watchdog report shows that the Department of Homeland Security has reduced its spending on ammunition by more than 43 percent since 2009, allaying recent concerns that the agency was increasing its stockpile during a time of government austerity.

(Ross D. Franklin/AP) (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Government Accountability Office analysis, released Thursday, said DHS spent $19.2 million on ammunition in 2013, compared to $33.8 million in 2009. The number of rounds the agency bought during those years also declined from 133 million to 84 million, representing a drop of nearly 37 percent.

Homeland Security has about 70,000 firearm-carrying personnel, compared to 69,000 at the Justice Department. DHS’s ammunition purchases since 2009 are “comparable in number” to DOJ’s, according to the report.

Last year, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) questioned why Homeland Security was stockpiling millions of rounds amid the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, fueling theories that the government was trying to take ammunition off the market or ramping up for possible civil unrest.

GAO said DHS’s ammunition purchases are “driven primarily by firearm training and qualification requirements,” noting that most of the agency’s gun-carrying personnel must qualify four times per year.

DHS officials said the decline in ammunition purchases in 2013 was primarily a result of budget constraints that forced the agency to reduce the number of training classes and draw on existing inventories, according to the report.

As of October, DHS estimated it had about 159 million rounds in its inventory, or enough to last about 22 months with the agency’s training and operational needs, GAO said.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, indicated in a statement on Thursday that he was pleased to see the report, saying it “provides much-needed oversight into DHS’s ammunition procurement practices.”

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