The New Look of Environmental Protection


For a century, the public face of federal law enforcement has been the Federal Bureau of Investigation. More recently, however, midnight swat-style raids are increasingly likely to come from other federal police forces working for a startling array of lesser-known federal agencies. The list of administrative agencies that now have their own military-style units includes: the National Park Service, the Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

In October 2013, armed agents from the Environmental Protection Agency (epa) showed up in a small Alaskan town to conduct “paperwork” inspections on a small mining operation. The president of the Fortymile Mining Association said that mine operators are accustomed to routine inspections from federal monitors but are frightened by epa agents carrying M-16s and assault shotguns. The epa later released a statement saying that the inspections were not raids but simply part of an “ongoing investigation” into potential violations of the Clean Water Act.

In April 2010, the Food and Drug Administration sent a paramilitary unit to arrest Dan Allgyer of Rainbow Acres Farm for illegally shipping unpasteurized milk to customers across state lines. Can you imagine what George Washington would have thought of machine-gun-toting swat agents arresting an Amish farmer for selling unpasteurized milk? Federal officers have made similar crackdowns on other milk sellers, as well as people selling cheese and elderberry juice.

Increasingly, administrative agencies in the executive branch are setting themselves up as a government unto themselves. Unelected bureaucrats are making law via administrative regulations, trying violations of that law via their own adjudicatory proceedings, and making arrests with their own paramilitary police forces!

Between 2006 and 2016, regulatory administrative agencies have spent over $71 million on items like body armor, riot helmets, cannon launchers and firearms. This figure doesn’t include the $330 million spent on such equipment by traditional federal law enforcement agencies like the fbi, Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Administration.

This militarization of the administrative state has been decades in the making, but it has drastically accelerated under the Obama administration. While the epa was spending about $10,000 per year on body armor during the final years of the George W. Bush presidency, it has spent $200,000 on body armor so far under President Obama.

With over 2 million bureaucrats in the administrative state and some 120,000 federal law-enforcement officers, any U.S. president who wants to use executive action as a means to circumvent the checks and balances of our constitutional system certainly has the means to do so.