The Defense Department may start doing a whole lot more online shopping in 2018, if Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry has his way.
The Texas chairman of the Armed Services Committee unveiled new legislation Thursday that aims to cut costly bureaucratic red tape at the Pentagon by allowing the military to buy everything from pens to treadmills from business-to-business sites such as Staples and Amazon.
That would free the federal government's biggest bureaucracy from using its current "expensive" and "onerous" contracting and scheduling process to buy its commercial goods, according to Thornberry.
But could it also work for firearms?
"I may get myself in trouble here," said Thornberry, easing into the topic during a press conference Thursday.
Military handguns are a prime — and somewhat notorious — example of the delays and waste of acquisition that the Republican chairman has been working to root out for the past two years, according to a panel of experts who testified to Armed Services earlier this week.
The Army decided in 2005 it needed a replacement for its M9 Beretta pistol and then spent 10 years writing and rewriting requirements.
The final request to gunmakers was 350 pages with 23 attachments and added $15 million to the cost. After a decade, the Army still had not decided what caliber the gun would be or what ammunition it would use.
Meanwhile, U.S. small arms companies make more handguns in a month than the Army will buy in 25 years, the Armed Services panel found.
"So a commercially available revolver or handgun would be just fine. Maybe it's OK to get our handguns in a commercially available way in the future," Thornberry said.
For now, his legislation freeing up online purchases like office supplies and exercise equipment still has a way to go. It will remain idle for a month or so as Thornberry gets feedback on his ideas and eventually provisions could be added into the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which is typically passed later this year.
"We take this step by step. DOD can say what you can buy and what you can't buy on these commercial online market places," he said. "But I think they will prove … to be much faster, significantly cheaper and I think it will catch on, hopefully to the rest of government but I care the most about DOD."