As part of the $2 trillion Cares Act in March, Congress allocated $1 billion to the Defense Department to help it “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” According to a Washington Post story Tuesday, much of that money has been used to pay for things that are not directly related to the pandemic, including aircraft parts and dress uniforms.
Pentagon officials say their use of the funds helps maintain capabilities in the defense industry during the coronavirus recession, but lawmakers have made it clear that the allocation was intended to be used for items directly related to the pandemic, such as the production of personal protective equipment (PPE). According to a report from the House Committee on Appropriations cited by the Post, the “expectation was that the Department would address the need for PPE industrial capacity rather than execute the funding for the [defense industrial base].”
The repurposing of the money illustrates just how hard it is to ensure that trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds are used properly. The Post’s Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torbati report:
“The $1 billion fund is just a fraction of the $3 trillion in emergency spending that Congress approved earlier this year to deal with the pandemic. But it shows how the blizzard of bailout cash was — in some cases — redirected to firms that weren’t originally targeted for assistance. It also shows how difficult it has been for officials to track how money is spent and — in the case of Congress — intervene when changes are made.”