The number of armed non-military government employees now exceeds the number of U.S. Marines that that carry guns, according to a new government report. Open the Books, a taxpayer watchdog group, released a study that shows several non-military government agencies are stockpiling military-style weapons.
The study, titled The “Militarization of America“, found that government agencies like the IRS and EPA spent $1.48 billion on guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment between 2006 and 2014. The money was spent on military gear ranging from camouflage fatigues to AR-15 rifles. The study concluded that non-military agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, have approximately 183 armed “special agents”.
Over 200,000 non-military federal officers have the authority to arrest citizens or carry firearms, compared to the 182,100 Marines currently serving in the Marine Corps. The IRS spent over $11 million on guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment for only 2,316 armed special agents. An additional $3.1 million was spent by the EPA.
The recent findings have earned these agencies quite a bit of attention from the media and taxpayers. Yet spokesmen for these non-military agencies argue that the purchases in the report have been misclassified or completely blown out of proportion. Nick Conger, spokesman for the EPA defended the purchases with the following statement:
“Many purchases were mischaracterized or blown out of proportion in the report… [the] EPA’s criminal enforcement program has not purchased unmanned aircraft, and the assertions that military-grade weapons are part of its work are false.”
He went on to further justify the purchases by pointing out that these agencies engage in work similar to that of law enforcement officer and need the ability to protect themselves in the course of duty.
“EPA’s criminal enforcement program investigates and prosecutes the most egregious violators of our nation’s environmental laws, and EPA criminal enforcement agents are law enforcement professionals who have undergone the same rigorous training as other federal agents,”
Adam Andrzejewski, the CEO of Open the Books, fired back by providing contract data that backed up the reports claims. Andrzejewski was shocked that a spokesperson for the EPA would argue against “hard facts” that were “obtained from their own checkbook.” He went on to say:
“This line-by-line transactional record from the EPA’s own checkbook on page 113 clearly shows that in 2013 and 2014 the EPA purchased tens of thousands of dollars of ‘Unmanned Aircraft’ from Bergen RC Helicopters Inc which on a net basis amounted to approximately $34,000.”
Andrzejewski argues that these agencies have been attempting to hide the purchase of these weapons by purposely mis-categorizing the purchases. Open the books found that nearly $42 million dollars worth of arms purchases were incorrectly coded. The claim the record keeping was abysmal for all agencies. Several errors were found for purchases related to ping-pong balls, gym equipment, bread, copiers, cotton balls and even a cable television subscription purchased by the Coast Guard and entered as “the Cable Dude.”