Pentagon doesn’t know if it funds dangerous biological research in China, new audit reveals

The lack of accountability for research funding follows years of warnings that China operates an illicit biological weapons program that could be unwittingly helped by U.S. research-- and tax dollars.

Published: June 24, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: June 25, 2024 7:08am

Despite years of warnings that China operates an illicit biological weapons program, the U.S. military remains unable to determine whether it sends American tax dollars to Beijing for research that could make pathogens more dangerous or deadly, the Pentagon’s chief watchdog declared in a stunning new warning to policymakers.

“The DoD did not track funding at the level of detail necessary to determine whether the DoD provided funding to Chinese research laboratories or other foreign countries for research related to enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential,” the Pentagon inspector general concluded in a report released this month.

You can read that report here.

The findings show the Pentagon has done little to improve transparency on a critical security issue in the two years since the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, first raised concerns that defense officials could not account for how biological research funds sent to China were being used. You can read that GAO report here.

The latest inspector general report also adds to momentum in Congress to formally ban the Pentagon from funding "gain-of-function" research in foreign countries, a goal that has increased in priority now that some members of the U.S. intelligence community like the FBI believe the COVID-19 pandemic began with a virus leak  inside a Wuhan lab doing research funded by U.S. tax dollars. Gain-of-research refers to the serial passaging of microorganisms to increase their transmissibility and virulence among other things.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., has been leading the effort to force the Department of Defense to account for money it sends to China and to formally ban spending on research that makes viruses and bacteria more contagious or lethal. She got a provision added to the National Defense Authorization Act last year that required the inspector general review.

“The Department of Defense should defend the nation, not support research with the potential to do us harm,” Ernst said recently. “While bureaucrats are blindly giving away taxpayer funds, China doesn’t even have to steal our research.

As more evidence emerges that our own tax dollars are advancing the interests of our adversaries, it’s clear we need greater transparency and accountability of how, why, and especially where our money is going,” she added.

The White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit dedicated to rooting out dangerous, wasteful or animal-harming scientific research, said the new inspector general report unmasks a system of malaise that has failed to track research that is funded by the U.S. and in the hands of a foreign nation controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army that could one day do Americans harm.

“The DoD is shipping tax dollars to China to institutions connected to the CCP, the PLA, and they are not following the money once it gets there. And they have no idea how our tax dollars are being spent,” Justin Goodman, senior vice president at the White Coat Waste Project, told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show.

Goodman added that the loosely tracked Pentagon research funding is part of a larger federal scientific push with agencies like the National Institutes of Health that sends money “to laboratories and virus hunting programs all around the world to collect these viruses that are out in nature, that humans in some cases would never have contact with, and brings them in the laboratory to supercharge them.”

“They would claim (the work is) for bio defense, but I think anyone with a brain at this point knows that this is bio weapons development and we're footing the bill for it,” he added.

The dynamic of loose tracking has been laid bare for two years. The GAO reported Sept. 29, 2022 that the full extent of funding provided to Chinese entities is not known due to data limitations in federal subaward reporting requirements.

“Throughout our review, we discovered significant constraints with the accessibility and comprehensiveness of data housed within, or maintained by, the DoD’s information systems,” it noted. “These limitations hindered our ability to conduct a thorough examination of DoD funds allocated for research activities, including those activities related to enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential.”

The IG said Pentagon officials insisted they “did not actively participate in or knowingly fund research or experiments that could have reasonably resulted in the enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential from 2014 through 2023.”

But the report said the ability to ensure that wasn’t happening was sorely lacking. “The full extent of DoD funds provided to Chinese research laboratories or other foreign countries for research related to enhancement of pathogens of pandemic potential is unknown,” the report said.

For instance, it reported that the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) officials self‑identified seven contract or grant awards, subawards, or fee‑for‑service agreements that involved potential enhancement of pathogens in foreign countries.” However, the officials also stated that the research does not necessarily enhance the virus for pathogenic potential,” it noted.

Such imprecision is alarming given that numerous U.S. intelligence reports have warned for two decades that Communist China has been operating an illicit bioweapons program, according to a Just the News expose years ago.

The United States first declared in a 2005 State Department document that communist China maintained an offensive biological weapons program in violation of its treaty commitments and that it was run in part by an arm of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS). That report specifically cited the AMMS' Fifth Institute as the epicenter of the country's bioweapons program.

You can read that document here:


A decade later, multiple medical publications emerged from China that linked the AMMS to research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the very lab that the FBI, the Energy Department and other U.S. intelligence agencies now admit was the source of a leak that started the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019.

It's also the same lab that received grants from a contractor working for Dr. Anthony Fauci's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the foreign aid arm of the State Department.

The ties between AMMS and the Wuhan lab sat in plain view for years before the pandemic started, federal documents show.

For instance, a 2015 study posted on the NIH's National Library of Medicine site shows collaboration between the Wuhan lab and AAMS on anthrax spores. Several other studies between 2015 and 2019 also listed both Chinese science organizations as collaborators.

One of the most troubling links — cited in an unclassified report released in December by the House Intelligence Committee — was a 2015 book in which China scientists tied to both AMMS and the Wuhan lab declared that coronaviruses were the leading edge of a new era of genetic weapons warfare.

"In 2015, the official publishing house of the AMMS released a book titled The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Artificial Humanized Viruses as Genetic Weapons," the committee reported. "The book was produced and edited using 18 experts, 16 of whom were officers at AMMS or other PLA research centers. Indeed, one of the editors not only works for the Fifth Institute but also has a long history of collaboration with the WIV, having coauthored 12 scientific papers with personnel from it.

"The central premise of the AMMS book is that SARS-CoV-1, the strain of coronavirus that caused the 2002 SARS outbreak, did not emerge naturally but was a chimeric virus artificially engineered as a genetic weapon to infect humans. The book described the PLA researchers' broader belief that other nations are developing chimeric coronaviruses to use as genetic weapons. The authors described how to create weaponized chimeric SARS coronaviruses, the potentially broader scope for their use compared to traditional bioweapons, and the benefits of being able to plausibly deny that such chimeric coronaviruses were artificially created rather than naturally occurring."

You can read the full House Intelligence Committee report here:


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