November 13, 2014 | Issue Brief on Health Care
Over the past seven months, Ebola has infected more than 13,000 people and claimed nearly 5,000 lives. Most of the infected people have been in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Both Nigeria and Senegal successfully overcame transportation-related cases in their countries and were declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization on October 20. The virus has also spread beyond Africa, infecting individuals in the United States and Europe. While cases have been decreasing in Liberia, the region remains at high risk with infection rates in Guinea and Sierra Leone continuing to increase. Ultimately, to keep the United States safe from the epidemic, it will need to be controlled in West Africa.
Extensive U.S. efforts are already underway to get ahead of the infection in Liberia, with additional support in Sierra Leone and Guinea being led by the British and the French. Congress approved President Barack Obama’s initial request in September for $500 million in addition to the $175 million that was already committed to the Ebola humanitarian effort. As of November 5, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent approximately $400 million in humanitarian assistance for the Ebola virus disaster response. In addition to the original $500 million, the Pentagon has requested authorization to use up to $500 million from the Overseas Contingency Operations funds to support the humanitarian mission in West Africa.
President Obama is now requesting an additional $6.18 billion to combat Ebola in West Africa and to bolster the U.S. domestic response against a potential outbreak in the U.S. homeland. The breakdown of the request remains murky at best. Members of the House of Representatives should insist that Administration experts answer the following nine questions in testimony in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Combatting Ebola in West Africa: The International Response”:
Ebola unquestionably threatens the health of Americans and West Africans, but Congress should exercise its oversight authority and power of the purse to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are being spent effectively to combat and contain Ebola.—Charlotte Florance is a Research Associate for Economic Freedom in Africa and the Middle East in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.
 The White House, “U.S. Response to the Ebola Epidemic in West Africa,” September 16, 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/16/fact-sheet-us-response-ebola-epidemic-west-africa (accessed November 10, 2014).
 U.S. Agency for International Development and Centers for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “West Africa—Ebola Outbreak,” Fact Sheet No. 6, November 5, 2014, http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1864/11.05.14%20-%20USG%20West%20Africa%20Ebola%20Outbreak%20Fact%20Sheet%20%236%20FY%2015.pdf (accessed November 10, 2014).
 The $500 million was requested for Department of Defense operations in both West Africa and Iraq. The Africa Command commander has estimated that the first six months of Operation United Assistance, the humanitarian operation, would cost an estimated $750 million. For more information, see David M. Rodriguez, “Pentagon Briefing on DoD Response to Ebola with Gen Rodriguez,” U.S. Africa Command, October 8, 2014, http://www.africom.mil/newsroom/article/23695/transcript-pentagon-briefing-on-dod-response-to-ebola-with-gen-rodriguez (accessed November 10, 2014).
 Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan, “Obama Seeks $6.2 Billion to Combat Ebola: Officials,” November 5, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/05/us-health-ebola-obama-idUSKBN0IP2EE20141105 (accessed November 10, 2014).
 Budget Control Act of 2011, Public Law 112–25, § 102(4).
 Jeremy Ashkenas et al., “Ebola Facts: What Is Being Done to Improve Medical Treatment in Africa,” The New York Times, November 2, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/31/world/africa/ebola-virus-outbreak-qa.html (accessed November 10, 2014).