Fact Check: Defense Department Did NOT Award Contract For 'COVID-19 Research' In Ukraine 3 Months Before Virus Was Known

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Defense Department Did NOT Award Contract For 'COVID-19 Research' In Ukraine 3 Months Before Virus Was Known Order Changed

Did the U.S. Department Of Defense award a contract for "COVID-19 Research" in Ukraine three months before the virus was known to exist? No, that's not true: The Department of Defense (DOD) contract that was originally awarded on November 12, 2019, was later modified on June 10, 2020, and its description changed to include "COVID 19 RESEARCH."

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by The Exposé on April 13, 2022, under the title "U.S. Department of Defense awarded a contract for 'COVID-19 Research' in Ukraine 3 months before Covid was known to even exist." It opened:

The world first started to hear about a novel coronavirus in early January 2020, with reports of an alleged new pneumonia like illness spreading across Wuhan, China. However, the world did not actually know of Covid-19 until February 2020, because it was not until the 11th of that month that the World Health Organisation officially named the novel coronavirus disease as Covid-19.

So with this being the official truth, why does United States Government data show that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) awarded a contract on the 12th November 2019 to Labyrinth Global Health INC. for 'COVID-19 Research', at least one month before the alleged emergence of the novel coronavirus, and three months before it was officially dubbed Covid-19?

The shocking findings however, do not end there. The contract awarded in November 2019 for 'COVID-19 Research' was not only instructed to take place in Ukraine, it was in fact part of a much larger contract for a 'Biological threat reduction program in Ukraine'.

This is what the article looked like on The Exposé website on April 20, 2022:

The Expose Day 2.png

(Source: The Exposé screenshot taken on Wed Apr 20 23:09:47 2022 UTC)

The Exposé article gets the basic details correct but jumps to conclusions without digging deeper.

The USASPENDING.gov website shows the government contract with Black & Veatch and its subcontract with Labyrinth Global Health on November 12, 2019, with the description in the "Sub-Awards" category including "SME [subject matter expert] MANUSCRIPT DOCUMENTATION AND COVID 19 RESEARCH":

USA spending header.png


(Source: USASPENDING.gov screenshot taken on Wed Apr 20 15:21:38 2022 UTC)

The apparent contradiction highlighted by The Exposé comes because the first cases of what would later be called COVID-19 weren't discovered until early December 2019. The World Health Organization named the disease on February 11, 2020.

No crystal ball

So, how did the DOD know about COVID-19 before the rest of the world? It didn't. The original contract from November 12, 2019, was modified months later to include COVID research. In an April 20, 2022, email to Lead Stories, the DOD's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which issued the contract, said:

No, DOD did not award a contract in 2019 for COVID-19 research. In this case, DTRA's contractor modified a task order in 10 June 2020 to assist Ukraine in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, many months after the pandemic had begun. However, the date in the database reflects the original date the Master Servicing Agreement was entered into the system.

Information from USASpending.gov reflects data from a Master Servicing Agreement, or MSA, which can be modified by the DOD over time to better address emerging issues through its ongoing contracts. Contractors frequently sign additional sub-awards through task orders. These task orders, too, can be modified or amended. The date of each modification is not reflected on the USASpending.gov page, which stays as the date the original MSA was entered into the system, but the description is updated to reflect the latest changes in the task order.

In the same email, the DTRA explained the process in greater detail:

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) contracted with Black & Vea[t]ch to continue to support Ukraine's peaceful and safe biological detection and diagnostic capabilities and to reduce biological threats, whether they are naturally-occurring, accidental, or intentional, through the provision of equipment, supplies, and training. Black & Vea[t]ch signed the MSA with DTRA on 2 October, 2019, to modify DTRA's requested non-COVID training support, which was submitted to the procurement system on 12 November 2019. After the pandemic began, the MSA was modified to provide additional COVID-19 pandemic-related support to Ukraine on 25 April 2020 and again on 12 June 2020. The task order directed the servicing contractor to provide high-level subject matter expert mentorship support on COVID-19 Laboratory Diagnosis, Biological Safety and Laboratory Emergency Response in Ukraine.

Stories involving Ukraine and biological weapons are popular among conspiracy theorists. Lead Stories has debunked several of them.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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