Let's go after surplus goods

There is, quite literally, billions of dollars worth of military equipment that we have bought and paid for being stored in warehouses and bases across this country. All of it is available to local, county and state police departments for the asking.

The best part? The equipment is already paid for. Departments just have to pay for shipping.

This is no as-seen-on-TV gag. It’s real and, in Maine, the availability of this surplus material has helped police departments obtain millions’ worth of computer equipment, specialty clothing, vehicles and specialty tactical equipment without tapping increasingly strained municipal budgets.

Caribou makes the most of this military surplus program, known as the 1033 Program since it was enacted by Congress in 1997. In the past decade, Caribou has asked for and received $1.6 million worth of goods.

The Fairfield Police Department has received $663,000 worth of equipment, the second highest disbursement in Maine. According to Town Manager Dan Foster, the department has been aggressive in seeking the surplus goods because officers have found the equipment to been subject to low use and in good running order. “Access to this equipment has helped us to meet the public safety needs of our constituents while allowing us to maintain a reasonable tax burden for our community taxpayers.”

Oorah to that.

Over the same time period, the Norway Police Department received a Chevy Blazer and some rifles worth a total of $5,403, Rumford PD received $1,403 worth of computer and other gear, Lewiston received $429 worth of raincoats and gear and Farmington has received $200 worth of surplus goods. Auburn and many other departments has not received anything because it has never asked.

There is much more surplus material available now than when the program started, and program coordinators believe this trend will continue with more valuable equipment becoming available to police as our military downsizes.

Maine police departments, by and large, don’t request surplus goods as often as departments in other states. Why not?

We’ve already paid for it through our federal tax dollars. If it’s available for the asking, every department in this state ought to be asking.

Anything we can do to maintain public safety while relieving municipal budgets makes good sense.


The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.



 's picture

One has to keep in mind that

One has to keep in mind that this equipment is not new. Vehicles, guns, etc, are near the end of their useful life.

I have seen municipalities get these vehicles only to dump a bunch of money into them to get them to a useful state.

Someone mentioned fire hose and protective gear. The reason why the military is getting rid of them is because they no test to standards.

When you buy military surplus, keep in mind that it is well used.

Jim Cyr's picture

S/J Editors,

this article of yours sounds like another slant/spin. Surely there are a lot of useful surpluses that should be available to any non Felons. Are government agencies the only supplier of these wasted funds/surpluses? How about regular vehicles/trucks,heavy construction equipment, tools, building materials, office supplies,plumbing, electrical supplies, etc. etc.? Surely the list must be vast !

MARK GRAVEL's picture

"Maine police departments, by

"Maine police departments, by and large, don’t request surplus goods as often as departments in other states. Why not?"

Maybe they feel there is no need to address all policing issues with paramilitary action. If that is the case, you should feel fortunate that you have a wise police force.

 's picture

Excellent idea, long overdue.

Wasting perfectly good equipment makes no sense.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Wasting equipment makes a

Wasting equipment makes a hell of lot more sense than militarizing police.

Perhaps we should be addressing the reason why the military has so much surplus. The fact that the military has so many surplus items means we can cut their budget.

Now let me nip something in the bud. Surplus is not the same as replacement inventory. A surplus means too much of something was purchased, perhaps as a result of mismanagement.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Only a jerk

Would find some convoluted way to look a gift horse in the mouth. Read on.

Steve  Dosh's picture

AL ? HAhahah ! . .ppl will

AL ? HAhahah !
. .ppl will complain about n e thing they can n e time n e where in Maine ( or Flori-duh , Mark ) it seems
Even here in Hawai'i
/s , Steve :)
btw - check out my pictures ( i liked your's AL )

MARK GRAVEL's picture

If you are so wise, please

If you are so wise, please tell the readers what equipment Maine police forces can make use of?

Camouflage battle dress?
Camouflaged ballistics vests?

Oh wise man, stand up and be counted!

AL PELLETIER's picture

And the wise man sayeth

Night vision goggles, AR-15's, AK-47's and lot and lots of bullets for starters. Oh, laughing gas too!

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Why don't you ask the

Why don't you ask the question I've outlined below - have you not thought this trough? Perhaps some of us are so programmed to get free stuff from the government, we don't even as basic questions, like:

Do we really need that stuff?

Why does the federal government have so much surplus equipment in the first place when there are budget issues in all levels of government (i.e. deficit and debt)?

Are we (some of us) that programmed to not ask basic questions, or do we simply stand with arm extended and palm up?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Given that AR-15’s and

Given that AR-15’s and AK-47’s are obsolete weapons shows your depth of knowledge on the topic.

Anyhow, where would these resources be applied in Maine? How often are these weapons needed?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Perhaps a more thoughtful and

Perhaps a more thoughtful and critical question you should be asking is why your local police department, say in L-A, have a need for military equipment in the first place?

