Early in the morning Nov. 30, 2015, two semi-tractors pulling oversized flatbed trailers, arrived at one of the Lansing Police Department training and storage facilities to pick up two armored personnel carrier vehicles that the LPD had acquired through a federal program that provides equipment and supply support to law enforcement agencies.
The 1033 Program, as it’s commonly called, referring to the section of the National Defense Authorization Act that created it, began officially in 1997. Prior to 1997 surplus military equipment was disbursed via the 1208 Program (1990), and before that via a variety of program names, under a variety of federal departments all the way back to 1944, the Surplus Property Act. The program permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense personal property and vehicles to state and local law enforcement agencies for bona fide law enforcement purposes that assist LEAs in their arrest and apprehension mission.
According to the Defense Logistics Agency, the agency tapped by the DOD to administer and oversee the 1033 Program, more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies across the country have received more than $5.3 billion in military materials and equipment. Many LEAs have stated that the savings gained by receiving 1033 items have allowed them to apply funds that they would have spent on those items to other necessities like training, safety equipment, vehicles and facility maintenance and other goods and services that improve operational capacity and safety within the communities they serve.
In January 2015, Executive Order No. 13688 deleted some of the surplus items available for distribution under 1033. One of the items the EO prohibited was tracked, armored vehicles, also known as armored personnel carriers. In addition, all previously issued APCs were to be returned for destruction.
Michigan LEAs had been issued a total of 13 APCs that must be returned by the end of 2015. Each APC will be trailered from their respective LEA to a range on the Michigan National Guard, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, in northern Michigan, where they will serve as firing targets for training exercises.
“It’s a sad day,” said Eric Eichenberg, the Lansing Police lieutenant in charge of APC training and maintenance. “We’ve used them successfully on several occasions; they were an extremely valuable resource for the department. It’s unlikely that the department will be able to purchase one commercially, much less, two,” he added.
“It would help me, as the Michigan 1033 Program point of contact, to have more information about the decision process that led to the reclaiming of the APCs,” said Larry Goerge who was onsite for the pick-up. “Some of the LEAs have put significant money into modifications and repairs that now will give their departments zero return on investment. They are understandably upset. Especially when a neighboring agency has the same vehicle but because it was purchased commercially they are permitted to keep it. The vast majority of the American public cannot tell the difference between the two.”
Tracked APCs like the ones LPD is returning, are typically used for tactical team transport, transport of specialized equipment, barricade destruction, and difficult terrain and conditions navigation (standing water, mud, fire, rocks, high wind, snow or sand) due to their dispersed ground pressure that lessens the risk of vehicle immobilization and increases the likelihood of mission success – which is particularly important in rescue situations.
Almost all tracked APCs, like the M113 models previously distributed through the 1033 Program, have been retired and replaced with newer, mostly wheeled, armored vehicles that are faster, and do less damage on roadways, can cross longer distances, and are less expensive to make and maintain.