Pentagon to Audit $50 Million in U.S. Funding to Chinese Research Labs

Pentagon watchdog to audit $50M in US defense funds sent to Chinese labs, raising concerns over national security risks and potential pandemic origins.

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Pentagon to Audit $50 Million in U.S. Funding to Chinese Research Labs

Pentagon to Audit $50 Million in U.S. Funding to Chinese Research Labs

The Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General has announced an audit of over $50 million in U.S. defense funds diverted to research laboratories in China between 2014 and 2023. The audit comes after pressure from Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who has been leading the charge to end all U.S. funding that supports China.

According to Open the Books, a government watchdog group, the DoD has paid at least $51.6 million to institutions and companies in China since 2017, including $6 million for military software support. Senator Ernst revealed that the Pentagon has also provided over $26 million in new tax funding to EcoHealth Alliance, which planned to funnel money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for coronavirus engineering experiments.

The audit was initiated following reports that Chinese researchers working with the DoD have taken what they've learned back to China to further the nation's ambitions of becoming a global artificial intelligence superpower. Senator Ernst and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) requested information on any DoD funding to China or its affiliates for research activities, including COVID-19 research.

Why this matters: The audit aims to provide greater transparency and accountability on where U.S. taxpayer money is being spent, particularly in relation to potential risks and benefits of funding research in foreign countries that could pose a threat to public health and national security.

Senator Ernst accused the Pentagon of "blindly giving away" this funding and demanded answers from federal agencies about U.S.-funded research abroad on high-risk pathogens. She stated that this investigation will help pinpoint where another man-made pandemic could possibly originate and prevent that from happening. Ernst is also pushing to permanently debar the Wuhan Institute and defund EcoHealth from receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars.

The DoD Office of Inspector General's audit will cover any U.S. taxpayer funding used to fund research or experiments that could have resulted in the enhancement of any coronavirus, influenza, Nipah, Ebola, or other pathogen of pandemic potential in China or any other foreign country. U.S. lawmakers have voiced concerns over Chinese scientific research that could pose dangers for the U.S., and this audit aims to address those concerns by providing a full accounting of how defense funds have been used.

Key Takeaways

  • DoD OIG to audit $50M in U.S. defense funds sent to Chinese research labs.
  • Funds sent to Chinese institutions, including $6M for military software support.
  • Pentagon provided $26M to EcoHealth Alliance for coronavirus engineering experiments.
  • Audit aims to address concerns over U.S. funding of risky foreign research.
  • Senator Ernst seeks to defund Wuhan Institute and EcoHealth Alliance.