256,000 rounds. Confused? Here's what DHS spokesperson Marsha Catron had to say about that:
"One solicitation under Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) has a contract ceiling of UP TO 750 million rounds of training ammunition, a maximum quantity allowing FLETC flexibility over the next 5 years for training of over 90 federal agencies. A separate 5-year department-wide contract allows the purchase of UP TO 450 million rounds of duty ammunition for our law enforcement officers and agents. This contract is intended to be used by all DHS components, except the U.S. Coast Guard, who uses U.S. Department of Defense ammo contracts. This contract is part of the Department's strategic sourcing efforts to combine multiple previous contracts in order to leverage the purchasing power of the entire Department to efficiently procure equipment and supplies at significantly lower costs."
Put simply, there's no way that FLETC is going to actually buy 750 million rounds of ammunition. Given the historical use of ammo at FLETC of approximately 15 million rounds per year or less, it's probably going to be pretty close to the line items in the PDF linked above which, again, total 63 million rounds over a 5 year time frame.
But isn't a total which might approach 90 or 100 million rounds per year excessive?
DHS is a massive umbrella agency, with over 100,000 armed law enforcement personnel according to a DHS spokesperson. If we divide 90 million by 100,000, that means each agent gets 900 rounds per year to shoot. That isn't a whole lot, considering that civilians going through handgun training courses sometimes shoot twice as many rounds - in a single weekend.
Furthermore, federal agents, including those under DHS, generally use the same ammunition for duty and practice. Currently, it's a .40 S&W jacketed hollow point made by Federal, commonly known as the HST. Most of DHS's evil, banned-for-war, elderly-and-baby-killing hollow points end up going through paper targets and into dirt berms. Each CBP (Customs and Border Protection) agent is currently given 250 rounds per quarter, or 1000 rounds per year. While things may differ from agency to agency, that lines up fairly nicely with the above math for the 450 million round contract.
In other words, that 5-year, up-to-450 million round ammo purchase is just what the agencies need to sustain proficiency for the next 5 years.
There are also references to a purchase of 200 million rounds of .223 Remington ammunition. However, the information at the link provided by the website shows a 5 year IDIQ contract for up to 165 million rounds, not 200 million. Yes, it's a lot of ammo. But divided by the number of agents who have to practice with M4-platform weapons, over 5 years...well, we already covered that.
The Department of Homeland Security is not stockpiling ammunition for use against American citizens, nor are they buying excessive amounts of ammunition. If anything, I believe that 1000 rounds per year is not sufficient to maintain a high level of proficiency with a duty weapon.
In the end, there is absolutely no truth to the statements permeating the Internet about how "DHS bought 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition last year." That number was reached through either basic math errors or willful ignorance on the part of those who make a living by crying wolf. That this rumor has traveled so far in conservative circles is especially ironic given the fact that a) buying in bulk is a fiscally smart decision, and b) hiring more DHS (CBP) agents to, among other things, better protect the border means buying more ammunition.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In response to comments that DHS must fund the entire amount of a contract, here are a couple of excerpts from the FLETC solicitation: