The 1033 Program was created by the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997 as part of the U.S. Government's Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services (DLA) to transfer excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Sept 23, 1996. As of 2014, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participated in the reutilization program that has transferred $5.1 billion in military hardware from the Department of Defense to local American law enforcement agencies since 1997. According to the DLA, material worth $449 million was transferred in 2013 alone. The most commonly obtained item from the 1033 program is DEMIL A items, which fall off the inventory after one year of ownership. Some of the other most commonly requested items include cold weather clothing, sand bags, medical supplies, sleeping bags, flashlights and electrical wiring. Small arms and vehicles such as aircraft, watercraft and armored vehicles have also been obtained.
The program has been criticized over the years by local media, by the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense in 2003 and the GAO which found waste, abuse and fraud. It was not until media coverage of police during August 2014 Ferguson unrest that the program drew nationwide public attention. It should be noted that the Ferguson Police Department had 1033 equipment during the unrest, obtained prior per the 1033 Program. President Obama signed Executive Order 13688 on May 2015 limiting and prohibiting certain types of equipment.. The ACLU has raised concerns about the militarization of police forces in the US.
In 1944, the Surplus Property Act provided for the disposal of surplus government property, and spawned numerous short lived agencies like the Surplus War Property Administration (SWPA), in the Office of War Mobilization (OWM, February–October 1944), the Surplus Property Board (SPB), in the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion (OWMR, October 1944-September 1945), the Surplus Property Administration and also corporations like the Petroleum Reserves Corporation (PRC) and the War Assets Corporation to deal with it. The War Assets Administration was the latest to operate and was abolished in 1949.
The "National Defense Authorization Act of 1990", section 1208 authorized transfer of military hardware from the Department of Defense broadly to "federal and state agencies", but specifically "for use in counter-drug activities". as this legislation was passed in the context of the War on Drugs. Until 1997, it was called the 1208 program and run by the Department of Defense from the Pentagon and its regional offices.
In 1995, the "Law Enforcement Support Office" was created within the DLA to work exclusively with law enforcement.
With passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997, the 1208 program was expanded to the 1033 program allowing "all law enforcement agencies to acquire property for bona fide law enforcement purposes that assist in their arrest and apprehension mission", and that "Preference is given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests".
An inflection point occurred in the fall 2014 after several events brought increasing public scrutiny, and the eventual release of Federal records on the movement of military goods to civilian police forces was made public in December 2014.
The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services (DLA) help the Department of Defense to dispose of its "excess property [...] from air conditioners to vehicles, clothing to computers" by "transfer to other federal agencies, or donation to state and local governments and other qualified organizations", as well as by "sale of surplus property". Availability of surplus equipment has been facilitated by the reduced American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 1033 program is designed to specifically work with law enforcement agencies, like local police forces, school district police and others.
From 1997 until 2014, $5.1 billion in military hardware were transferred from the Department of Defense to local American law enforcement agencies, according to DLA's "Law Enforcement Support Office" (LESO) and material worth $449 million was transferred in 2013 alone. About a third of the equipment is new. The most commonly obtained item from the 1033 program is ammunition. Other most commonly requested items include cold weather clothing, sand bags, medical supplies, sleeping bags, flashlights and electrical wiring. The 1033 program also transfers office equipment such as fax machines, which many smaller police departments are unable to afford. The DLA also offers tactical armored vehicles, weapons, including grenade launchers, watercraft, and aircraft.
As of 2014, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participate in the reutilization program. Police departments are responsible for paying for shipment and storage of material acquired, but do not pay for the donation. The largest number of requests for material comes from small to mid-sized police departments who are unable to afford extra clothing, vehicles and weapons. The program gives smaller police departments access to material that larger police departments are usually able to afford without federal assistance. A memorandum of agreement between the DLA and the states participating in 1033 requires, that local police forces use the military equipment within one year, or return it. The rules allow police to dispose of or sell some goods after at least one year of usage.
As of September 2014 more than twenty school district police agencies received military-grade equipment through the program. The San Diego school district planned to return a military surplus vehicle after negative public reaction.
Law enforcement agencies must declare the intended use for each item, maintain an audit trail for each item and conduct inventory checks for DLA. Firearms, certain vehicles and other equipment must be returned to the Defense Department after use. "For security reasons [1033 program record] information is not subject to public review", per DLA.
