At least $1 billion in coronavirus relief funds that were intended to be spent on medical supplies like masks and test kits, which were in short supply at the start of the pandemic, was instead funneled through the Pentagon, where it was used to buy things like jet engine parts, body armor, and military uniforms.
A group of 40 organizations from across the political spectrum is now calling for a congressional investigation into how the Pentagon used the funds.
In a letter to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, the groups also urged lawmakers to consider passing a new bill to suspend the Department of Defense’s (DOD) authority to use the funding, according to The Hill.
“We believe the Pentagon’s decision-making with these funds, as recently reported, violates congressional intent at minimum, and represents a significant breach of trust with the taxpayers who fund the military’s budget and its emergency spending,” the letter stated.
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“Any findings should be shared with the public to the maximum extent practicable. We would also ask that the select subcommittee consider recommending a rescission of DoD’s budget authority for this $1 billion fund in order to ensure Congress’s constitutional spending authority is not being violated,” the letter continued.
The Pentagon has admitted to spending the coronavirus relief funds on military items, but they insist that this was the intended purpose of the funding. A spokesperson for the Pentagon says that the money was never intended to be “restricted” to medical supplies.
“As indicated by recent reporting, there appears to be a misunderstanding by some about what the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES” Act) did and did not do with respect to the Department of Defense. 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. 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,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
Since the Washington Post detailed the Pentagon spending in a report earlier this week, two House Democrats called for a congressional investigation into the problem.
Image Credit: Ivan Cholakov