Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments
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In the wake of countrywide protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd, questions around the militarization of police forces have taken center stage once again.
How did so many police departments across the United States end up with bomb-proof trucks and night vision goggles? Where are departments acquiring this equipment, and at what cost?
These questions and more are answered by data from the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the 1033 Program. The visualization above tracks the flow of military equipment to law enforcement over the past decade.
A note on the data: Much of the equipment acquired through the program is already used – and often obsolete by military standards. As well, the 1033 dataset captures shipments of equipment. Over time, items can be transferred between departments, meaning these official records may be less reflective of specific police department inventories as time goes on. For these reasons, we decided to cap our analysis to looking at the last decade (2010-2020) of transfers.
Free Military Surplus for Law Enforcement
The 1033 Program was conceived in the years following Operation Desert Storm, just as America’s violent crime rate was hitting an all-time high. During this era, America’s “war on drugs” and tough-on-crime political platforms provided the impetus for the militarization of police forces around the country.
The 1033 program has been likened to Craigslist’s “Free Stuff” section, and the comparison is apt. The mechanics of the program are relatively straightforward. Outdated military gear is transferred (at no cost) to state and local law enforcement agencies who go through the application process. The equipment is loaned to agencies, who are only responsible only for shipping and subsequent operating costs (e.g. fuel, spare parts).
Law enforcement agencies gain access to a vast array of military surplus, from office supplies and thermal underwear up to armored vehicles and multi-million dollar communications systems. Also included in the mix are medical supplies and gear to aid in search and rescue operations. Since the program’s inception, over $7.4 billion worth of property has been transferred.
One of the most popular items acquired by police departments is the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. Over the past decade, over 1,000 of these vehicles were transferred from the military to law enforcement agencies. This includes places like Monett, Missouri (population 9,000), which is on record as receiving two MRAP vehicles.
Night vision equipment is extremely popular as well. Items like goggles, scopes, and surveillance equipment – which can run thousands of dollars per unit – have been shipped to police departments around the country.
Of course, military surplus isn’t just about fancy vehicles and weaponry. The Meade County Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky is on record for ordering a single box of toilet paper just as COVID-19 was on the rise in that state.
Shipments at the State Level
Since the army is willing to part with excess equipment, cash-strapped police departments are happy to oblige. More than $1.7 billion of surplus has been transferred over to police around the country over the past decade.
The two biggest spenders, California and Texas, combined to acquire a total of $271 million in equipment, but looking at things on a per capita basis helps to show the states that were most enthusiastic about the 1033 Program in more relative terms.
|State||Value of equipment (2010-2020)||Value of equipment per capita|
Tennessee had by far the highest spending considering its population, with police departments in the state acquiring $20 worth of equipment per person. With the exception of Arizona, all the states that rank highly in that metric have per capita police spending that sits well below the U.S. average.
On the flip side, New York came in at a fraction of that amount, acquiring only $1.74 worth of equipment for every person in the state. Of course, it’s worth noting that New York had the highest police expenditure in the country (after Washington DC).
Who got the Goods?
Not surprisingly, state-level law enforcement agencies topped the list. For example, the Arizona Department of Public Safety received multiple airplanes valued at $17 million per unit. California’s highway patrol received the most expensive single item on the list – a $22 million aircraft.
