The Obama Administration appropriately placed limits on military hardware given to local law enforcement. The prior program to do this was rife with waste and corruption. Fiscal conservatives, such as Congressman Mark Sanford, applauded the move when announced in 2015.
Whether President Donald Trump is any type of conservative or not, he is in no way a fiscal conservative. The administration recently announced the removal of Obama-era limits as another political gesture towards “law and order” conservatives.
In line with other libertarian conservatives, Congressman Mark Sanford came out strongly against the move to expand the 1033 program.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Congressman Mark Sanford explained why giving military equipment to local police is a bad idea:
Today, the administration decided to reinstate the so-called 1033 program, which allows the Department of Defense to transfer surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies at no cost.
Can we just admit that this is crazy?
Our federal government is $20 trillion in debt, and now we’re going to begin a giveaway program from the federal government to local and state law enforcement agencies. This program has been heavily abused because we oftentimes discount the things we get for free and value the things that we pay for.
Let me give you one example.
Back when I was governor, I walk into a small county sheriff’s office, and they tell me that the sheriff isn’t available – he’s out taking helicopter lessons. Mind you, this is a very small county; yet his office had received seven jet-powered helicopters because helicopters were the sheriff’s thing. The lessons he was taking weren’t for free, the jet-fuel he was burning wasn’t for free…. and in fact, the helicopters that came from the federal government weren’t really free either.
I could give you a lot of other examples that I saw over my years as governor on this one, but the long and short of it is that, even purely from an accounting standpoint, it’s a mistake. It causes us to overstate the cost of the federal government and to understate the cost of local government. It also leads to a lot of strange choices, as the seven helicopter example shows.
In any case, I think this decision is a step backwards for the taxpayer. Indeed, I introduced a bill last Congress, the Responsible Law Enforcement Acquisition Act of 2016, in an attempt to curtail this program, and I would just ask that you take the time to look under the hood on this issue, given the way in which things your federal taxes have paid for will now be given away for free.
I just put out a press release explaining my reasoning and thought you might like to give it a read.
The press release that Sanford mentions further explains why he opposes reopening the 1033 program.
In addition to the waste he saw firsthand, the equipment being handed over has cost taxpayers over $5 billion since its inception. If the police actually need that equipment, they should be able to pay for it and reduce the federal government’s burden.
Congressman Mark Sanford is expected to reintroduce his legislation to curtail the 1033 program this Congress in response to the Trump administration’s move.
(Photo of Congressman Mark Sanford by Gage Skidmore used with permission.)