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The Nebraska State Patrol Light Armored Vehicle LAV 150
The Nebraska State Patrol Light Armored Vehicle LAV 150. It's one of the military items that
Rep. Hank Johnson has proposed to prohibit the Pentagon from passing along to local and state police.
The Pentagon's program of giving away surplus military hardware to state and local police agencies has been going on for a long time. Since 2006, the Pentagon has transferred 867 armored vehicles, 533 aircraft and 93,763 machine guns to local and state law enforcement. As noted here last week, there are some in Congress who want to cease handing over this matériel to local cops.

But, as Jed Lewison points out, the last time there was a vote, just two months ago, less than 15 percent of the House approved a proposal to defund the program. The question is whether what's happened in Ferguson, Missouri, in the past eight days and nights will make a difference when Rep. Hank Johnson's proposed legislative reform in that program gets a vote. Or if it even will get a vote.

The Georgia Democrat's proposal would scale back the program considerably. It would take out references to the war on drugs from existing law as contained in 10 U.S. Code §2576a and require annual reports from the secretary of defense about who got what. Among the items no longer transferable to local law enforcement:

(A) Automatic weapons not generally recognized as particularly suitable for law enforcement purposes, including those that are .50 caliber or greater.
(B) Tactical vehicles, including highly mobile multi-wheeled vehicles, armored vehicles, and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles.
(C) Armored drones.
(D) Aircraft.
(E) Flash-bang or stun grenades.
(F) Silencers.
The question is whether the invading-army appearance of the police presence in Ferguson could, just maybe, have sparked a new (and lasting) attitude among rank-and-file Americans about the unacceptability of militarization of local police forces that many were oblivious to previously. And whether such an attitude shift will also take place in Congress. No way the latter will happen without an aggressive activist push. And, while crucial, getting rid of the Pentagon's hardware giveaways is just one piece of action needed to redress the situation, although it is an excellent place to start.

The Pentagon's program, called 1033 from the section of the defense spending authorization that it is part of, had its origins in 1990 in the war on drugs. The idea was to give police forces weaponry and related gear so they could effectively confront better-armed gangs while absorbing Pentagon "surplus." At the time, the most commonly carried firearms of all but a few police forces were still six-shooters and shotguns.

There are more details below the orange tendrils of tear gas.

On the grounds of both counter-drug and counter-terrorism policies, 1033 became a permanent fixture as part of the fiscal 1997 Pentagon budget. More than 8,000 state and local jurisdictions have participated in the program, receiving more than $4 billion in military hardware. The militarization has also been boosted, since the 9/11 attacks, by $34 billion in Homeland Security grants for equipment purchases.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union published a 97-page report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Police. Shawn Musgrave at Muckrock, who has been following this subject for almost a year, has posted a roster of all the equipment received under 1033 from 2011-2013. On it are everything from vast numbers of flat panel monitors and knee pads to "assault kits" and armored vehicles, from aircraft and grenades to 7.62 caliber rifles and "Saw Gunner Sets." That last would be the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon known as SAW, a Belgian-made weapon with accuracy close to that of a rifle but the firepower of a light machine-gun. A real crowd cleanser.

Muckrock has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for a full accounting of 1033 items distributed as part of the program dating back to 2000.

•••

Here are Rep. Johnson's proposed changes. Struck-out portions would be redacted from current code and the underlined sections added:

10 U.S. Code §2576a: Excess personal property: sale or donation for law enforcement activities

(a) Transfer Authorized.—
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law and subject to subsection (b), the Secretary of Defense may transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is—
(A) suitable for use by the agencies in law enforcement activities, including counter-drug and counter-terrorism activities; and
(B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.
(2) The Secretary shall carry out this section in consultation with the Attorney General and the Director of National Drug Control Policy.

(b) Conditions for Transfer.— The Secretary of Defense may transfer personal property under this section only if—
(1) the property is drawn from existing stocks of the Department of Defense;
(2) the recipient accepts the property on an as-is, where-is basis;
(3) the transfer is made without the expenditure of any funds available to the Department of Defense for the procurement of defense equipment; and
(4) all costs incurred subsequent to the transfer of the property are borne or reimbursed by the recipient; and
(5) the recipient certifies to the Department of Defense that it has the personnel and technical capacity, including training, to operate the property; and
(6) the recipient certifies to the Department of Defense that if the recipient determines that the property is surplus to the needs of the recipient, the recipient will return the property to the Department of Defense.

(c) Consideration.— Subject to subsection (b)(4), the Secretary may transfer personal property under this section without charge to the recipient agency.

(d) Preference for Certain Transfers.— In considering applications for the transfer of personal property under this section, the Secretary shall give a preference to those applications indicating that the transferred property will be used in the counter-drug or counter-terrorism activities of the recipient agency.

(d) ANNUAL CERTIFICATION ACCOUNTING FOR TRANSFERRED PROPERTY.—For each fiscal year, the Secretary shall submit to Congress certification in writing that each Federal or State agency to which the Secretary has transferred property under this section has provided to the Secretary documentation accounting for all personal property, including arms and ammunition, that the Secretary has transferred to the agency. If the Secretary cannot provide such certification for an agency, the Secretary may not transfer additional property to that agency under this section.

(e) REPORT ON SURPLUS PROPERTY.—Before making any property available for transfer under this section, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a description of the property to be transferred together with a certification that the transfer of the property would not violate this section or any other provision of law.

(f) LIMITATIONS ON TRANSFERS.—
(1) The Secretary may not transfer the following arms and ammunition under this section:
(A) Automatic weapons not generally recognized as particularly suitable for law enforcement purposes, including those that are .50 caliber or greater.
(B) Tactical vehicles, including highly mobile multi-wheeled vehicles, armored vehicles, and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles.
(C) Armored drones.
(D) Aircraft.
(E) Flash-bang or stun grenades.
(F) Silencers.
(2) The Secretary may not require, as a condition of a transfer under this section, that a Federal or State agency demonstrate the use of any small arms or ammunition.

(g) CONDITIONS FOR EXTENSION OF PROGRAM.— Notwithstanding any other provision of law, amounts authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available for any fiscal year may not be obligated or expended to carry out this section unless the Secretary submits to Congress certification that for the preceding fiscal year—
(1) each Federal or State agency that has received property under this section has demonstrated 100 percent accountability for all such property to the State coordinator in accordance with paragraph (2) or has been suspended from the program pursuant to paragraph (3);
(2) the State coordinator responsible for each such agency has verified that the coordinator or an agent of the coordinator has conducted an in-person inventory of the property transferred to the agency and that 100 percent of such property was accounted for during the inventory or that the agency has been suspended from the program pursuant to
8 paragraph (3);
(3) the eligibility of any such agency for which 100 percent of the equipment was not accounted for during an inventory described in paragraph (2) to receive property transferred under this section has been suspended; and
(4) each State coordinator has certified, for each Federal or State agency located in the State for which the State coordinator is responsible that—
(A) the agency has complied with all requirements under this section; or
(B) the eligibility of the agency to receive property transferred under this section has been suspended.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 11:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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