Pandemic Spending Demonstrates Disconnect in Pentagon's Priorities | Citizens Against Government Waste

Pandemic Spending Demonstrates Disconnect in Pentagon's Priorities

The WasteWatcher

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, provided $1 billion to the Department of Defense (DOD) to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”

Instead of purchasing personal protective equipment, the DOD spent the money on engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms, and other projects unrelated to the pandemic.

According to a September 22, 2020 Washington Post article, funding rerouted from coronavirus response spending included:

"$183 million to firms including Rolls-Royce and ArcelorMittal to maintain the shipbuilding industry; tens of millions of dollars for satellite, drone and space surveillance technology; $80 million to a Kansas aircraft parts business suffering from the Boeing 737 Max grounding and the global slowdown in air travel; and $2 million for a domestic manufacturer of Army dress uniform fabric."

The funding, distributed via the Defense Production Act (DPA), benefited several large, profitable companies.  Rolls-Royce was aided by DPA largess twice, with a subsidiary receiving $22 million to upgrade a plant in Mississippi.  In addition, GE Aviation, a component of General Electric, received two awards totaling $75 million.

A minimum of 10 of the approximately 30 companies that received funding via the DPA also were awarded cash through the Paycheck Protection Program, a separate stimulus fund initiated after the onset of the pandemic.

According to the article:

"Weber Metals, a California-based subsidiary of German firm Otto Fuchs, received between $5 million and $10 million through PPP in April to support 412 jobs, and then got an extra boost through a $25 million DOD relief award in June."

The timing of the report is especially damaging for the DOD as it comes a week after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield stated in testimony before the Senate that states require $6 billion in funding to distribute a vaccine when it becomes available.  Some hospitals are still short of N95 masks. 

Officials at the Pentagon seem more concerned with the health of the industrial base than the welfare of DOD personnel.  In response to the report, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord stated:

"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…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."

This mindset, shared by many members of Congress, results in billions wasted every year on industrial base sustainment and support spending.  In the fiscal year 2020 defense appropriation bill, legislators added 10 earmarks costing $94 million funding a variety of industrial base analysis and support measures.

Despite record profits in recent years and untold billions filling coffers annually, defense contractors have repeatedly cried poor during the pandemic, most recently calling for $11 billion in aid.  Legislators have debated whether to include funding for defense-oriented firms in the latest stimulus bill under consideration. Given that the DOD has already channeled pandemic-related spending to support the industrial base, legislators should resist providing further stimulus support for the Pentagon. 

Dress uniforms will not end the pandemic.  Finite national security spending should never be utilized for a jobs program.

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