WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — The United States has now reported more than 7 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 204,000 deaths. But some hospitals and states still report not having enough tests or PPE, personal protective equipment.
Democratic lawmakers are demanding investigations into reports that the Pentagon took $1 billion in taxpayer money meant for PPE and COVID-19 testing and spent it on body armor and jet engine parts.
“It’s outrageous that the Pentagon would take $1 billion away from one of the most powerful tools we have to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon.
In a statement the Pentagon said the issue is a misunderstanding. It said the CARES Act did not require the Defense Department to spend the extra billion dollars only on medical resources.
Merkley said everyone understood that money was for PPE and testing.
“I think it’s absolutely absurd,” he said. “And for the Defense Department to grab that, to do just the traditional ‘let’s build the defense empire’ routine when Americans are dying is an enormous betrayal of trust.”
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said he spoke with Defense Department officials. “They thought they were following the intent of the law, which would have allowed them to advance pay some of their smaller contractors that otherwise may have gone out of business.”
Still, he said, the Senate will likely investigate.
“We’ll probably end up having some hearing on it within the Armed Services Committee,” Rounds said.
He added he believes the Government Accountability Office is already investigating the matter.