October 27, 2020

Warren and Hirono Call for Armed Services Hearing on Military Role in COVID-19 Vaccine Development Project "Operation Warp Speed"

New reports reveal extensive DoD role with "military personnel vastly outnumber(ing) civilian scientists" working on the project Little scrutiny of DoD role from Congress

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), wrote to SASC Chairman Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and SASC Ranking Member Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I), urging SASC to hold a hearing on the Department of Defense's (DOD) role in Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the Trump Administration's public-private partnership now tasked with producing and delivering 300 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. 

"SASC has yet to hold a public hearing dedicated exclusively to DoD's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic ... Given the outsized role DoD appears to be playing in vaccine development and distribution, we request the SASC immediately hold a hearing on this matter," the Senators wrote.

Recent reports have revealed that DoD appears to be playing a much more significant role in OWS than was previously known. While DoD operates a robust logistics system, the extent of their involvement in OWS -- DOD officials reportedly outnumbering civilian public health experts -- and their use of appropriated funds warrants greater transparency and oversight. For instance, DoD is reportedly awarding more than $6 billion of OWS's contracts through defense contractor Advanced Technologies' International, Inc., which then contracts with companies working on COVID-19 vaccines, bypassing regulatory requirements.

"It is particularly important that we hear testimony from DoD officials to gain more transparency into how DoD is using congressionally appropriated funds for OWS and DoD's processes for the administration and distribution of those funds through contacts and procurement," wrote the Senators. "Awarding contracts in this fashion bypasses regulatory requirements and limits transparency, raising numerous questions and ethical concerns."