Utah Lawmaker Proposes Defunding ‘Paramilitary Units’ Inside Federal Agencies

Utah Representative Chris Stewart wants to cut funding for law enforcement divisions he has dubbed paramilitary units at agencies such as the BLM, USPS, FDA,and the EPA. Representative Stewart, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, wants federal officials to utilize local law enforcement agencies when the need for an armed response arises.

The BLM dispute in Nevada has prompted the Republican Congressman to call for the defunding of “paramilitary units” attached to federal governmental agencies. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Bureau of Land Management standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville prompted a nationwide property rights and states’ rights debate.

The Stewart bill proposal would likely apply to not just the BLM armed agents divisions but to their counterparts at the IRS, Social Security, and other federal agencies as well. According to a 2012 Justice Department report, federal agencies employ approximately 120,000 staffers authorized to carry firearms.

While the Utah Republican did not publicly pick a side in the Bundy ranch standoff, he did say he was shocked at the response of the federal government and feels the influx of armed agents led to the presence of the civilian militia. The day after Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie served as a negotiator between Cliven Bundy and the BLM, the armed federal agents back off and returned the cattle.

Representative Chris Stewart had this to say about paramilitary units attached to federal agencies:

“There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with is own SWAT team. They’re regulatory agencies; they’re not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us. They should do what anyone else would do. Call the local sheriff, who has the capability to intervene in situations like that.”

Stewart is a freshman lawmaker who is currently seeking his second term. Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also stated a similar belief during a radio interview with WHAS of Lousiville. Paul stated that the government should not have “48 federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams.”

According to a statement by Interior Department representative Jessica Kershaw, there are currently about 300 law enforcement officers under the direction of the BLM. The Bureau of Land Management armed agents “provide support on 245 million acres of public land.” Kershaw maintained that the BLM does not possess “SWAT or tactical teams.” She also went on to say that the Interior Department division partners and coordinates with local policing agencies to “leverage limited resources.”

Clinton administration BLM leader Pat Shea weighed in on the issue with the Utah newspaper. Shea said that while Stewart’s notion of partnering with local law enforcement agencies is worth considering, there are also good reasons why the United States had not consolidated the policing agencies under a single umbrella. “We come up against the old adage: Be careful what you wish for. Besides the military, we could end up with a national police force. That could make black helicopters look like biplanes.”

The New American, which annually rates lawmakers in a Freedom Index report, gave Stewart a 60 percent approval rating and Rand Paul a 100 percent rating. After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s [Bundy ranch standoff] not over,”

Paul responded with his own take on the use of armed federal agents:

“I think there’s an opposite thing to what Harry Reid said, and that’s the federal government shouldn’t violate the law. Can everybody decide what the law is on their own? No, there has to be a legal process. But I think there is definitely a philosophic debate over who should own the land. I hope it’ll go through a court. But if it were in a court, I would be siding and wanting to say that look, the states and the individuals in the state should own these lands.”

What do you think about so-called paramilitary units existing within federal agencies?

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