Pentagon blew up $1 billion appropriated for the pandemic by the Congress to finance military equipment including jet engine parts, body armour and dress uniforms, reported The Washington Post.
The Department of Defence (DoD) was handed $1 billion, which is a part of $3 trillion stimulus package that Congress approved to deal with the pandemic that has now claimed over 200,000 lives in the US.
Defence contractors were awarded “hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund, mostly for projects that have little to do with the coronavirus response.”
According to the report, the House Committee on Appropriations said that the Defense Department’s decision to funnel the funding which was meant for manufacturing personal protective equipment was given to defence contractors which was against its intent.
“The Committee’s expectation was that the Department would address the need for PPE industrial capacity rather than execute the funding for the [defence industrial base],” the committee wrote in its report on the 2021 defence bill.
Large defence manufacturers including Rolls-Royce and ArcelorMittal were awarded $183 million to “maintain the shipbuilding industry” and “tens of millions of dollars” were given for space surveillance, drone and satellite technology.
The report also revealed that some of the contractors that received the money were also paid through another bailout package, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Jessica Maxwell, DoD spokesperson justified saying that the two programs are not “in conflict or duplicative,” because a PPP loan does not make any directive with respect to supporting the national defence.
“The Department of Defense is using the $1 billion appropriated by the ‘CARES’ Act to the Defense Production Act, which made $1 billion available ‘to prepare for, prevent and respond to the coronavirus’. The law set forth no limitation requiring use only in the medical supply industrial base,” Maxwell said in a statement.
While the US is struggling with the virus, as the number of cases propels to 6.8 million, critics have accused Pentagon of misusing the tax payer’s money.
According to Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, Pentagon believes that they have invested all the money required to produce the medical supplies needed to combat the pandemic. “Their belief is that any investment that could be made to increase the production of COVID-19 items has been made,” quoted the report.
Pentagon’s undersecretary, Ellen Lord, explained the decision in a Congressional hearing that the department soon realized that defence contractors had “critical needs as well.”
The report noted that a study prompted by an early executive order from Trump and by economic adviser Peter Navarro and carried out in close consultation with defence industry associations revealed several hundred supply chain shortfalls that could hamper the U.S. military’s ability to compete with China.
The US has been ramping up its military capabilities to counter Beijing. China and the US have been at loggerheads with both the sides muscle-flexing its military strength in the disputed South China Sea. President Donald Trump has been vocal about the Chinese threat and has blamed China for the pandemic as well.