Report: Pentagon used funds for coronavirus response supplies for jet engine parts, body armor

Pentagon building
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The Defense Department used portions of a $1 billion fund from Congress meant to aid in procuring medical supplies for the coronavirus pandemic response to purchase military equipment, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Defense contractors were awarded “hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund, mostly for projects that have little to do with the coronavirus response” weeks after the $2 trillion stimulus package, the CARES Act, was passed in March, according to the newspaper.

Firms like Rolls-Royce and ArcelorMittal received $183 million to “maintain the shipbuilding industry” and “tens of millions of dollars” were given for space surveillance, drone and satellite technology, the Post reported. Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., a Wichita, Kansas aircraft parts business, was awarded $80 million and American Woolen Company, a manufacturer of Army dress uniform fabric in Connecticut, was awarded $2 million, according to the Post.

The newspaper also reported that some defense contractors were given the funds from the Defense Department while they were also tapped into the Paycheck Protection Program, which allocated billions of dollars in forgivable loans to the small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pentagon spokesperson Jessica Maxwell said the CARES Act does not require all the money distributed to be spent on medical resources.

“The Department of Defense is using the $1 billion appropriated by the ‘CARES’ Act to the Defense Production Act, which made $1B available ‘to prepare for, prevent and respond to the coronavirus’. The law set forth no limitation requiring use only in the medical supply industrial base,” Maxwell said in a statement.

The Defense Department received $1.2 billion for the National Guard’s coronavirus response through the stimulus package and an additional $1 billion was available for Defense Purchases Act purchases. In April, the Pentagon announced it would spend $75.5 million through Defense Production Act funding to ramp up production of swabs needed for coronavirus testing.