Audit Finds Military Command Spent Pandemic Funds on Space Analytics and IT Upgrades

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According to a recent audit by the United States Department of Defense’s inspector general, US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command spent several million dollars intended for COVID-19 relief on special space-related data analytics projects related to the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control project.  Some of these funds also went towards improving office information technology.

Indeed, the US DoD spent upwards of $13 million of their pandemic relief funds on something called JADC2.  This is a aimed at improving seamless communication across the department. Unfortunately, if this is true, it is an improper use of COVID relief funds.

JADC2 is a contract aligned, mostly, with space-related data analytics.  Its initial statement required the development of software intended to analyze space-tracking data, as well as space weather and environment, and also radar.  Officials at NORAD and NORTHCOM insist that the contract contained a broad scope of command-and-control initiatives, in addition to actions that track personnel and medical data.

JADC2 was intended to improve communication between military services and to accelerate how they share information. The goal is to facilitate more precise and appropriate responses to potential threats.

Within the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package enacted in 2020—known as the CARES Act—$10 billion was set aside for the US Department of Defense.  Out of this budget, NORAD and NORTHCOM completed approximately 500 transactions related to COVID-19, to the sum of $66 million.  Auditors analyzed 25 of these transactions which totaled $61 million.  From those 25 transactions, the auditors identified that $34 million was used as designated.  Unfortunately, this means that $19 million was not used properly and the remaining $7 million lack enough documentation to determine their potential impropriety.

In their review, the auditors said, “Consequently, the officials may have violated the purpose statute by using CARES Act funds to pay for projects unrelated to COVID-19.”  The report, which came out on Wednesday, goes on to say, “NORAD and USNORTHCOM official’s improper use of CARES Act funds diminishes Congressional and taxpayer trust in the DoD.”

Officials say roughly $5 million CARES Act funds were used on an existing contract for the acquisition of steady-state, cloud software specifically designed to assist homeland air defense data collected from project Pathfinder.  Pathfinder utilizes machine learning to analyze data from commercial, government, and military inputs.