Inhofe gives approval for $750M in Ebola funds

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Democrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections Bottom Line MORE (R-Okla.), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, lifted his hold Friday on the Pentagon’s request for $750 million to fight Ebola, clearing the way for the emergency funds to be released.

"Today, I joined my colleagues in the [House] by allowing the Defense Department to utilize up to $750 million to support Operation United Assistance over the next six months, as has been requested by the Pentagon," he said in a statement Friday. 

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"After careful consideration, I believe that the outbreak has reached a point that the only organization in the world able to provide the capabilities and speed necessary to respond to this crisis is the U.S. military," he added, criticizing the State Department and the international community's response.

The Pentagon had asked Congress to approve a $1 billion transfer from its war funds account to use for its Ebola response plan. But lawmakers placed limits on the funds and demanded more information from the administration on the plan to fight Ebola.

On Thursday, both the House Armed Services Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense lifted their holds, with Inhofe the lone remaining hurdle. 

He had also placed a limit on the requested funds and demanded that the administration provide more details on how the money would be spent and what precautions would be taken to protect troops from the deadly disease.

The Oklahoma senator criticized the Obama administration, saying the defense budget was being spread thin, and troops were being asked to take up more missions without adequate support.

On Friday, Inhofe said that defense officials provided him with more information, including their plans for protecting the 4,000 troops who could be deployed. 

He said the administration has still not explained how they will transfer the mission from the Pentagon to "more appropriate government agencies and non-government organizations" when the money runs out. 

On Monday, Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said the $750 million was for six months, but that the deployment of troops could last as long as a year and did not put a timeline on the Pentagon's response. 

"Because of the failure of the Obama Administration to responsibly and strategically plan in advance for how the U.S. will be involved in West Africa, it will be difficult for me to support any further last-minute funding requests using military resources," Inhofe warned in his statement. 

"That is why I have insisted another more appropriate funding source be identified for operations beyond six months,” he added. 

“Significant cuts to the defense budget have eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military, and I cannot support the indefinite commitment of our troops to this mission.”