- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

Top Democrats demanded Thursday that part of the federal government’s program that ships surplus military equipment to state and local police be suspended after an embarrassing sting operation in which government investigators posed as police and were able to secure simulated rifles and pipe bombs.

The Government Accountability Office audit said all told, $1.2 million worth of equipment was shipped to investigators when they pretended to be a police department.

Known as the “1033 program,” based on the part of federal law that authorizes it, the equipment transfer has become controversial as scrutiny over police behavior has intensified. Images of police in heavily armored military vehicles confronting Black Lives Matter protesters has prompted critics to call for stricter controls and a ban on some weapons.

The GAO audit has renewed concerns.

“We should not allow the 1033 program to continue to transfer ‘controlled property’ until we know it has fully addressed the identified issues,” said Rep. Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Smith was joined in his call for the temporary suspension by Madeleine Bordallo, the Democratic delegate from Guam, who on Thursday sharply questioned officials at the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the transfers.

GAO auditors were able to secure more than 100 items by posing as police less than a week after submitting their requests, the report found.

Using false ID and law enforcement credentials, an investigator was able to pass security checks and enter Defense Logistics Agency warehouses, though personnel at two of the three sites didn’t even bother to check for ID, according to the GAO.

For one item, infrared illuminators, the Defense Logistics Agency actually provided three extras — 51 illuminators in 52 pouches — even though 48 had been requested.

Ms. Bordallo said the report demonstrates “a dangerous vulnerability that could compromise the safety of the American people.”

“I am deeply disturbed … by the prospect that a malicious individual or organization could procure DOD property,” she said.

The Defense Logistics Agency is taking steps to correct the errors that led to the oversight and already has conducted training at the sites auditors visited, said Mike Scott, the agency’s deputy director of logistics operations.

Mr. Scott said the agency views the issue just as seriously and noted that other external reviews also didn’t identify the deficiencies.

“Now that we know them, we are all over it to make sure it never happens again,” he said.

Committee Republicans acknowledged the shortcomings, but said the program is a valuable tool for local law enforcement and should continue.

“It’s an important program,” said Rep. Austin Scott, Georgia Republican. “I happen to know a sheriff’s deputy fairly well that stepped out of a BearCat, and as he stepped out of it, a buckshot hit the window, and had he been in a normal squad car, he wouldn’t be with us today.”

“So I hope that we will continue this program and making sure we get our law enforcement officers the equipment they need to do their job,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama set up a working group to examine the issue and in 2015 announced a ban on the transfer of some equipment such as: tracked armored vehicles and grenade launchers.

President Trump had expressed an interest last year on the campaign trail in working to reverse some of Mr. Obama’s ban.

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