According to a recent article by the Associated Press,the Defense Department has stopped issuing weapons to thousands of law enforcement agencies until it is satisfied that state officials can account for all the surplus guns, aircraft, Humvees and armored personnel carriers it has given police under a $2.6 billion program. This material is free to law enforcement agencies, however it comes with strict rules on how it must be tracked. Because some of this equipment has gone missing or ended up in hands of criminals, the military has decided to conduct a blanket audit to ensure that this material is tracked and accountability maintained. According to this article, the AP reports that nothing specific caused this shutdown however cites an article in an Arizona newspaper reporting that police have sold surplus gear to non-police agencies, a clear violation of the rules. The article said that accounting is going to be difficult as most state agencies keep only paper records. When requested by AP to account for those records, most agencies report that this task would take over 500 hours just to review the requested records. This program is popular because it provides millions of dollars in equipment to agencies sustaining deep budget cuts.
What is clear from this article is that a much needed program is in trouble because of a failure in equipment management practices. In the instance of an Arizona police department the failure occurred in disposal of equipment not being used to non-police agencies. Disposal of equipment by sale to others is a common practice, and provides a return on investment to agencies that have excess equipment or surplus that have costs to maintain. In fact, tracking equipment that can be disposed is one of set of key returns on investment of a good equipment process. Perhaps the failure reported in this case was not that there was a disposal process, it failed because the group implementing the process were not completely cognizant of the rules governing the equipment being disposed. This failure was caused by not having an equipment management plan in effect, and a means of tracking this equipment to begin with.
Could this problem be prevented? How quickly can this problem be remedied? The answer is easy and quick. There are off the shelf systems available at a price point low enough, but with functions high enough to provide state and federal visibility. These systems can easily classify, store, and report on all of this equipment at each state and local level, and satisfy all the equipment management processes demanded by the Department of Defense in order to continue this valuable program. I know of one such cloud-based system, currently used in other similar applications that can be easily utilized to fix this problem. Email me or connect with me on Linked-In, I am happy to recommend such a system. Perhaps a cost of $500K per state for a good tracking system to maintain $2.6 billion in equipment, and save taxpayer dollars (and taxpayer lives perhaps) is a sufficient tradeoff? Throwing dollars and technology to fix something may not be sufficient. The technology is here and the dollar tradeoff sufficiently low to make this affordable. The main issue is cultural and this is not an easy problem to solve. Until we, as equipment managers fix the “not invented here” issues, and “good enough for government” mentality, we will continue to have program suspensions, unneeded audits, and missing equipment that ends up in the hands of criminals and terrorists. This part of the failure is not easy to fix or change.
Any comments? Please email me or post here. I am interested in hearing from other equipment managers and first responders.