The Pentagon nearly gave over $1 million worth of rifles, pipe bombs and other military hardware to a fake police department — set up as part of a government watchdog’s sting operation, a new report reveals. 


Using cloak-and-dagger tactics, auditors from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) created a nonexistent police department. They submitted requests to purchase from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) “controlled properties” like simulated pipe bombs, night-vision goggles, and explosive ordnance detonation robots, Fox News reports.

“In less than a week after submitting the requests, our fictitious agency was approved for the transfer of over 100 controlled property items with a total estimated value of about $1.2 million,” the GAO said in a July 18 report.

The sting operation involved government auditors creating a website describing the fake agency and using publicly available resources to produce false police credentials.

“Personnel at two of the three sites did not request or check for valid identification of our investigator picking up the property,” the GAO said.


In its reponse to the findings, DOD concurred with four recommendations made by GAO and highlighted steps it was taking to improve internal controls and implement recommendations from past audits.

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At no point during the application process did Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) staff speak with officials at the fake agency to verify the legitimacy of the application, according to the report. All authorizations were done via email.


As a result of laws passed in 1989 as part of an effort to strengthen local law enforcement agencies, the Pentagon was granted authority to transfer excess DOD property to local police agencies under the LESO program.

Also known as the 1033 program, it came under political scrutiny when tanks were used by the Ferguson, Mo., police to control crowds during the 2014 protests.

Since 1991, more than $6 billion worth of excess personal property has been transferred to more than 8,600 federal, state, and
local law enforcement agencies, according to the GAO. Nearly two-thirds of the DOD-controlled property items transferred from 2013-2015 went to state and local agencies, GAO said. During that period, a total of 388,570 items worth about $1.07 billion were doled out to federal and local law enforcement agencies.

Responding to the fallout from the Ferguson riots, then-President Barack Obama in May 2015 signed an executive order prohibiting the distribution of certain “controlled” items, like grenade launchers and high-caliber weapons.

The program remains a matter of controversy and debate on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. introduced a bill to severely restrict the kinds of weapons distributed, while Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, has a measure to undo Obama’s executive order.

Here is the full report:

Why GAO Did This Study

Since 1991, DOD has reported transferring more than $6 billion worth of its excess controlled and noncontrolled personal property to more than 8,600 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies through the LESO program, which is managed by DLA. According to DOD, about 4 to 7 percent of the total excess property transferred is controlled property, which typically involves sensitive equipment and items that cannot be released to the public.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 included a provision that GAO conduct an assessment of DOD’s excess property program. This report addresses the extent to which (1) DLA has taken actions to enhance processes, including internal controls, related to its transfers of excess controlled property; and (2) DLA has addressed the statutory requirement to maintain a public Internet site that provides transparency about controlled property transfers and about the recipients of such property. GAO reviewed DOD policies and procedures, interviewed cognizant officials, and conducted independent testing of LESO’s application and DLA’s transfer process.

What GAO Recommends GAO is making four recommendations to DLA, including strengthening internal controls over the approval and transfer of DOD excess controlled property to law enforcement agencies, and conducting a fraud risk assessment to institute comprehensive fraud prevention and mitigation measures. DOD concurred with all four recommendations and highlighted actions to address each one.


Enhanced Controls Needed for Access to Excess Controlled Property What GAO Found The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has taken some actions and is planning additional actions to address identified weaknesses in its excess controlled property program.

However, internal control deficiencies exist for, among other things, ensuring that only eligible applicants are approved to participate in the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) program and receive transfers of excess controlled property.

DLA is establishing memorandums of understanding with participating federal agencies intended to, among other things, establish general terms and conditions for participation, revise its program application to require additional prospective participant information, and plans to provide additional online training for participating agencies that is expected to begin in late 2017.

However, GAO created a fictitious federal agency to conduct independent testing of the LESO program’s internal controls and DLA’s transfer of controlled property to law enforcement agencies. Through the testing, GAO gained access to the LESO program and obtained over 100 controlled items with an estimated value of $1.2 million, including nightvision goggles, simulated rifles, and simulated pipe bombs, which could be potentially lethal items if modified with commercially available items (see photos).

GAO’s testing identified that DLA has deficiencies in the processes for verification and approval of federal law enforcement agency applications and in the transfer of controlled property, such as DLA personnel not routinely requesting and verifying identification of individuals picking up controlled property or verifying the quantity of approved items prior to transfer.

Further, GAO found that DLA has not conducted a fraud risk assessment on the LESO program, including the application process. Without strengthening DLA and LESO program internal controls over the approval and transfer of controlled property to law enforcement agencies, such as reviewing and revising policy or procedures for verifying and approving federal agency applications and enrollment, DLA lacks reasonable assurance that it has the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to potential fraud and minimize associated security risks.

Examples of Controlled Property Items Obtained DLA maintains a public Internet site to address statutory requirements to provide information on all property transfers to law enforcement agencies. DLA’s public Internet site shows all transferred property, and, as of April 2017, in response to GAO’s findings, has included a definition of controlled property to distinguish for the general public what items are considered controlled.


God Bless.


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