For a more local perspective, here’s a look at the top 20 police departments by value of military equipment acquired:
|Law Enforcement Agency (Exc. state)||State||Value of Equipment Acquired|
|Houston Police Department||TX||$11,682,951|
|Las Vegas Metro Police Department||NV||$8,995,931|
|Washington County Sheriff's Office||TN||$7,501,075|
|Columbus Division of Police||OH||$6,885,949|
|Ventura County Sheriff's Office||CA||$6,605,678|
|Columbus County Sheriff's Office||NC||$6,596,927|
|Sacramento County Sheriff's Department||CA||$6,142,009|
|Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office||CA||$5,902,198|
|Hocking County Sheriff's Office||OH||$5,865,008|
|Jackson Police Department||MS||$5,823,634|
|Orange County Sheriff's Department||CA||$5,802,758|
|Lawrenceburg Police Department||TN||$5,543,166|
|Sherburne County Sheriff's Office||MN||$5,194,238|
|Kirklin Police Department||IN||$5,014,748|
|Los Angeles Country Sheriff's Department||CA||$4,840,970|
|King Country Sheriff's Department||WA||$4,618,686|
|Pinal Country Sheriff's Department||AZ||$4,305,849|
|Martin County Sheriff's Office||FL||$4,179,645|
|Kane County Sheriff's Office||IL||$4,006,465|
|Cottage Grove Police Department||MN||$3,941,606|
On its own, Houston police department received as much as the bottom five states combined. Nearly 400 other police departments also broke the $1 million barrier, and over 2,026 departments around the country received over $100,000 in goods.
The Uses of Corn: Industries Affected by High Corn Prices
Corn has many uses that make modern life possible. This infographic breaks down U.S. corn usage in 2020.
Corn Beyond the Cob
Corn or maize is the second most-produced crop in the world, and it’s more than just a staple in our diets.
From the sweetener in our coffees to the ethanol that powers our vehicles, corn has hundreds of uses. Consequently, high corn prices have a domino effect that can affect many supply chains and possibly even increase the cost of our weekly groceries, especially if they include tortilla chips.
This infographic uses data from the National Corn Growers Association to break down U.S. corn use by segment in 2020, and the products that a bushel of corn can produce.
The Uses of Corn in the U.S.
While corn on the cob is quite popular, not all corn is sweet. There are five major types of corn grown around the world, and each one differs in taste and uses. Of these, yellow dent corn or field corn accounts for the majority of commercial U.S. production.
Here’s a breakdown of U.S. corn usage in 2020:
|Segment||Bushels Used (millions)||% of Usage (2020)|
|Ethanol (Animal Feed)||1,075||7.4%|
Corn accounts for more than 96% of U.S. feed grain use and production. As a result, animal feed makes up nearly 40% of the country’s corn usage. This is because corn is a rich source of carbohydrates, and in combination with protein from soybeans, it can make for an effective diet for livestock.
In the United States, federal mandates require vehicles to use a blend of gasoline and biofuels like ethanol—94% of which is produced from the starch in corn grain. Therefore, a large portion of U.S. corn goes into ethanol production.
Interestingly, the ethanol distillation process produces a co-product known as dried distillers grain, which serves as low-cost, protein-rich animal feed for livestock. On average, the U.S. ethanol industry produces around 90,000 tons of distillers grains each week.
Animal feed and ethanol production collectively make up around 73% of U.S. corn usage. Other uses of corn include the production of sweeteners, starch, cereal, and alcoholic beverages like whiskey.
Breaking Down U.S. Corn Exports
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and exporter of corn and accounted for roughly 36% of exports in 2020.
Up until 2019, the majority of U.S. corn exports went to Mexico, Japan, and Colombia. China wasn’t among the top 10 destinations, but this changed in 2020.
Between January 2020 and 2021, U.S. corn exports to China increased exponentially, reaching an all-time high in December. China’s massive import appetite is because of a shortage of domestic supplies amid rising demand for feed from its recovering hog-herd, which was hit by the African swine fever in 2018.
Consequently, China became the third-largest importer of U.S. corn in 2020 after Mexico and Brazil. What’s more, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that China’s corn imports in 2021 will be much higher than 2020 levels, and the majority of those will be sourced from the United States.
The Corn Price Boom
In addition to a drought-induced yield cut in Brazil, rising demand from China has driven corn prices to their highest level in the last eight years.
Since the beginning of 2020, corn prices have increased 68% and stand at around $6.50 per bushel as of May 19th.
The rise in corn prices is likely to affect several industries and could translate into higher prices for our groceries, including cereals, taco shells, and corn syrups. Additionally, it could also push up the price of gas due to its key role in ethanol production.
