WASHINGTON – Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) are launching an investigation to find out why U.S. defense dollars are being diverted, either purposely or inadvertently, to China or paying for risky research on pathogens of pandemic potential.
This probe is mandated through a provision Ernst and Gallagher secured in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. In a letter sent to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Inspector General (IG) today, Ernst and Gallagher outline the intent and expectations of the investigation.
“Taxpayers deserve to know how much of their money is being shipped to China and why Washington continues collecting and creating deadly super viruses—both of which could pose threats to our national security. COVID-19, which likely began by being leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute, should have given pause to tampering with pathogens of pandemic potential, yet the Biden administration continues financing risky research around the world. We cannot trust the mad scientists at EcoHealth to get their hands on taxpayer money or bats ever again. Folks, it’s just common sense that the Pentagon should never purchase any item with known espionage risks from a Chinese company. This investigation is the first step to bringing long overdue transparency and accountability to the indefensible ways Washington is spending our defense dollars,” said Ernst.
“Tens of millions of Department of Defense dollars have been given to our enemies. This is not just a massive accounting error, but a waste of taxpayer dollars and a threat to our national security. Our amendment that became law last year requires the Pentagon Inspector General to get to the bottom of this, and it’s time we move with a sense of urgency to fix this problem, protect taxpayer dollars, and ensure not a single cent is funding our adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party,” said Gallagher.
“Our investigative and policy work with Sen. Ernst since early 2020 helped establish how secretive taxpayer funding for EcoHealth Alliance’s dangerous gain-of-function animal experiments in Wuhan likely caused COVID. Yet, we’ve exposed how federal agencies including the Pentagon are still raining millions in taxpayers’ cash on EcoHealth and others for virus-hunting and risky animal testing in labs in China and other parts of the world with virtually no oversight. Taxpayers have a right to know how the DOD is spending their money, and we’re grateful to Sen. Ernst for demanding transparency and fighting reckless government spending in foreign animal labs that threaten public health and national security. Stop the money. Stop the madness!” said Justin Goodman, Senior Vice President, White Coat Waste Project.
“It’s always popular to talk about fighting government waste, but Senator Ernst is truly demonstrating leadership. Together, we’ve found hundreds of millions of tax dollars that have made their way into the Chinese economy and CCP-linked entities since 2017. And to be clear, we’ve only scratched the surface. Too often, lack of oversight means our spending can be out of step with our security and strategic interests. In the case of ‘gain of function’ virology research, our national security – and the health of the nation – are both on the line. Public health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci have been purposely opaque when it comes to defining such research on coronaviruses, explaining who was responsible for funding it, or helping us understand how much more of it may be happening on the taxpayer dime. We simply cannot move past the pandemic until we get these answers along with a frank explanation of the potential risks and rewards. Finally, this legislative language directs some concrete action from the Pentagon. Too often, the NIH teams up with the DoD to hide this information behind the veil of national security, when that’s precisely what’s at risk here. Transparency is the first step to making informed decisions together as Americans,” said Adam Andrzejewski, Founder and CEO of Open the Books
A review of government receipts by Ernst and Gallagher with the nonprofit organization Open the Books tallied more than$490 million of U.S. tax dollars paid to organizations in China since 2017. The Government Accountability Office concluded that it’s nearly impossible to determine the total amount being sent to China—or anywhere else—because government agencies are not tracking where the money ends up and the information that is being collected is often incomplete and inaccurate.
The DoD alone paid at least $51.6 million to institutions and companies in China, including $6 million to purchase tech support for military “deployment and distribution command” software. Information Technology (IT) manufactured by certain Chinese companies contains cyber espionage risks, according to warnings issued by the DoD’s IG.
One defense contractor, EcoHealth Alliance, plotted to conceal its plans to divert tax dollars from DoD to China’s infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology for dangerous experiments on bat coronaviruses. Despite rejecting that particular proposal, the Pentagon has paid over $47 million to EcoHealth since 2008—more than any other federal agency—and continues to finance the organization’s risky research in Asia and Africa. The nonprofit group White Coat Waste Project uncovered more than $1 million from two non-defense agencies that EcoHealth passed onto the Wuhan Institute without reporting those transactions.