- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The National Weather Service says it is not intending to arm its forecasters with high-powered weapons and ammunition — no matter how hot, cold, wet or windy it may get.

A purchase order issued Thursday seeking to buy 46,000 rounds of ammunition for use in National Weather Service offices in four states, including hollow-point bullets designed to cause extensive damage on impact and “frangible” ammunition used for close-quarter shooting when ricochets are unacceptable, actually was a “clerical error.”

The ammunition and 500 paper targets, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are intended for the Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.

“Due to a clerical error in the federal business vendor process, a solicitation for ammunition and targets for the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement mistakenly identified NOAA’s National Weather Service as the requesting office,” said Scott Smullen, deputy director of NOAA Communications & External Affairs. “The error is being fixed and will soon appear correctly in the electronic federal bidding system.

“The ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies, and it will be used by 63 NOAA enforcement personnel in their firearms qualifications and training,” Mr. Smullen said.

The Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement protects marine resources and their natural habitat, ensures that many people can enjoy the resources, protects fish stocks from depletion and marine mammals from extinction, and oversees the livelihoods of commercial and recreational fishers, and the health of seafood consumers.

The agency’s jurisdiction spans more than 3 million square miles of open ocean, 85,000 miles of U.S. coastline, and 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments. Its agents and enforcement officers work out of six divisional offices and 53 field offices throughout the U.S. and its territories, with its headquarters in Silver Spring.

The pending buy was outlined in a purchase order dated Aug. 9, naming the solicitor as the National Weather Service. It called for 16,000 rounds of ammunition of factory-loaded .40-caliber, 180-grain jacketed hollow-point ammunition for its offices in Ellsworth, Maine, and New Bedford, Mass., and 24,000 rounds of ammunition of factory-loaded .40-caliber, 180-grain jacketed hollow-point ammunition for its office in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The order also seeks 6,000 rounds of frangible .40-caliber, 125-grain ammunition for its office in Wall, N.J., and 500 paper gun-range targets.

According to the purchase order, the NOAA National Weather Service intends to conduct an online competitive reverse auction by a third-party auction provider, identified in the order as FedBid Inc., which has developed an online, anonymous browser-based application to conduct the auction.

In May, NOAA withdrew a $5,000 purchase solicitation for a magician to show up at “the Magic of Change,” a two-day training conference for agency personnel. Organizers had originally wanted someone who could transform “magic and [principles] of the psychology of magic, magic tools, techniques, and experiences into a method of teaching leadership,” according to a lengthy contractor solicitation. It took only four minor mentions in the press before the ad was yanked.

• Jerry Seper can be reached at jseper@washingtontimes.com.

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