The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Congress would re-evaluate the program the Pentagon set up to pass on unwanted military equipment to local police department.
Run by the Defense Logistics Agency, the Excess Property Program has come under fire following the scenes in Ferguson, Missouri of police officers wearing camouflage lying on top of armored vehicles pointing sniper rifles at protesters.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, explained that the program was created in order to make sure police officers had the proper equipment to fight drug battles. He said the situation in Ferguson has illustrated that the program might have over reached its intent.
“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals. We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents. Before the defense authorization bill comes to the Senate floor, we will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”
Since its inception, the program has transferred more than $5 billion worth of defense equipment and supplies to more than 8,000 local law enforcement agencies, according to the DLA’s Disposition Services website.
The program’s website includes among the inventory available for transfer such guns as the M-16A2 assault rifle, M-14 rifle and M-1911 .45-caliber pistol, such vehicles as the iconic Humvee utility vehicle and MRAP, and even aircraft and boats.
In an e-mail to Military.com, Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the defense agency, said weapons account for only 5 percent of the transfers and tactical vehicles even less, less than 1 percent. She also noted how the Congressionally mandated program was designed to aid communities requesting help with counter-drug and counter-terrorism activities.