The flow of military equipment to police through Q1 of 2021

Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°74 | 2 April 2021

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***See update below***( 6 April 2021)


The Pentagon’s 1033 program is the primary mechanism by which police acquire military hardware. Most of the items transferred are innocuous, but that’s only in terms of quantity; in terms of value, combat gear dominates the ledger. Not surprisingly the latter fact typically escapes police/DOD discourse.

Matériel is what’s counted here. The values below reflect that of military hardware (“controlled” equipment) transferred through the 1033 program and not the office supplies or generators or t-shirts or whatever (“uncontrolled” equipment).

  • The most common items sent to police this quarter were firearm magazines: 940 total; 600 for 9mm pistols; 331 for 5.56mm rifles (M4 or M-16); 9 for 7.62mm rifles (M-14s, presumably).

  • Military vehicles (246) comprised most of the total acquisition value ($21,902,009 out of $33,506,765).


These are two charts that provide more context than a previous version, due to popular demand/me taking a lot of shit for only showing four quarters of 1033 finance. Let me remind you all that this analysis takes a really long time. That said, here is what you get when you look at 33 quarters.

Key findings:

Quarterly average of 1033 (controlled) transfers from 2013-2016: $61,027,937

…from 2017-2020: $29,766,929

…during Q1 of 2021: $33,506,765

The military equipment police have received through the 1033 program is now Biden’s policy. By him not doing anything about it makes it Biden’s problem.

The Defense Logistics Agency released its quarterly update last week, indicating that nearly $34 in military gear went to police through the first quarter of this year (up from $12 million from last quarter—or up $9 million from Q3 2020 or up $10 million from Q2 2020). Biden didn’t respond in any way—that’s a tacit endorsement/approval. Nor did he do anything about the $1.4bn+ already out there since 2013 when he took office. He sided with police unions instead.

1033 transfers aren’t like arms export sales. The military gear that flows through 1033 is on a conditional loan, the matériel can be taken back. Biden can order it to be done himself, without Congress. He has not. This chart reflects his policy decision:

End of update.

Policy action 

Congress needs to pressure Biden to issue an executive order to 1) prevent future transfers; and 2) recall military equipment from police custody. Unlike the “uncontrolled” equipment referenced above, “controlled" equipment (the dangerous stuff) is on a conditional loan. Biden can simply order DOD to take it back from the police. See SPRI’s latest policy brief for more:

Thanks for your time,

Stephen (@stephensemler;

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