Domestic attention has turned to the militarization of U.S. police forces, but our police aren’t the only ones being handed excess materiel.
WASHINGTON — Next week, both houses of Congress will take steps to address the militarization of America’s police forces. On Tuesday, the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing which aims to examine government programs that provide police departments with heavy armaments, while Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson plans to introduce legislation that will stop certain military weapons from being transferred to police.
Both initiatives were called in the wake of the tragic events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, which drew national awareness to militarized police forces around the country.
While the focus is on stopping, or at least slowing, the flow of military surplus equipment to U.S. police forces, one question remains: Where will it go instead?
“Since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, the United States has transferred $121 million worth of surplus weapons and other military gear to six Middle East countries,” Al Monitor reported on Monday.
The report goes on to say that through the Excess Defense Articles program, some of the weapons, vehicles, and other gear discarded by the U.S. military winds up in the hands of governments with “poor human rights records,” and that countries, particularly in the Middle East, often request the kind of equipment under scrutiny in Johnson’s bill.
“Morocco was the biggest beneficiary of the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program between FY 2011 and FY 2014, with $44 million. Other recipients include Israel ($28 million), Jordan ($21 million), Iraq ($17 million), Lebanon ($10 million) and Bahrain ($1 million),” the Al Monitor report states.
The EDA provides surplus equipment “typically used for modernization of partner forces,” according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Equipment is either offered at a reduced price or for free. Further, the defense equipment is allocated to those governments without taking into account assistance already provided through the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program. That means, for example, that in addition to the $3.1 billion Israel already receives from the United States annually, it also acquired $28 million worth of excess defense articles since FY 2011. The same goes for the other countries on the above list.
While foreign governments are receiving surplus military hardware through the EDA program, national outrage over police militarization has focused on the Department of Defense Excess Property Program 1033, which provides excess materiel to U.S. police forces — an issue both houses of Congress will discuss next week.
The bill being introduced by Johnson does not address the EDA program, nor does it say that surplus weapons should be sent abroad.