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September 25, 2020 at 1:00 PM EDT
Democrats call for investigation of coronavirus funds for defense contractors after Washington Post report
By Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torbati
Congressional Democrats sharply criticized a Defense Department decision to repurpose a $1 billion coronavirus fund into an economic stimulus for defense contractors, a change the lawmakers say violated congressional intent. Three House members and a senator asked for investigations of the matter after a Washington Post report that revealed the change.
The funds, set aside under the Cares Act economic stimulus package passed in March, were given to the Pentagon to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But the Defense Department decided to divert most of that funding toward long-standing defense concerns such as drone technology, body armor and dress uniforms. The decision was made in consultation with the White House Office of Management and Budget as well as other federal agencies, according to a defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote to acting Defense Department inspector general Sean O’Donnell on Friday, asking him to “review the potential misuse of funds by the Department.” They also asked O’Donnell to investigate whether the payments were “needlessly duplicative,” given that some of the defense contractors that got awards also received relief loans from the Small Business Administration.