ACTION ALERT: Don’t Let the Pentagon Use COVID Relief Funds to Enrich Arms Makers

December 18th, 2020 - by Win Without War

COVID Relief vs. More Weapons

Win Without War

 (December 17, 2020) — Right now, defense contractors are looking to make a quick buck as the country struggles under a pandemic that has left over 300,000 dead, 17 million households on the cliff of eviction, and as many as 10.7 million without jobs.

On Friday, a group of CEOs sent an urgent plea to congressional leadership asking for MORE coronavirus relief money — even as they rake in record profits.

And their efforts are paying off. Negotiators in Congress continue to protect defense interests above the needs of essential workers, undocumented communities, and families struggling to make rent and get food on the table.

Influencing Congress is more challenging than ever. We’re up against lobbyists and special interests with deep pockets and dirty relationships. But if we don’t act quickly, already bloated and corrupt arms dealers will receive EVEN MORE money.

Arms dealers asking for additional funds during the pandemic is shameless. Defense contractors, by all accounts, are doing just fine. So much so that earlier this year, an industry outlet reported, “It’s becoming abundantly clear that companies with heavy defense business have been able to endure the coronavirus pandemic.”

The math checks out. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics — are now collectively worth $304 BILLION. General Dynamics, one of the companies on the letter to Congress, has paid out MORE to shareholders in 2020 than it did last year.

Yet right now, General Dynamics and other major defense contractors are asking for an extension of the authorities they were granted earlier this year to keep the spigot of coronavirus relief money going, even as everyday people go without.

Subsidizing a defense industry awash with profits is an massive misappropriation of emergency funding and misallocation of tax dollars. But that’s EXACTLY what Congress is doing because they think we’re not paying attention.

They’re wrong. Those billions should be going toward — and could easily pay for — life-saving medical equipment, vaccines, or economic relief to frontline communities still reeling in the face of the recession and pandemic.

Our team is doubling down to build the pressure we need in Congress, but it’s an uphill battle. 

We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — it’s time that Congress puts the people over the Pentagon and the defense industry.Luckily, that call is gaining momentum.

Earlier this year, we stopped additional COVID money from going to the Pentagon. Not only that, we got Congress’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis to launch an investigation into the inappropriate use of hundreds of millions of dollars from the CARES Act. Powerful leaders are listening to our demands. We’ll be more than ready to make ourselves loud and clear again — with your support.

Thank you for working for peaceAnnika, Amy, Michael, and the Win Without War team

Pentagon Redirected Pandemic Funds to Defense Contractors

Justine Coleman / The Hill

(September 22, 2020) — The Pentagon redirected most of its $1 billion in pandemic funding to defense contractors who exchanged the money for jet engine parts, body armor, dress uniforms and other military needs, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.  

The CARES Act passed by Congress in March granted the Department of Defense $1 billion to both prevent and get ready to respond to the coronavirus, but the Post reported that in the weeks that followed, hundreds of millions of the taxpayer money was instead utilized to obtain military supplies.

This was a change from the intent of Congress, the Post noted.

Meanwhile, US health officials are still requesting funding for pandemic response, including $6 billion for states to make vaccines available when they are developed and to address a shortage in N95 masks for hospitals. The Pentagon has also requested that $11 billion be provided in a potential new stimulus bill being debated by Congress. 

Congress instructed the $1 billion in the CARES Act to go to Defense Production Act (DPA) efforts, which permits President Trump to direct US companies to manufacture necessary products, such as personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Months after the funding was allocated, department lawyers concluded the money could be used for defense production, including projects that had little to do with responding to the pandemic, the Post reported. Smaller firms received more than a third of the funding for less than $5 million, but hundreds of millions of dollars went to several large companies.

At least 10 of the about 30 contractors awarded with DPA funding also received money from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Post found. 

Jessica Maxwell, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told The Hill in a statement that the DPA funding and PPP program are not “in conflict or duplicative.” 

She said the CARES Act did not restrict the funding to medical resources and certain defense spending was “appropriate as long as they addressed COVID related impacts in the industrial base.”

“The law set forth no limitation requiring use only in the medical supply industrial base,” she said.

She noted that the law authorized the Department of Health and Human Services to expand the medical resource supply. Maxwell added that economic impacts from the pandemic “necessitated prompt action … to sustain and strengthen essential domestic industrial base capabilities.”

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, defended the actions in a statement to the Post. 

“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,” Lord said. “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.”

The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee said in a report that the Defense Department’s spending on money allocated from the CARES Act was not distributed as intended.

“The Committee’s expectation was that the Department would address the need for PPE industrial capacity rather than execute the funding for the DIB (defense industrial base),” the committee wrote in its 2021 defense bill report.

Defense industry groups said the funding was needed to keep certain contractors in business during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

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