Political News

House Armed Services chairman proposes $1 billion Pentagon pandemic preparedness fund

Posted June 25, 2020 5:48 p.m. EDT

— House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith is proposing the creation of a new $1 billion fund for the Pentagon to better prepare for pandemics, according to committee aides and a copy of the legislation obtained by CNN.

Smith's "chairman's mark" of the House's annual defense policy bill includes a $1 billion pandemic preparedness and resilience national security fund. Smith's legislation, which the House Armed Services Committee will debate and vote on next week, includes authorizing $200 million to help small businesses in the defense industrial base, $50 million for research "to rapidly produce medical countermeasures against novel threats" and $750 million for research related to pandemic preparedness, according to a copy of the legislation.

The news comes as the number of coronavirus cases in the US continues to rise at an alarming rate. Texas, California and Florida -- the three-most populous states in the country -- set records for new daily cases amid fears of "apocalyptic" surges in major Texas cities.

Smith's version of the National Defense Authorization Act does not include any provisions dealing with racial injustices in the military or the naming of military bases after Confederate leaders, two issues that will likely be a focus of amendments offered during next week's committee debate. Committee aides said that Smith, a Washington Democrat, wanted to allow committee members to weigh in on the naming of bases after Confederate leaders, and the panel expects amendments from both sides to address the issue during committee debate.

The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to remove Confederate names from military bases during its debate of the defense policy bill, which the Senate will debate on the floor next week. The provision is opposed by President Donald Trump and many Senate Republicans.

The issue is likely to be a sticking point during both the House and Senate floor debates on the must-pass defense legislation.

Smith's bill also does not include restrictions on diverting Pentagon funds for constructing the President's wall along the Southern border. That was included in the House-passed bill last year but was stripped out of the version of the legislation signed into law following House-Senate negotiations. Committee aides said they were bound during the negotiations by last year's budget deal that prevented a funding ban for the border wall, and that budget agreement still applies to this year's defense policy bill.

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