Agencies can’t return or trade equipment without Defense Department approval, and because the Pentagon technically still owns the equipment, they can’t sell it.
According to interviews with state officials running point between the Pentagon and police, the Defense Department prefers to leave equipment in circulation whenever possible. “It’s a low-cost storage method for them,” says Robb Davis, the mayor pro tem of Davis. His town is trying to shake its MRAP. “They’re dumping these vehicles on us and saying, ‘Hey, these are still ours, but you have to maintain them for us.'”
Police departments, in most cases, bear the costs of shipping the equipment to its new home. Making things more difficult, as the Defense Department reevaluates the program this fall, the agency temporarily closed the portion of its website that allows police departments to request returns. (The website will reopen on October 1.) The decision has prevented the San Diego school district police department from returning an 18-ton MRAP the department received in April, says Ursula Kroener, a police spokeswoman. In fact, Kroener adds, the Pentagon halted returns partly because so many law enforcement agencies are clamoring to return their equipment. Neither the California point person for the Pentagon grant program nor the Defense Logistics Agency, the division within the Pentagon that oversees the grant program, responded to requests for comments on the site closure.