May 22, 2014
The TSA has issued a solicitation requesting 24 million rounds of .357 SIG “duty ammunition” over a five year period, prompting fresh questions as to whether the federal agency is planning to arm its workers.
“Estimated quantity is approximately 4,800,000 rounds of .357 Sig duty ammunition per year, totaling 24,000,000 over the life of the contract,” states the solicitation, posted on FedBizOpps, which adds that the ammo is for use at “DHS component locations nationwide.”
The ammo purchase is likely to spark new questions about whether the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to arm TSA agents, an idea that has been pushed by the TSA’s union, the American Federation of Government Employees, but has received scant support elsewhere.
Although Federal Air Marshals acting under the jurisdiction of the TSA are currently armed, other indications, such as the hiring of shooting ranges near airports, suggests the federal government could be preparing to arm some TSA workers. There are only 4,000 Federal Air Marshals currently operating in the United States, a figure that doesn’t appear to match with the 4.8 million rounds a year the TSA is set to purchase under this solicitation alone.
The solicitation is filed under the auspices of the TSA and not another DHS agency such as Customs and Border Patrol.
“Outside of certain governmental organizations like the Federal Air Marshals, and the Secret Service, .357 Sig ammo is not a vastly popular round. It is basically a .40 caliber case necked down to accept a 9mm bullet. Who knows what it means, other than that a relatively small number of federal agents are expecting to do a whole hell of a lot of shooting, or they are expecting the ammo market to dry up for an extend period time,” notes one blog.
An even more disturbing scenario would see armed DHS agents patrolling the streets of major cities like Chicago, as Jesse Jackson called for last year.
Fears that large ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security may be linked to preparations for domestic unrest have raged over the past two years, although a recent Government Accountability Office investigation downplayed the issue as nothing out of the ordinary.
Another noteworthy aspect to the story is that the Department of Homeland Security has stopped referring to such ammunition as “hollow point,” and is now referring to it as “duty” ammunition.
One of the DHS’ explanations as to why it has been making ammo purchases in bulk quantities is in order to save money. However, previous solicitations for training ammunition requested “hollow point” rounds, which are not suitable for training and are more expensive than full metal jacket rounds.
More recently the DHS issued a solicitation for over 141,00 rounds of sniper ammunition, bullets known commercially as “Zombie Max,” a reference to their high power.