Updated 3:55 p.m.| Senate Armed Services ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., is holding up most of a $1 billion request from the White House to combat the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa until the administration proposes a plan to keep soldiers from contracting the illness. “Senator Inhofe has requested the Pentagon to outline a plan to protect U.S. military personnel from contracting Ebola,” an Inhofe aide said in an email.
Inhofe is also demanding a plan to illustrate how the funding and effort could be taken over by civilian groups from the U.S. military.
“While the military’s logistics expertise will play a vital role in helping to abate the crisis, Senator Inhofe expects the situation in Africa to be a long-term mission that must transition fully back in the hands of appropriate agencies and [nongovernmental organizations],” the aide said.
The aide’s comments came after the Senate Armed Services Committee approved, with limitations, the two requests Wednesday to reprogram a total of $1 billion from a Department of Defense wartime account to the humanitarian disaster account.
The funding would have expired at the end of the week, but the committee’s approval allows the Pentagon to spend $100 million of the funds until the Obama administrations meets the requests put forth by Inhofe.
Other committees that must sign off on the reprogramming also released just a portion of the funding with limitations, including the House Armed Services Committee, which released $100 million, and the House Appropriations Committee, which released $50 million, according to Inhofe's office.
President Barack Obama on Friday spoke about the need to “keep up the momentum” to battle the virus in Africa.
“Today, of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West Africa,” Obama said.
"Hospitals, clinics, treatment centers are overwhelmed, leaving people dying on the streets,” Obama said. “Public health systems are near collapse. And then there are the secondary effects — economic growth is slowing dramatically, governments are being strained. And if left unchecked, experts predict that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed in a matter of months.
"This epidemic underscores — vividly and tragically — what we already knew, which is, in a world as interconnected as ours, outbreaks anywhere, even in the most remote villages and the remote corners of the world, have the potential to impact everybody, every nation," Obama added. “That's why I’ve told my team that fighting this epidemic is a national security priority for the United States."
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