US President Donald Trump tours a Honeywell International Inc. factory producing N95 masks during his first trip since widespread COVID-19 related lockdowns went into effect May 5, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Instead of adhering to congressional intent by building up the nation’s inadequate supply of N95 masks and other equipment to combat the Covid-19 crisis, the Pentagon has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriated taxpayer funds to private defense contractors for drone technology, jet engine parts, Army uniform material, body armor, and other purposes not directly related to the pandemic.
As the Washington Post reported Tuesday morning, the Department of Defense—headed by former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper—”began reshaping how it would award the money” just weeks after Congress in March approved a $1 billion fund under the Defense Production Act to help the nation “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”
“The Trump administration has done little to limit the defense firms from accessing multiple bailout funds at once and is not requiring the companies to refrain from layoffs as a condition of receiving the awards,” the Post noted. “Some defense contractors were given the Pentagon money even though they had already dipped into another pot of bailout funds, the Paycheck Protection Program.”
As the U.S. still faces major shortages of testing supplies and N95 masks six months into the pandemic, the Post reported that the Pentagon has used congressionally approved funds to dish out $183 million to luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce and other companies to help “maintain the shipbuilding industry,” tens of millions for “drone and space surveillance technology,” and $80 million to “a Kansas aircraft parts business.”
A subsidiary of Rolls-Royce also received $22 million from the Pentagon “to upgrade a Mississippi plant,” according to the Post.