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Opinion Pieces, Editorials Discuss More Robust U.S. Ebola Response, DoD Involvement

The following opinion pieces and editorials discuss President Obama’s announcement of a more robust U.S. response to Ebola in West Africa, including the use of Department of Defense resources.

Wall Street Journal: Calling in the Military to Fight Ebola
Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation

“…[T]he Department of Defense actually has a long history of engagement in global health activities, ranging from developing drugs and vaccines for diseases (including Ebola) to helping countries build their surveillance and health-care systems, and bolstering their ability to handle dangerous pathogens. … Our analysis found that the Pentagon’s global health engagement spans the whole of the department, including all military departments, the Office of Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the geographic Combatant Commands, and multiple other sub-agencies. … DOD spent more than $580 million on global health-related activities in 2012, an amount greater than outlays by either the [CDC] or the [NIH] for global health that year. … What is new with the president’s announcement is that the department is being tapped explicitly to address an international public health crisis — a first. … By involving the military in this way, President Obama has acknowledged that perhaps the DOD can quickly deploy the resources and the capabilities needed to help change the trajectory of the epidemic” (9/17).

Foreign Policy: Can the U.S. Army Degrade and Destroy Ebola?
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations

“…The scale of the U.S. response to Ebola, primarily focused on Liberia’s staggering outbreak, dwarfs that of all other nations and to date is the only external support that will involve uniformed military engagement. Overall, the world’s newfound sense of immediacy in the Ebola fight is coming late, and the response will succeed — or fail — based on the pace of execution in getting these much-needed resources on the ground. … I feel that time is running out. Unless Obama’s announcement can somehow include immediate measures that lead to long-scale escalations in supplies, logistics support, air shipments, and personnel on the group in West Africa, I fear dire consequences by Christmas. The need for speed is true not only of the U.S. government’s efforts, but of those promised by the United Kingdom, China, Cuba, France, and every other nation that has announced some form of assistance. The virus is well ahead of the game…” (9/16).

Roll Call: On Ebola, Obama’s Bold Move Is Greeted on Hill With Eager Assent
David Hawkings, journalist and Roll Call columnist

“…[T]he threats to Americans from ISIS and Ebola are comparable. … The administration has expressed concern not only about the capabilities of ISIS for domestic terrorist attacks, but also about the potential for Ebola to spread worldwide and mutate into a more easily transmitted disease. There’s also the argument that Ebola’s accelerating spread in Africa is becoming a topflight national security threat, because the threat to the fragile governments and economies of the continent could open safe havens for incubating new terrorist groups. For all those reasons, there was widespread bipartisan support for Obama’s latest plan, and not a single audible call for the president to seek congressional permission before reprogramming the Pentagon’s ‘overseas contingency operations budget’ for the humanitarian deployment. A potential argument against the maneuver is that it will divert an already stretched-thin force from other important missions…” (9/16).

New York Times: An Urgent Campaign Against Ebola
Editorial Board

“President Obama’s announcement of a more aggressive campaign against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa on Tuesday shows the administration is starting to recognize the severity of the crisis in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The question now is whether ramped-up medical assistance from the United States and other countries will arrive fast enough to change the course of the rapidly expanding epidemic. … Some experts say 1,000 beds are needed in the next week to contain the disease, a goal that seems well out of reach. All donors will need to hasten their assistance if there’s to be any hope of containing an epidemic that is spiraling out of control…” (9/16).

Washington Post: The ramped-up U.S. effort against Ebola is late but welcome
Editorial Board

“…The fresh surge of support announced Tuesday represents a welcome change of course. … In February, the United States and 28 other countries, as well as the WHO, announced the Global Health Security Agenda, a smart mixture of plans and policies intended to stop the kind of public health catastrophe that has now occurred. … What happened? Why didn’t Mr. Obama and his team of seasoned public health officials follow their own agenda? … What we are witnessing underscores an essential truth often overlooked: National security threats come not only from malevolent countries or groups but also lie in zoonosis, the process of disease transmission from animals to humans. … The tardy response to Ebola ought to prompt deep soul-searching about how not to let it happen again” (9/16).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.