Everybody knows that awarding no-bid contracts for medical equipment delivery to political cronies stinks of corruption. In my opinion, using West Point cadets to provide a captive audience for a president, at the risk of their health and safety, is equally corrupt.
We’ll be uncovering corrupt contracts for years to come, but one particularly egregious example has already surfaced: a no-bid contract for N-95 masks awarded to Panthera Worldwide, which filed for bankruptcy last fall:
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded a $55 million contract for N95s this month to Panthera Worldwide LLC, which is in the business of tactical training. “One of its owners said last year that Panthera’s parent company had not had any employees since May 2018, according to sworn testimony.
“It also has no history of manufacturing or procuring medical equipment, according to a review of records produced as a result of legal disputes involving the company and its affiliates….
“The price that FEMA is paying Panthera per mask, about $5.50, is significantly higher than what the government pays companies such as 3M, which charges as little as 63 cents per N95 mask, with an average cost of about $1.50 for more advanced models, according to a price index. “
Corrupt contracts are only the beginning. The Trump administration is also interfering with state and hospital attempts to get the equipment they need.
The federal government seized a shipment of 5 million masks destined for the Veterans Health Administration. The VA is not the first, only the most recent, health organization to be hit by federal seizures of medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The medical leaders on the front lines of the fight to control the coronavirus and keep patients alive say they are grasping for explanations. ‘We can’t get any answers,’ said a California hospital official who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the White House.
“In Florida, a large medical system saw an order for thermometers taken away. And officials at a system in Massachusetts were unable to determine where its order of masks went.”
Some of the seized equipment has gone to FEMA, to be redistributed according to administration priorities, which means Florida gets more of what it wants and Michigan and Massachusetts do not. While some of the supplies go to FEMA’s stockpile, another part of the seized medical equipment gets delivered to private companies to distribute.
Meanwhile, Trump’s need for an audience puts military cadets at risk. His White House “briefings,” which sound more like campaign events, are tanking, so he has found a new audience and platform, announcing that he will give a commencement address at West Point.
That means West Point is now calling back 1000 cadets from around the country. Never mind that they were sent home as a safety measure because of the pandemic. Never mind that they will have to be tested, then spend 14 days in quarantine, and wear masks. They have to return in order to provide an audience for Trump.
“West Point still has to clear a few more hurdles to realize Mr. Trump’s wish. The academy has asked Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper for waivers from a ban on travel for military personnel that runs through June 30, to allow cadets to return from all over the country.
“And no one knows what twist the coronavirus could take in New York by June 13. West Point officials say they will follow the guidance from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Army.”