June 19, 2014 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD — HOUSE H5531
Yet, the Fortenberry amendment constrains that strategy. I believe we must aggressively ramp up our efforts to support the moderate opposition in Syria.
It is not too late.
It is not too late to help the moderate opposition. It is not too late to transition to a Syria without Assad. It is not too late to protect ourselves and our regional allies from the threat that ISIL poses. It is not too late to help Syrians build the future they deserve.
Ultimately, I don't believe that the future of Syria will be resolved on the battlefield.
But until the day comes when Syrians representing all segments of society are ready to negotiate peace, we must be prepared to do what's necessary to counter the dangers and tragedy in Syria.
The lives of millions of innocent people and, indeed, our own national security compel us to act—and act quickly.
I urge my colleagues to oppose the Fortenberry amendment.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Fortenberry).
The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.
Mr. FORTENBERRY. Madam Chair, I demand a recorded vote.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Nebraska will be postponed.
AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. GRAYSON
Mr. GRAYSON. I have an amendment at the desk, Madam Chair.
The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
The Clerk read as follows:
At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:
SEC._. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents (including chemical agents, biological agents, and associated equipment), launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons (as identified for demilitarization purposes outlined in Department of Defense Manual 4160.28) through the Department of Defense Excess Personal Property Program established pursuant to section 1033 of Public Law 104-201, the ‘National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 1997’.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 628, the gentleman from Florida and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.
Mr. GRAYSON. Madam Chair, you may recall, yesterday, I gave an impassioned plea in favor of a different version of this amendment, which was ruled out of order. I am hoping for a better result tonight; but in any event, there is only so much passion in the world, so I will keep my remarks short.
I rise today to address a growing problem throughout our country, which is the militarization of local law enforcement agencies. The New York
Times recently reported that police departments have received thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment and hundreds of silencers, armored cars, and aircraft directly from the Department of Defense. These are military weapons.
I think this is appalling. That is why my amendment would prohibit the Department of Defense from gifting excess equipment, such as aircraft—including drones—armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, and bombs to local police departments. Those weapons have no place in our streets, regardless of who may be deploying them.
As The New York Times article ‘‘War Gear Flows to Police Departments’’ explains:
Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of ‘‘bar-bering without a license.’’
One South Carolina sheriff’s department now takes a new tank that it received from the Department of Defense with a mounted .50-caliber gun to schools and community events. The department’s spokesman calls that tank a ‘‘conversation starter.’’
I don’t think this is the way I want my America to be. I think we should help our police act like public servants, not like warriors at war.
I think we should facilitate a view of America where the streets are safe and they don’t resemble a war zone, no matter who is deploying that equipment. We don’t want America to look like an occupied territory.
I hope for the support of my colleagues, and I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. The Department of Defense Excess Property Program provides surplus military equipment to State and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counternarcotics, counterterrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.
It has provided aircraft, including helicopters and small planes; four-wheel drive vehicles, such as pickup trucks and ambulances that can be used for mobile command vehicles with search warrant; entry teams; it has provided vests and helmets to protect officers, as well as other equipment.
Coming from a State and a region which suffered many deaths on September 11, 2001, we welcome this equipment. It is not misused, and the law enforcement agencies in the Northeast and throughout the country that benefit from this equipment have used it to make sure that all of our citizens are protected.
I now would be happy yield to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. NUGENT), who is a former sheriff, for some comments.
Mr. NUGENT. I thank the chairman for yielding.
Madam Chair, as a past sheriff, we utilized that equipment in a responsible way. All of the helicopters we had in our fleet were all surplus helicopters that flew as far back as Vietnam. Some of the weapons that we had came from the military. We didn’t receive any bombs.
At the end of the day, you can always find misuses of any equipment that is given or utilized by law enforcement. It is the responsibility of those communities to keep that law enforcement agency in check.
To just outright ban the usage of that equipment would devastate local law enforcement agencies across the Nation, not just in Florida, but everywhere.
With that, I do appreciate the comments of the gentleman from New Jersey.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I thank the gentleman from Florida for his comments and reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GRAYSON. Madam Chair, what I am saying is not so much a question of whether the equipment is being occasionally misused. The question really has become whether it is ever properly used.
Can any of the gentlemen here tonight or anyone else identify a single act of terrorism that was thwarted by handing police officers helicopters that are militarized, bombs, and all sorts of gear that you would only expect to see on the battlefield?
In fact, I would venture to say that the only examples we can come up with for the actual use of these objects is the misuse of these objects, the examples that I gave that were pointed out in national media.
These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets. Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.
Certainly, we know of many cases— both recent and in the deep, dark past—where police have used their weapons improperly for the sake of brutality. Now, it used to be that they could only use billy clubs or guns.
Now, they can use helicopters and bombs. Before long, I suppose, given the logic propounded by my colleagues, they will be able to deploy nuclear weapons. That is not an America that I want to live in.
I respectfully submit that this amendment deserves support. We are not cutting off the use of any equipment that is already in the field. On the contrary, that is gone. That is out the door.