Defense Contractors' Funds Fuel Vote To Keep Dept. Of Defense's Police Militarization Program Funded
from the that-MRAP-has-been-paid-for-several-times-over,-it-would-seem... dept
Color me unamazed. Politicians who are in favor of the government's 1033 program -- which distributes excess military gear and weapons to police departments engaged in our country's two favorite "wars" (v. Terror, v. Drugs) -- received a lot more money from defense contractors than those who oppose it.
Maplight, which tracks contributions to politicians, uncovered more evidence that private companies can get the legislative results they want if they just a$k nicely.
In June, the House of Representatives voted on an amendment from Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that sought to partially defund the 1033 Program. The amendment failed on a bipartisan vote of 62-355.This amendment didn't even target some of the common transfers: assault rifles, night vision goggles, etc.. These common indicators of police militarization would have continued to flow from the US government to law enforcement agencies unabated. Instead, 355 legislators voted that local law enforcement should still be allowed access to the following equipment:
Representatives voting to continue funding the 1033 Program have received, on average, 73 percent more money from the defense industry than representatives voting to defund it.
Fifty-nine representatives received more than $100,000 from the defense industry from January 1, 2011 - December 31, 2013. Of those only four supported defunding the 1033 Program.
Aircraft (Including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), Armored Vehicles, Grenade Launchers, Silencers, Toxicological Agents, Launch Vehicles, Guided Missiles, Ballistic Missiles, Rockets, Torpedoes, Bombs, Mines, or Nuclear WeaponsOne wonders if armored vehicles and drones had been struck from the list, the vote might have been more even. But phrased the way it was, if you still wanted your local PDs to acquire MRAPs, silencers and helicopters, you had to also give them the theoretical ability to requisition toxicological agents and ballistic missiles.
I don't imagine the government will be handing out guided missiles and nukes to law enforcement EVER, but what can be requisitioned is still partially a secret and information released to Muckrock by the Defense Logistics Agency only denotes which state received what, rather than indicate which law enforcement agencies were involved.
But even if the government has no intention of turning local law enforcement into full-fledged armies with nuclear/biological weapon capabilities, it's still handing over weapons and vehicles with little to no discretion. As Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post notes, if you can fill out one very simple form, you'll be able to roll down Main Street, USA in an armored tactical vehicle bristling with military assault rifles.
Applying for federal student aid? You'll need to fill out a 10 page application. Social Security retirement benefits come with an eight-page form, a passport application is six pages, and the shortform Obamacare application is five.Ingraham's article oversimplifies the process somewhat (a few layers of pre-approval are needed), but the fact remains that it's incredibly easy to outfit local law enforcement units with military gear. A vetting process with some teeth would likely have prevented small towns from acquiring vehicles designed to protect soldiers in combat zones from explosives.
But if you are a law enforcement agency in the U.S., you can apply for a free armored tactical vehicle from the Pentagon with a simple one-page form, below. You can even apply for multiple vehicles using the same form!
Crime is way down and police are more heavily-armed and well-protected than ever. Part of it is defense contractors making sure there's still a growing market for their wares. As Maplight points out (quoting an ACLU report on police militarization), 36% of the equipment transferred to law enforcement via the 1033 program is brand new. What may have seemed to be a fiscally responsible program -- making use of excess military equipment rather than simply scrapping it -- is now another way to blow tax dollars. Only this time, it's having other adverse effects on the general public.
When the Defense Logistics Agency is buying brand new and transferring these purchases to law enforcement at pennies on the dollar (using DHS grants to pay the difference), the government is screwing taxpayers multiple times, at multiple levels -- and that's just in a financial sense. We shouldn't need an amendment to tell the Defense Dept. to stop turning locals cops into makeshift occupation forces, and we certainly shouldn't need to tell the government that no law enforcement agency needs ballistic missiles or bombs. Local cops really don't need armored vehicles either, but until legislators are willing to enact some serious limitations, the downhill slope from the DoD's excess property storage to the United States' police departments will continue unabated.