Weeding out waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government is considered important, but rarely considered dangerous.
Still 3,501 agents working for 33 different inspectors general, the internal watchdog divisions of federal agencies, are authorized to carry guns according to a Congressional Research Service report made public on the website of the Federation of American Scientists Monday.
The report listed numerous agencies allowing agents to carry firearms, and pointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an example. The department’s purchase of semi-automatic weapons to replace automatic firearms garnered attention earlier this year.
The crimes IGs pursue are generally bureaucratic in nature. But no in call cases.
In May, Paul Feeney, deputy counsel at the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, issued a statement explaining the reason for the purchase.
“The criminal investigation responsibilities and impact of OIG are quite extensive—from fiscal year 2012 through March 2014, OIG investigations pertaining to USDA operations have obtained over 2,000 indictments, 1,350 convictions, and over $460 million in monetary results. OIG Special Agents are authorized to make arrests, execute warrants, and carry firearms,” Feeney said.
“OIG special agents regularly conduct undercover operations and surveillance,” Feeney continued. “The types of investigations conducted by OIG special agents include criminal activities such as fraud in farm programs; significant thefts of Government property or funds; bribery and extortion; smuggling; and assaults and threats of violence against USDA employees engaged in their official duties.”
Agents of an office of inspector general can be designated as law enforcement officials under certain provisions of the Inspector General Act of 1978 or by an order of the U.S. attorney general.
In August 2012, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General responded to news reports about agents carrying guns.
“Media reports expressed concerns over the type of ammunition ordered. In fact, this type of ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies,” the Social Security OIG statement said. “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.”