Congress pushes back on program that transfers military equipment to police

Jack Murphy
June 03, 2020 - 11:49 am
Riot police

Jamie Squire / Staff

The Senate is making overtures of adjusting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in order to curtail a program known as 1033 which transfers military equipment to domestic police forces.

In the early 1990's, "congress authorized the transfer of excess DoD personal property to federal and state agencies for use in counter-drug activities," the Defense Logistics Agency website says. It goes on to say that 8,000 state and federal agencies participate in the 1033 program spread out across all 50 states. The type of equipment transferred ranges from armored vehicles to grenade launchers. The military does not define or regulate how police departments use this equipment once it is released to them.

Recent civil unrest in the United States and the deployment of heavily militarized police forces have prompted the Senate to take a second look at the 1033 program. An amendment introduced into the upcoming NDAA reauthorization could curtail this type of transfer of excess equipment left over from the global war on terror to the police.

"I never thought we would have to use the National Defense Authorization Act to make clear that the U.S. military shouldn't be used as an agent of force against American citizens," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said. "...We need to put guardrails in place, now."

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told the New York Times that, “it is clear that many police departments are being outfitted as if they are going to war, and it is not working in terms of maintaining the peace. This is not the only thing we need to do, but as our country sees these images on television that remind us of some countries far, far away, it’s time to recalibrate this program. Just because the Department of Defense has excess weaponry doesn’t mean it will be put to good use.”

Doug Stafford, the chief strategist for Republican Senator Rand Paul has also signaled his support.

The proposed amendment comes on the heels of a phone call that President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently had with state governors about the riots that have broken out across the country.

"The sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal," Esper told the governors in reference to American cities.

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Reach Jack Murphy: or @JackMurphyRGR.