Washington, DC – Today a majority of U.S. Senators voted in favor of legislation to reform and put limits on the 1033 program, which currently allows the transfer of military-grade weapons and equipment from the Department of Defense to local police departments. The Schatz-Murkowski-Harris-Paul amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed for passage, but the majority vote sends a clear message of bipartisan concern over the increased militarization of our communities.
In addition to keeping the most destructive weapons off American streets, the amendment would have stipulated that weapons obtained through the 1033 program cannot be used against people practicing First Amendment-protected activities, like the right to protest.
After two decades of war, the weapons and impact of America’s increasingly militarized foreign policy are now showing up in community police forces. We’ve seen harrowing examples of that militarization in our communities in recent months, with police forces, equipped for battle but without proper training, escalating crises instead of defusing then. The 1033 program has blurred the line between defending our country from foreign enemies, and serving and protecting communities. These military weapons and the tactics that go alongside them cause fear and mistrust, especially among communities of color.
“It’s heartbreaking to see these weapons of war coming home and being used against American communities. It’s also completely unnecessary,” said Andrew Albertson, Foreign Policy for America Executive Director. “We owe it to our fellow citizens to ensure these weapons stay on the battlefield where they belong.”
“The continued use of the Defense Department’s current 1033 program only furthers the civil-military divide in our nation,” said Bishop Garrison, Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First. “As law enforcement leverages more tactics, uniforms, and equipment of the armed forces it embraces a culture that sees the communities it is designed to protect as the enemy, which, ironically, make those areas less safe. The bipartisan Schatz-Murkowski-Harris-Paul amendment to this year’s NDAA sought rightfully to limit the transfer of offensive capabilities while still allowing for body armor and other reasonable protective measures. I’m disappointed by today’s vote, but appreciate the work of Senator Schatz and so many others. I truly believe the nation and its law enforcement officials will need to work together to redefine what it means to ‘protect and serve.’”