De-Militarizing the Department of Education and other Federal Agencies

A U.S. Representative from Utah has introduced legislation in an attempt to stop the growth of gun-toting SWAT-like teams in unlikely federal agencies. Rep. Chris Stewart’s Regulatory Agency De-militarization (RAD) Act, or H.R. 4934, seeks to stop that growth and prohibit non-police agencies from using and purchasing military-style firearms.

Many Americans are concerned about government abuse of power. It doesn’t always happen, but it does seem to grow with each passing year. The 2002 Homeland Security Act added to the problem by granting arrest and firearms authority to most Offices of Inspector General, which allows them to purchase military equipment such as fully automatic firearms and to form SWAT-like teams of pseudo-police.

Give a government a tool for wielding power, and the government will use it. This rule of human nature has been known for eons, and the USA is not immune. And when rifle-toting gangs from NOAA and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) raid a business to see whether it got its coral properly, I’d say things have gone way too far.

Some of the affected agencies include:

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Department of Interior
  • Department of Labor
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Food and Drug Agency (FDA)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • Social Security Administration

If passed, RAD also requires an accounting of where the guns and officers are, descriptions of their training and weapons, data on activation criteria and how often they’ve been activated, cost of each unit, and more.

This law would be a positive step in the right direction, although relatively small when compared to the growth of government power over the past dozen years. Sadly, govtrack.us currently gives this bill a scant 3% chance of being enacted, so contact your U.S. Representative today and ask him or her to support H.R. 4934, the Regulatory Agency De-militarization (RAD) Act.

There is a good description of the proposed law on Rep. Stewart’s website and several “examples of the militarization of federal regulatory agencies.” This includes a heavily armed EPA raid for a suspected violation of the Clean Water Act and the USDA’s solicitation for .40 caliber submachine guns.

Another incident involves the Department of Education breaking into a man’s home for suspected student aid fraud, although the Washington Post story was later revised, but it also includes interesting data on a bunch of shotguns purchased by the Department of Education. Why would they ever need guns?

Now, I don’t like bad guys and I hate to see them go unpunished, but I believe the authority to arrest should remain with police and that investigations into non-violent crimes should never be accompanied by military-type force. As Rep. 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.” He added, “I’m working to restore and rebuild trust – beginning with this effort to defund paramilitary capabilities within federal regulatory agencies.”