$urplus property

Federal share-the-wealth programs help agencies stretch those shrinking tax dollars to the max


     Neil Woodcock is a little like a modern, police-oriented Santa Claus. But the lists he receives are a little different than the ones most children would send to Saint Nick— instead of video games and toys, he's more likely to be after horses, night vision goggles, M-16s and helicopters.

     That's because Woodcock takes requests from law enforcement agencies. But in some ways he's better than Santa: Woodcock doesn't have to wait until Christmas to fulfill an agency's wish list. Instead, this UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and Air Force retiree works all year to match an agency with the stuff they need.

     Woodcock, director of Law Enforcement and Support Services for North Carolina Crime Control and Public Safety (NCCCPS), spends his days matching surplus military property with law enforcement agencies that need it.

     Woodcock is North Carolina's go-to guy for the 1033 Program, a great way for law enforcement agencies to get the equipment they need without spending an extra penny of their budgets, yet give American taxpayers the most bang for their tax bucks.

     Most agency heads know about this program and similar ones. But for those who don't — or who need a refresher — here's a look at how two states approach these win-win government programs.

Sharing the wealth

     Federal surplus property programs aren't new, nor are they aimed solely at law enforcement. Some target programs for the homeless or elderly or others, ranging from cultural initiatives such as libraries, museums, educational institutions or even resources for the disabled to receive extra and unused government items. But the excess property programs operated to benefit law enforcement are probably the ones that yield the most technical and high-dollar equipment.

     Though the programs function to benefit law enforcement, they're carried out differently depending on region and state.

     Woodcock operates both the 1033 and 1122 programs for police agencies in North Carolina. At present, Woodcock says, there are about 400 of the 600 eligible agencies participating. A look at the program advantages makes it difficult to understand why one-third of eligible agencies aren't using them.

     The 1033 program allows agencies to obtain surplus property from the Department of Defense (DoD) at little or no cost to the agency. While the DoD does not charge for the property, some states do tack an administrative charge onto the process to cover handling costs. That amount varies from state to state. In North Carolina, the cost of administering the 1033 Program is absorbed by the N.C. Legislature, which pays the expenses of Woodcock's small agency. The money he receives from the state off sets the cost of compensating his small staff, maintaining the office and paying travel expenses. But not all state agencies have funding at the legislative level.

     In South Carolina, police must pay an annual fee, contingent on the department's size, to qualify for surplus property obtained through the 1033 Program. This fee, called an Annual Support Fee, entitles the agency to obtain property without additional charges from the state.

LESO

     Excess military property is transferred through the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) under Section 2576A, Title 10 U.S. Code, in coordination with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). According to LESO's Web site, "The 1033 Program (formerly the 1208 Program) provides more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies with an avenue to receive [DoD] excess items, increasing the quality and quantity of equipment they have to carry out their duties."

     Initially, the 1208 Program allowed excess DoD property to be transferred for use only in counter-drug operations. But in 1995, the DLA took the program over. Now renamed the 1033 Program, it allows transfer of items for any law enforcement purpose and operates out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

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