In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General Robert Storch, Republicans Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa and Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin asked for an investigation into funding that could have begun the coronavirus pandemic.
Ernst and Gallagher outline the aims of the investigation, which would have the IG investigate U.S. defense dollars that make their way into China and ultimately fund high-risk laboratory research on pathogens similar to the one that caused the global pandemic.
Specifically, reports National Review, they have asked the Pentagon IG to determine why — according to a review of government receipts they conducted with the nonprofit Open the Books watchdog group — over $490 million in U.S. taxpayer money has gone to Chinese organizations since 2017. In accordance with the NDAA, Storch’s office will be tasked with conducting the investigation.
The investigation, in addition to gain-of-function virus research conducted in China, will focus on U.S. tax dollars going toward Chinese military technology. According to warnings Storch has offered in the past, the Department of Defense has paid at least $51.6 million to Chinese organizations, including $6 million that went toward purchasing technical support for military “deployment and distribution command” software despite the known security risks of using Chinese technology.
“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,” Gallagher told National Review. “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.”
Ernst, emphasizing the national security hazards involved in using Chinese equipment, said “it’s just common sense that the Pentagon should never purchase any item with known espionage risks from a Chinese company.”
Ernst told National Review that the probe, which would be relevant regardless of current events given a broad lack of transparency, is especially critical given the likelihood of COVID-19 having been developed in and leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Technology. In fact, a 2018 grant proposal demonstrates that EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based research organization and onetime beneficiary of National Institutes of Health funding, planned to engineer a virus similar to SARS-CoV-2 with the Wuhan lab, though the funding application was denied by DARPA.
“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,” Ernst said. “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.”
“This investigation is the first step in bringing long overdue transparency and accountability to the indefensible ways Washington is spending our defense dollars,” she said.