Two Democrat lawmakers are asking the Pentagon’s inspector general to look into how the department used $1 billion in coronavirus relief funds, The Hill reports.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., wrote a letter to acting inspector general Sean O’Donnell on Friday calling for a review into “the potential misuse of funds by the department that were meant ‘to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.’”
“Instead of addressing the urgent needs of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans, it appears DoD used taxpayer money meant to protect lives from COVID-19 to pad the pockets of defense contractors,” Senate Armed Services Committee member Warren and House Armed Services Committee member Khanna wrote in the letter.
Their call for an investigation comes days after The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon spent most of a $1 billion fund it was awarded by the CARES Act on defense contractors rather than medical supplies.
“The reported misuse by DoD of federal funds meant for the response to the deadly pandemic plaguing our country is inconsistent with the will of Congress and may be illegal,” they added. “Accordingly, we request that the inspector general investigate DoD’s redistribution of CARES Act funds that were intended by Congress to respond to COVID-19 via the Defense Production Act.”
The newspaper reported that the Pentagon used the funds to award contracts for jet engine parts, body armor, and dress uniforms, among other military equipment. Critics say their use of the money violated the terms of the coronavirus relief fund, which were meant for the money to be used to “prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.”
The Defense Department argued it kept Congress in the loop about how it was using the money and that it was spent appropriately.
“The CARES Act did not limit — nor did it intend to limit in its language — the use of Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III to only medical resources,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement issued Wednesday. “As part of the efforts to mitigate economic damage, the act allowed monies to be spent to support individuals and industries that had been impacted by COVID. This is exactly what DOD has done.”
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