Militarization of Federal Agencies
In recent years, numerous federal regulatory agencies have armed themselves to a surprising degree. This militarization trend is particularly acute in the Offices of Inspector General (OIG), most of which were established in the 1970’s to “combat waste, fraud, and abuse” within the departments and agencies. (CRS Congressional Oversight Manual, Jan. 2013). OIGs have played a valuable investigative role, but—with typical federal bureaucratic mission creep—they have gradually expanded their responsibilities. In the 2002 Homeland Security Act, most OIGs were given law enforcement authority, including the authority to carry firearms and make arrests (Section 6(e) of the Inspector General Act, 5 U.S.C. App.)
Engaging in dangerous situations that involve the enforcement of federal law is the job of the Department of Justice, including the FBI, the U.S. Marshals, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. They are well-trained and equipped for engaging in potentially volatile situations. The existence of highly-armed units within various regulatory agencies is duplicative, costly, heavy handed, dangerous, and destroys any sense of trust between citizens and the federal government.
- In July 2010, a multi-agency taskforce, including armed officers from the Food and Drug Agency, raided a Venice, California organic grocery store suspected of using raw milk. (LA Times, July 10, 2010).
- In June 2011, armed federal agents with the Department of Education’s OIG broke down the door of a Stockton, California home at 6 AM and handcuffed a man suspected of student aid fraud. (Washington Post, June 8, 2011).
- In July 2013, an armed multi-agency taskforce, including officers from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service raided a small Alaska mining operation suspected of violating the Clean Water Act. (Washington Times, Oct. 11, 2013).
- On May 7th, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s OIG released a solicitation for submachine guns.
The Solution: The Disarm Regulators Act does three things to address the problem
- Repeals the law enforcement authority granted to Offices of Inspectors General in the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
- Prohibits federal agencies, other than DOJ, DOD, or DHS, from purchasing or using any firearms that are regulated under the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. 5845). This includes machine guns, grenades, and other explosive devices. This will leave intact arrest authority and the ability of federal law enforcement officers—for example BLM or Forest Service rangers—to carry firearms that don’t fit under the National Firearms Act’s definition of firearm, including side arms, and most rifles and shotguns.
- Directs GAO to write a complete report detailing all federal agencies, including Offices of Inspectors General, with specialized units that receive special tactical or military-style training and that respond to high-risk situations that fall outside the capabilities of regular law enforcement officers. The report will detail the training, weapons, the criteria for activating the units, how often the units were activated each of the past ten years, the costs of equipping and operating each of the units, and any other information that might be relevant to understanding the usefulness and justification for the units.