Follow us on social

Police-gear

Biden's clamp-down on military gear to local police has giant loophole

On its face, the president's new executive order looks like a step forward, but a closer looks reveals more of the same.

Analysis | Reporting | Military Industrial Complex

After more than a year in office, Joe Biden may finally take action on police militarization. A leaked draft of an executive order obtained by The Federalist contains a provision that would place restrictions on the federal government’s provision of military equipment to state and local police. Some powerful police interest groups have already publicly expressed opposition to the prospective measure.

Police unions successfully compelled the Biden White House to retract a similar measure a year ago. During the president’s first days in office, the White House announced that he  would sign an executive order that would recall a range of military equipment acquired by police through federal channels. But after a successful lobbying effort by law enforcement interest groups, the order was never issued.

A similar lobbying effort appears to be in the works this time around, too, so there is a chance that Biden will once again cave to the whims of police interest groups. However, there is more pressure for Biden to act now than there was last January. Biden’s signature police reform bill, the Justice in Policing Act, passed the House in March but stalled out in the Senate. By September, negotiations over the bill had collapsed entirely.

With no prospect for legislative action, the bill’s lead negotiators, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass, have called on Biden to resort to executive orders to ensure that key parts of the Act take effect — among them, a provision that would place strict restrictions on the Pentagon’s 1033 program. Local police forces have acquired at least $1.8 billion worth of excess military equipment through the 1033 program since its inception during the War on Drugs. This influx of combat gear to local communities has contributed to increased police violence and inflated law enforcement budgets.

On its surface, the leaked draft of the executive order suggests Biden is ready to strike a major blow to this harmful program. The section related to police militarization lists about a dozen types of weapons that would be prohibited. The problem, however, is that the list of military gear is largely redundant. Most of the combat gear the executive order prohibits is prohibited already. Several items on the list have been transferred to police relatively rarely, while others haven't been leased to police through the 1033 program at all.

If the executive order is issued as is, its biggest contribution would be its prohibition on the transfer of military vehicles. Nearly 5,000 military-grade vehicles worth over $1 billion are currently leased out to police through the 1033 program. Banning this class of armament would initiate a country-wide recall, a significant step toward demilitarizing local communities.

However, the draft executive order includes a key loophole. Police could retain the military vehicles if they claim that they will be used “exclusively for disaster-related emergency preparedness or relief.” The executive order does not include any provisions that would ensure that this condition can actually be enforced, and the Pentagon, which runs the 1033 program, lacks the oversight capacity to effectively monitor the uses to which these vehicles may actually be put. Enforcing this restriction would require a transfer of oversight responsibility from the Pentagon to an agency more capable of monitoring state and local police, like the Department of Justice, which is far better positioned to monitor and evaluate the use and impact of military-grade equipment by police. By contrast, the Department of Defense is an inappropriate institution to liaise with local police. It is also ill-equipped to determine what is and isn’t suitable behavior by law enforcement.

Even if the vehicular restriction could be fully enforced, the Pentagon-to-police pipeline would still be chock-full of combat gear. Biden’s executive order omits the most popular matériel — particularly weapons — transferred from the Pentagon to police under the 1033 program. Close to 70,000 firearms, including 57,494 assault rifles, are on loan to police from the Pentagon according to Department of Defense data. In addition, high-value military equipment, such as airplanes and helicopters, would still be eligible for transfer. The Pentagon has already loaned more than $200 million worth of aircraft to the police.

Biden should amend the executive order so it offers a comprehensive ban on the federal government’s role in militarizing state and local police. Polling suggests doing so would be popular among the public, and empirical evidence suggests it would make communities safer. Since Congress failed to address the issue of police militarization in 2021, it is incumbent on Biden to do so as soon as possible.

HOLLYWOOD, CA / USA - JUNE 2, 2020: National Guard personnel outside the El Capitan theater on Hollywood Blvd. (Shutterstock/Black Pebble)
Analysis | Reporting | Military Industrial Complex
Will stock trade ban curtail DOD budget corruption?

Billion Photos via shutterstock.com

Will stock trade ban curtail DOD budget corruption?

QiOSK

A new bipartisan proposal to ban members of Congress and their immediate family members from trading individual stocks looks to close a glaring conflict of interest between politicians who control massive government budgets, much of which go to private contractors.

The potential for serious conflicts of interest are quickly apparent when reviewing the stock trades of members of Congress's Senate and House Armed Services Committees, the panels responsible for the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that sets recommended funding levels for the Department of Defense.

keep readingShow less
Where are Trump's possible VPs on foreign policy?

Aaron of LA Photography, lev radin, and Allssandro Pietri via shutterstock.com

Where are Trump's possible VPs on foreign policy?

Washington Politics

Donald Trump will soon be selecting a running mate for the general election, and his choices have reportedly narrowed to Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

All three have been auditioning for the role, and one of them will presumably be selected before the Republican convention next week. Whoever gets the nod has a decent chance of being elected the next vice president and in that role he will have some influence in shaping a second Trump administration. So it is worth reviewing the foreign policy views of Trump’s possible picks to see what the selection can tell us about the direction Trump will take if he wins this November.

keep readingShow less
Shutterstock_624917975-scaled-e1644615001666
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton shake hands at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington DC., September 28Th, 1994. (mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com).
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton shake hands at a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Washington DC., September 28Th, 1994. (mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com).

Declassified docs: US knew Russia felt 'snookered' by NATO

QiOSK

This week at the NATO summit in Washington, alliance leaders are expected to sign a joint communique that declares that Ukraine is on an “irreversible” path to joining the alliance.

This decision is likely to be celebrated as a big step forward and a reflection of Western unity behind Ukraine, but a series of newly declassified documents show that the U.S. has known all along that NATO expansion over the last 30 years has posed a threat to Russia, and may have been a critical plank in Moscow's aggressive policies over that time, culminating in the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis

Latest