The program was originally approved by Congress to help local law enforcement prosecute the government's insane war on drugs.Small police departments across America are collecting battlefield-grade arsenals thanks to a program that allows them to get their hands on military surplus equipment – amphibious tanks, night-vision goggles, and even barber chairs or underwear – at virtually no cost, except for shipment and maintenance.The Nebraska State Patrol Light Armored Vehicle LAV 150
(Public Information Office—Nebraska State Patrol)
Over the last five years, the top 10 beneficiaries of this “Department of Defense Excess Property Program” included small agencies such as the Fairmount Police Department. It serves 7,000 people in northern Georgia and received 17,145 items from the military. The cops in Issaquah, Washington, a town of 30,000 people, acquired more than 37,000 pieces of gear.
In 2011 alone, more than 700,000 items were transferred to police departments for a total value of $500 million. This year, as of May 15, police departments already acquired almost $400 million worth of stuff. Last year’s record would have certainly been shattered if the Arizona Republic hadn’t revealed in early May that a local police department used the program to stockpile equipment—and then sold the gear to others, something that is strictly forbidden. Three weeks after the revelation, the Pentagon decided to partly suspend distribution of surplus material until all agencies could put together an up-to-date inventory of all the stuff they got through the years. A second effort, which gives federal grants to police departments to purchase equipment, is still ongoing, however. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, since 9/11, the grants have totaled $34 billion.
Which means billions of dollars’ worth of military gear are in the hands of small-town cops who neither need the equipment nor are properly trained to use it, critics charge. At best, it’s a waste of resources (since the gear still has to be maintained). At worst, it could cost lives.
The Center for Investigative Reporting reported last week that the Pentagon will not reinstate the giveaway part of the program until local recipients prove they've adequately kept track of the matériel they have received.
California Watch reported in March that agencies in the state snatched up more surplus gear than any state in the 20-year history of the program. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department alone takes in $4 million to $5 million a year. So much, in fact, that it owns four semitrailers it uses to drive around the country picking it up.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2004:
Ha ha, didn't Mark Kennedy get the memo that Bush is enjoying a "bump"? Because he has gone through his Congressional site and purged all references to Bush from it. Blogger MN points out the scrubbing process:
First of all, replace all pictures of Bush with smiling children. Everyone loves children.
Secondly, bills magically "become" law, rather than get signed by Bush:"An important provision from the first bill he introduced as a member of Congress, providing grant money for rural ambulance services, was signed into law by President Bush." Now compare that to the new version, which reads, "In fact, a grant program for rural ambulance services in the first bill he introduced in Congress became law."And thirdly, try to create a record of opposition, rather than support, for the Bush agenda.
Tuesday's program featured Daily Kos Staff Writer Jed Lewison discussing the state of the Obama-Romney race and ranter-in-residence Armando wondering if Antonin Scalia still has all his marbles. You can listen to the podcast of Tuesday's show here.