BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Since its inception over 20 years ago, the Law Enforcement Support Office, more commonly referred to as the 1033 program, has provided various kinds of excess Department of Defense property to law enforcement agencies across the country. Throughout its history, numerous questions have been asked: where did the program originate, what is the purpose, who is eligible to participate and how does it work?
To understand where the program stands today, one must start at the beginning.
The National Defense Authorization Acts of 1990 and 1991 laid the foundation for the LESO/1033 Program, a successor of section 1208 Regional Logistical Support Office Program. The program is congressionally authorized and allows the transfer of excess Defense Department property and equipment for use by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Over the years, the priorities Congress has established for the program has evolved to include counter-drug, counter-terrorism and border security missions.
In 2009, almost two decades after the inception of the program, the program management shifted from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services.
“We support reuse by warfighters first,” said DLA Disp. Svcs. Director Michael Cannon. “After that our global inventory is open for review by eligible law enforcement agencies.”
Cannon’s comment is in reference to the process that Congress established for DOD to dispose of excess and surplus property. Once an item is declared as excess to the needs of one of the branches of the military services, DLA makes the property available to the other branches of the military. If the property is not taken within the Defense Department, it is then offered to DOD special programs, which includes eligible law enforcement agencies (local, state and federal), state firefighters, veterans, schools in the computers for learning program, foreign military sales customers, the DOD Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief programs, Military Affiliate Radio System; Civil Air Patrol; and Senior ROTC Programs. If the property is still available, it is offered to all other federal agencies and then finally, it is made available to other donation customers in the General Services Administration/State Agency for Surplus property program. If none of the entities above have taken the property and the item is safe to sell, it is offered for sale to the public.
Law enforcement agencies have always been eligible to request surplus federal property, including surplus Defense Department property from the General Services Administration. The LESO/1033 program, however, allows LEAs quicker access to more items from DOD, and most importantly, access to some controlled property that other transfer and donation customers cannot request.
Most of the items the program provides include supplies such as office equipment and furniture, vehicles, first aid kits, hand tools, individual protective equipment, sleeping bags, computers, digital cameras, and similar supplies. These non-controlled or “general” property items consisted of 92% of property issued in Fiscal 2019. Titles for general property transfers to the receiving organization after 12 months and is removed from LESO’s database.
Other items are considered controlled property, meaning they are provided as a conditional transfer or “loan” basis where title remains with the Defense Department. These items include night vision equipment, small arms, which normally account for less than 5% of transfers, and tactical vehicles, which normally account for less than 1%. When agencies no longer have a use for these items, they are returned to the Defense Department for disposal or transfer to another law enforcement agency.
In 2015, Congress amended the program in two important ways. First, all local and state law enforcement agencies must have permission from their local governments to request controlled equipment. This ensures transparency to the local community and local civilian leaders of the type of controlled equipment that law enforcement agencies are requesting. Second, Congress requires each law enforcement agency receiving controlled property to certify on an annual basis their responsibility for training their personnel in the proper use, maintenance, and repair.
While many items in the DOD inventory are available for transfer as controlled or general property, there are some supplies that are not suitable for transfer to law enforcement agencies due to their tactical military characteristics. These items include tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, drones and large caliber weapons and ammunition over .50 caliber. Additional restricted items include military uniforms, body armor, Kevlar helmets and grenades.
None of the property transferred to LEAs is sold, but rather provided without cost in an “as is” condition. The only expenses LEAs are responsible for include costs related for travel to inspect property they are considering, transporting the items to their facility after their requisition is approved and maintenance or conversion costs.
Requests are passed to DLA Disposition Services through state coordinators appointed by governors to ensure items are something the requesting agency really needs. During congressional testimony on the program, former Defense Undersecretary Alan Estevez noted that civilian law enforcement operations differ greatly from military policing, which makes the expertise of state coordinators important to the approval of the requisitions.
In fiscal 2020 year to date, the LESO/1033 Program has approved more than 14,000 requisitions from 1,400 different LEAs, valued at over $178 million. More than 8,000 LEAs from 49 States (Hawaii does not currently participate) and four U.S. Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands) are enrolled.
In fiscal 2019, more than $293 million of excess DOD property was transferred to LEAs. The value identified with excess property is based on the original acquisition value which is what the U.S. Government originally paid for the item at the time it was procured. Many items were procured decades ago and considering depreciation, it would be difficult (and not cost-effective) to determine current value. Since program inception, the total original acquisition value of property transferred to LEAs is $7.4 billion.
Law enforcement agencies that wish to participate in the LESO/1033 Program must submit an “Application for Participation” to their state coordinator. Once approved, participants must sign an agreement with DLA that outlines program requirements, roles, and responsibilities. The agreement also outlines ways to maintain and ensure compliance with all program requirements and property accountability.
Once approved, the LEA may review online the available excess DOD inventory that is suitable for law enforcement.
All participating states and LEAs must conduct an annual physical inventory certification. LESO also conducts a biennial federal Program Compliance Reviews on the state. This review is an in-person inspection of the state coordinator’s program management as well as physical visits to LEAs across the state to validate inventories of controlled property. On an annual basis, the state must conduct state-level compliance reviews of at least 5% of LEAs that have property obtained via the program.
LESO coordinates with Department of Justice to identify LEAs under investigation or under a consent decree. LESO uses DOJ to validate the authenticity and eligibility of LEAs and notifies DOJ on applications for enrollment to the program, on LEA suspensions/terminations, and on allocations of weapons, tactical vehicles and aircraft.
Non-compliant state programs can face restrictions or be suspended from the LESO/1033 Program. Restricted status is for participants that have minor infractions, and they may only receive general property. Suspended status is for states or agencies that have program infractions. Suspended entities cannot make or receive new requisitions, but they can retain property already issued. In some cases, LEAs have been terminated. Terminated LEAs are removed from the program and all controlled items are returned to DLA.
For more information about the LESO program, visit the LESO frequently asked questions site.