Ranking Member Reed Discusses Schatz Amendment to NDAA
Madam President, I rise today in support of the Schatz amendment. The Schatz amendment would make changes to one of the Defense Department’s surplus property programs, known as the 1033 Program, which allows the Defense Department to disperse excess military equipment to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
The 1033 Program has provided the Defense Department a way to reuse taxpayer-funded equipment it no longer needs by providing it to law enforcement agencies. This, in turn, saves State and local governments from having to buy new equipment. This program is almost 25 years old, and it has been the subject of continued scrutiny and modifications.
I would first like to review what is in place. DOD requires that all requests for equipment from law enforcement agencies include a justification of how the property will be used. This justification is a key factor in determining if a requisition is to be approved. Next, according to the Defense Department, 92 percent of the equipment transferred during fiscal year 2019 was in the category of uncontrolled property—things like office equipment, first aid kits, hand tools, computers, and digital cameras. After 1 year from transfer, items in this category become the property of the law enforcement agency and are no longer subject to annual inventory requirements. The rest of the property transferred under the 1033 Program is considered controlled property and is given to law enforcement agencies on a conditional or ‘‘loan’’ basis. This includes things like small arms, demilitarized vehicles, and night vision equipment.
Typically, small arms weapons only make up about 5 percent of the property transferred in the 1033 Program. When a law enforcement agency no longer wants or needs this controlled property, it must be returned to the Department of Defense. To ensure that this program is run responsibly and effectively, the Government Accountability Office has provided several reviews of this program that have been helpful in past years to tighten the requirements on participants in the 1033 Program. The committee report accompanying the bill before us requires another GAO review of DOD’s disposal of military vehicles, which could inform additional reforms when we receive the results of the review.
I also know that the Defense Logistics Agency requires annual audits of participating agencies to ensure they are accountable for the equipment they have received. If an agency is delinquent or doesn’t meet the requirements, then they can be suspended or terminated from the 1033 Program. While this Program is an effective way of reusing equipment that taxpayers have already paid for, we continually need to ensure that our civilian law enforcement agencies do not end up looking like or acting like our military when they patrol the streets. Given some of the incidents that have occurred in recent months, I believe that additional modifications are necessary. The Schatz amendment adds some reasonable requirements and limitations to the 1033 Program. For one thing, it would codify the prohibition of certain items from being transferred under the 1033 Program, things like certain kinds of ammunition, grenades, and drones.
This amendment would also prohibit the use of transferred equipment against First Amendmentprotected activities, such as the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. I know that the Defense Department has some concerns about how this amendment would be implemented, but I believe these concerns can be addressed during conference with the House. I believe it is important and timely to make such changes to the 1033 Program today. I support the Schatz amendment and urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it. Thank you. I yield the floor.