The Navy SEALs have been telling a San Diego congressman that they're under-equipped and forced to spend their own money on combat gear, and he is on a quest for answers.
"They don't get weapons now to work up with for two years. They get their weapon when a guy comes back," Hunter said. "They have to turn that weapon back in again even if they're still in work-ups and they're going to deploy nine months later."
"I was in the Marine Corps. We just took what we could get and do what we were told," he added. "But you guys are special. That's why you have special in your name."
"This is not a factor of too many rounds going through the weapon," Hunter retorted. "It's a matter of where the money's being spent. What are your priorities for the SEALs? If it isn't having a weapon that stays with you for a deployable term, then what are they?"
"More concerning, it is my understanding that there aren't enough weapons for SEAL teams — let alone an individual operator — to have their own weapons," Hunter wrote. "As it currently stands, following a deployment, a SEAL will have his weapon taken from him, which has been fine-tuned to certain specifications, and given to a different operator to use. This means that SEALs standing by to deploy are waiting for different teams to come back stateside just so they can use their weapons."
Hunter requested a report of how the command spend its funds in 2015.
"I can confirm that Congressman Hunter has a congressional inquiry and we're working to provide responses to that," Naval Special Warfare spokesman Cmdr. Jason Salata told Navy Times.
Matson said that, as an example, he had to put up $900 of his own money to buy a high-quality ballistic helmet when the Navy dragged its heels on upgrading his kit.
Hunter blames the issue on the command's supply chain, for not issuing the gear the SEALs have asked for quickly enough to make a difference.
Some inside the Navy, however, question whether operators are truly going without, and if Hunter's inquiry has more to do with vendors like Matson, who would like to speed up the acquisition process to boost their businesses.
"Matson acknowledges that he was in fact issued an appropriate ballistic helmet," the official said. "I don't think it has to do with us not having enough rifles. I think it has to do with, when you want to buy a new sling for that rifle, how do you go about doing it?"
If he wanted a different helmet he felt was better, and bought it himself because he couldn't get it through the stock system, that's a lot different than NSW not properly equipping SEALs, he added.
"So let's say there was a group of people that had a way bigger mission than just the regular deploying SEAL," he said. "The processes are flatter for some parts of the NSW community than others, and that's what the others want to be like."
Once a request is made for a new piece of gear, it has to go through a series of SOCOM tests and evaluations before it's issued. In many cases, SEALs aren't allowed to deploy with off-the-shelf gear, particularly when it comes to body armor.
"Local purchase of body armor that has not been tested and approved by USSOCOM is prohibited," according to the instruction, obtained by Navy Times.
Speeding up the acquisition process throughout the command, the official said, would allow SEALs to be issued their preferred gear, though it's not clear whether items like helmets and sights can be used on a deployment if they aren't SOCOM-approved.
Kasper confirmed that Hunter is concerned both with SEALs' general readiness, as well as their acquisitions activities.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.