In the US, a $1 billion anti-COVID-19 fund that Congress provided to the US Department of Defense to stock up on swabs, masks and other medical supplies appears to have instead been funneled to defense contractors.
The money was instead used to make jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms.
Over 200,000 people are dead.
But the Pentagon used taxpayer $ to line the pockets of defense contractors instead of producing medical supplies.@RepBarbaraLee & I are demanding a Congressional investigation & public hearings about the Pentagon's actions.https://t.co/MDZ2ONKcc7
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) September 23, 2020
The Cares Act, which Congress passed earlier this year, gave the Pentagon money to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”
Just weeks later, the Defense Department began reshaping how it would award the money in a way that represented a major departure from Congress’s intent.
When asked about the Washington Post story, Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell noted that the CARES Act did not include any limits specifying that the $1 billion must be spent solely on medical equipment.
So, as a result only about 20% of it was spent on medical equipment.
“Defense Industrial Base uses would be appropriate as long as they addressed COVID related impacts in the industrial base, even in that portion of the industrial base not producing medical supplies,” Maxwell said in a statement.
“Following initial investment in support of HHS/FEMA [Department of Health and Human Services/Federal Emergency Management Agency] to expand domestic productive capacity for essential medical resources for COVID-19 response ($213M), the Department focused use of DPA [Defense Production Act] funds to mitigate adverse impacts to the DIB [defense industrial base] while HHS funds continued to support medical resources industrial base expansion,” Maxwell continued.
The Washington Post also reported that some of the companies that were awarded contracts received money under a separate program as well: The Paycheck Protection Program.
Meaning that the Pentagon was double-dipping.
Maxwell said it is “not in conflict or duplicative” for defense contractors to receive money through both the Defense Production Act and the Paycheck Protection Program.
Mandy Smithberger of the Project On Government Oversight said that the US Congress wasn’t specific enough on what the money should be spent and that’s why the Pentagon circumvented the guidelines.
“My concern is that Congress will often give the Department an inch and they’ll take a mile, and in this case that they may be taking an overly broad reading of the word ‘respond’ to imply other real or perceived consequences or risks of coronavirus,” Smithberger told Task & Purpose said. “But a plain reading and common sense is that Congress did not intend these funds to be used to shore up the industrial base, and if that’s what they wanted they would have said so (as they did for relief for other industries).”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed her condemnation at how the Defense Department had spent the money that had been earmarked for the COVID-19 response.
Warren accused President Donald Trump’s administration of working for “wealthy corporations” rather than “working families” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Instead of addressing the urgent needs of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans, the Trump Administration is using money meant to protect lives from COVID-19 to pad the pockets of defense contractors,” Warren said in a statement.
So the Pentagon redirected $1 billion of Coronavirus bailout money meant to make more protective equipment to….defense contractors and weapons makers.
CUT THE PENTAGON BUDGET BY 75%https://t.co/xfyIvEZODz
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) September 23, 2020
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