October 14, 2014 / 3:17 PM / 5 years ago

White House Budget director urges speed in deploying Ebola funds

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - White House Budget Director Shaun Donovan pressed U.S. lawmakers to speed up funds to fight Ebola, including the remaining $250 million in requested Defense Department money under review.

In a letter to leaders of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Donovan said a quick U.S. response was essential to containing the crisis in West Africa.

“The rapid spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa shows that time is of the essence. Given the nature of this crisis, every minute counts,” Donovan wrote in the Oct. 10 letter to Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers and ranking Democrat Nita Lowey.

“The faster we can achieve scale, the faster we can bring under control the spread of a virus that replicates at tremendous speed,” he said in the letter obtained by Reuters.

Key committee leaders last week approved $750 million of a $1 billion Pentagon request to shift war funds to combat the virus in West Africa. The $750 million is enough to support the U.S. military mission for about six months.

In responses to questions about the U.S. government’s Ebola efforts from Rogers and Lowey, the Obama administration said the Pentagon funds would be used to build up to 17 Ebola treatment centers and set up a logistical operation to deploy medical personnel and supplies across the three countries most affected, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The military mission would train up to 500 local medical personnel per week and support international medical staff.

The administration said more than 35 donor countries have so far pledged “upwards of $690 million” to the international Ebola response, including $400 million from the World Bank and $150 million from the African Development Bank and $130 million from the International Monetary Fund. It said the United Kingdom will establish 700 Ebola treatment bets in Sierra Leone, while France will provide a hospital facility in Guinea.

For a Factbox on U.S. funds committed so far, see.

The responses to Rogers and Lowey also included details on medical efforts to keep American troops from contracting the deadly virus, a concern voiced by lawmakers as they considered the funding shift. Military personnel will complete pre-deployment health assessments and training, be monitored for exposure throughout their deployment, including twice-a-day temperature checks and assessments of risks.

They will be monitored for 21 days after leaving the region. Those who develop symptoms will be evaluated, quarantined and evacuated to the United States.

The Obama administration also committed to providing weekly and monthly reporting on funding and obligations for its Ebola effort, with the first of these due to be submitted this week.

Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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