President Obama will announce Tuesday that the U.S. military will take the lead in overseeing what has been a chaotic and widely critisized response to the worst Ebola outbreak in history, dispatching up to 3,000 military personnel to West Africa in an effort that could cost up to $750 million over the next six months, according to senior administration officials.
By the end of the week, a general sent by U.S. Africa Command will be in place in Monrovia, Liberia-the country where transmission rates are increasing exponentially — to lead the effort called Operation United Assistance. The command will help oversee and coordinate U.S. and international relief efforts while a new, separate regional staging base will help accelerate transportation of urgently needed equipment, supplies and personnel.
In addition, the Pentagon will send engineers to set up 17 treatment centers in Liberia — each with a 100-bed capacity — as well as medical personnel to train up to 500 health-care workers a week in the region.
The president’s decision to enlist the U.S. military, whose resources are already under strain as it responds to conflicts in the Middle East, reflects the growing concern of U.S. officials that, unless greater force is brought to bear, the epidemic could wreak havoc on the continent.
“It’s this broad range of capabilities together that will turn the tide of this epidemic,” said one senior administration official, who along with others spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the president’s plan in advance of Obama’s trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Tuesday.