The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service doesn’t seem like a Wild West sort of federal agency since its biologists mostly check on the human health impact of animal and plant species.
But it reported buying $4.7 million in high-powered weapons, ammunition and military gear during the last decade, including shotguns, night vision goggles, and propane cannons, according to federal purchasing records reviewed by the nonpartisan government spending watchdog openthebooks.com.
About $1.7 million of that spending occurred in 2014 alone.
The agency says it needs the equipment to protect its workers in the wild from feral swine, more commonly known as wild hogs. But spending critics like openthebooks.com see such purchases as part of a much larger trend toward militarizing federal civilian agencies and local police at taxpayer expense.
And the irony is such purchases have massively expanded over the last decade, even as President Obama has repeatedly pushed to limit access to high-powered gun and weapons in America, most recently after the Orlando terror attack last month.
“This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” the president said after the most recent mass shooting.
But on his watch, government agencies are arming themselves more than ever before.
According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
In 2014, the latest year for which there are complete records, total militarized spending by civilian federal agencies dropped to $150 million, still much higher than the end of the Bush years.
The Department of Homeland Security was the biggest spender on guns and ammo, requesting to purchase 1.7 billion bullets alone since 2004.
But the weaponry has spread far beyond law enforcement agencies on the front lines of the war on terror, reaching regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, the report showed.
Beyond automatic rifles, armored cars and hollow-round bullets, some agencies seemed to have expanded their purchases to the more sublime, even booking hundreds of thousands of dollars of paint ball equipment, the report showed.
“Much of this spending on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment is redundant, inefficient and unnecessary,” openthebooks.com argues in its report.
Federal officials, however, blame rising threats to their employees across the globe.
Maybe those wild pigs and venus fly traps in the wild are just getting more dangerous and numerous.