The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General stated the full extent of DoD funds provided to Chinese research laboratories is “unknown.”

“Due to limitations in the DoD’s tracking systems, the full extent of DoD funds provided to Chinese research laboratories for research related to enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential is unknown,” DoD Office of Inspector General wrote.

From the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General:

The purpose of this management advisory is to inform Congress and DoD leadership of the results of our review required in response to Public Law 118‑31, “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024,” section 252, “Audit to Identify Diversion of Department of Defense Funding to China’s Research Labs.

Section 252 of the FY 2024 NDAA requires that the DoD Inspector General submit a report to the congressional defense committees within 180 days of December 22, 2023. The legislation requires a report on the amount of Federal funds awarded by the DoD, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, subgrants, subcontracts, or any other type of agreement or collaboration, to Chinese research labs or to fund research or experiments in China or other foreign countries that could have reasonably resulted in the enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential, from 2014 through 2023. In addition, the legislation specifically named Chinese government entities, affiliates, and one government contractor, as being part of the study.

The report was sparked from a ‘pressure campaign’ by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

The New York Post reported:

The Pentagon’s watchdog agency will audit more than $50 million in grants the US provided to Chinese pandemic pathogens research institutions between 2014 and 2023, The Post has learned, following a pressure campaign by Sen. Joni Ernst.

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General informed Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) that it was formally investigating the funding to Chinese research labs or other nations “designed to enhance pathogens of pandemic potential,” a letter exclusively obtained by The Post shows.

“We will keep you apprised of our progress on this reporting requirement,” the letter from Inspector General Robert P. Storch reads, referencing an amendment put by the lawmakers into the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The audit covers any US taxpayer funding “used to fund research or experiments that could have reasonably resulted in the enhancement of any coronavirus, influenza, Nipah, Ebola, or other pathogen of pandemic potential or chimeric versions of such a virus or pathogen in the People’s Republic of China or any other foreign country” — money which Ernst accused the Pentagon of “blindly giving away.”

“The Department of Defense should defend the nation, not support research with the potential to do us harm,” she told The Post in a statement.

“The Defense Threat Reduction Agency identified 13 projects, totaling $46.7 million, awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. from 2014 through 2023. However, none of this funding was allocated to China, its affiliates, or for research involving enhancement of pathogens,” the report read.

“The identified projects focused on pathogen‑related biosurveillance studies and training in various foreign countries. Specifically, of the $46.7 million, $44.5 million was awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. as the prime grant awardee and $2.2 million was awarded to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. as a subawardee. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency also provided $7.4 million in funds to EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. for research to understand and
develop a capability called the Global Rapid Identification Tool System. This system facilitated rapid, high probability diagnosis of outbreaks to pinpoint disease threats faster than current public health systems and diagnostics,” it continued.

“Throughout our review, we discovered significant constraints with the accessibility and comprehensiveness of data housed within, or maintained by, the DoD’s information systems. These limitations hindered our ability to conduct a thorough examination of DoD funds allocated for research activities, including those activities related to enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential. The limited time frame prescribed by Congress also restricted the procedures we performed,” the report read.

“In addition, the DoD did not track funding at the level of detail necessary to enable us to completely and accurately determine if the DoD provided funding to Chinese research laboratories or other foreign countries for research related to the enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential. For example, when the DoD awards funds to an entity, the entity often provides some of those funds to other organizations for subawards or contracted
services. DoD officials stated that during the initial grant application process, they have visibility over who the subaward recipients are intended to be. However, we found that DoD organizations lacked visibility of subaward information over the life of contracts and grants,” it continued.

“Finally, it was not possible for us to identify a single source that encompasses all pathogens of pandemic potential. This is primarily because the various authoritative sources we consulted employed different criteria to define what constituted a pandemic. As a result of these discrepancies and the lack of comprehensive authority outlining the definitive characteristics of pandemic‑potential pathogens, we were unable to conclusively determine which pathogens fell under this designation,” it added.

The report’s conclusion read:

We found significant limitations with the adequacy of data, similar to the observations the GAO found in its reports. Specifically, the DoD did not track funding at the level of detail necessary to determine whether the DoD provided funding to Chinese research laboratories or other foreign countries for research related to enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential. In addition, DoD organizations did not have visibility of subaward information throughout the life of contracts and grants. In addition, except for the CDMRP electronic grants system, DoD organizations could not effectively search award systems to identify all contracts, subcontracts, grants, and subgrants that may have been related to pathogen research performed by China and other foreign countries. As a result, DoD organizations could not produce a complete population of pathogen research grants and subawards necessary for us to conclude on the use of DoD funds provided for pathogen research.

Yet, the Department of Defense has a fiscal year 2024 budget of $825 billion.

Read the full report from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General HERE.

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