Pentagon Uses Pandemic Response Cash To Pay Defense Contractors for More War Toys
Defense contractors make out big from funds allotted for pandemic response. The Department of Defense (DOD) got $1 billion to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” Instead, it used a lot of the funds—allotted by Congress in March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—to buy more machinery of war, doling it out to defense contractors for things like drone surveillance tech and developing a new flight controller.
The Washington Post, which uncovered the questionable spending, reports that “hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund” went to “projects that have little to do with the coronavirus response,” including:
$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. […]
Hundreds of millions of dollars also flowed to several large, established companies, such as GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, which received two awards worth $75 million in June. A subsidiary of Rolls-Royce received $22 million to upgrade a Mississippi plant.
In addition, “10 of the approximately 30 companies known to have received” DOD money “also received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, another relief package created by the Cares Act,” points out the Post.
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. Weber officials did not respond to requests for comment. […]
ModalAI, a small California company that builds drone flight controllers and computing platforms, received $3 million through the Pentagon program for an 18-month effort to develop a new flight controller. In April, it received a PPP loan of between $150,000 and $350,000.
The Defense Department’s excuse?
“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, undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, in a statement.
The agency was far from the only entity to put CARES Act money to questionable ends, or the only failure of federal lawmakers and agencies to properly oversee that spending—a lot of which ended up going to bail out state-favored industries and to pet projects with questionable relation to fighting disease or dealing with economic hardships.
But the government giving out masses of money to buy military gear and calling it a life-saving attempt to help the American people through the coronavirus pandemic is probably the most egregious perversion of the concept of public health.
Some Democrats in Congress are now calling for an official investigation. “For the Administration to choose to use funds Congress made available to fight COVID-19 on the wish lists of defense contractors … is unconscionable and should be investigated fully and prosecuted if warranted,” wrote Reps. Mark Pocan (D–Wisc.)
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