Why is US deploying the military to fight Ebola?

On Tuesday, White House officials outlined a new plan to assign 3,000 members of the American armed forces to supply medical and logistical support to help treat Ebola epidemic victims.

James Giahyue/REUTERS
A health worker brings a woman suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus to an ambulance in Monrovia, Liberia, September 15, 2014.

The Obama administration is enlisting the US military in the fight against West Africa’s Ebola crisis.

On Tuesday, White House officials outlined to reporters a new plan to assign 3,000 members of the American armed forces to supply medical and logistical support to help treat Ebola epidemic victims.

US Africa Command will set up a joint force headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia, according to the White House. This will be supplemented by a regional intermediate staging facility, presumably in a less-populated area, where many of the US personnel will be based.

Military engineers will then fan out through the affected region – Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone; and to a lesser extent Nigeria and Senegal – to erect 17 health-care clinics of 100 beds each.

US forces will erect a facility intended to train 500 health-care providers each week, enabling them to safely handle Ebola patients in their home areas, says the administration. They’ll also arrange for the distribution of hundreds of thousands of home health-care kits to local residents.

“The Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the humanitarian crisis there is a top national security priority for the United States,” says the White House fact sheet outlining the administration’s new effort.

Why is the Defense Department fighting the war on Ebola? The short answer is because it is the largest and most capable US organization available for emergency action, and has money to pay for the effort.

The military’s extensive airlift and health-care infrastructure can quickly plug holes in the current international fight to try and contain the Ebola outbreak. US personnel should be flowing into the area in force in about two weeks, according to the White House.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon plans to move some $500 million of unspent funds within its budget into an account to fund Ebola action. The US has already spent some $175 million and moved 100 civilian experts from the Centers for Disease Control into West Africa.

Plus, the administration has now decided it’s time to move fast. If anything, it is past time. Cases are increasing at an exponential case. UN officials on Tuesday estimated that the world will need to commit upward of $1 billion to contain the crisis.

“The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, in a speech Tuesday at the UN.

In regards to the new West African deployment, the administration has yet to notify Congress, as required, that it is sending troops abroad absent a declaration of war. But that shouldn’t be a problem, writes Hayes Brown in left-leaning Think Progress.

“It’s unlikely there will be much pushback from the Hill, based on the amount of attention the crisis has seen from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle,” writes Brown.

Indeed, on Tuesday House Speaker John Boehner mildly criticized the administration for inaction on Ebola.

Asked his opinion of the new White House plan, Speaker Boehner said, “I’m a bit surprised that . . . the administration hasn’t acted more quickly to address what is a serious threat not just to Africans but to others around the world.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.