WASHINGTON -- Reports have been surfacing for months that the Department of Homeland Security is stockpiling ammunition. Now that has sparked a congressional investigation.
The Government Accountability Office is now pouring over records at the Department of Homeland Security to find out the department purchases, tracks and stores ammunition.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, says his constituents called his office after reports surfaced that Homeland Security was obtaining billions of rounds of bullets.
"It is entirely inexplicable why the DHS needs so much ammunition," the Republican lawmaker said.
News of stockpiling comes as retailers from major chains to small mom and pop gun stores struggle to put ammunition on the shelves.
Last year the Army bought 347 rounds of ammo for each soldier. In contrast, Homeland Security had 1,000 rounds for each of its agents. The situation has raised concerns for some lawmakers.
"So how many times, for instance, did Homeland Security last year have to actually shoot and fire a weapon?" Chaffetz recently asked.
According to Humberto Medina of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the answer is less than 100 rounds.
Homeland Security officials say they have no idea where reports of contracts for billions of bullets came from.
Nick Nayak, a DHS procurement officer, says trying to figure out the contracts is a complicated matter. But that his agency has 750 million rounds for 70,000 pistol carrying agents. That includes nearly two years of ammunition in storage, in case officials say they ever have problems ordering what they need.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, says Homeland Security has a credibility problem.
"You guys are obviously familiar with what took place at ice, where six weeks ago 2,228 illegal detainees were released. Six-hundred and forty-seven of them were criminals; eight of them were level one felons. So the American public sees that," Jordan said.
Some Americans were also uneasy when pictures of armored vehicles known as M-Raps started surfacing on U.S. soil. These are vehicles designed to protect troops from IEDs on the battlefield.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, says it's an issue of concern.
"Why do you need all this protection? Are you about to force something on the American people you know they're going to get upset about," Gohmert asked.
Nayak says Homeland Security has 30 M-Raps and agents are using them.
"We use them for special operations for officer rescue. In fact, one, last year was extremely beneficial for us by protecting our officers from gunfire," Nayak said.
Some Democrats call concerns over the stockpiling of weapons and presence of military vehicles conspiracy theories, but they're enough to make Congress act. The audit of Homeland Security will take several months to compete.