Defense Department continues boosting coronavirus testing capacity amid CARES spending investigation

Under scrutiny by its own internal watchdog for possibly misspending coronavirus relief money, the Pentagon announced this week a plan to buy $481 million worth of COVID-19 tests.

“This industrial base expansion effort will allow Cue Health to increase production to 100,000 COVID-19 test kits per day by March 2021,” read a Tuesday Department of Defense press release.

The buy will result in the U.S. government acquiring 6 million point-of-care coronavirus tests from the San Diego-based company. The molecular test uses a nasal swab to detect the virus in just 20 minutes.

No sooner was the announcement made than the Pentagon’s Inspector General announced an audit of DoD CARES spending.

“The objective of this audit is to determine whether the DoD awarded Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding to increase the Defense Industrial Base manufacturing capacity in accordance with Federal regulations and Defense Production Act authorities,” the Inspector General statement read.

At question is whether the Department of Defense awarded some of the $1 billion set aside for the coronavirus response to purchase warfighting material instead.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman tried in September to stymie early press reports of misspending.

“The CARES Act did not limit – nor did it intend to limit in its language – the use of Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III to only medical resources,” he said in a Sept. 23 statement.

“The Act allowed monies to be spent to support individuals and industries that had been impacted by COVID,” he added. “It is clear that funding for Defense Industrial Base (DIB) uses would be appropriate.”

Hoffman explained that monies that went to defense companies are covered by the law as long as they were negatively impacted by COVID “even in that portion of the industrial base not producing medical supplies.”

The Inspector General’s audit is expected to take months to complete.


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