Several federal agencies not usually thought of having law enforcement responsibilities have been in the news recently for purchasing what seem to be large quantities of ammunition. Various conspiracy theories have been proposed.
Yesterday, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General explained what is going on.
From a blog post:
[W]e thought it would be appropriate to address recent media reports regarding the organization’s purchase of ammunition for our special agents’ duty weapons. We should first state that the OIG follows all Federal procurement rules when arranging these purchases.
As we said in a recent post, our office has criminal investigators, or special agents, who are responsible for investigating violations of the laws that govern SSA’s programs. Currently, about 295 special agents and supervisory special agents work in 66 offices across the United States. These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests.
Our investigators are similar to your State or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty.
Media reports expressed concerns over the type of ammunition ordered. In fact, this type of ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies. OIG’s special agents use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety. Additionally, the ammunition our agents use is the same type used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Our special agents need to be armed and trained appropriately. They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees, and customers.
As we explained in another post, SSA is processing more applications than ever, which means more traffic in SSA offices. Employee and visitor safety is the highest priority for OIG, which, together with the Federal Protective Services and local law enforcement, has jurisdiction over SSA workplaces.
If 174,000 rounds were allocated equally across all 295 special agents and supervisory special agents, each would receive less than 590 rounds. Assuming the ammunition is used solely for quarterly firearms qualification and other training, and is never actually needed for actual law enforcement use, each special agent would be able to use 147 rounds per quarter.
A commenter on a nongovernmental blog reports that the test used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement requires the use of 50 rounds. A currently active Department of Energy firearms manual says its handgun qualification course requires 60 rounds. Whichever, that leaves less than 100 rounds for training prior to each quarterly qualification exam.
When examined this way, a purchase of 174,000 rounds of ammunition does not seem very large.