A state coordinating agency in each U.S. state, except for Hawaii, headed by a state coordinator that is appointed by the state governor must approve an application, and is supposed to function as oversight after dispersion of equipment. The state coordinating agency is housed within a state agency that varies from state to state, for example in the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alaska Department of Public Safety and so on. The fact that in Arizona a Payson, Arizona Police Department Detective, was appointed as the state coordinator, made it easier for Paul Babeu, Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona to amass "more than $7 million worth of Humvees, fire trucks, firearms, defibrillators, barber chairs, underwear, thermal-imaging scopes, computers, motor scooters and other from 2010-2012, which he told county supervisors he would auction off to balance his budget. This is because the detective had appointed an office grants administrator in the Pinal County Sheriff Office to help him "oversee and authorize military-surplus requisitions". The Sheriff's speaker described it as chance to cherry-pick, "as we can start approving our own requests". After the Arizona Republic newspaper expose the DLA "announced agency-wide reforms, and Sheriff Paul Babeu was directed to retrieve vehicles and other equipment his office distributed to non-police organizations" and "about the same time, weapons requisitions were temporarily suspended and audited nationwide.
In 2003, a Defense Department Inspector General audit found incorrect or inadequate documentation in about three-quarters of the transactions analyzed, declaring 1033 Program records unreliable.
In 2005, the Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon "does not have management controls in place" to avert waste, abuse and fraud in the program. Investigators identified "hundreds of millions of dollars in reported lost, damaged, or stolen excess property ... which contributed to reutilization program waste and inefficiency."
In August 2014, the militarized response to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri led to increased criticism of the 1033 program:U.S. senator Rand Paul, a Republican, stated that the American government "has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts and helped municipal governments build what are essentially small armies."
Congressman Hank Johnson, a Democrat, drafted legislation proposing to curb, but not end the 1033 program, urged legislative armed services committee to suspend the transfer of some equipment.
President Obama ordered a review of the program.
In September 2014, Senator Claire McCaskill organized the Senate's first hearing on the program, and federal officials faced bipartisan criticism:Brian Kamoie, assistant administrator for grant programs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, stated that officials are conducting a review to determine if police forces deployed in Ferguson improperly used equipment purchased with the grants for riot suppression, which is not allowed. It was inconclusive from the questioning, how many times equipment was purchased with funds used to combat terrorism.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, press secretary for the Pentagon, argued that the program has aided law enforcement across the US in counter-terrorism and counter-narcotic operation, and to protect civilians. He stated that the Pentagon was diligent in deciding what equipment was sent to specific police departments.
Chuck Canterbury, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, argued that mass shootings could occur anywhere in the United States, even in small towns, and that the equipment obtained from the 1033 program is being used to protect civilians and law enforcement.
Congressman Buck McKeon scheduled a United States House Committee on Armed Services subcommittee "Oversight and Investigations" hearing to examine the program, which was postponed.
The House Judiciary Committee declined to review the program, stating that any review would follow an investigation by the Obama administration.
In October 2014,Congressman Hank Johnson urged the heads of the Armed Services Committees to adopt a moratorium on the transfer of certain items and to eliminate a section of the House version of the 2015 Defense bill, passed earlier in 2014, that would expand equipment transfers to border security, the nation's largest law enforcement agency.
In November 2014,Rand Paul's second Ferguson op-ed in Time did not mention the demilitarization of the police, which had been subject of his first op-ed, .
Steve Rabinovich, a police officer writing for police website PoliceOne.com, defended the 1033 program as necessary for protecting police officers from violent or deadly assaults by individuals or anti-government groups viewing police as scapegoats.
The House Committee on Armed Services reviewed the program, interviewed four witnesses, including the president of the Police Foundation, the director of the National Tactical Officers Association, and two employees of the Department of Defense and their heads, Reps. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) are working on a compromise of the 2015 defense authorization bill, instead of a moratorium.
Senator McCaskill suggested that "Congress would seek to better train police to use transferred equipment".
The White House had not released results of its review, promised in September, when National Guard of the United States was deployed to Ferguson and further unrest occurred after the grand jury decision in Ferguson. Police lobbying efforts, and the elections had rendered Congress lame duck, and the support for ending or changing the 1033 program dwindled.
In May 2015, following the 2015 Baltimore protests, Obama announced reviews of the use of military equipment, stating "We’ve seen how militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like they are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them," and "Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments."
Kara Dansky, senior counsel for the ACLU, wrote that the federal government is deliberately militarizing local law enforcement agencies.
DLA public-affairs chief Kenneth MacNevin stated in 2012, that "more than 30 Arizona police agencies have been suspended or terminated for failing to meet program standards and nine remain under suspension". One of them was the Maricopa County, Arizona law enforcement after failing to account for 20 of the 200 military weapons it had received. The suspension did not affect police acquisition of high powered weaponry due to anti-racketeering or confiscated drug funds, according to Maricopa's Sheriff.
In North Carolina, law officials are working to reinstate the 1033 program through more rigorous inventory management, after the state was suspended for failing to account for some transferred equipment. North Carolina officials state that 3,303 out of the 4,227 pieces of equipment obtained through the program are tactical items including automatic weapons and military vehicles and the remainder is not used in combat, and includes cots, containers and generators.
Fusion reported in August 2014 that a total of 184 state and local police departments had been suspended from the program for missing weapons and failure to comply with guidelines. Missing items included M14 and M16 assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, and two Humvee vehicles.