Editor’s note: This the fourth part of an ongoing series on the militarization of the federal government.

Tracking down the number of guns in the hands of federal officials isn’t easy. Even
researchers at the General Accounting Office and the Bureau of Justice
Statistics, a component of the Justice Department, run into problems.

“It’s like pulling teeth sometimes,” exclaimed one data collector. It’s not that the
agencies are stonewalling, he added. The question for everyone is — who do you count as an armed agent or armed law enforcement officer? Only uniformed officials? Agents whose jobs are primarily investigative? Police and patrol? Security personnel?

Plus, departments are constantly being expanded and — occasionally — cut back, so the numbers of armed agents are always changing, with the overall trend being up — way up.

In the first part of this series, WorldNetDaily reported finding nearly 60,000 armed federal agents — a number that seemed so large that Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America was prompted to declare, “Good grief — that’s a standing army.”

But as the investigation continued, it became clear that the original estimates were low. New documentation shows the number is more than 80,000. The operative phrase is “at least.” With 25,000 new agents in training each year at the Federal Law Enforment Training Center for the next three years, the number is sure to rise on almost a daily basis.

According to data drawn largely from three recent reports by the General Accounting Office, there are 49,630 agents engaged in criminal investigation and law enforcement distributed through 45 agencies. Of these, 45,366 are in 13 agencies — FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, National Park Service and the like — which each have more than 700 armed investigative agents. An additional 4,264 law enforcement investigators work in 32 agencies that have fewer than 700 armed agents.

Though some 2,826 Customs agents are included in that 49,630 number, an additional 7,145 Customs inspectors and 317 Customs pilots are not. The omission was partly bureaucratic. These 7,462 are not covered by certain retirement provisions, according the Office of Personnel Managment, and were, therefore, outside the parameters of the request by Congress to the GAO. Also, their jobs are not primarily law enforcement. The principal job of the pilots is to fly planes. But they carry guns, nevertheless.

However, the Treasury Department does count them, since they are authorized to conduct investigations, conduct searches, make arrests, and carry firearms. When these agents are added to the other figures the number approaches 60,000.

Two recent GAO reports brought to light 1,669 more armed agents.

959 additional law enforcement rangers in the National Park Service

303 AMTRAK Police Department

220 Tennessee Valley Authority Police and Office of Inspector General

109 Library of Congress Police

78 U.S. Supreme Court Police

The number keeps growing and growing. The Bureau of Justice Statistics in a 1995 report (its most recent release and based on December 1993 figures) put the total number of armed agents at 68,825. That’s a lot higher than the 1997 figures from GAO. Why?

Because the bureau counted additional categories of armed employees — those who had arrest powers, but who did not do criminal investigation. These men and women work in jobs dealing with security and protection, court operations, police and response work.

Justice statistics included those Customs inspectors and pilots, as well as some 1,458 Postal Service employees who provide security for the service’s employees, facilities, and assets.

Justice stats also counted 5,852 in the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, who supervise federal offenders on probation and parole and arrest violators.

Another 11,073 employees are listed in “corrections.” The term prison guard is
considered gauch. Today’s number of corrections officers — guards and their
supervisors — has proved hard to pin down, but the Bureau of Prisons told
WorldNetDaily it’s about 14,500.

When these figures are added to our original 57,092, it adds up to 80,571 — more than 20,000 higher than the original shocking statistic.

Besides these law enforcement personnel is an additional group of about 14,500 employees with the Bureau of Prisons who — like the guards — are classified as correctional officers though they do not work in a law enforcement capacity, not in the sense that guards do. As explained by spokesperson Todd Craig of the Bureau of Prison’s public affairs department, there are 29,654 employees in the bureau. Of these, 93 percent (27,578) are regarded as “correctional workers” and required to go through a three-week intensive session at the federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Georgia, where they receive training in the use of 9mm handguns, shotguns, and M16s.

Everyone who will be working within a federal prison is required to take the course — cooks, lawyers, general maintenance people, health personnel, and, of course, the actual guards who receive a lot more training.

A FLETC spokesman said that about 3,000 Bureau of Prison trainees go through the course each year. Not that they will need such firepower in their work, but upon completion they are granted limited search and arrest powers which can be used within the prison itself in an emergency, and they’re certified in the use of firearms.

Should these 13,000 prison employees be counted as part of the growing army of federal police? They are trained to a degree in the use of firearms, and their authorization to make arrest — however limited — does give them a certain clout ordinary civilians don’t have. If they are counted, the number of armed federal agents soars far over 90,000.

If that’s not a standing army, it’s at least a huge reserve of armed, paramilitary force.

Sarah Foster is an associate of the Western Journalism Center and a reporter for its Internet newspaper WorldNetDaily.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.