In 1990, when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contained Section 1208, authorizing the Secretary of Defense to "transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and excess to the needs of the Department of Defense." The "1208 Program" thus established, was updated in 1996 and became the "1033 Program" after Section 1033 of that year's NDAA. 1033 created a Law Enforcement Support Office within the Defense Logistics Agency to manage the dispursal.
Not surprisingly, given Dick Cheney's close ties to major defense contractors, the program was boon to the arms industry. Police and sheriffs departments around the country received old military hardware, including humvees and other armored vehicles, which required ongoing maintenance contracts, spare parts, etc. The program clearly established a militarization of police and sheriffs forces that has proceeded apace ever since. I am told that the biggest expansion of the 1033 Program has occurred under the present Obama Administration. According to a report in Newsweek on Aug. 15, so far $5.1b in military hardware has been transferred to the local police since the outset of the program. The Defense Logistics Agency, which coordinates the dispursal of the Pentagon equipment to the police and sheriffs have rebuffed efforts by the ACLU to obtain the list of which departments have requested access to tactical equipment like M16s, MRAPS, and grenade launchers. According to the Defense Logistic Agency's own website, half a billion dollars in equipment was passed to law enforcement agencies in 2013 alone. The New York Times reported in June that the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq and Afghanistan has accelerated the delivery of military hardware to the local police and sheriffs. "Former tools of combat--M16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more--are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice." Some police departments have even received military aircraft, in addition to night vision scopes, armored cars and camouflage gear. In addition, many local police departments, including the Ferguson police, have received additional military equipment via grants from the Department of Homeland Security, including the APCs used recently in Ferguson.