The Pentagon used money allocated to produce face masks and other personal protective equipment to order jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms, according to a new report.
Washington Posts reports that COVID-19 relief funds granted under March’s CARES Act to help the Pentagon “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” was funneled to defense contractors for the production of military supplies.
The outlet said the report was based on “a review of public records, individual contract announcements, congressional testimony, and interviews with people involved in the spending decisions.”
The Department of Defense reportedly redirected the funds a few weeks about the passage of the March bill.
The Tuesday report comes on the same day that the U.S. toll for coronavirus-related deaths surpassed 200,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That number is considered to actually be higher, due to deaths that occurred early during the pandemic but were ascribed to other causes before widespread testing became available.
These new payments were made as health officials have expressed alarm at COVID-response funding gaps.
Last week, CDC director Robert Redfield said that $6 billion in federal funds are needed to help states make the coronavirus vaccine available next year.
“This is part and parcel of whether we have budget priorities that actually serve our public safety or whether we have a government that is captured by special interests,” said Mandy Smithberger, a defense analyst at watchdog group Project on Government Oversight.
In a statement to the outlet, the Pentagon said that “economic security and national security are very tightly interrelated.”
“We are thankful the Congress provided authorities and resources that enabled the [executive branch] to invest in domestic production of critical medical resources and protect key defense capabilities from the consequences of COVID,” said Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment.