Congress is set to give the Defense Department $10.5 billion in the emergency stimulus package finalized by senators Wednesday to help with its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Broadly speaking, the package addresses six broad categories of cost: personnel, operations and maintenance, purchasing, investment, health care, and insurance coverage. Text of the stimulus package will be added to an unrelated bill previously passed by the House.
Of those, the largest chunk — $3.8 billion — would go to the Defense Health Program, which provides medical care to Defense Department personnel, including active duty troops and their dependents. An additional $1.1 billion is slated for Tricare, the insurance program that oversees the benefits to those people.
The bill also would provide $1.2 billion to pay members of the Army and Air Force National Guard who are being activated by governors across the country. As of Tuesday, governors had activated 9,000 Guard troops, and Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters he expects that number to continue to grow in coming days and weeks.
Of the $1.2 billion, $747 million would go to the Army National Guard, with the remaining $482 million slotted for Air National Guard personnel.
Another $1.9 billion would be dedicated to operations and maintenance, or the funds that pay for day-to-day activities and repairs and upkeep of equipment. The bulk, or $828 million, would be for defense-wide operations, while each service gets a smaller amount.
The bill would provide $1 billion toward purchases under the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law that gives the president broad authorities to provide domestic industry with financial incentives to meet defense needs. These purchases are designed to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally,” according to the bill.
Defense Working Capital Funds would receive $1.45 billion to invest in efforts to counter the coronavirus’ effects.
The Defense Logistics Agency and military services would use these funds to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on production lines, the supply chain, military depots and labs, according to information provided by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bill would give $475 million to the Air Force, $475 million to the Navy, and $500 million to defense-wide efforts.
The Defense Department’s inspector general would get an additional $20 million to help oversee the dispersal and use of the Pentagon’s emergency funds.
The measure specifies that none of the emergency funds may be transferred into the Pentagon’s drug interdiction account, a move that blocks the administration from using any of the money for the border wall. Earlier this year, the White House has used the drug interdiction account to shift $3.8 billion of Defense Department funds to wall construction, which is allowable under the declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.
The bill also contains provisions that would allow the president to extend the tenures of certain leaders, including the chiefs of Army and Navy Reserves, the Air Force and Space Force’s chiefs of staff, and the commander of the National Guard Bureau, as needed. This would prevent waiting on Senate confirmation for their replacements, a process that can take months as candidates are identified, vetted, and voted on.