Democrats call for investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds

Two House Democrats are pressing for an investigation and public hearings following a report that the Pentagon redirected most of its $1 billion in COVID-19 funding to projects that had little to do with the coronavirus.

In calling for congressional action, Reps. Mark Pocan (Wis.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.) cited a Washington Post article published Tuesday that said the Defense Department funneled a large portion of its money from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March to buying jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms and other military needs.

“For the Administration to choose to use funds Congress made available to fight COVID-19 on the wish lists of defense contractors, instead of first protecting troops and the general public from the spread of the coronavirus, is unconscionable and should be investigated fully and prosecuted if warranted,” the two Democrats wrote in a letter to the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.

The $1 billion allocated to the Pentagon, which was meant to provide funding through the Defense Production Act to produce coronavirus medical supplies, instead went to projects that had no connection with response to the pandemic, the Post reported.

The Pentagon on Tuesday defended its decision, saying the CARES Act “set forth no limitation requiring use only in the medical supply industrial base.”

But the House Appropriations Committee said in a report that the Defense Department’s spending on money allocated from the act was not distributed as intended.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released his own statement on Tuesday, accusing the Trump administration of carving up its billion-dollar appropriation and spending three times the amount on defense contracts “for every dollar it spent on acquiring health resources.”

“With the safety and lives of our health care, first responder, and essential workforces at stake, the Department must be held accountable to administer the funding in the way Congress intended,” Smith said.

More than 200,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, with U.S. health officials still requesting funding for the pandemic response, including $6 billion for states to make vaccines available when they are developed and to address a shortage in N95 masks for hospitals.

Tags Barbara Lee CARES Act Coronavirus COVID-19 Defense Department House Armed Services Committee House Oversight and Reform Committee Mark Pocan medical supplies N95 masks Pandemic Pentagon
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