Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) and Readiness Subcommittee Ranking Member Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) made the following statements about the Department of Defense’s 1033 program that provides excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies:
“The Defense Department should not be providing military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies until we can be sure the program is capable of preventing dangerous items from falling into the wrong hands. The transfer of ‘controlled property’ under the 1033 program should be suspended until DLA fully implements the control measures that GAO has recommended, and makes its own planned changes to improve the oversight, management, and control of the program,” said Congressman Smith. “DLA annually transfers hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded excess military equipment to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the overwhelming majority of which are departments of 50 or fewer people. As evidenced during the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a few years ago, the transfer of potentially lethal ‘controlled’ military equipment can become controversial when the equipment is used inappropriately.
“It is absolutely essential that DLA maintain accountability for this equipment. DLA must address the internal control weaknesses identified by GAO and must ensure compliance with 1033 program guidelines, especially validation of the identification of individuals who accept the transferred ‘controlled property’ in the name of the receiving law enforcement agency. We should not allow the 1033 program to continue to transfer ‘controlled property’ until we know it has fully addressed the identified issues. Our committee will continue its close oversight of this program and appreciates the work GAO fulfilled at the committee’s request.”
“When properly managed, the 1033 Program is a critical resource for budget-constrained law enforcement agencies, especially for procuring ‘non-controlled’ equipment,” said Congresswoman Bordallo. “However the revelations contained in the GAO report are deeply concerning and it is clear that proper safeguards are not currently in place for ‘controlled’ equipment. The report highlights the negligence with which DLA treated property procured with taxpayer dollars and demonstrates a lack of accountability, and a dangerous vulnerability, that could have compromised the safety of the American people. While the DLA has taken steps to address the recommendations made by GAO, the point nonetheless remains that the job is unfinished. Until we can fully ensure oversight and accountability, and verify that the necessary controls are in place, we should temporarily suspend any transfers of ‘controlled’ equipment under this program. The American people must be confident that this program will not be misused and their safety is paramount for this program moving forward.”
On July 18, 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing its findings from an investigation into the DLA’s internal controls over the 1033 program. In the course of the investigation, GAO employed a sting operation that involved the creation of a fake law enforcement organization to purchase excess military equipment from DLA. The organization succeeded in acquiring a number of controlled items. You can read the report here: (https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-532)
The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness held a hearing on the findings on Thursday, July 27, 2017. You can watch the hearing here: (https://youtu.be/Kj0fOWcQorE)