Do the EPA, IRS and Smithsonian Need So Many Guns?
Do you agree that federal agencies should be more transparent about their weapons and ammunition purchases?
by Countable | 3.1.19
Federal agencies outside of the Pentagon purchased $1.5 billion in firearms, ammunition and tactical equipment in what one governmental oversight group has characterized as the “militarization of America.”
In a recent Forbes OpEd, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com Adam Andrzejewski asks:
“Why does the IRS need five million rounds of ammunition? Why did Health and Human Services purchase four million rounds over the last eight years and stockpile five submachine guns? And what about the 800,000 rounds purchased by the Social Security Administration?”
A December 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to congress quantified the $1.5 billion in purchases from 2010 to 2017. Its findings aligned closely with a 2016 report from OpenTheBooks.com, which found that 67 federal agencies outside of the Department of Defense had purchased $1.4 billion in guns, ammunition and military-style equipment from 2006 to 2014. Among their findings:
- The Internal Revenue Service owns 4,600 guns, including 621 shotguns, 539 long-barrel rifles and 15 submachine guns.
- The Social Security Administration has purchased 800,000 rounds of ammunition for their 270 special agents, which amounts to almost 3,000 rounds per agent.
- The Environmental Protection Agency has stockpiled 600 guns and 367,000 rounds.
- The Smithsonian Institution has spent more than $462,000 on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment since 2006.
The agencies say these are necessary in the discharge of their law-enforcement duties, to include compliance and fraud investigations. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which owns 1,300 guns and 1 million rounds, says its agents participate in undercover work and surveillance and execute arrest and search warrants. As such, HHS says arming its agents is imperative.
OpenTheBooks.com found that almost six percent of federal gun and ammunition purchase transactions were incorrectly coded:
“Some purchases were actually for ping-pong balls, gym equipment, bread, copiers, cotton balls, or cable television including a line item from the Coast Guard entered as ‘Cable Dude’.”
The GAO report found some inconsistencies:
“The internal agency data on firearms and ammunition purchases for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not always match data that were publicly available on USASpending.gov—a government source for federal contract data. In particular, the dollar value of firearms purchases by ICE in USASpending.gov was approximately 8 times greater than the value of the purchases reported by ICE to GAO.”
ICE concurred with the GAO’s recommendations on resolving the discrepancies.
OpenTheBooks.com views all of this as evidence of the “continued militarization of rank and file, non-security related agencies.” They point to President Trump’s June 2018 announcement that protective detail authority would be stripped from non-Pentagon agencies and transferred to the U.S. Marshals Services as a “good first step and better policy.” Further, OpenTheBooks.com argues:
“It’s time for the federal agencies to not only open their books, but also their gun lockers, and explain to the American people why they need so much firepower to pursue their missions.”
What do you think?
Do you agree that federal agencies should be more transparent about their weapons and ammunition purchases? Are you planning to be extra careful on your tax returns this year, knowing how well armed the IRS agents are? Tell your reps what you think, then share your thoughts below.
—Sara E. Murphy
(Image Credit: iStock.com / Leontura)
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