The chairman of the key House subcommittee that controls the Homeland Security Department's budget asked Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday to justify why the department has made major ammunition purchases in recent months, saying it's time to put rumors to rest.
Republican Rep. John Carter said when he was home in Texas over the last two weeks the ammunition buy was the biggest question he got from constituents, and he said other members of Congress have had the same experience. He asked Ms. Napolitano to report back on her department's rate of use for ammunition, and asked for a breakdown by agency and type of ammunition.
"You're talking about both sides of the aisle, and every member of Congress is getting these questions," Mr. Carter said.
Ms. Napolitano said her department has purchased about 150 million rounds of ammunition a year since 2009, with about 70 million of those going to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that includes the U.S. Border Patrol.
Recent reports have said the department plans to buy billions of rounds of ammunition, which would amount to more than tens of thousands of rounds for every law enforcement officer in the department.
But Ms. Napolitano the numbers have been exaggerated. She said the contracts that have been reported represent an option to buy up to a certain limit over five years, and are not a one-time mass purchase.
She said buying that way allows the department to save as much as 80 percent on the cost of each round.
She also said it's not surprising the number of rounds per law enforcement agent in her department may be high because some of them have to re-qualify with their weapons several times a year.
In a letter to Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, earlier this year, the department laid out its purchase and use histories.
DHS officials said in fiscal year 2012 the agency purchased 103 million rounds and used 88 million rounds for training, and 28 million rounds during actual operations.
Customs and Border Protection accounted for about half of that operational use.
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