21:18 GMT20 October 2020
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    A Tuesday Washington Post article revealed the US Congress gave the Pentagon $1 billion in March to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that money has mostly been paid to defense contractors, further growing the US war machine, according to medical doctor Dr. Yolandra Hancock and investigative journalist Daniel Lazare.

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress earlier this year provided the Pentagon with money to “prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.” However, according to the article, that money was allocated under the Defense Production Act, which allows US President Donald Trump and the Defense Department to direct US companies to manufacture products for national security purposes.

    Around $183 million was handed to firms like Rolls-Royce and ArcelorMittal to maintain the shipbuilding industry, while millions went toward satellite, drone and space surveillance technologies. Around $80 million was given to an aircraft parts business impacted by the Boeing 737 Max 8 grounding, and another $2 million was allocated toward a domestic Army uniform fabric manufacturer, according to the Post, which noted some 30 firms received the money in all.

    “It [the Pentagon] was able to do it because no one was there to stop. It’s extraordinary that Congress doesn’t do anything to stop this breach of legislative instruction. Congress stipulated how the money would be spent and now is doing nothing, even though its orders were contradicted,”  Lazare, who is the author of "The Velvet Coup," told Political Misfits hosts Michelle Witte and Bob Schlehuber on Tuesday.

    “Essentially this was supposedly what was being fought out in the impeachment of  Trump back in January, but the whole issue was muddied by the question of foreign policy and Ukrainian relations,” he noted.

    “But this is far more serious … and a far more serious breach of constitutional responsibility, but it also shows America is increasingly a war machine with a country attached. The Pentagon takes precedence, incredible amounts of money are invested in the military … yet the health and well-being of the country at large is increasingly going downhill. So it seems to me that America’s priorities are grossly misplaced,” Lazare said.

    “It’s just a complete reversal of normal priorities,” he added.

    According to the Post, at least 10 of the contractors who were paid by Defense Production Act funding also received money from the Paycheck Protection Program, which extended funds to companies whose revenues were hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic so they could continue to afford keeping their workers on their payroll. 

    Meanwhile, health officials are still hunting for COVID-19 response funding, including $6 billion for future vaccine distribution.

    “How about you ensure the 33 million Americans who don’t have health insurance as of today, because of the pandemic and because of the broken health care system? That’s where I would start. The second is addressing food insecurity across this country,” Hancock, a board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine specialist, told Sputnik.

    “It’s politics and profits over people all day long, and unfortunately that’s what we’re seeing throughout this pandemic … You see disproportionate impact of economic downturn within communities of color,” she added.

    In a statement to the Post, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, defended the Pentagon’s actions.

    “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. 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 views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    COVID-19, Defense Department, Pentagon
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