Annelle Sheline over at Responsible Statecraft has a good idea for those of us interested in demilitarizing the police: Tell Seattle Rep. Adam Smith to prioritize 1033 program reforms in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and tell him not to budge when Republicans inevitably threaten to pass a "skinny" version of the bill instead, as they tried to do last year.
As Sheline explains, the 1033 program offers surplus military equipment—explosives, mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles, the works—to local law enforcement agencies across the country. (The Washington State Wire has a good post on counties in Washington that have availed themselves of this equipment.)
As militarized police forces continue their brutal responses to police brutality protests, a couple lawmakers in the House and Senate have proposed reforms to the program within the NDAA that would prohibit the transfer of "military-grade weapons, explosives, and vehicles" to these departments, while allowing "non-military equipment, such as computers and bullet-proof vests" to go through, according to the relevant bills and amendments.
Rep. Smith will be the first to tell you that he holds lots of power in Congress. That's partly because he makes a lot of Game of Thrones references when he tries to explain policy to people, which everyone finds very relatable and cool, and partly because his position as chairman of the Armed Services Committee makes him the lead negotiator of the NDAA for the House Democrats.
(Okay, I confess, Smith only used a GoT reference with me once while explaining negotiations on the last NDAA, but I get the sense it wasn't the first time he'd reached for a line from the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy to describe his dealings with lobbyists and Republicans.)
Anyway, the NDAA is so-called "must pass" legislation that authorizes the Pentagon's staggeringly large budget every year. Because we live in a hell world, the only way to get a decent piece of legislation through Congress is to slip it in there. Again, Smith will be the first to tell you that he used last year's NDAA as the vehicle to score a bunch of major Democratic wins, all because Republicans and moderate Democrats don't want to get caught not voting to fund our troops.
This year's NDAA will head to the House and Senate floors next week, and so now's the time to tell him to fight for the 1033 program reforms that were submitted for inclusion in the package. Bonus points if you include a Game of Thrones reference in your request.
Here's his email form.
Here's his D.C. office's phone: 202-225-8901