Are they going to defend St. Joseph's from the recking ball?

AL PELLETIER's picture

How about the L-A Fire Department?

Fire retardant clothing and fire fighting equipment, oh close minded one ?

MARK GRAVEL's picture

So we agree that police don't

So we agree that police don't need militarized equipment.

Fire department is a whole other topic.

AL PELLETIER's picture

NO, we don't agree!


MARK GRAVEL's picture

Okay, now that we are back on

Okay, now that we are back on topic, why do local police forces need military gear in Maine? Again, just because it appears free, does not mean the equipment is needed.


Probably for the same reason

Probably for the same reason the citizens of Maine "need" their assault weapons. That's the way it should be - citizens armed better than the police force so when the police try to steal the balance of citizen's constitutional rights, they can fight back. Aren't I a good conservative??

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Then how did you transition

Then how did you transition from militarizing local police using surplus equipment to fire departments?

Last time I check with my local fire department, they were not in need of guns, ammo, nor night vision goggles.

In light of your abrupt transition to a different topic, I assumed we were in agreement with my point of view - what else could have I assumed when you leave it open to interpretation.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Let's go after surplus goods

ed. Sunday night 19:25
Goferit ? ƒree is ƒree, after all
What's the downside ?
While you're at it , we are selling US$40Million worth of ferry equipment here in Hawai'i for US $250,000
- S e r i o u s l y -
Superferry equipment on the auction block
Jul 18, 2013 ...
A ramp built to service the former Hawaii Superferry is seen here at Nawiliwili
Harbor. ... $40 million is being auctioned off with an upset price of $250,000. ... is
currently being sold in an auction for a fraction of the original cost.
Any takers ? Entreprenuers ? Business types ? Portland to Nova Scotia ?
/s, Steve :D

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Bad, Bad, Bad idea.

Maybe we can replace the patrol car with an armored personal vehicle?

Andrew Jones's picture

I respectfully disagree to an

I respectfully disagree to an extent. I wouldn't see a problem with my local police department receiving say, surplus AR-15s, ballistic vests, or computer equipment; but I would definitely disagree with them getting a tank, APC, or attack helicopter. Somehow I suspect these things might be out of the grasp of local law enforcement anyway...

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Do you feel it is necessary

Do you feel it is necessary to militerize the police force?

Do you know that Homeland Security is giving grants to local polices departments to purchase anti-personal vehicles? What is the difference between this and receiving them directly from surplus?

Would you be okay with your local police deparment receiving drones or funds to purchase drones?

Our police forces across this nation are becoming and behaving like paramilitary forces. This behavior is something we want to stop before every Americian is viewed as the enemy.

Remember what a hammer sees.

I have provided a link to a recent event; this is the behavior that I'm talking about. It needs to stop.

Andrew Jones's picture

This is why I said I disagree

This is why I said I disagree to an extent.

I don't mind them getting supplies and equipment that they already use regularly at the price of shipping instead of it sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Things like body armor, computer equipment, pistols, rifles, etc. I don't see police needing things like drones, tanks, APCs, or other items that would get rejected immediately if they tried to slip it into the budget for city council.

I read the story in the link you provided and I agree, what happened there was ridiculous. I don't see why a "Department of Natural Resources" needs heavy weaponry and why they would be raiding a shelter over a fawn. I hope that some crap rolls down on whoever ordered it.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

First, thank you for taking

First, thank you for taking time to read the article before commenting. I too hope someone is held accountable for that decision, but the troops have already rallied to protect. That is yet another issue I have with local police forces, accountability or lack thereof - not unlike we see in Federal Government.

My 10K foot observation is that America's police forces are becoming paramilitary. Warrents are routinely served with force for minor offences.

Case in point, Portland added armored vehicle to its police force in 2012. Why is this equipment needed? Moreover, if the police fear they need such vehicles, one is not going to get the job done if their fears are justified. I suspect Portland acquired this vehicle because they received free funding; that said, locals do need to shell out money for maintenance - another example of wasted taxpayer funds.


MARK GRAVEL's picture

I have provided a link to a

I have provided a link to a recent event below.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

This is a very bad idea. We

This is a very bad idea. We absolutely do not need to further the militarization of local police forces.

Here is one example of many why we do not need to give military gear to local peace officers or game wardens. Giggles the fawn was abducted at gun point the killed by officials. What happened to the old fashion method for serving a warrant?

We don’t need to enable this behavior with free military weapons.

Read the story and see how a hammer views every problem. This is a bad, bad, bad idea.


MARK GRAVEL's picture

To those who disagree: Have

To those who disagree:

Have you read the link below?

Are you okay with that type of behavior?

Do you feel that behavior is necessary to be safe?

For me, it sounds more like - got those toys, need to justify there use.


Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...