Joe Biden Could Easily Recall the Billions in Military Equipment Police Received From the Pentagon

American police departments are armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry like Humvees and assault rifles. Nothing is stopping President Biden from shutting down this military-to-police pipeline right away.

Nearly $34 million in military equipment was sent to police in the first quarter of 2021. (Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Nearly $34 million in military equipment was sent to police in the first quarter of this year, according to the Pentagon’s latest figures on the 1033 program. Since its inception in 1997, the program has been a conduit for at least $1.8 billion in combat gear shipments from the Department of Defense to US law enforcement agencies.

Not surprisingly, arming police to the teeth makes them more violent. Law enforcement agencies that get combat gear through the 1033 program tend to shoot and kill more people than ones that don’t.

Permanently abolishing this militarization pipeline requires an act of Congress. Specifically, legislation that strikes the authorizing statute for the program (10 U.S. Code § 2576a) would have to pass both chambers. But nothing is stopping President Biden from effectively shutting down the program right away. He could issue an executive order that not only halts 1033 transfers but also forces police to return past shipments, including the 335 helicopters, 1126 “MRAP” armored vehicles, 2,921 Humvees, and nearly 60,000 assault rifles currently loaned out by the Pentagon.

Biden was vice president the last time an executive order recalled military equipment obtained through the 1033 program from law enforcement agencies. By the time it was revoked by Trump, 126 tracked armored vehicles and 138 grenade launchers had been sent back from police to the Pentagon under Obama’s Executive Order 13688.

The President was expected to bring back those Obama-era restrictions on January 26 — “Equity Day,” according to the White House calendar. Leading up to it, progressive activists advocated that the administration issue a more robust executive order; police unions lobbied the White House to not issue one at all. The police unions won that fight. To this day, Biden still hasn’t issued an executive order related to the 1033 program. Trump-era policies governing the militarization of police remain intact.

Language barring police from having most military gear was included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,which the House passed last month. But its fate is uncertain in the Senate. Congressional Democrats must pressure Biden to adopt the bill’s 1033-related provisions into an executive order for immediate issuance.

With the flow of military equipment to police showing no signs of abating, progressives in Congress cannot delay this confrontation with the White House any longer.