Security Weaknesses in Pentagon Excess Property Program | Citizens Against Government Waste
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Security Weaknesses in Pentagon Excess Property Program

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact

The Defense Logistics Agency’s (DLA) Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) handles the management of logistical support for the military.  It also runs the 1033 program, which transfers excess Department of Defense (DOD) property to federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) across the United States and its territories.  Since its inception, this program has transferred more than $6 billion worth of DOD property to participating LEAs. 

However, some argue that little is gained from the distribution of military gear to police forces around the country.  While LEAs appear to save money by obtaining transferred equipment, much of it is expensive to maintain and may be excessive relative to the requirements of local law enforcement.

One such example is the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), a 54-ton, 10-foot tall armored vehicle designed to provide protection against roadside bombs for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.  While the DOD contracted several different models with a variety of price tags, a conservative estimate places the cost of each MRAP at about $500,000.  While many of these vehicles have found their way to local law enforcement around the country at no charge, maintenance and part replacement come at a hefty price.  Furthermore, MRAPs and other military equipment often substantially exceed the needs of LEAs.  It is difficult to imagine why police in High Springs, Florida, with a population of 5,500, needed an MRAP; or why the Morven, Georgia, Police Department, overseeing a population of 532 citizens, requested a shipment of bayonets.

Moreover, the process by which LESO distributes equipment is not secure.  A July 27, 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that the 1033 program is not sufficiently verifying authorized applicants for equipment transfer, and that the DLA lacks risk assessment throughout the whole program.

After creating a fabricated law enforcement agency and applying for access, GAO investigators were allowed into the 1033 program within a year.  The report stated, “at no point during the application process did LESO officials verbally contact officials at the agency we created – either the main point of contact listed on the application or the designated point of contact at the headquarters’ level – to verify the legitimacy of our application or to discuss establishing a memorandum of understanding with our agency.”  The GAO reported that that DLA lacked sufficient oversight and security for authorizing LEA applicants enrolling in the 1033 program. 

In addition, the DLA routinely failed to either verify individuals picking up equipment or confirm the number of items to be moved before transfer.  Using the fabricated documents, GAO investigators obtained more than 100 controlled property items, such as night-vision goggles, reflex sights, infrared illuminators, simulated pipe bombs, and simulated M-16A2 rifles, with an estimated total value of $1.2 million, within a week of making a request as the fictitious agency.  The report noted that the simulated items might be transformed into lethal weapons by using commercially available products.

The DLA’s lack of oversight and internal control of the 1033 program’s largess has clear ramifications.  Not only does the current system display an overwhelmingly irresponsible handling of large quantities of taxpayer-funded property, but more disturbingly, it also might enable military-grade weaponry to fall into the hands of unauthorized individuals.

The GAO report concluded that, despite proposed DLA reforms, the agency “lacks a comprehensive framework for instituting fraud prevention and mitigation measures,” and recommended a complete risk assessment.  Until new, secure policies have been implemented, the 1033 program should be very carefully monitored to prevent any further problems.

  -- Mary Lee Deddens


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