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Iran Press TV

Pentagon asks congress for 'Double-Digit Billions' in COVID-19 relief for military contractors

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 14 June 2020 2:17 AM

US military's top weapons buyer has warned Congress to either come up with "double-digit billions of dollars" to reimburse arms contractors for their costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic or face the danger of a degradation in the country's military readiness.

The US Defense Department's Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said at a House of Representative's Armed Services Committee hearing that the $688 million to assist military contractors and subcontractors in the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was nowhere near enough.

According to a Friday report by the US-based Military.com news outlet, Lord further pointed to one unnamed prime military contractor that estimated its coronavirus-related costs at more than $1 billion, calling on the Congress to consider passing a supplemental bill to provide further funds to assist the country's Defense Industrial Base.

She went on to assert that a section of the CARES Act "authorized" Congress to fund offsets to the so-called "COVID penalty" for American military contractors, but did not "appropriate" the money, noting that Pentagon itself "does not have the funding to cover these costs."

In response to a question by a lawmaker regarding an estimate of the funds needed to make up for the COVID-19 penalty, Lord said; "Double-digit billions of dollars."

According to the report, during the congressional hearing, the expenses accrued by US military contractors during the pandemic were described as "layoffs, paid leave, sick leave, work stoppages and the associated costs of work slowdowns, cleaning workspaces and rearranging job sites to allow for social distancing."

"You're telling us today there's not the money to do that" and there will "have to be some sort of supplemental funding," said Texas Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, a ranking member of the committee supported Lord's call to support US weapons makers.

"Correct," she answered.

"Otherwise, these contractors are going to have to eat several billions of dollars, which could well come at their employees' expense, which is what [the CARES Act] was supposed to help to begin with," Thornberry then underlined to highlight the case.

"There's a choice there," Lord said, "whether we want to eat into readiness and modernization" that would come as a result of a slowdown in contract deliveries "or whether we want to remedy the situation in the next six months or so" with increased funding.

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