The Department of Defense is accused of funneling around $1 billion intended for coronavirus relief efforts to defense contractors for the production of engine parts, body armor, and dress uniforms, according to a Tuesday report.
Under the Cares Act, passed by Congress earlier this year, the money had been set aside for the Pentagon to “prevent, prepare for, and respond” to the coronavirus pandemic. But within weeks, the Pentagon began using that money for filling supposed gaps in military equipment spending, the Washington Post reported.
The report comes after Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified before Senate lawmakers last week, saying that states still need billions in relief for distributing vaccines to Americans early next year.
The DoD, meanwhile, has maintained that it has tried to keep a balance between increasing American medical production and supporting the massive defense industry, which, they say, is intertwined with the economic security of the nation.
“We need to always remember that economic security and national security are very tightly interrelated and our industrial base is really the nexus of the two,” said Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment.
The $1 billion is a fraction of the $3 trillion in emergency spending that Congressional lawmakers approved earlier this year. However, many of the projects that the money went to have little to do with coronavirus relief efforts. Around $183 million, for example, went to Rolls-Royce and ArcelorMittal to maintain the shipbuilding industry. Tens of millions went to companies making satellites, drones, and space surveillance technology, and around $2 million went to a domestic manufacturer of Army dress uniform fabric, the Post reported.
Additionally, some of the defense contractors who received part of the $1 billion in spending, have received additional bailout funds from the Paycheck Protection Program. The report from the Post has prompted two House Democrats to call for an investigation and public hearings on the matter, the Post reported.