The Washington Post is the latest to weigh in on the U.S. military’s soaring demand for small-arms ammunition that has left domestic police agencies less able to replenish their supplies quickly. The shortage has led some to conserve rounds by cutting back on weapons training. Washington-area officials have begun rationing or making other adjustments to accommodate delivery schedules that have changed markedly since the military campaigns began in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gene Voegtlin of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) said dozens of chiefs at a meeting two weeks ago agreed that scarcity of ammunition is a widespread problem. He said rifle ammunition, which is used by the military and many police agencies, was a particular concern. “It mostly has to with delays where it’s impacting training more than anything else,” Voegtlin said. “The chiefs are doing what they can to adjust to it.” Some law enforcers are concerned that a prolonged shortage could eventually affect officers’ competence as marksmen. Practice with live ammunition is a crucial part of police training. A lack of practice can translate into diminished ability in the field, where accuracy and speed can mean the difference between life and death. “It’s critical,” said Scott Knight, who chairs the IACP’s firearms committee. “We’re talking about the use of deadly force, and the skilled use of deadly force is paramount to any police agency. It is like any other skill, so it must be practiced regularly.”