WASHINGTON, D.C. – Monday, Congressman Chris Stewart introduced the Regulatory Agency De-militarization Act, which seeks to stem the trend of federal regulatory agencies developing SWAT-like teams.
In recent years, numerous federal regulatory agencies – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Drug Agency and the Department of Education – have created their own special law enforcement teams to conduct their own arrests and raids. This is in part a product of the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which gave most Offices of Inspector General arrest and firearm authority.
“It’s disturbing to see the stories of federal regulators armed to the teeth and breaking into homes and businesses when there was no reason to think there would be resistance,” Stewart said.
“I understand that federal agents must be capable of protecting themselves, but what we have observed goes far beyond providing necessary protection,” he said. “When there are genuinely dangerous situations involving federal law, that’s the job of the Department of Justice, not regulatory agencies like the FDA or the Department of Education. Not only is it overkill, but having these highly armed units within dozens of agencies is duplicative, costly, heavy-handed, dangerous and destroys any sense of trust between citizens and the federal government.”
- Repeals the arrest and firearm authority granted to Offices of Inspectors General in the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
- Prohibits federal agencies, other than those traditionally tasked with enforcing federal law — such as the FBI and U.S. Marshals — from purchasing machine guns, grenades and other weaponry regulated under the National Firearms Act.
- Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to write a complete report detailing all federal agencies, including Offices of Inspectors General, with specialized units that receive special tactical or military-style training and that respond to high-risk situations that fall outside the capabilities of regular law enforcement officers.
“The militarization of agencies is only a symptom of a much deeper and more troubling problem within Washington – that the federal government no longer trusts the American people,” Stewart said. “When all of us feel that we are no longer seen as citizens but as potential dangerous suspects – a relationship of trust is impossible. I’m working to restore and rebuild trust – beginning with this effort to defund paramilitary capabilities within federal regulatory agencies.”
Specific examples of the militarization of federal regulatory agencies include:
- In July 2010, a multi-agency taskforce, including armed officers from the Food and Drug Agency, raided a Venice, California, organic grocery store suspected of using raw milk. (LA Times, July 10, 2010)
- In June 2011, armed federal agents with the Department of Education’s OIG broke down the door of a Stockton, California, home at 6 a.m. and handcuffed a man suspected of student aid fraud. (Washington Post, June 8, 2011)
- In July 2013, an armed multi-agency task force, including officers from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, raided a small Alaska mining operation suspected of violating the Clean Water Act. (Washington Times, Oct. 11, 2013)
- On May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s OIG released a solicitation for submachine guns.
For the full text of the bill, click here.
Original Co-sponsors of the bill
- Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
- Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.
- Sam Graves, R-Mo.
- Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
- Mike Pompeo, R-Kan.
- Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
- Kerry Bentivolio, R-Mich
- Todd Rokita, R-Ind.
- Billy Long, R-Mo.
- Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
- Adrian Smith, R-Neb.
- James Lankford, R-Okla.
- Louie Gohmert, R-Texas
- Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.
- Tom Rice, R-Ga.
- Mark Amodei, R-Nev.
Submitted by the Office of Congressman Chris Stewart
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