Corn, in a Bushel
In a world where commodities like corn are often taken for granted, it’s important to think about how valuable it can be.
A single bushel of corn can provide 33 lbs of sweetener, 31.5 lbs of starch, or 22.4 lbs of polymers. It’s also enough to produce around 3 gallons of ethanol fuel and 16 lbs of distillers dried grains for animal feed.
The uses of corn go far beyond the cob, and just like other raw materials, it supports many industries that make modern life possible.
Mapped: The World’s Top Countries for Military Spending
Global military spending is now at a 32-year high. We show countries’ military spending by dollars and as a portion of GDP.
Mapped: The World’s Top Countries for Military Spending
By practically any measure, the world today is more peaceful and less war-torn on a global scale, relative to the past.
For instance, declarations of war between nations and soldier casualties have both dropped drastically since the 20th century. Yet, military spending has not followed this trend.
The Top 10 Military Spenders
According to SIPRI, global military spend reached almost $2 trillion in 2020. The top 10 countries represent roughly 75% of this figure, and have increased their spending by $51 billion since the year prior.
Here’s how the worlds top 10 military spenders compare to each other:
|Rank||Country||Military Spend 2020 ($B)||% Change||Military Spend 2019 ($B)|
|#1||🇺🇸 United States||$778.0||+6.2%||$732.0|
|#5||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$59.2||+21.5%||$48.7|
|#6||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||$57.5||-7.1%||$61.9|
|#10||🇰🇷 South Korea||$45.7||+4.1%||$43.9|
The U.S. isn’t labeled as a global superpower for nothing. The country is by far the largest military spender, and its $778 billion budget trumps the remainder of the list’s collective $703.6 billion. On its own, the U.S. represents just under 40% of global military spending.
This year, Saudi Arabia has lost out on a top five seat to the UK, after a 7.1% decline in spending compared to a 21.5% increase for the UK.
Military Spend as a Percentage of GDP
Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP can be used to compare military spending relative to the size of a country’s economy.
Click here to view a high-resolution version of this image.
When looking at things this way, many of the top spenders above do not appear. This may be an indication of their economic prowess or a demonstration that the money might be used for other vital areas such as education, healthcare, or infrastructure.
|Rank||Country||Region||Spend as a % of GDP (2020)|
|#1||🇴🇲 Oman||Middle East||11.0%|
|#2||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||Middle East||8.4%|
|#3||🇩🇿 Algeria||North Africa||6.7%|
|#4||🇰🇼 Kuwait||Middle East||6.5%|
|#5||🇮🇱 Israel||Middle East||5.6%|
|#7||🇲🇦 Morocco||North Africa||4.3%|
|#8||🇮🇶 Iraq||Middle East||4.1%|
|#10||🇵🇰 Pakistan||South Asia||4.0%|
It’s pretty rare for countries to reach double digits for military spending as a percentage of GDP. In this case, Oman is an outlier, as the Middle Eastern country’s spending relative to GDP grew from 8.8% last year, to 11% in 2020.
Many of the countries with the highest military spending to GDP are located in the Middle East—a reflection of the escalating conflicts that have persisted in the region for well over two decades.
It’s worth noting that some data for the Middle Eastern region are estimates, due to the aforementioned regional instability.
More Spending to Come?
Global military spending figures are at a 32-year high, despite the pandemic’s effect on shrinking economic output.
Although a major war hasn’t occurred in some time, it’s not to say the geopolitical mood hasn’t been tense.
The last 12 months or so have witnessed some nail-biting moments including:
- Border disputes between China and India
- Heightening tensions between China and Taiwan
- Russia’s military presence in eastern Ukraine
- The hacking of SolarWinds, a Texas-based company, by Russia
- The ongoing Yemen crisis
- An Israel-Iran feud
Will 2021 extend the trend of peace, or will rising military spending mean even higher tensions?
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