Unparalleled Bureaucratic Firepower

What we need is a well-armed FDA

By Jim Knipfel

When he was first running for the White House, Obama promised to sweep away all the ugliness of the previous eight years. If elected, he assured voters, he would once again make America a dazzling and twinkling star on the world stage. America would become a nation that no longer tortured people or spied on its own citizens, a government that would be so darned open and transparent about everything it was doing you’d hardly believe it.

So it was no surprise then after taking office he would install what came to be recognized as perhaps the most secretive, power-mad and surveillance-happy administrations since Nixon. He not only continued, but amplified and accelerated programs and practices instituted under the previous Clinton and Cheney administrations. That the country was skipping merrily toward some kind of Disneyland version of a police state (The Alphaville Adventure Cruise!) was clear. Few cared, in fact most seemed to be aching for such a thing, but I doubt few are aware of the hilarious steps that have been taken in that direction.

It only makes sense the Defense Department and Homeland Security would budget countless billions of dollars each fiscal year for guns, ammunition, high-tech weaponry and body armor. I mean, that’s what those people do, right? It’s their job to shoot people and blow shit up, so they need tactical nuclear weapons and high-powered sniper rifles and the like. But it does seem ironic and telling that around the same time Obama was signing an executive order to control the flow of guns, the Department of Veterans Affairs, along with stocking up on three-ring binders and red felt-tipped pends, would also spend an estimated $2 million on riot helmets, defender shields, body armor, a “milo return fire cannon system,” armored mobile shields, Kevlar blankets, and other tactical gear. The EPA, the FDA and the Smithsonian were budgeted a combined half a million dollars to keep themselves in body armor as well. But I guess all those things just make sense, you think about them. Taxpayers can be an uppity bunch at times (especially those vets), and our assorted bureaucrats never know when some hooligans or miscreants might pop up, forcing them to set down their ballpoint pens and pick up a Glock. What’s more, with police forces around the country equipping themselves with military-grade weaponry and crowd-control gear, the boys at the Interior Department were starting to feel a little left out.

It turns out, according to some iffy watchdog group with an agenda, that over $70 million was spent over the past eight years on assorted weaponry and tactical gear to equip federal agencies that, in theory anyway, have nothing much to do with the military or law-enforcement.

Yes, each federal agency has its own in-house police force, which helps explain some of it, but still, right? The Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last three fiscal years, has spent approximately $2.3 million on sidearms, ammunition, riot helmets and camo gear. The Small Business Administration and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation each spent roughly $95,000 on armor piercing bullets, and have decided to share the use of one $8.5 million tank (the SBA gets it on Tuesdays and Thursdays). You don’t even want to know what the Health and Human Services Administration spent to beef up their arsenal. And I’m not sure why the Administration on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry needed a B-1 bomber, but they’ve got one now, just like the Census Bureau.          

When asked about all these strange and vaguely disconcerting expenditures, Mark Gaffolim, who claimed to be on “an Administrative Task Force,” explained, “Well you know that old saying, ‘there’s never a cop around when you need one? We’re just trying to do our best to remedy all that.”

Published January 11th, 2016

Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.