Thursday, August 16, 2012

Think Costco. Big Sis buys ammo in bulk to save money

It sounds absurd comparing Homeland Security's efforts to buy hundreds of millions of round of ammo to shopping trip to Costco or Sam's Club. But that's the analogy Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) wants you to make.

I have no idea how long it's been posted, but I found this letter written by a key Westmoreland staffer on the congressman's official website:
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland

DHS Buys in Bulk to Save You Money

By Kevin Doran 
The congressman has received some letters and emails regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) recent purchase of a large amount of ammunition and other equipment.  Obviously the thought of one branch of our federal government potentially stock piling weapons and/or ammunition is of great concern.  For that reason, the congressman wanted me to let you know the full story on this issue. 
DHS contracted with a manufacturer for 40 caliber ammunition not to exceed 450 million rounds.   Like with most of their contracts, prior to negotiating DHS headquarters in Washington reaches out to all the agencies under their umbrella, including state and local police forces, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), etc, and asks them all how much of a certain item they need.  Once they have an account of the full amount of an item needed and have reviewed those requests, they put out a request for an “Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity” (IDIQ) contract.  This contract allows them to purchase up to a certain number of needed items without requiring them to purchase a specific item and allows them to purchase this item over a certain number of years.  This is a common form of contract used by DHS for many of their needed supplies, including working dogs, computer equipment, vehicles, etc. 
In this case, DHS entered into a contract that allows them to purchase up to 450 million rounds of 40 caliber ammunition over the next five years.  They cannot exceed 450 million rounds and are not required to purchase 450 million rounds.  Basically, they have a tab with a manufacturer to order more rounds as they are needed over the next five years – not a onetime ammunition order. 
Setting up contracts in this manner allows for a cheaper purchase price, saving money over the long-term.  In fact, contracts like this one saved taxpayers $336 million in FY2011 alone.  Additionally, purchasing in bulk like this helps DHS headquarter conduct better oversight over its agencies and ensures consistency among all the agencies under DHS.   
So, in this case CPB, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Secret Service, and other DHS agencies will all use the same 40 caliber round so these rounds can move between agencies if need be – another way to potentially save money down the road.
To put this more concisely, just like you and your family take that monthly trip to Sam’s Club or Costco to get your bulk needs cheaply, DHS also buys in bulk because it saves the American taxpayers money.   
If you take the number of agencies that will be using this ammunition – CBP, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), ICE, the U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, the DHS police force, and all the guards that protect the various buildings these agencies are housed in, and spread that out over 5 years, you start to see that 450 million rounds really isn’t that large of an order.  
Especially considering it is used for training purposes like firing range and live fire exercises, on-the-job use (though that is very limited), and to shore up their supplies.  In fact, there are 65,000 – 70,000 law enforcement personnel at DHS who would be covered under this IDIQ ammunition contract.  If DHS were to purchase all 450 million rounds over 5 years, then that would equate to only about 1,384 rounds of ammo per year per law enforcement personnel (or about 155 rounds per month (about 10 magazines worth of ammo per month) or 3-4 rounds per day) assuming the lower estimate of only 65,000 law enforcement personnel at DHS.  Considering those agents go through training exercises several times per year, that is not a lot of ammunition.   
In this post-9/11 world we need to make sure those who are tasked with protecting our homeland both from threats abroad and at home have the training and equipment needed to carry out their duties to help ensure our way of life.  Firearm proficiency is an important part of any federal officer’s training and for that reason the purchase of sufficient amounts of ammunition is critical to maintaining an effective protective force.  However, with all government spending Congress needs to keep an eye out for any mismanagement or misappropriation of funds in federal agencies, and the congressman will continue to be vigilant on this front to ensure our nation’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.  He wants to thank all of his constituents for bringing this issue to his attention and encourages everyone to continue to reach out to him with any questions or concerns they may have. 
Kevin Doran is Congressman Westmoreland’s deputy chief of staff and handles Second Amendment and national defense issues.

It's all for our security. But it doesn't explain why the same DHS that believed in 2009 that 200 million rounds of pistol ammo would cover five years now wants up 450 million rounds for the next five years. And DHS is ordering other ammo as well.

I also find it disconcerting a key congressional staffer tasked with handling national security issues can only offer up a ballpark estimate of how many law enforcement types are serving under the DHS umbrella. And he seems to think 65,000 officers and agents at DHS is on the low side?

For perspective, 65,000 troops is more than enough to staff four or six Army divisions with a brigade or two left over. It appears President Obama knew exactly what he was talking about in speaking of a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded as the military.

We have here a congressional staffer who urges us to shrug off government buying hundreds of millions of ammo rounds for domestic consumption as being as benign as a shopping trip to Costco.

Do you buy what he's selling?

One final passing thought: Westmoreland chose to post a letter from a staffer on his website rather than posting one under his own name to deal with this issue. Why's that?

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