Fact Check

Are SSA and DHS Buying Bullets in Preparation for Civil Unrest?

Published Aug. 15, 2012

The Social Security Administration (SSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are buying arms as preparation for civil unrest.
What's True

The SSA issued a Request for Quote for 174,000 rounds of hollow point bullets. The DHS issued requests for quotes for hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition.

What's False

The SSA and DHS are not stocking up on ammunition in preparation for civil unrest, and the DHS did not purchase 2,700 tanks for use in the U.S.

An August 2012 Infowars.com post pointed to a Request for Quote (RFQ) issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the purchase of 174,000 rounds of ".357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow point pistol ammunition." The article opined that as the ammunition was to be sent to a number of major cities around the U.S., it was "not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest."


First it was the Department of Homeland Security, then it was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and now the Social Security Administration is set to purchase 174,000 rounds of hollow point bullets that will be delivered to 41 locations across the country.

A solicitation posted by the SSA on the FedBizOpps website asks for contractors to supply 174,000 rounds of ".357 Sig 125 grain bonded jacketed hollow point pistol ammunition."

The synopsis to the solicitation adds that the ammunition is to be shipped to 41 locations within 60 days of purchase. A separate spreadsheet lists those locations, which include the Social Security headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland as well as major cities across the country including Los Angeles, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

Hollow point bullets are designed to expand as they enter the body, causing maximum damage by tearing apart internal organs.

It's not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest. Social security welfare is estimated to keep around 40 per cent of senior citizens out of poverty. Should the tap run dry in the aftermath of an economic collapse which the Federal Reserve has already told top banks to prepare for, domestic disorder could ensue if people are refused their benefits.

In fact, the spreadsheet showing the destination locations of the ammunition to be purchased by the SSA indicated that it was for "duty carry" purposes and was being procured for Field Division locations of the Office of Investigations (OI), part of the SSA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OI
"conducts and coordinates investigative activity related to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in Social Security Administration programs and operations" and "conducts joint investigations with other Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies."

The OIG's Office of External Relations posted a notice explaining that the reason behind the ammunition procurement was to supply the nearly 300 special agents who work for the OIG and are armed while on duty:

Our office has criminal investigators, or special agents, who are responsible for investigating violations of the laws that govern SSA's programs. Currently, about 295 special agents and supervisory special agents work in 66 offices across the United States. These investigators have full law enforcement authority, including executing search warrants and making arrests.

Our investigators are similar to your State or local police officers. They use traditional investigative techniques, and they are armed when on official duty.

Media reports expressed concerns over the type of ammunition ordered. In fact, this type of ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies. OIG's special agents use this ammunition during their mandatory quarterly firearms qualifications and other training sessions, to ensure agent and public safety. Additionally, the ammunition our agents use is the same type used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Our special agents need to be armed and trained appropriately. They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees, and customers.

(As for the question of why the SSA would need hollow point bullets for target practice and training purposes, many law enforcement agencies require their personnel train and practice with the same type of ammunition they use in the field.)

A similar invitation for bids to supply 46,000 rounds of hollow point bullets along with 500 paper targets was issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That ammunition is destined for the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is tasked with protecting fish stocks from depletion, marine mammals from extinction, the livelihoods of commercial fishers, the hobbies of recreational fishers, and the health of seafood consumers." NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen stated that the ammunition is "standard issue for many law enforcement agencies, and it will be used by 63 NOAA enforcement agents in their twice annual target qualifications and training."

In 2013 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a number of different requests for quotes for various types of ammunition totaling hundreds of millions of rounds. However, those quotes represented the upper limits of options to buy ammunition over the course of several years, not a one-time mass purchase of that number of rounds. The purpose of the proposed buys was to supply ammunition for training and use by agents of the DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies:

Federal solicitations to buy the bullets are known as "strategic sourcing contracts," which help the government get a low price for a big purchase, says Peggy Dixon, spokeswoman for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. The training center and others like it run by the Homeland Security Department use as many as 15 million rounds every year, mostly on shooting ranges and in training exercises.

Dixon said one of the contracts would allow Homeland Security to buy up to 750 million rounds of ammunition over the next five years for its training facilities. The rounds are used for basic and advanced law enforcement training for federal law enforcement agencies under the department's umbrella. The facilities also offer firearms training to tens of thousands of federal law enforcement officers. More than 90 federal agencies and 70,000 agents and officers used the department's training center last year.

The rest of the 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition would be purchased by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal government's second largest criminal investigative agency.

[DHS Secretary Janet] Napolitano said the numbers have been exaggerated. She said the contracts that have been reported represent an option to buy up to a certain limit over five years, and are not a one-time mass purchase.

She said buying that way allows the department to save as much as 80 percent on the cost of each round.

She also said it’s not surprising the number of rounds per law enforcement agent in her department may be high because some of them have to re-qualify with their weapons several times a year

A March 2013 claim that the Department of Homeland Security had "purchased 2,700 tanks" for use in the U.S. was based on a year-old (i.e., March 2012) notice posted on the DHS web site announcing that a contractor had been engaged to install new chassis on a number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles (not "tanks") that were being returned from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although similar vehicles have been used by DHS (and local police forces) for functions such as carrying Rapid Response Teams to disaster sites, the DHS did not "purchase" the MRAP vehicles referenced in that announcement, and the chassis work was contracted for by the Marine Corps Systems Command.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.