Pentagon officials are briefing congressional staff this week on how they intend to spend the $1 billion requested to fight the Ebola virus, as the U.S. ramps up its response to the deadly disease.
“This week representatives from the Department are briefing the congressional staff on its plan,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. William Urban said in an email Wednesday evening.
The Obama administration has asked Congress to shift $1 billion from 2014 war funds in the Overseas Contingency Operations account to the Pentagon’s Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid account.
The Armed Services panels and Appropriations defense subcommittees in both the House and Senate have approved the request.
All of the committees, except for the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, though, attached varying limits on that spending until the Pentagon can provide a detailed plan on how it will use those funds. House appropriators have placed a limit of $50 million.
“The Department is briefing each of the four committees this week on its plan,” Urban said.
The $1 billion request is in addition to $88 million that Congress approved last month in a recent short-term spending bill that expires in December.
Concerns have grown that the Ebola virus could spread amid the death of the first U.S. patient diagnosed with the disease. Some lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration, saying that its response has been too slow.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on Wednesday urged his colleagues to block the $1 billion request until the administration provided more details on its efforts.
Vitter is pressing for officials to bar foreign nationals from countries with Ebola cases.
“Instead of using powers given to him, the President is requesting $1 billion for a plan that has not been presented to members of Congress, focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders,” Vitter said in a letter to his Senate colleagues.
The White House announced new measures to screen passengers at five U.S. airports on Wednesday, but officials oppose a flight ban, saying it would further isolate West African countries and make the response more difficult.
The Pentagon is also deploying up to 3,600 troops to that region to man mobile testing laboratories, build treatment centers, train healthcare workers, and help with transportation and other logistics.
Army Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said on Monday the Pentagon’s response plans so far will cost about $750 million over six months.
Urban said the lab costs are being funded from a separate Defense account, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.